When the Justice League of America debuts later this month, the one team member getting extra, personal attention from writer Geoff Johns is Martian Manhunter.
"The reason that Martian Manhunter is in the back-up is because of the role he'll be playing," Johns told Newsarama. "Just like Shazam will play an integral role to Justice League as that continues on, Martian Manhunter is central to Justice League of America and the bigger DC Universe."
As with most characters in the DCU, when the publisher launched its "New 52" universe, Martian Manhunter's story got a revamp. Over the next couple weeks until Geoff Johns and David Finch launch the new Justice League of America on Feb. 20th, Newsarama is spotlighting the characters in this "other" Justice League. Who are they? Where did they come from? And what's their story within the JLA?
As we turn the spotlight on Martian Manhunter, we talked to Johns and Finch about the character, as well as the co-writer on the "Manhunter" back-up stories, Matt Kindt, to find out more about the character's role in the New 52.
The BasicsAs his name implies, Martian Manhunter is a man from Mars. He's the last (or nearly last) of his kind, and his name is J'onn J'onzz.
It's difficult to know the definitive truth about Martian Manhunter's first years in the New 52, because he was apparently less than honest with his team members in the Stormwatch title, where he first showed up after the relaunch. But since the relaunch, he's also been seen in several other New 52 titles, interacting with everyone from the Legion of Super-Heroes to Green Lantern Guy Gardner, so we've gotten a lot of demonstrations of his powers.
"Martian Manhunter is the biggest secret, I think," Johns told Newsarama. "He's the biggest secret, I think for the JLA as a team, and within the DC Universe. He has more ties to more things in the DC Universe than you could ever imagine, and those are going to be explored heavily within JLA and also within the back-up series he has."
While his New 52 origin is still somewhat of a mystery, he's been shown as having most of his pre-relaunch power set. He has heat vision, the ability to phase, and super strength. He's genius-level smart, and he can shape shift into monstrous forms — or can make himself look like a human. He can survive physical hits and energy blasts from some of DC's most high-profile heroes.He is a powerful telepath. He's able to reads minds from great distances (having read the Justice League's thoughts from Earth while they were in space), can telepathically sense emotions or when others are near, and he was recently shown transferring information telepathically to Green Lantern Guy Gardner. He has also erased the memories of multiple people.
Although he's always been one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, J'onn has traditionally had one major weakness: fire.
"I think his powers and his natural 'alien-ness' are the core of his character so I don't think those will really change — but the way we think about his powers and they way he uses them, those are the things we're going to explore," Kindt told Newsarama of the new approach to the character we'll see in Justice League of America. "I don't think his mind-power abilities have really been thought out or explored as much as they should be, and we'll be taking care of that!"
When Kindt was asked to describe the character in just a few words, he said "mysterious and scary." He also said the character's story will be heavy on "secrets. Lots of spy-style secrets."
At New York Comic Con, Johns said “I’ll also say that this book will make Martian Manhunter the most dangerous character in the DC Universe.”It's also worth noting that, when he left the Stormwatch title, Martian Manhunter was told by the powerful Shadow Cabinet that the only way he could leave his Stormwatch team was if he did something for them in the future, "when the time comes."
But make no mistake: the character is still a hero, according to Johns. "There are layers to that from his own personal viewpoint and the things he's learned on earth. He's kind of a chess player, but he's a chess player with a soul — with a conscience and a heart," Johns revealed to CBR. "Sometimes he's going to act a certain way just to get things done, but he believes what he's doing is right."
Martian Manhunter's new design for the New 52 was recently revealed in a character sketch that said the sides of Manhunter's head "proved tricky for new artists when this new design was first being incorporated."
But the costume design by Jim Lee also gives the character an almost "shaman" look — and that "regal nature" is something Finch told Newsarama he's hoping to play up in Justice League of America.
"For me, Martian Manhunter is the majestic, powerful member of the team. I think he's a bit of a wild card too, but just visually, he's such a big, powerful character. And that's what I try to get across," Finch said.
Team RoleWith Martian Manhunter's huge power set, expect him to be one of the main players on Johns' new team. "I really think people who have been waiting for Martian Manhunter to step up and be a major player in the DC Universe will see it almost immediately in Justice League of America," Johns told IGN. "He will be a major member of this team, and he's going to shape the Justice League of America as much as Amanda Waller."
Johns said J'onn's connections in the DCU are "far-reaching" and we'll find out in issue #1 what he's been doing. "You'll see that he's kind of a one-man Illuminati," he said.
But Martian Manhunter already has a Justice League past. In Justice League #8, it was shown that Manhunter was on the Justice League in the past, during the first five years of the team's existence (between the first storyline in Justice League and the current day). But J'onn left the team after he fought the entire Justice League.
You read that right ... Martian Manhunter fought the entire Justice League, and they don't have good memories of the encounter.But however they feel about him, he hasn't stopped listening to his old team. He is still apparently monitoring their thoughts, and he was shown in an issue of Justice League stating that he believes "they're not prepared."
"For a time, he was on the Justice League," Johns said. "He battled Starro and all these other guys, and then there was a huge falling out. They've been on the outs ever since. We'll discover what that was, what happened and why. They'll meet again in the upcoming year — that was set up a long time ago."
Check back with Newsarama during the next few weeks until the launch of Justice League of America on Feb. 20th for more character profiles from the JLA team. And see our recent profiles below.
- JLA Profiles: Johns Approaching HAWKMAN In a New Way
- JLA Profiles: CATWOMAN Brings Villainous Slant To Team
- JLA Profiles: KATANA - Death, Honor, & Soultaking Sword
- Who's Who in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA