“I am the sole survivor of my planet. The last son of Mars. My name is J’onn J’onzz.” -Supergirl, “Human for a Day”, Season 1, episode 7
A mob boss waits at the docks for a boat smuggling drugs. As his men unload the shipment, the gangster spots a man hiding nearby. He sends some of his goons over to take care of the witness. The man easily knocks out the goons and advances towards the gang. The boss pulls out a gun and shoots the man, but the bullets bounce off of his skin.
The gang panics as the man flies at them, his body appearing to melt as he transforms into a monstrous snake. The serpent makes short work of the gang before changing again, revealing a green man. A voice in the distance cries out. The Martian Manhunter flies away to investigate, leaving the unconscious gang scattered around the dock.
You think it’s not easy being green? Try being an alien too. The Martian Manhunter is one of DC Comics’ strongest superheroes. He survived his race’s genocide and became a founder of the Justice League. So who is he? How’d he get to Earth? If he’s so great, how come we’ve never heard of him? Let’s find out.
Last Son of Mars: Martian Manhunter’s Backstory
“I am Mars’ sole survivor. There is a reason for that.” -Martian Manhunter, Infinite Crisis
Martian Manhunter first appeared in Detective Comics #225 in 1955. He was created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Cetra.J’onn J’onzz was a Green Martian policeman, or Manhunter as the Martians called the position. He was a soldier when the White Martians, a similar but war-loving race, declared war.
The Green Martians decimated the White Martians in this civil war, but were exterminated when the White Martians unleashed a weapon of mass destruction that incinerated the Greens. J’onn was teleported away right before the weapon was unleashed.
A human scientist had discovered a way to teleport objects through space and accidentally brought J’onn to Earth. The scientist was unable to return him to Mars and the shock of meeting an alien caused him to die from a heart attack. Stranded on this alien world, J’onn assumed the name John Jones and became private detective.
Justice League: Martian Manhunter’s History
Martian Manhunter : “The Justice League is about more than physical power. It’s about ideals, caring, helping.”
Lobo : “Buy me a ticket to Pukesville.” – Justice League, “Hereafter”, Season 2, episode 19
J’onn used his powers to assist his detective work and became a hero called the Martian Manhunter. During the invasion of Starro the Conquerer, J’onn fought alongside the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern. This collection of eclectic heroes defeated Starro and decided to form the Justice League.
Martian Manhunter managed to save the Earth from a White Martian invasion by revealing his species’ only weakness: fire. He later overcame his personal weakness to fire and was transformed into a monster called Fernus, the Burning Martian. Real subtle, writers.
It was revealed that the Guardians of the Universe had changed Martians into their normal forms because the Burning Martians would have destroyed the universe. The Justice League managed to defeat Fernus and return J’onn to normal.
Alien Atlas: Martian Manhunter’s Powers and Personality
Hank Henshaw : “I designed these bullets especially for you, Martian. ‘The most powerful being on the face of this Earth.’ You know who calls you that? Superman. Sure means something, coming from him.”
J’onn J’onzz: “I mean you no harm.” – Supergirl, “Manhunter”, season 1, episode 17
Think the Tripods from War of the Worlds were bad? They’ve got nothing on the Martian Manhunter. He’s super strong, telekinetic and telepathic, a shapeshifter, can fly at lightspeed, turn invisible and phase through objects. Holy crap. In other words, he’s a psychic, shape-shifting Superman.
Thankfully, Martian Manhunter has a crippling weakness to fire. Fire is often regarded as the Martian equivalent to Kryptonite. Some writers change this condition to Martian Manhunter having pyrophobia after seeing his family burn to death.
Martians also have a weakness to Chocos, a thinly veiled stand in for Oreos. Chocos don’t weaken Martians, but they are extremely addictive. That’s something humans could have told J’onn if he had asked.
Martian Manhunter is often considered the heart and soul of the Justice League. He serves as the team’s de facto therapist. After all, if he can read your mind, he already understands.
The Actors who played Martian Manhunter
Despite being a major player in the DC universe, Martian Manhunter only recently started appearing on screen.
Martian Manhunter made his debut in the animated series Justice League , voiced by Carl Lumbley. He next appeared in The Batman , voiced by Dorian Harewood. He was a recurring character in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and was voiced by Nicholas Guest. He also appeared in Young Justice voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.
Martian Manhunter made his live-action debut in the pilot for Justice League of America , played by David Ogden Stiers of M*A*S*H fame. The pilot was utter crap and the show was never made. A much better version of Martian Manhunter appeared in Smallville, played by Phil Morris.
In Supergirl, acclaimed British actor David Harewood, unrelated to Dorian, played a character called Hank Henshaw, who is hinted to have superpowers. Comics savvy viewers (myself included) believed this was leading to his supervillain identity, the Cyborg Superman. Surprise, surprise, he was actually Martian Manhunter in disguise.
Didya Get All That?
An alien superhero, and I ain’t talking about Superman.