Marvin the Manhunter
Hey, everybody! Fun update that I’m sure most readers will enjoy, I’m no longer writing about suggestions on a biweekly basis! Instead, they’re gonna be EVERY week! Yaaaaaay! This is happening because I have a backlog of over, like, 50 suggestions, and at the rate I’m going, it would be 2017 by the time I take care of all of them. Plus, most of them are from a month ago, so… yeah. I’ve gotta deliver on promises. Except any promises I made about actually having a consistent schedule, because fuck that noise.
Anyways, let’s get to work. This week’s character was suggested by u/irregularcog over on reddit, because where else would my suggestions come from? Also, gonna go ahead and say hello to any fans of the Best Friends Zaibatsu reading this, because that’s mostly who this article is for. Your days of being fed misinformation about DC characters are over! Break free from your shackles! Maybe make the Best Friends themselves read these! You are all freeeeeeee nooooooooow
Martian Manhunter is a really fun character, and one that people are actually probably familiar with at least in passing thanks to the phenomenal Justice League cartoon from the DCAU’s heyday. However, most fans actually don’t know all that much about him, as a big part of his appeal on the show was that he was mysterious and, well, alien. Plus, you know, he was a cool guy. If you’ve never seen the JL show, and are a Marvel fan who has seen Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which is fucking awesome! everybody give it a shot!), think of him as Space Black Panther.
But of course, that couldn’t be farther away from who he really is, so let’s ruin that mysterious facade with knowledge, shall we? Without further ado, let’s fake an education in comics.
SCENARIO: I should probably refine these parts of the articles, but fuck that. Anyways, Martian Manhunter has actually been getting another boost in public awareness recently, what with his solo series being pretty good, his getting a new secret origin (we’ll discuss that later), and his being a recurring character on Supergirl. So, of course, a lot of people are going to pretend to know what they’re talking about with him, which is a shame for their dignity, because I will teach you to destroy them. You will be forged into a spearhead thrust into the heart of… some nebulous antagonistic force, I guess. Or not, I’m not a cop.
But you know who is a cop? Martian Manhunter. You know who people are going to dismiss as a B-List Superman knock-off for years now? Martian Manhunter. You know who’s a way more complex and interesting character than that? Martian. Fucking. Manhunter. Much like last week, where I discussed the differences between Moon Knight and Batman, this week is gonna have a slight focus on Martian Manhunter and Superman.
Oh, and uh, pretend I did the whole “some asshole said wrong things to you and you correct them” bit here. Saves us all some time until I can come up with a better thing.
Step One: Oh Boy Apostrophes
I’m as unenthusiastic about most of New 52 as the next guy, but damn, is that a great panel or what?
Anyways, get ready for some really bad alien names. Martian Manhunter, better known among his people as J’onn J’onzz (which is kind of pronounced the same way a guy drunk off his ass would say John Jones, because creativity was hard in the fifties), was born to M’yrnn and Sha’Sheen, alongside his twin. Twins are, apparently, a huge deal on Mars, so they were treated accordingly. J’onn, being the hero of our story, got named, well, J’onn J’onzz, which means “Light to the Light”, because of course it does. Meanwhile, J’onzz’ twin brother got screwed, being born without Martian telepathy, and was named Ma’alefa’ak, which means “Darkness in the Heart”, because of course it fucking does. Seriously, that’s almost as blatant as Scar’s real name in Lion King translating to garbage, while Mufasa translated to king. Imagine I had twins, and I named one Jesus McSavior, and the other one was born disabled, so I named him Chth’Rhakh, He of the Many Mouths, He who is Devourer, He who is the Singer of the End Song. Shit’s whack, yo.
Things went pretty well for J’onn. He joined the Manhunters, which are basically Martian police. I have no idea why the Martian police would have a police force that includes a term for a species that doesn’t exist on Mars, but what the hell. Also, I’d like to point out that a Martian coming to Earth and taking the name Martian Manhunter for his superhero name is the equivalent of a human coming to, let’s say Mars, and naming himself Human Cop.
…That actually sounds like a great comic.
Getting back on track, J’onn got married to a “lady” named M’yri’ah and had a family. Remember kids, if you need to come up with like, 30 alien names by lunch, just take existing names and nouns or adjectives, and fuck em up with apostrophes and spelling errors like crazy. No one will notice until it’s too late. Meanwhile, while J’onn was having fun doing Space Law and Order, Ma’alefa’ak The Clearly Evil was engineering a super virus that he called H’ronmeer’s Curse, because it turns out living without a huge portion of what makes your species unique does not create well-adjusted individuals. The virus, being incredibly fucking evil, responded to Martian telepathy, tuning in to the Martian’s biologically programmed fear of fire, reading through those instinctual memories, and then using them to cause the host body to spontaneously combust. This resulted in what was basically the genocide of the Martian people, which makes a lot more sense than the whole Kryptonite thing, because it was basically a version of the Holocaust that worked like the flu. This, understandably, drove J’onn kind of insane, because literally everyone he had ever known and loved was dead. In some versions of his backstory, he remained alone on Mars for centuries, meticulously digging graves for and burying every single dead Martian. That’s at least a couple million graves.
This meant, of course, that it was the perfect time for some scientist to beam him to Earth, stealing him away from his home to do menial bullshit.
Due to being, you know, completely fucking bonkers, Manhunter formed a psychic bond with the scientist, who then understood every memory in Manhunter’s life. Sensing how traumatized J’onn was, the scientist used his own mind to fabricate a completely bullshit history inspired by fifties sic-fi serials and Edgar Rice Burrows, which is hands down my favorite retcon to explain shitty Golden Age backstories ever. Seriously, learning that and then learning J’onn’s true history is pretty cool.
Anywho, seeing J’onn shape shift a couple minutes later caused the scientist to have a heart attack, which was later retconned, but who cares, because that’s hilarious. Immediately after kind of accidentally murdering a guy, J’onn decides to be a champion of Earth, because, well, Mars is pretty dead you guys. He has an interesting take on the superhero role though, often using his shapeshifting abilities to save lives from behind the scenes, working as a human on the police force or undercover as a criminal in a gang. He still flies around as a big ol green guy every now and then though. He is also a founding member of the original Justice League of America, which is pretty big fucking deal, but no, by all means, everyone keep sidelining him in favor of Cyborg, he’s waaaaaaaaay cooler than an alien being with a distinct personality and powerset.
Every now and then J’onn disappears fully into his role as a human, usually taking the name John Jones (duh), but he usually adheres to his Martian heritage when not in hiding. He goes through a lot of adventures with the JLA, attempting to overcome his inherent fear of fire all the while, as well as being pretty much one of the greatest heroes of all time in terms of success rate. He was of course rewarded for his efforts by being murdered by the Secret Society of Supervillains a few decades later.
To be fair though, he did come back during Blackest Night/Brightest Day, but that’s an event that I’ll talk about more when I get to a Lantern character.
Oh, also he fucking loves Oreos. Like, the way a crackhead loves crack. It’s pretty endearing.
Step Two: New 52, New Origin
After being shafted pretty hard for the first few years of comic books after the New 52 reboot, J’onn eventually kind of rose back to prominence. He got a really great series as a result of DCYou (ugh, that is the worst name), in which we got a ton of expansion on Martian lore. Plus, Mr. Biscuits.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Biscuits is like Poochy if he were good, but we can get to that a bit later.
Manhunter’s solo series is, well, it’s amazing. I have nothing bad to say about it. But it also is partially responsible for something that I… have issues with. In a bid to, supposedly, give Martian Manhunter a more distinct origin story from Superman’s, it turned out that J’onn was actually a poet chosen by a coalition of Martian scientists to act as the conscience for a temporary fusion of all of Mars’ most powerful warriors and most brilliant thinkers. So basically he’s a sick-ass Voltron now. However, Ma’alefa’ak murdered most of the scientist in order to permanently fuse and empower the Manhunter through the apparently valid method of ANCIENT MARTIAN BLOOD SACRIFICE.
Just… I don’t even know where to begin. I fucking LOVE the concept of ANCIENT MARTIAN BLOOD SACRIFICE, because hell yeah, that’s metal, but it feels so incredibly unnecessary. Sure, J’onn and Clark always had a bit of a similarity between their losses, but J’onn’s was always distinct. He was a man(hunter) grown when he lost his world, and he spent centuries grappling with the consequences. To be fair though, Martians still end up dying, since the embodiment of Martian nature (yeah, this book is bonkers) is less than thrilled by ANCIENT MARTIAN BLOOD SACRIFICE and kind of just turns the planet off, followed by shooting J’onn through time and space until he ends up on Earth. Idunno, it’s a better explanation for his powers than “that’s just how Martians work man”. Plus, I love typing the phrase ANCIENT MARTIAN BLOOD SACRIFICE.
I would go into more, but frankly, I will not spoil any more of that book than I already have. Everyone go pick it up, it’s fucking amazing.
Step Three: Of Krypton and Mars
Ok, here we go. So a loooooooot of people just see MM as a sort of clone of Superman, and to be fair, they are undeniably similar. However, I would argue that their similarities are outweighed by their differences, and that they act more as interesting counterparts than clones. Both have lost their homes, both are strangers in a strange land (Man, Stranger in a Strange Land is such a good book), both are just ridiculously overpowered. But they are undeniably different. Superman is, to put it as briefly as possible (I have a full rant version of the point I’m about to make, it’ll come up someday), is humanity. He is apart from us, he isn’t even one of us on a biological level, but he represents us. Superman is humanity, all sails to the wind, all hands working together. He is unity.
Meanwhile, we have J’onn. J’onn is, and always has been different. Unlike Superman, he doesn’t naturally look like a human being. He has a harder time adjusting to our culture, because he operates on an entirely different plane than almost any human being on the planet. How could we hope to even begin to understand him? It’s like a gorilla and a human. They can communicate, they can interact, but one is fundamentally lesser than the other on a mental level. J’onn is processing information that we aren’t even aware of, his mind is constantly sifting through data, and that’s while he’s limiting himself to avoid reading an innocent mind without consent, because that’s super rude guys. No matter how much he changes his form to blend in, no matter how close his bonds with humanity, he will never be one of us. Superman lost his home as an infant, he grew up on Earth, knowing what he had lost, but never truly knowing the pain of that loss. J’onn can look up at where his home is, he can fly there and wander it’s barren plains, he can stumble through the ruins of Mars, but he will never, never have it back. He will never escape that pain. The faces of his family, of his people, will haunt him for an eternity and beyond, and that loneliness will eat away at him until the day he dies. He is a modern Holocaust survivor, he has been subjected to loss and pain that most would never understand, and that even fewer would be able to talk him through.
Oh, and most of the Martian survivors that have turned up over the years have been total assholes. Plus, MM could beat the shit out of Superman, that’s just a fact. He has super strength, concussive energy blasts, shape shifting, density control, telepathy, telekinesis, flight… as long as he can avoid getting set on fire, he’s gonna be just fine.
On the one hand, you have the champion of Earth, humanity’s will and unity manifest. On the other, you have the soul of a dead people, watching us from the stars, unable to decide between two homes, between past and future.
Also, MM is green. I mean, come on, how different could you get.
Step Four: Last of the Last Sons
So we’ve already established that MM is really, really important to DC and the Justice League. But for some reason, it seems like he’s been phased out of the main DCU. He’s gone from being, let’s face it, one of the best characters in comics, to one of the best characters in the DCAU (you teared up during the JL christmas episode with him, don’t lie to me), to… nothing, and slowly back again. Ever since he got ousted from the JL in the New 52 reboot in favor of Cyborg (a choice I will never, ever understand), he’s been on a bit of a downward slope with his representation outside of comic books. He got shafted out of the DC movies, being replaced by Cyborg yet again (seriously, who cares?!), he’s barely in any animated features, and when he was still on the table for the DCCU, he was supposedly going to be reduced to a cheap Hulk knock off. In all fairness, he’s having a little bit of an upswing with his appearances on Supergirl, and he was a fun DLC character in Injustice.
But to go from a founding member of the Justice League, arguably the biggest superhero team of all time, to a character that barely anyone knows anymore? That’s unforgivable. I mean, I can understand why you would pick him to get rid of if you had to replace someone on the Justice League, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. Like, at all. I get it, he’s the least prominent of the seven, and even Aquaman is a household name thanks to people thinking he’s dumb and lame, but this is like getting rid of Ant Man in favor of, idunno, Wonder Man? No, Cyborg is better than that. Look, it’s just nonsensical, is what I’m saying. It’s not like the JL needed more tech help, Batman pretty much has that covered. Or hell, why not just keep both on the team? Make it an 8 person group. Boom, everybody’s happy, except probably not because this is comic books we’re talking about, there’s always gonna be anger.
Martian Manhunter is important, and he deserves better. That’s all I have left to say on the matter, beyond the fact that Chocos are probably better than Oreos, and they would be an amazing marketing opportunity if MM ever got his movie. I don’t know about you guys, but I would buy Martian Oreos.
If you have any suggestions, be sure to leave them wherever you find this article. See you guys next week!