Martian Manhunter

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
There's nothing little about this Green Man.

"I am Mars' sole survivor. There is a reason for that."

Martian Manhunter is one of the DC Universe's odd men out. On the one hand vastly powerful and a member of pretty much every version of the Justice League of America, yet on the other, writers just don't seem to know what to do with him. His past has been Retconned several times, his personality varies by writer, and since he has more powers than Superman, he suffers from occasional mind squicks, frequent bouts of Plot Induced Stupidity and Mind Over Manners to keep him from resolving plots too quickly.

He first appeared in Detective Comics #225 (November, 1955), created by Joe Samachson and Joe Certa. An alien teleported to Earth by a Freak Lab Accident, J'onn J'onzz[1] decided to use his abilities to help protect the innocent who could not protect themselves. All of his incarnations have that much in common (well, the DCAU and Smallville versions came to Earth on their own, but that's a minor detail).

Factors that have varied greatly over the decades include whether he is actually the Last of His Kind, whether J'onn J'onzz is his real name, whether the green humanoid form he normally assumes in public is his true appearance, whether his memories of Mars are real or fake, and whether his Weaksauce Weakness to fire is psychological or physical.

His powers vary tremendously, even within a single incarnation. In his earliest proto-Silver Age appearances, he worked mainly with Psychic Powers (and writers kept coming up with newer and sillier applications as the Age got more Silvery -- like mental ice cream creation and sonic finger-snapping). Since then he's mainly been treated as a Flying Brick with a few extras.

In his solo series from 1998, writer John Ostrander revealed that J'onn largely functioned as the "Superman" of the Southern hemisphere, operating as its most recognizable hero (which makes a lot of sense when you think about it[2]), as well as maintaining numerous assumed identities the world over, including being a regular cab driver for Clark Kent.

To the non-comic-geek public, he is best known for his role on the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series, where he was voiced by Carl Lumbly. Currently, he appears in Batman the Brave And The Bold as Batman's close friend, and acts as the Only Sane Man in a number of episodes. He has also popped up in The Batman, voiced by Dorian Harewood, on Smallville where he's played live by Phil Morris, and the So Bad It's Good aborted pilot, The Justice League of America, where David Ogden Stiers (Dr. Winchester from M*A*S*H) filled the role. The animated film Justice League: The New Frontier had MM voiced by Miguel Ferrer. He also appears on the animated Young Justice as Miss Martian's (supposed) uncle.

Note that from 2008 to 2010 J'onn was dead, but now he's back. With pants!

As part of The DC Comics relaunch, he became one of the central characters of Stormwatch and has lost most of his friendliness, relationship to other DC characters, and love of Oreos.

If you're looking instead for the Veronica Mars/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover Fanfic of the same name, go here.


Powers used by the Martian Manhunter are a mixed bag with no cohesion that nonetheless makes him very formidable; the ones common to most incarnations are:

Note that all these are subject to change without notice; the telefilm J'onn could just barely shapeshift and demonstrated no other powers (it was a very low budget show) but had no problem with heat. The Smallville Manhunter can't heal within Earth's atmosphere and remains almost exclusively in human form. On The Batman, he has telekinesis. The JLU version lacked speed, Invisibility, Eye Beams and weakness to fire was only implied. And so forth.

Martian Manhunter provides examples of the following tropes:
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: For the last fifteen or so years its been established that J'onn's familiar green skinned muscleman form is a compromise between a human form and his true natural form (which is gaunt, finned, and significantly less human looking.) The reason he doesn't go all the way with this trope is because he can more comfortably maintain this form for longer periods of time.
  • Alien Among Us: How much he has to hide his heritage varies from writer to writer.
    • While part of the Justice League International this was dropped altogether. In fact, Batman nominated J'onn his successor as leader because he felt that J'onn had a better public image.
  • Alliterative Name: Both his real name and his codename.
  • Apocalypse How: Pre-Crisis, Mars was fine...right up until 1969's "And So My World Ends" when Commander Blanx engineered a Class 6 Apocalypse by setting Mars on fire and leaving it a lifeless, barren husk. In current continuity, the planet suffered a Class 3, with Malefic's plague, H'ronmeer's Curse wiping out every Green Martian but leaving the rest of the planet intact.
  • Arch Enemy: Malefic--and sometimes Despero--is typically seen as J'onn's by the fanbase.
  • Axe Crazy: Malefic again. He's basically the Martian version of The Joker, only with less humour and more Mind Rape and torture. He is usually credited as the one who wiped out the rest of the Martians
  • Bald of Awesome: J'onn and most other Green Martians.
  • Bald of Evil: B'rett, B'enn B'urnz, and Malefic. Also Blanx and the majority of White Martians.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Generally The Quiet One of the Justice League, and way, way down low on the "will use extreme violence" list. But actually piss him off, and you'll quickly remember that he's on equal footing with Superman for all-around power, plus he can transform into ANYTHING he wills, and one of his basic abilities is Mind Rape.
  • Cain and Abel: J'onn's archenemy is his fraternal twin brother, in Post-Crisis continuity.
  • The Cape (trope)
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Jupiter, J'onn's dog who was introduced in one early story and then completely forgotten.
  • Civil War: Mars has been engaged in a few. Pre-Crisis, J'onn was actually a leader in the Martian Civil War, leading the Desert Dwellers against Commander Blanx's Pole Dwellers for control of the Blue Flame of Mars.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Commander Blanx. He's always got a gun hidden on him somewhere, cheerfully attacks from hiding, and brings in an ally to club J'onn from behind in their duel.
  • The Comically Serious: Except during the Detroit era, when he became something of a Deadpan Snarker. Lampshaded by Firestorm during Crisis on Infinite Earths of all things:

Firestorm: Don't you ever feel cold with those clothes, J'onn J'onzz?
Martian Manhunter: Martians feel no cold. Why do you ask?
Firestorm: Geez, Mars doesn't need women. It needs a sense of humor.

    • An alternative interpretation is that he's always a Deadpan Snarker, but most of the time (including in the example above) nobody notices.
  • Continuity Drift: In his first story, "The Strange Experiment of Doctor Erdel!", J'onn, masquerading as a human named John Jones, goes sightseeing around the world, comparing his observations to life on Mars. At one point, he mentions in passing a "Great Evolution", which eradicated crime on Mars for centuries. Later stories featured Martian criminals.
  • Cool Mask: Mr. V, although it's actually a pretty lame mask.
  • Cowardly Lion: Commander Blanx. He's a Dirty Coward who prefers to let his men do the fighting, and has no problem bringing in an ally to sucker punch J'onn In the Back in what was supposed to be a man-to-man duel. He'd rather run than fight, and has a healthy respect for his own skin. All that being said though, when he's cornered he proves himself a perfectly capable combatant, nearly killing J'onn, and at one point, throwing down with Superman while on Earth.
  • Depending on the Artist: NOBODY can agree on what his true Martian form looks like. Luckily, Martians are shapeshifters, so it doesn't really matter.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Mr. V, alias "Faceless"", leader of the crime syndicate Vulture, who J'onn tangled with frequently in the fifties and sixties.
  • Dirty Coward: Commander Blanx. Overlaps with Combat Pragmatist and Cowardly Lion.
  • Distaff Counterpart: J'onn's young counterpart on the Teen Titans, M'gann Morzz, aka Miss Martian. She's actually a White Martian who's turned her back on her people's evil ways.
  • Evil Albino: Invoked by all Pole Dwellers/White Martians.
  • Evil Counterpart: Commander Blanx, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Other evil Martians showed up, but none contrasted with J'onn quite the way that the utterly cold-blooded Blanx did. One could make a case for the non-Martian Despero being another Evil Counterpart, with his Telepathy, history of persecution, and truly alien status.
  • Evil Twin: Ma'alefa'ak (alias Malefic) is literally J'onn's Evil Twin post-Crisis.
  • Exposition of Immortality: The Manhunter has reminsced about his time on Mars prior to the accident that led to him being teleported to Earth in the 50s, which has shown that he was alive on Mars during the 18th century. His unchanging appearance is credited to Martians being very slow-aging.
  • Expy: Malefic to Commander Blanx. Both are Martian leaders with a link to J'onn who chose to wipe out 99% of their own species. They are very different in personality and motivations though, with Malefic being an Axe Crazy Serial Killer and Mind Rapist, while Blanx is an utterly apathetic sociopath who did it for the money. One could argue that the current White Martians are, as a species, Expies of Blanx's Pole Dwellers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Green vs. White Martians. And Red vs. white Saturnians, the Martians' bioengineered sister species.
    • Note that originally, this wasn't so much racism as nationalism, since Martians of both kinds can alter their color at will. Only in recent years have they been defined as separate species (and then again as one species split in two-- It Makes Sense in Context, sort of.)
  • Fat Bastard: Mr. V.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Vulnerability to fire. One has to wonder why later writers keep inventing contrived explanations for J'onn's vulnerability to fire. Mars is cold and has very little oxygen to burn things. Why wouldn't he be vulnerable to fire in a high-oxygen atmosphere like Earth's?
    • Because he's a Flying Brick and in most continuities he even has Eye Beams which are at least somewhat laser-like. An otherwise normal human from Mars might be more vulnerable to fire than a normal human from Earth, but J'onn can go toe to toe with Superman. And he's more vulnerable to flame than he is to heat.
    • Additionally, DCU Mars had a much more Earth-like environment when it was inhabited.
    • The weakness to fire is quite complicated, and has little to do with varying relation to physical factors. J'onn's brother lost the weakness when he was stripped of his telepathy, for example.
  • Funny Animal: The "Martian Anteater," J'onn's Earth-C-Minus (well, "Mars-C-Minus," I suppose) counterpart and a member of his world's "JLA" (the "Just'a Lotta Animals)."
  • Galactic Conqueror: Despero, a Justice League villain, who nevertheless has a major hate-on for J'onn. Whenever he targets the team, J'onn is usually the first one Despero wants to kill.
  • G-Rated Drug: J'onn was very fond of Oreos Chocos during Giffen and DeMatteis' humorous run on the JLA in The Eighties. When Blue Beetle and Booster Gold hid these cookies (in a flashback written by John Ostrander) much rampage ensued.
    • This becomes a Tear Jerker when a Choco cookie is placed by Batman on his coffin at the end of Final Crisis Requiem.
  • The Heart: Of the Justice League.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: In Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (Oct. 1999): "You're probably wondering why I've called you all here today..." Thinking to himself: "Call me whimsical if you must, but I've waited years for the appropriate time and place to say that."
  • Immortality: Type II. He can certainly be killed, but if Martians age at all, it must be incredibly slowly.
  • Insufferable Genius: Prof. Hugo, a pre-Crisis Mad Scientist who demanded recognition from the world.
  • It's Personal: With Blanx pre-Crisis, with Despero and Malefic in the later years.
  • The Juggernaut: Despero following his most recent power-ups.
  • Kill It with Fire: Martians are weak against fire. Pre-Crisis, Blanx used the Martian Blue Flame to execute this strategy against the planet as a whole. That's right--he set Mars on fire.
  • Last of His Kind: More or less. In Real Life, after Mariner and Viking proved Mars to be a wasteland, DC had to explain how this had happened and what became of J'onn's people. The exact nature of the catastrophe and how many survived it has varied over the years. (That said, although the Green Martians are functionally extinct, the White Martians continue to survive.)
    • Their bioengineered progeny, the Saturnians living on Saturn's moons, are still around, although they don't take much interest in Earthling affairs. Jemm Son of Saturn is the most well-known.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Arnold Hugo, a pre-Crisis enemy.
  • Mind Rape: A major crime on Mars; Malefic is naturally guilty of it. Despero is also very fond of this, and has inflicted it on J'onn on numerous occasions.
    • J'onn once forced this on himself. To be fair, the process forcing it was an attempt to force sanity into The Joker's skull.
  • Monster Modesty: If he wanted to, he could easily shape-shift a nice suit for him to wear. Instead, he runs around in underwear and a cape.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Especially during the Silver Age. To the point of using "all the powers of space" to create an ice cream cone with his mind.
  • Older Than They Look: In John Ostrander's run, it's never established just how long ago the Martian Apocalypse happened (J'onn apparently isn't sure, himself), but the implication is that he was left wandering around a lifeless world, barely maintaining his sanity, for a very long time until Dr. Erdel's teleporter accidentally saved him.
  • Only in It For the Money: Why Blanx wiped out Mars in the Silver Age.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Despero, after being reborn in the Flame of Pytaar, added Playing with Fire, Mind Over Matter, Reality Warper, and Super Strength, Super Speed, and Nigh Invulnerability to his already considerable Telepathy. These days he's a walking engine of destruction, who requires the entire League to put down.
  • Playing with Fire: The Human Flame, and post-rebirth, Despero.
  • Psychic Radar: The Manhunter can use his telepathy to pinpoint the location of a desired individual, at some pretty fantastic ranges. Just as well, since he generally has to fly up into orbit in order to not get confused by all the ambient thinking.
  • The Power of Hate: Despero runs on it.
  • Race Lift: A trend has been to make his standard civilian forms black. As J'onzz is a shapeshifter and and John Jones never had a remotely consistent appearance this has gone over better than most examples (his DCAU and Young Justice voice actors, Carl Lumbly Kevin Michael Richardson, both being black doesn't hurt).
  • Secret Identity: In the Silver Age, J'onn J'onzz masqueraded as mind-mannered John Jones, a name no one could have possibly guessed.
  • Shout-Out: Just one throwaway line, but it's to Sailor Moon of all things...
  • Space Police: Back on Mars, J'onn was a "Manhunter," which is basically a very high-profile policeman. His mother was one, too.
  • The Spock
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: He's not consciously trying to seem aloof; Martian mannerisms are just different. J'onn's really a softy at heart, but people have to get to know him before they realize it.
    • He's also surprisingly funny and whimsical, according to Martian standards, anyway.
  • Superpower Lottery: Although the extent of his powers varies depending on the writer, J'onn is usually portrayed as one of the half dozen or so heroes considered more powerful than Superman.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: Know why J'onn and all Green Martians have a fear of fire? Well...it's s psychic block implanted by the Guardians of the Universe to keep their extremely powerful, extremely evil Burning Martian selves held in check.
  • The Syndicate: Vulture, a criminal conspiracy from the sixties, led by the enigmatic Mr. V. It had agents scattered throughout Europe, and regularly stole weapons technology, missile codes, and top-secret documents in addition to the standard gold, jewels, etc. The organisation was broken up into cells, with each cell being led by one of Mr. V's Body Doubles.
  • Telepathy: J'onn's most frequently used power these days. It's shared by all other Green & White Martians (save Malefic), and by Despero, who also features Mind Over Matter, Playing with Fire, and Reality Warper abilities.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Oreos - or rather, Chocos.
  • Unfinished Business: J'onn with Malefic, Despero with J'onn.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Fear of fire. Martians are actually less vulnerable to fire than humans, and because of their shapeshifting abilities, can recover very quickly from any injury that they survive. The problem with fire is that they are terrified of it, and just being near a lighter can render them helpless.
    • J'onn J'onzz himself has been on earth for decades, and no longer has such an extreme reaction to it.
    • I don't think anyone remembers this, but the fear of fire is actually a psychic barrier the Guardians of the Universe put into the Green Martians to stop their psychotically powerful Burning Martian selves from taking over the universe. J'onn's is called Fernus, and he was capable of nearly killing the entire Justice League all on his own, with J'onn mystically chained inside his head.
    • Alternatively, J'onn's fear of fire is caused by him having witnessed his entire family being burnt to death, and is therefore not a Weaksauce Weakness but a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    • It is pointed out that this weakness is not physical at all when his version of Flashpoint - which is ostensibly the same as his mainstream one, except without the whole heroic path his life took - mentions that he used to be doused with fire by the Russian soldiers who kept him in captivity. This was so frequent that he eventually found out the fire didn't really cause him any harm, and when he did... Well, let's just say it didn't end well for the Ruskies.
  1. pronounced fairly close to "John Jones" - in the Justice League cartoon his first name seems to be halfway between the English "John" and the French "Jean"
  2. J'onn is Superman-class powerful, but also figuratively & literally empathic, pan-cultural and used to changing to adapt to his surroundings; it's easy to see why people might relate to him more than "American Way" Supes