||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2013)|
The Martian Manhunter by artist Alex Ross.
|First appearance||Detective Comics (vol. 1) #225 (Nov. 1955)|
|Created by||Joseph Samachson
|Alter ego||J'onn J'onzz|
|Place of origin||Mars|
|Team affiliations||Justice League
|Notable aliases||John Jones, Bloodwynd, Bronze Wraith, Fernus, Manhunter from Mars, Marco Xavier, Mrs. Klingman, William Dyer, Betty Nehring, John Johnstone, Joan Jones, Brainwave, Blockbuster|
The Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz) is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. Created by writer Joseph Samachson and artist Joe Certa, the character first appeared in Detective Comics #225 (Nov. 1955). The character is known for being one of the core members of the Justice League of America (JLA).
Some plot events are described, below, using in-universe tone.
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The Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz) debuted in the back-up story "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" in Detective Comics #225 (Nov. 1955), written by Joseph Samachson and illustrated by Joe Certa. The character is a green-skinned extraterrestrial humanoid from the planet Mars, who is pulled to earth by an experimental teleportation beam (originally presented as an attempted communication device) constructed by Dr. Saul Erdel. The Martian tells Erdel where he is from, and is told that to send him back will require the Computer Brain's thinking plot to be changed. The shock of the encounter kills Dr. Erdel and leaves J'onn with no method of returning home. The character decides to fight crime while waiting for Martian technology to advance to a stage that will enable his rescue. To that end, he adopts the identity of John Jones, a detective in the fictional Middletown, U.S.A. He is thought to have been inspired by a story in Batman #78 where a Martian lawman comes to Earth and teams up with Batman and Robin to capture the Stranger, a Martian criminal called Quork who has stolen a spaceship and come to Earth.
During this period, the character and his back story differ in some minor and some significant ways from modern treatments. Firstly, as with his counterpart, the Silver Age Superman, J'onzz's power range is poorly defined, and his powers expand over time as the plot demands. The addition of precognitive abilities (Detective Comics #226) is quickly followed by telepathy and flight, "Atomic vision", super-hearing, and many other powers. In addition, his customary weakness to fire is only manifested when he is in his native Martian form.
A more significant difference is that at this time, there is no suggestion that Mars is a dead planet or that the character is the last of his kind. Many of the tales of the time feature either Martian technology or the appearance of other Martian characters. Detective Comics #236 (October 1956), for example, features the character making contact with the planet Mars and his parents.
J'onzz eventually reveals his existence to the world, after which he operates openly as a superhero and becomes a charter member of the Justice League (JLA). During the character's initial few years as a member of the Justice League, he is often used as a substitute for Superman in stories (just as Green Arrow was, for Batman) as DC Comics were worried about using their flagship characters too often in Justice League stories, fearing overexposure. The Martian and the archer inaugurated the team-up format of The Brave and the Bold. J'onzz appears there one other time, working with fellow JLA-er the Flash. In some stories he is shown travelling through space at near-light speed  or to other planets.
The detective John Jones is not ostensibly killed in action by the Idol Head of Diabolu, an artifact which generates supernatural monsters for he is GOD! J'onn abandons the civilian identity as he decides fighting this new menace will take a great deal of his time. At this point his feature moves to House of Mystery, where J'onn spends the next few years in battle against the Idol Head. Shortly after its defeat he takes the persona of Marco Xavier in order to infiltrate the international crime cartel known as VULTURE, which he defeats in the final installment of his original series.
As Superman and Batman were allowed by DC to become fully active members of the Justice League, J'onzz's appearances there dwindled. He last participated in a mission in his original tenure in #61 (March 1968), shortly before his solo series was discontinued (HoM #173, May–June 1968). In #71, his people finally came to Earth for him, and he left with them to found and become leader of New Mars. However, over the next fifteen years J'onn appeared sporadically in various DC titles.
In 1972, Superman was teleported to New Mars. J'onzz briefly returned to Earth by spaceship in 1975. J'onn made another trip to Earth shortly thereafter, leading to Superman and Batman fighting alongside him on New Mars. Three years later, he was discovered playing cosmic-level chess with Despero, using JLA-ers as the pieces. The Martian again encountered Superman in outer space. He permanently resurfaced in the DC Universe in 1984. Shortly thereafter, the League had several members resign (among many other changes), leaving an opening for the Manhunter to take. In staying on Earth, he decided to revive his John Jones identity, this time as a private detective, but had to explain his twenty-year "disappearance". This contradicts J'onzz's final story in the back of Detective Comics, wherein everyone was led to believe that Jones was killed.
In early 1987 DC revamped its struggling Justice League of America series by re-launching the title as Justice League International. This new series, written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with art by Kevin Maguire (and later Adam Hughes), added quirky humor to the team's stories. J'onn is present from the first issue and within the stories is used as a straight man for other characters in comical situations. The series also added a number of elements to his back story that have remained to the present (such as J'onn's obsession with Oreo cookies, partially due to Captain Marvel's influence).
The 1988 four issue miniseries Martian Manhunter by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger further redefined the character and changed a number of important aspects of both his character and his origin story. It is revealed that Dr. Erdel did not die and that the character's humanoid appearance was due to physiological trauma and attempts to block out the death of his race, his familiar appearance a "compromise" between his true form and a human appearance based upon Erdel's mental concept of what a Martian should look like. Later series use retroactive continuity (retcon) to establish that his real form is private and that, even on Mars, his "public" appearance was the familiar version. The native name for Mars is said to be "Ma'aleca'andra" in his native tongue (a nod to "Malacandra", the name used by the inhabitants of Mars in C. S. Lewis' novel Out of the Silent Planet, though neither J'onzz nor the planet itself resemble Lewis's conception). The series also adds to canon the idea that J'onzz was not only displaced in space but in time and the Martian race, including J'onzz's wife and daughter, has been dead for thousands of years.
The 1990s saw the character continue to serve in many different versions of the Justice League of America. In addition to serving in the League under his own identity, he also joins (under duress) disguised as "Bloodwynd". Soon after, it is revealed that J'onn had accidentally bonded with Bloodwynd prior to his joining the League: J'onn assumed the physical form and manner of Bloodwynd, while Bloodwynd himself was transported to the inside of his "Blood Gem." They were separated  and both continued their associations with the League.
The 1992 miniseries American Secrets is set in the character's past, exploring a previously unrevealed adventure against the backdrop of a changing America during the 1950s. Written by Gerard Jones and with art by Eduardo Barreto, the series finds the Manhunter drawn into a murder mystery that rapidly escalates into paranoia and alien invasion.
Martian Manhunter began as an ongoing series in 1998, written by John Ostrander and illustrated by Tom Mandrake (with fill-in art provided by Bryan Hitch among others). The series lasted 36 issues before being canceled due to low sales. Ostrander established that Martian Manhunter is the most recognized hero in the Southern Hemisphere, and that he maintains a number of different secret identities, many of them outside the United States. However, following two incidents later in the series in which John Jones separates from Martian Manhunter[volume & issue needed], he decides to focus on his original human identity and retire the others.
The series establishes that J'onn has a disturbed brother, Ma'alefa'ak, who uses his shape shifting abilities to pose as J'onn, capturing and torturing Jemm, Son of Saturn, and terraforming part of Earth to resemble Mars (areoforming). This is all part of a grand plan designed to convince the rest of the Justice League that J'onn has turned into a sociopath. However, J'onn is able to clear his name and defeat Ma'alefa'ak despite having most of his body destroyed in an exploding spaceship (he is later[volume & issue needed] able to regenerate his body from his severed hand).
The series also further established the history of both the Manhunter and the Saturnian race. The first issue revealed that there was a "real" human John Jones, a police detective who is murdered by corrupt colleagues, and that J'onn subsequently assumed his identity to complete an important court case.
In issues of JLA written by Joe Kelly, J'onn attempts to conquer his fear of fire and makes a deal with a flame-wielding villainess named Scorch, who wants J'onzz' telepathic help in dealing with her own mental issues. The story served to redefine his traditional aversion to fire—he is now invulnerable to flames unless they are "flames of passion" or of some other "psychic significance." This change is forgotten about in later series and adventures.
During the lead-up to the Infinite Crisis miniseries, the character is feared to have been killed in an attack on the Justice League's HQ. He is later revealed to be alive and a captive of Alexander Luthor, Jr. After Infinite Crisis, most of DC's series jumped ahead one year, having the weekly series 52 fill in the missing time. In 52 #24, it is revealed that the character has been working behind the scenes in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Checkmate for its role in the death of Ted Kord.
Several weeks before World War III the Martian Manhunter disguises himself as a young girl and tries to defeat Black Adam telepathically in Bialya. He is defeated by being exposed to Adam's darkest memories and flees Earth. The miniseries WW III is told from his perspective. Using these events as a catalyst, DC Comics redesigned the appearance of the character, changing his costume and giving him an appearance that more closely resembles that of his Martian form. Those changes were further explored during a Martian Manhunter limited series that spun out of the DCU: Brave New World one-shot. Written by A.J. Lieberman with art from Al Barrionuevo and Bit, the series portrayed a Manhunter more mistrustful of humanity and their actions towards each other. The miniseries focuses on J'onn's search for other survivors of Mars.
Following this miniseries, J'onn was intended to be in Outsiders. He appeared in the third issue of the Outsiders: Five of a Kind series with Thunder, and joined the team afterwards. Due to the change of writers, he was quickly written out within the last two issues. He was next seen working undercover during the events of the limited series Salvation Run. At the end of the series, J'onn is left captured and alone on an alien planet.
In Final Crisis #1 (2008), written by Grant Morrison the character is killed, with the death being further developed in the one-shot, Final Crisis: Requiem. The character next appears in the Blackest Night storyline as a Black Lantern At the end of the miniseries, the character is resurrected. Following this, the character is featured in the weekly Brightest Day series. During the series, J'onn encounters another surviving green Martian: D'kay D'razz, a scarred and warped psychopath who wants J'onn to be her mate.
In Brightest Day he is a very prominent character, finding a water source on Mars and meeting and talking with the daughter of Dr. Erdel, Melissa. J'onn is depicted tucking her into bed in a retirement home, in the form of her father. He later appears at Erdel's old lab. However, plant life starts to die every time he gets near. Later still, J'onn goes to see M'gann M'orzz in Australia during her mediation search, but finds her beaten and tied up. While tending to her, he is contacted by the Entity, who instructs him to burn down the newly formed forest. When J'onn asks M'gann who did this to her, M'gann says she was attacked by a female green Martian. After this, J'onn senses something in Star City. J'onn arrives in Star City's new forest and attempts to complete his task; however, he is stopped from doing that by the Entity. The Entity reveals to him that the newly formed forest J'onn is to burn down is on Mars. After J'onn lashes out Star City's forest, he returns home. During this same time period, J'onn is found by Green Arrow, who attacks J'onn after mistaking him for some sort of monster. After being knocked unconscious and dragged out of the forest by Green Arrow, J'onn explains that the forest somehow tampered with his Martian shape-shifting abilities and temporarily drove him mad. When J'onn arrives home, he sees his planet covered in a newly formed forest on Mars.
When J'onn enters his home, he is confronted by a female green Martian named D'kay D'razz, the green Martian who attacked M'gann. D'kay explains her origins and wants to be J'onn's mate. J'onn refuses and learns that she is a psychopath when D'kay angrily lashes out to attack and enters his mind. J'onn tries to resist influence from D'kay's mind, but her control over his mind tempts him with visions of a fantasy world where all the Martians and J'onn's family are resurrected by the Entity. While re-united with his lost family, J'onn discovers that they are false and realizes that they are a ruse and the death corpse is carved of Martian symbols of love and hate from D'kay's influence. J'onn arrives vengeful and wrings D'kay's neck in disgust. J'onn defeats D'kay by forcing her into the sun, saved from the same fate by the White Lantern Entity, who informs him that his mission has been accomplished, and returns his life to him. The Entity then tells J'onn to choose between Mars and Earth. J'onn chooses Earth and returns to his adopted home world only to be absorbed into the Earth by the Entity as "part of the plan."
When the "Dark Avatar" makes his presence known, J'onn is revealed to be one of the Elementals. Martian Manhunter is transformed by the Entity to become the element of Earth in order to protect the Star City forest from the "Dark Avatar", which appears to be the Black Lantern version of the Swamp Thing. The Elementals are then fused with the body of Alec Holland in order for Holland to be transformed by the Entity into the new Swamp Thing and battle against the Dark Avatar. After the Dark Avatar is defeated, Swamp Thing restores J'onn to normal. Afterward, J'onn helps Melissa (daughter of Dr. Erdel) remove the piece from her head after she loses her mind.
Following the events of Flashpoint, Martian Manhunter becomes a member of the covert Stormwatch organization. Despite now being allied with the militant Stormwatch group, where he says he goes when "I need to be a warrior" instead of being a hero, it is mentioned that J'onn is "from the Justice League". Issue six of Stormwatch does a mild retcon, saying "with the Justice League" is shorthand for being a public superhero; J'onn says he has never tried to actually join the League, as being a Stormwatch member means he would have to keep secrets from them and potentially betray them. (This turns out to be a lie, or at least a half-truth, as it is revealed in Justice League that he almost joined at some point, resulting in a fight between him and the League). He is close to the members of Stormwatch, viewing Harry Tanner as a friend and being dismayed when he is betrayed; he says he was "starting to enjoy" the Projectionist's company "a great deal".
During his first appearance with Stormwatch, he accompanies Jack Hawksmoor and the Projectionist on a mission to recruit Apollo, whom J'onn is forced to fight (and manages to withstand direct strikes from Apollo) after he attacks the agents. He gets angry and stops fighting when Apollo suggests he is there to kill him, and goes on to attempt diplomacy with Apollo (and an arriving Midnighter instead, saying that fighting instead of talking would be acting like superheroes, the very thing both men claim not to be). He later faces down a member of Stormwatch's ruling Shadow Cabinet, cutting him off when he tries to talk about J'onn's history and saying he knows what the Shadow Lord is. Before J'onn spoke, the Shadow Lord had said, "He wants humans to think he's the last Martian: a noble, tragic orphan. But--"
Martian Manhunter later arrives on Oa to extract information from Guy Gardner's prisoner before proceeding to erase his memory. When investigating and afterwards helping the Legion of Super-Heroes the Martian Manhunter explains that he has never actually been a member of the Justice League and that the only team he has joined was Stormwatch. He later quits Stormwatch, erasing his existence from every member minds in the process, in order to deal with a new upcoming threat.
The Martian Manhunter will appear as part of the new Justice League of America ongoing series set to launch in 2013.
The Martian Manhunter possesses a wide variety of superhuman powers— including telepathy, shape-shifting, projecting energy, x-ray vision, phasing, invisibility, flight, and super strength— but his abilities have been shown inconsistently throughout the years.
In the current DC continuity, many of his powers are similar to those of Superman, including superhuman strength close to that of Superman, flight, invulnerability, vortex breath, and "Martian Vision" (a term designating both the ability to see through solid objects and the ability to project beams of energy from his eyes). Superman once said of the Manhunter, "He is the most powerful being on the face of the Earth".
During the 1990s, it was stated that the source of his flight and "Martian vision" is a limited form of telekinesis[volume & issue needed] (he had occasionally[volume & issue needed] demonstrated more traditional uses of telekinesis to levitate and animate objects during his Detective Comics and House of Mystery appearances). His "Martian Vision" energy beams have sometimes been shown to knock foes backwards.[volume & issue needed] On most occasions, however, these energy beams are depicted as heating objects rather than delivering a concussive impact.
The Martian Manhunter possesses the power of shapeshifting, which he employs for various effects (adopting human or monstrous appearance, elongating his limbs, growing to immense size, altering the chemical composition of his body, etc.). His default form during JLA meetings and in public is a "human-friendly" version of his actual birth shape.
J'onn can become intangible, passing harmlessly through solid objects. He can also render himself invisible. He lost the ability to use his other powers while invisible during the Silver Age.
J'onn can become invisible to the naked eye. Until he was stripped of the use of his other powers while invisible J'onn was virtually unknown to the world except as John Jones, detective. He did his heroing while invisible as an unknown "angel" helping those in need.In "The Unmasking of J'onn J'onzz" from Detective Comics #273 where B'rett, a yellow-skinned Martian criminal, lands on Earth he reveals J'onzz's existence to Earth-1's public by using a Martian weapon to take away J'onn's ability to use his powers while he is invisible. Once visible to fight B'rett, J'onn is quickly outed as a Martian hero.
He is a powerful telepath, capable of both perceiving the thoughts of others and of projecting his own thoughts. He often acts as a "switchboard" between minds in order to coordinate the Justice League's actions. The extent of his telepathic abilities is great; several times he has connected his mind to the entire population of Earth[volume & issue needed].
In the Alex Ross series Justice, J'onn's "telepathy" is described in terms provocatively similar to the concept of grokking from Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. In an internal monologue, the Manhunter says:
J'onn is also capable of absorbing energy projectiles such as beams and other energy waves.
He has demonstrated regenerative abilities, once able to regenerate his entire body from only his severed head, but with great strain (due to the loss of mass, he found it necessary to incorporate new matter from the Martian sand). Early appearances of the character show him as able to breathe underwater; he displayed this power when he encountered Zauriel in the sea of San Francisco in JLA #6. The Manhunter has sometimes been said to possess nine senses, but these additional senses are poorly defined and generally ignored by most writers.
Aside from his superhuman powers, the Manhunter is also a skilled and very capable detective. As Batman mentions in his file, "in many ways, Martian Manhunter is like an amalgam of Superman and the Dark Knight himself."[clarification needed]
J'onn J'onzz has also demonstrated the ability of generating and manipulating heat or energy beams, waves and blasts, and even absorbing extra mass from the earth to greatly increase his size.
One of the Martian Manhunter's signature traits is his vulnerability to fire. Although it has been an element of the character since his earliest appearances, writers have depicted it with great inconsistency throughout the character's long career. In some instances, it is portrayed as a physical susceptibility inherent to the Martian race, while at other times it has been explained as a personal psychosomatic disorder. The degree of vulnerability has also been wildly inconsistent, in some cases capable of stripping away his powers and killing him, while at other times simply inflicting pain or delirium with no actual danger of physical harm[volume & issue needed]. This weakness has been diminished or cured on more than one occasion, only to have it return with a vengeance in a later story[volume & issue needed]. Thus, it is difficult to define.
In his earliest appearances, the character was shown as having a weakness to fire while in his native Martian form. Over time, this was developed into the character having pyrophobia, with fire being the Martian's "Achilles heel", equivalent to Superman's weakness to Kryptonite. Exposure to fire typically causes J'onn to lose his ability to maintain his physical form, 'melting' into a pool of writhing green plasma. One portrayal explained that the flame weakness was tied into Martian telepathy, with fire causing so much chaos in Martian minds that they collapse[volume & issue needed]. Most recently it was revealed, during the Trial By Fire storyline, that this fear was instilled on a genetic level by the Guardians of the Universe 20,000 years ago to weaken what was then a very aggressive species on the verge of interstellar conquest—this act split the race into the Green Martians and White Martians, though no mention is made of the pre-Crisis third race known as the Yellow Martians. At the end of the arc, this weakness was partially removed, with J'onn explaining that only fires of "psychic significance" were of harm to him, such as flames of suffering or passion (this was seemingly a roundabout way of limiting his weakness to flames of a mystical or pyrokinetic nature).
During the Fernus storyline, Batman noted that Martian shapeshifting was based around study and analysis of others rather than actual independent inspiration. Although their telepathy made this process virtually instantaneous, it also put the Manhunter at a slight disadvantage when faced with Plastic Man, a being immune to telepathy who could transform his shape with greater ease than a Martian's.
Two of the earliest Manhunter Detective stories, "The Sleuth Without a Clue" had J'onn lose his powers when exposed to a specific comet. The plot in Detective #230 had J'onn J'onzz completely lose his martian powers for a period of 24 hours while the "Blazer Comet" was in the night sky and eight short months later in "Earth Detective for a Day" Detective #238, it was the "Earth-Mars Comet" that stripped J'onn of his martian abilities for only two hours this time. Perhaps the writers only meant that these comets had swung sunward from the Kuiper belt but really never got any closer than the Earth but still managed to sweep in closer than the Mars orbit.
The following are enemies of the Martian Manhunter:
|This section requires expansion. (January 2010)|
Within the publications of DC Comics, many alternate versions of the characters have appeared. Some of those have appeared in stories that set within the shared fictional DC Universe and others in self-contained stories.
Those alternative versions have appeared in a range of genres and time periods and many appear in Elseworlds stories featuring a Justice League, including JLA: The Nail, JLA: Act of God, Justice Riders, the fantasy-themed League of Justice, the World War II-set JSA: The Liberty Files, and John Ostrander's dark JLA: Destiny which features a world without Superman or Batman. Other notable stories provide a more pessimistic future for the character.
Kingdom Come features a J'onn mentally shattered from his attempts to understand humanity by attempting to open his mind to all human thoughts at once. He is now apparently stuck in his human form, demonstrating no flight or superhuman strength and possesses no apparent control over his phasing abilities; requiring Batman to hold up his coffee cup as his hands pass through it. He is however still shown to possess some limited control over his remaining telepathy and at Batman's request makes a mind scan of Captain Marvel, the effort of which is shown to very nearly overwhelm him. Despite showing a willingness to stay and continue aiding Batman in his cause, Batman tells him to go and rest, saying he has earned it more than any other of the original Justice League members. Given his lack of a physical body it is unlikely (thought never stated or shown) that he participated in the Battle of the Gulag and thus presumably survived.
On Earth-3, the many-membered Crime Society of America exists, with a monstrous version of J'onn J'onzz showcased.
Martian Manhunter's antimatter reality counterpart is a White Martian and was Ultraman's chief rival until Ultraman killed him.
Countdown to Adventure #1 depicts the Forerunner planet, in an alternate universe (Earth-48) where the races of the planets and dwarf planets in the universe conquer Earth; the leader of the Martian army and populace is General J'onzz.
In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, J'onn J'onzz was teleported to Earth and held captive in one of the Outsider's research facilities. After studying and torturing J'onn, the Outsider then sold him to the Russian government, after which J'onn attacked them and took over the country. He disguises himself as Blackout for undercover work against the Outsider. After a confrontation with the Outsider, J'onn's cover was blown when the Outsider tells him that Blackout has no skill. During the battle, Outsider used the recovered teleportation technology device to trap J'onn. The Outsider then threatened J'onn to tell him about any future assassins, when J'onn refuses, the Outsider closed the teleport cutting J'onn in half killing him.
There have been few parodies of Martian Manhunter made in recent times, due to the concentration on more well-known heroes like Superman and Batman.
IGN ranked the Martian Manhunter as the 43rd greatest comic book hero of all time describing him as one of the most sound members of the DC universe, and being maybe one of the most criminally underrated characters in comics.
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