Yeah, it’s another goofy theme week.
Q: So, who is this Martian Manhunter guy?
A: He’s the DC superhero who just might be more powerful than Superman.
Q: Get outta town.
A: Equivalent strength, durability and speed, flight, “Martian vision,” plus shape-shifting, invisibility, intangibility, and telepathy.
Q: I stand corrected. So what’s his deal, other than being from Mars?
A: Well, his name is J’onn J’onnz. He was born on Mars eons ago, back when the red planet still had a civilization. During his lifetime, a plague arose that destroyed the entire population; J’onn escaped only by a twist of fate, drawn across time and space to modern-day earth by a human scientist, who then had the bad taste to die of a heart attack. Stranded here, J’onn adopted the human alias of “John Jones,” became a detective with the Boulder, CO police department (as he had been a law enforcement operative on Mars), and slowly began to learn about his new world.
Q: So why is he a superhero?
A: The emergence of Superman, the last survivor of an alien race who possesses amazing powers and uses them for the good of mankind, probably had something to do with it.
A: You know you love me. Almost immediately, J’onn encountered four other heroes, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, and Black Canary, on a case that required them to pool their talents. Afterwards, they agreed to remain together as the Justice League of America. Since that time, J’onn has been an integral member of the League, with a longer overall record of service than any other member.
Q: Why do they need him around when they have Superman?
A: Well, Superman’s not always available. Also, J’onn’s telepathy makes him a more natural team coordinator and strategist. Finally, Superman can’t be everywhere, and J’onn has established as his “beat” much of the Southern Hemisphere. He’s very big in Japan.
Q: I’ll bet. So what’s he up to now?
A: Well, DC’s still stuck in the middle of Infinite Crisis, and J’onn’s role in that has largely been as hostage. When the JLA’s Watchtower was destroyed at the beginning of the series, he was the only Leaguer present, and was MIA until reservist Manitou Dawn was able to psychically contact him. Since then, he’s been shown as a prisoner of the villains, hooked into their crossover-standard Big, Impressive Machine.
Q: And after the crossover?
A: He’s getting a miniseries, by A.J. Lieberman and art by Al Barrionuevo.
Q: So at least he lives. I have an old JLA comic where Martian Manhunter is weak against fire. What’s that about?
A: Martians as a race were pyrophobes; any exposure to flames caused an intense reaction of fear. J’onn overcame this fear with the aid of a reformed villain called Scorch, but doing so unleashed a subsumed entity called Fernus, the Burning Martian. Fernus was a genetic remnant of the original Martian species, who had been genetically altered by the Guardians of the Universe, a race of interstellar buttinskis. Fernus nearly destroyed the Earth in his attempt to rebirth that race, but was stopped by J’onn and the League, most especially Plastic Man, who’s own shape-changing powers and immunity to telepathy made him the perfect weapon against a rogue Martian. Following the Fernus case, J’onn discovered that ordinary fire no longer affected him, only fire linked to passion (although what that means is anybody’s guess).
Q: Uh-huh. So, what’s J’onn *really* look like?
A: A bit like Gumby, actually.
Q: You’re kidding.
A: Well, it’s a superficial resemblance, but sort of. He’s green, bipedal, and has a long, triangular head.
Q: I’ve heard tell of White Martians. Explain.
A: White Martians were a second “race” of Martians, genetically the same but more belligerent and warlike. After an attempt to conquer prehistoric Earth, they were confined to an alternate plane of reality similar to the Phantom Zone that Krypton used as a prison. 60 of them eventually escaped and threatened modern Earth, but J’onn and the League defeated them. They were first brainwashed into believing themselves to be normal humans, and later imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, where they were eventually killed by Fernus.
Q: One last thing about J’onn: Why is he addicted to Oreos?
A: Because they are yummy.
Q: So why didn’t you go with the Hulk?
A: Aside from that being too easy, I’ve got one, maybe two Hulk entries on tap for later in the week.