Zack Snyder’s Justice League has movie fans buzzing about a cameo that will “blow hardcore fans’ minds.” One of the popular theories floating around out there is that this could be the the Martian Manhunter. Who is he and what’s he all about? Keep reading for a primer on this perennial DC Comics fan-favorite.
Martian Manhunter's First Appearance Was In A Batman Comic
For comic book fans, Detective Comics is synonymous with Batman, but this wasn’t always the case. Originally starting out life as an anthology comic book meant to compete with pulp-comics of time, Detective Comics was firmly planted in the detective genre (go figure), before striking gold with Batman in 1939. The Martian Manhunter didn’t make his comics debut until 1955 in Detective Comics back-up story (some comic nerd lingo: a back-up story is usually a smaller, unrelated story that used to appear in comic books).
Created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa, J’onn J’onzz is accidentally teleported to Earth in a science experiment gone wrong. Unfortunately for our green-hued friend, the scientist who brought him to our planet, bites it from the shock of meeting an alien. With no way home, Martian Manhunter takes up the secret identity of “John Jones” and masquerades as a detective when he’s not saving the day as Martian Manhunter.
Martian Manhunter Is A Founding Member Of The Justice League
After a series of successful relaunches of several characters including The Flash and Green Lantern in the late 1950s, DC Comics then set their sights on relaunching The Justice Society of America, but this time they’d be called the Justice League of America. Often considered the “heart” of the Justice League by fictional superheroes and comic readers alike, Martian Manhunter is a founding member of the original Justice League of America, which debuted in the 1962 comic, The Brave and The Bold. Since then there have been several incarnations and reboots of the team, but J’onn tends to be around in one way or another. A notable absence was in 2011’s high profile, line-wide reboot of DC Comics dubbed “The New 52”, with Martian Manhunter being swapped out for Cyborg as a founding member.
Like Superman, He’s The Last Of His Species
This wasn’t always the case, though! In his earliest adventures, other Martians were still alive and kicking. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s after DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-crossover event, Martian Manhunter’s origin was retconned to make Mars a dead planet. However, also similar to Superman and other Kryptonians, J’onn J’onzz has come across other Martians over the years, most turning out to be villains. Those include his evil twin brother Ma’alefa’ak (say that five times fast) and the White Martians (not nearly as problematic as it sounds); a war-mongering offshoot of our beloved Green Martians.
Martian Manhunter Is Packing Some Serious Superpowers, And Weaknesses
Martian Manhunter has an awesome set of superpowers that usually make him one of the stronger Justice League members. He’s got some of the usual grab bag of powers including flight and super strength, but where he really gets cool are some of his more unique Martian powers. His coolest power is his ability to shape shift. In fact his green domed appearance isn’t even his actual appearance, it’s one he puts on so humans can be more comfortable with his Martian Look.
Besides using this to change his appearance (including his human alter-ego John Jones), Martian Manhunter uses this ability to grow extra limbs, stretch himself, or create weapons, T-1000 style. He’s also one of the strongest telepaths, capable of both reading and controlling people’s minds. This hasn’t always been a positive for him. Check out this panel from Kingdom Come, an alternate universe story where his powers caused his mind to break, rendering him broken and helpless.
He’s also got a weakness for fire, which you might say, gee so does everyone. True! But Martian Manhunter’s ties back to Burning Martians, ancient Martians bent on galactic domination. The Guardians of the Universe, the blue guys in charge of The Green Lantern Corps, did some teeny tiny genetic modification to curb their fiery tendencies which turned into their fear of fire over thousands of years.
Martian Manhunter Loves Oreos
It’s a thing. Trust me. Copyright issues have turned them into “Chocos” in the pages of DC Comics, but make no mistake, Martian Manhunter is a fiend for everyone’s favorite vegan-friendly cookie. Martian Manhunter fan cosplay usually includes them. There is a literal entire issue of a comic book about his love for Oreos. A table top DC game has a figure that features him sitting on a throne of them. Neil Gaiman even wrote the Oreo obsession into a panel of his seminal Sandman comic book; maybe they can add it to the upcoming Netflix show as well!
Zack Snyder’s Movies Aren’t The First Time You’ve Seen Martian Manhunter In Action
Zack Snyder has already confirmed that The Blacklist’s Harry Lennix’s small part in 2013’s Man of Steel was actually a secret cameo as J’onn J’onzz. He’s also teased there will be a mind-blowing superhero cameo at the end of his new cut of Justice League. Will we finally get to see Martian Manhunter in all his Martian glory on the big screen? Maybe! But he’s actually had a pretty robust live action career on the small screen. There’s the 1997 Justice League of America, a low budget TV pilot that didn’t get picked up; go look that one up on YouTube, I’ll wait. He also popped up as a recurring character on Smallville, in all it’s Smallville corniness. His most recent live adaptation has been on Supergirl, where he’s currently played by David Harewood, including his full Martian Manhunter look. Of course, many consider the Justice League cartoon to be the definitive version of Martian Manhunter in media to date.
There you have it. Everything you need to get you going with Martian Manhunter. If we’re reading the tea leaves correctly, expect to see Martian Manhunter make his big screen in Zack Snyder's Justice League, debuting on March 18th on HBO Max. In the meantime, let us know which is your favorite Martian Manhunter we’ve seen on TV below!