Get to Know a Hero: Martian Manhunter

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c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics

Name: J’onn J’onzz

Aliases: Martian Manhunter, Fernus, John Jones, Bronze Wraith, Bloodwynd, and others

Affiliations: Justice League, Outsiders, Justice Experience, StormWatch, Justice League Task Force, Justice League International, White Lantern Corps, Black Lantern Corps

Abilities: shape shifting, invisibility, phasing, superhuman durability, superhuman strength, superhuman stamina, regeneration, flight, superhuman speed, four additional senses, enhanced sight, longevity, super hearing, super breath, telepathy, telekinesis, meditation, genius level intellect. He has been described as the “Swiss-Army Knife of superheroes.”

Weaknesses: vulnerability to fire, chocoholism

First Appearance: Detective Comics #225 (1955)

Creators: Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa

Fun Fact: Has a thing for Oreos (you can thank Mordechai Luchins for this one)

c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics


Born millennia ago into an advanced civilization on Mars, J’onn lived a “normal” life, becoming a Martian police officer (or “manhunter.” Ah, it all make sense now), marrying, and having a child. His twin brother, born without the psionic powers possessed by most other Martians, was viewed as a lesser being; persecution drove him to despise Martian culture and seek to destroy it utterly. He created a virus that spread via telepathic contact and introduced it to the population. J’onn was able to cease using his telepathy in order to protect himself and warned his wife and daughter to do the same. Unable to do so, they both became infected and J’onn was forced to watch them die.

Meanwhile, on Earth, one Dr. Saul Erdel was mucking about with Martian tech beyond his expertise in a bid to make contact with an alien people. He aimed his “beam” at Mars and fired, hitting J’onn by pure, dumb luck (there’s some time slip stuff here that’s confusing and adds little to nothing to the story) and deposited the grieving Martian smack outside Dr. Erdel’s lab. Erdel, apparently more compassionate than he was smart, took J’onn in and cared for him during the later’s recovery; the two developed a psychic link through which Erdel learned what happened on Mars. He used the link to develop an alternate Martian history, believing that would repair J’onn’s fractured psyche, using the writings of Bradbury and Burroughs as his jumping off point. Erdel also implanted the idea J’onn should become a great hero and thus, Martian Manhunter was born.

Frankly, this all seems a little shady to me.

J’onn, in order to do the good Erdel had foist upon him, shape shifted into human form; Erdel was so surprised, he had a heart attack and died. Oops. Renaming himself John Jones, Martian Manhunter went out into the world and worked for a variety of law enforcement agencies under various aliases.

So, this is where the DC Wiki completely falls apart and is entirely unhelpful, so I’m going to Wikipedia you all. Sorry. Quite frankly, the DC Wiki is thin in a lot of places, which is why the Marvel heroes may seem to have more complete bios as regards this column. It doesn’t mention, for example, that in this initial phase, Martian Manhunter is shown making contact with his parents. Who are supposed to be dead. Along with the rest of the planet. Which sometimes isn’t.

c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics


Eventually killing off his alter ego to superhero full time, Martian Manhunter became one of the founding members of the Justice League of America. He featured prominently for a decade or so, after which his appearances dwindled. He was written out almost entirely via deus ex martian when his supposedly decimated people showed up and took him back to Mars. Yup, that’s right, the dead ones. From the dead planet. I got nothing.

The character appeared sporadically in various titles over the next couple of decades and didn’t resurface on any kind of permanent basis until 1984, when several members of the League resigned. J’onn revived his John Jones identity and sought to explain his twenty year absence. Which was confusing, because John Jones’ death back in the ’60s was witnessed. By people.

Look, do yourself a favor and just nod and let it go.

J’onn continued to serve the League in various capacities, remaining one of the founding members when the series was updated (JLA) by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. His evil, apparently-not-dead (shocking, I know) brother showed up with the intentions of convincing the League J’onn had turned psychopath and destroying J’onn’s life and credibility utterly. J’onn defeated his enemy despite having had most of his body destroyed in an exploding space ship and then transferred his soul into his remaining hand, from which he was able to regenerate his body (holy crap, Martian Manhunter is a Time Lord).

There’s some stuff with fire… I don’t know. Burning Martians, multiple personalities, all wiped out later on anyway.

During the Crisis era, Martian Manhunter was believed to have died in an attack on the Watchtower, but was, instead, taken prisoner by Lex Luthor Jr. After the Crisis mini-series, J’onn was revealed to have been working behind the scenes to destroy the sinister Checkmate (a “global peace organization with questionable methods”). He then joined the Outsiders but was written out of the series relatively quickly when the creative team changed.

c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics

J’onn was killed by the Black Lanterns but, much like his Justice League teammate Green Arrow, was resurrected. He ended up in the forest that used to be Star City, believing he had been ordered by a powerful being to burn it down; a creature called the Entity told him that the forest he was to burn was actually on Mars. Where no one had lived for centuries. Because they were all dead.

After working out a brutal misunderstanding with Ollie, J’onn went to Mars and did, indeed, find a forest. He also found a psychopathic female Martian, D’Kay D’razz, who was determined to have him as her mate. He had other ideas and, after she attempted to manipulate him with a false alternate reality, killed her, after which the White Lantern Entity told him he could have his life back but he had to choose between Mars and Earth. J’onn chose Earth and returned home only to be absorbed by the Entity, who used him as an elemental to defeat dark side Swamp Thing who eventually became good Swamp Thing again and returned J’onn to his former self.

In the New 52, Martian Manhunter was a member of StormWatch rather than the Justice League and there’s a lot of backing and forthing about whether or not he was a Justice League member and when that may have happened and exactly what he did and why he left. Then, there’s some stuff with Firestorm, Justice League Dark, and an evil Alfred from Earth 3. No one seems entirely clear, which is reasonable, because with a few exceptions, such as Azzarello’s run on Wonder Woman, the New 52 was a complete cluster.

c. DC Entertainment
c. DC Entertainment

Martian Manhunter featured prominently in both the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series and was often the voice of calm and reason when things got hairy between League members. He also made appearances on Young Justice and in a couple of utterly hilarious episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He is currently featured on Supergirl (played by David Harewood) under the alias of Hank Henshaw.


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