Martian Manhunter: what is the appeal?

Martian Manhunter seems to gradually be becoming a mainstay of the DC Universe, with his addition to the cast of the Justice League animated series.

For those not in-the-know, he is a shape-changing telepathic green Martian with super-strength, a product of 1950s-era comics. He wears blue briefs, held up by red suspenders crossed over his chest, and a big blue cape. Um.

Recent appearances have painted the character as the “heart of the Justice League”: the only member who has been in all incarnations of the team. This is a distortion of the truth: for almost two decades, IIRC, the character was omitted from the JLA roster.

I don’t think I’d be too bothered if the character was portrayed as a retro 50s Martian - something more kitsch than serious.

Can anyone defend this character?

When I was a kid, I first saw MM in Justice League comics, where they clearly didn’t know what to do with him. He seemed like a backup Superman, except that he was green and vulnerable to fire (for cryin’ out loud!). Only later did I learn that he was a kind of “filler” that appeared in the back pages of DC comics in the late fifties and early sixties. J’onn J’onzz (John Jones) didn’t look like he did in JLA comics – he had a REALLY heavy brow, and some weird abilities (he could see around corners!), but he still didn’t really have any character.

Maybe they’re bringing him back in order to finally do something interesting with him. Maybec he can discover his Marttian Heritage. Or Display Martian Martial Arts. Or have a Dramatic Emotional Event. Or something.

He has become a Fan Favorite not because of his powers, but because of the way his story is written.

The Martian Manhunter is a benevolent outsider–very kindly, but very alien in his out look.

He sees Mankind in new ways.

Personally, I like to watch the writers of the JL cartoon forget his powers.

MM takes a steel girder upside the head, flies back twenty feet, hits a wall and slumps to the ground. He grunts in pain. Then he whacks his funny-shaped head with the heel fo his hand, and says, “Oh, right, I can turn intangible! Silly me!”

He has all these amazing powers, so they can tap him to get around a particularly sticky plot point whenever they need him, but then in any of a million other situations where he could solve problems through diguise, or walking through a freakin’ wall, he conveniently forgets his abilities.

Same problem with Superman, of course. “I can shoot energy beams out of my eyes!?! Get out of town! That would have been really useful about half an hour ago . . .”

Well, don’t forget that he’s the last of his kind.

Most useful for agonizing angsty situations, you know.

The Martian Manhunter has no appeal as a hero. He is grudgingly written and rather ill-used by most writers. Possibly the three best ideas I’ve heard about the character – multiple secret identities, the Martian city of Z’onn Z’orr and his quirky Oreo obsession – aren’t used to their full potential.

It’s possible he was better written in his short-lived series, but I read the DC 1,000,0000 tie-in, so I tend to doubt it.

The best thing about the Manhunter was the plot point by Alan Moore, when he was going to betray all humanity in Twilight.

I, for one, am sick to death of the recurring J’onn-betrayed-the-JLA! Oh-wait-no-he-really-didn’t plot point that keeps cropping up.

I once had a really weird idea to totally revamp J’onn’s character in an Elseworlds-type story, where he’s revealed to be The newly appointed protector of Atlantis, which will have abandoned its monarchy (and make Aquaman infinitely happier.) Togetherm, they would be revered as the persons responsible for reconciling the long-simmering tensions between Atlanteans and the surface world by bringing Atlantis to an enlightened new age. Further, Jonn’d have taught Atlanteans to hone their telepathic abilities with Martian disciplines – his weakness to fire would be largely eliminated by living underwater – and he would be revealed to have successfully reformed most of the White Martians – all from his Submerged Citadel of Z’onn Z’orr. And YES – he would find love with a merwoman, possibly Lori Lermis. In other words, I’d turn him into an interesting underwater Superman.

He was rarely seen in the Dick Dillin issues (roughly, the 70s), but was a pretty major player in the 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s. Every time the league is disbanded (which they didn’t do with any regularity until 1984, but they’ve done it a LOT since then), he’s part of the new lineup. He, Captain Comet and Barry Allen are all contenders for “First Silver-Age Superhero.” There was a Millar/Morrison story that established that of all the current leaguers, he’s the only one who takes an active interest in Asian, African and South American affairs and (in DCU continuity) he’s more popular in those countries than Superman or Wonder Woman. And because he’s such an outsider (and their only telepath), he’s probably the most compassionate member of the League. The ladies seem to dig him because he’s a sexually non-threatening teddy bear (although that perception might not survive the curent JLA storyline). Finally, with the Green Martian/White Martian stuff, he’s thematically tied into the whole Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition. I like the guy.

Another great thing about him is, he’s a funhouse version of Superman. He has a lot of the same qualities and traits, but chose not to be a charismatic poster boy; he’s of a more spiritual bent. He represents a heroic ideal Superman can still aspire to. He’s like a more settled, grown-up version of the Kryptonian.

Like Wang-Ka said, J’onn holds the angst trump card. Batman lost his parents–well, J’onn lost his family…along with the rest of his race. Superman lost the rest of his race–well, J’onn actually knows what he lost; Supes doesn’t really remember Krypton, as he was only an infant when it was destroyed. He can one-up pretty much anybody in the personal tragedy department. Since angst is apparently a vital commodity amongst superheroes, that’s got to be worth something. :wink:

Besides, he’s powerful like Superman, and creepy like Batman (at least sometimes). I like that combination–Supes gets on my nerves sometimes, with the way he always seems to be “on stage”, but J’onn doesn’t.

He needs no defense.

He was not in the Justice League in the 1970s and part of the 1980s. He has been in all incarnations.

[li]The original version which began in the Brave and the Bold.[/li][li]The version with Vixen, Vibe, and Gypsy.[/li][li]The bwahahahaha version with Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Fire & Ice.[/li][li]JLA[/li][/ul]

I guess he’s not your cup of tea.

I like Martian Manhunter. But I do think it is strange how he has basically every super power:

Invisibility, intangibility, total control of physical structure including shape shifting, Superman level strength and endurance, invulnerability, superspeed, flight, mind reading, extremely powerful telepathy, super intelligence, mind control, and probably more.

It’s pretty hard to write a character with that power set. But then, a lot of JLA characters have that problem.

…didn’t the MM end up getting trounced by Bishop in a DC/Marvel crossover?

'Must have been an “off day” for him.

I love Martian Manhunter. He’s actually one of my favorite DCU heroes and heroes in general.

I guess it might be because I great up reading the “bwa-ha-ha” league where I thought he was written really well. I liked how he showed his discomfort for the antics of Beetle/Gardner/etc. but not to the extent that Batman did when he led the team.

His lonliness appeals to me as well. I find his alien heritage to be a lot more interesting than Superman’s because, yeah, he knows exactly what was lost. I think part of my affinity for him might also derive from his underdog status. Sure, he’s really powerful, but a) hardly anyone likes him (real people, I mean), b) he has the lamest weakness ever, and c) he’s almost always overshadowed by his teamates in the JLA.

I like Martian Manhunter aswell. There was some pretty horrible stories written about him, but I think once Morrisson got his paws on him, that the characters appeal really grew on me.

I do think that his powers are way over the line, but he is a DC character, and “When in Rome…”

Not really. After all, invulnerability is nothing before the almighty power of X-Fandom, just ask Lobo.

The original Silver Age version grew over the period of 20 odd years so that it only vaguely resembled its original self: MM was not a part of that.
The character was brought back for the Detroit JL.

The “bwahaha” version is the Giffen JLI, in which he was given the love of Oreos.

The character was recently dropped from the current line-up of the JLA, if memory serves.

Aquaman was pegged to die in Our Worlds at War by the DC editors (a last minute repreive was ordered by Warner Bros) because he was more or less unpopular: I can see Martian Manhunter being reduced to cannon fodder at some stage, for the same reason.


Yeah. Lobo losing to Wolverine in a fistfight produced one of the biggest guffaws from me EVER. At least Aquaman momentarily immobilizing Namor under a belly-flopping whale was plausible.

I was reading a 4-page preview of the newest issue of JLA today – and J’onn J’onzz was BARBEQUING. And dressed in casual clothes! How did Manhunter’s fire vulnerability get ‘cured’?

No, he’s still around. He’s been featured in three of the last four issues, and takes center stage next month.

It was “cured” back in the “BWAHAHA” days when it was revealed to be psychosomatic in nature (He’d witnessed the burning death of his daughter or something). Subsequent writers grandfathered it back in with no explanation. There’s been a subplot over the last four months where he’s seeking therapy from a fire-based character named Scorch to overcome his pyrophobia. The results of this are the basis of the story you saw previewed.

What I don’t get is if Martian Manhunter’s vulnerability to fire is psychosomatic then why are the White Martians vulnerable to fire as well? Did all of them have family members that got roasted as well?

No kidding… Lobo’s basically a funhouse version of Wolverine with his powers and less desirable personality traits amplified (I remember one Lobo one-shot where he inhales a harmonica (and thinks it’s cancer)…the man had a harmonica in his lung, and LIVED - in fact, he barely noticed) - and his self restraint and morality COMPLETELY removed. Logan shouldn’t have stood a chance.