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The Untold Truth Of Martian Manhunter

J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, had a wonderful life on his home planet. He married the love of his life, M'yri'ah, and they had a beautiful daughter together named K'hym. But one day, all life on Mars was destroyed, and J'onn was the sole survivor. He lost his wife, his daughter, and his entire world, but he didn't let that pain turn into hate or turn him into a monster; instead, he turned that pain into compassion for everybody around him. He devoted his life to helping others and keeping as many people from suffering in the most Martian way possible.

With his leading role in the beloved Justice League animated series, his supporting roles in various live-action shows, and his surprise appearance in Zack Snyder's Justice League, the Martian Manhunter is likely the most important superhero in DC's expansive pantheon who most people barely realize exists. While he may not have the name recognition of giants like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Iron Man, he's an incredible character, and often becomes a favorite of those who discover him. Here are some of the untold truths about the Martian Manhunter that make countless fans leap with joy whenever he appears onscreen.

He first appeared in Detective Comics #225 in 1955

Long after the original Golden Age of superheroes had ended, and before their Silver Age rebirth, Detective Comics debuted a brand-new detective in their 225th issue. The twist? This detective was from another planet. Now famous for being DC's namesake and the birthplace of the Batman, Detective Comics originally began as an anthology series featuring multiple mystery stories per issue.

In the style of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, the series typically featured recurring protagonists from issue to issue, often introducing new detectives as needed to keep things fresh. This was how Batman came to be in 1939, and how "John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars" came about once the series attempted to adapt to the burgeoning science fiction craze of the 1950s. Where other detectives used their wit or gadgets to solve crimes, John Jones used his extraterrestrial abilities to find clues nobody else could.

He's a detective and policeman

In his initial origin in Detective Comics #225, J'onn J'onzz is a Martian scientist accidentally transported to Earth by Dr. Erdel, who subsequently dies from a heart attack due to the shock of the event. Trapped on Earth with no way to return home to Mars, J'onn J'onzz adopts an anglicized version of his Martian name, joins the local police force, and becomes Detective John Jones. 

Though the character would not feature in detective stories forever, the police aspects of his origin continue to this day. In most of the character's modern origin stories, J'onn J'onzz was a "Manhunter," a Martian detective who focused on finding and capturing wanted criminals. When he found himself on Earth, he decided to do the same, initially as a police detective and later (after the emergence of the likes of Wonder Woman and The Flash) as a superhero, ultimately creating his codename from his former profession as a Martian Manhunter. 

He has more powers than Superman

The newly christened police detective John Jones sure had a lot of abilities. Like Superman, J'onn's powers aren't the result of some accident, but are instead the natural results of his alien physiology. Like Superman, J'onn J'onzz has amazing strength, speed, invulnerability, the ability to fly, lasers that shoot out of his eyes, and an array of superhuman senses. 

Unlike Superman, however, the Martian Manhunter is also one of DC's most powerful telepaths, can turn invisible, and can shape-shift dramatically at will, even to the point of becoming intangible enough to pass through solid objects or so dense that not even Superman's fists can harm him. With all of these incredible abilities, that Martian Manhunter might seem significantly more powerful than Superman, but J'onn has his own kind of kryptonite: fire. Martians have no defense against flames, and with a weakness so easily found or created, J'onn typically loses whenever he and the Man of Steel duke it out. 

His weakness to fire isn't always physical

The Martian Manhunter's susceptibility to fire manifests in interesting ways, however. Usually, it's a physical weakness tied to the Martian ability to shape-shift, the idea being that Martian physiology is either completely disrupted by extreme flames (like rubber or cheese melting when exposed to heat), or that it simply has no inherent defense against it. Another common physical explanation of the weakness is that it's the result of a virus that spreads through telepathic contact and creates a fever so intense it lights them on fire, killing them. 

Sometimes, however, writers create alternative explanations for the Martian's weakness. In one version, it was an entirely artificial limitation imposed on the Martians by the Guardians of the Universe in order to curb some sort of ancient intergalactic aggression. The most popular version, however, was introduced in the Martian Manhunter's third comic book series. In this account, the vulnerability was entirely psychological and completely unique to J'onn. J'onn's people had been killed by a plague that he survived, and when he gathered their bodies and burnt them in a massive funeral pyre, the sight of it gave birth to an intense phobia.  

He used to only use his super-breath

J'onn J'onzz is often incredibly fun to watch during fights as he quickly shifts from one power to the next to battle many foes, but this wasn't always the case. Fans might be surprised to find that, in his initial adventures with the Justice League in the early 1960s, the Martian Manhunter relied on an ability many weren't aware he even had: super-breath. He used it in every scenario the team encountered. Confronted by a giant, mind-controlling alien starfish, one might think that J'onn would bring his incredible telepathic abilities to bear, but instead, he uses his Martian super-breath to bring meteors down from space and then literally blow them at the villain. 

In many ways, J'onn seemed to function as a Superman stand-in the early years of the League before the Man of Steel finally joined the team on a regular basis, and the effect this had on how the character used his powers can be quite jarring to readers today. Eventually, the Martian finally grew out of this strange dependence on his unholy halitosis and began utilizing the full range of his abilities once again. 

Until recently, he never wore pants

Unlike many superheroes, the Martian Manhunter's standard costume remain unchanged for the majority of his superhero career until around 2006. During those fifty years, he sported a relatively simple and striking look: a blue cape with a high collar, blue boots, red straps across his chest, blue boxer briefs, and absolutely no pants whatsoever. It was a design choice of the 1950s that seemed to have been made to highlight his alien appearance. It works, to an extent, but it's truly surprising that it took this long for the Martian to finally earn a design update that gave him a much-deserved pair of pants. 

The initial change was made after a major comic book event titled Infinite Crisis. In the aftermath, there was a push to update J'onn's look, so he was given a new design within his brand-new solo comic book series. In his new outfit, the only skin the Martian exposed was his head. This has remained relatively unchanged in his designs since then, which tend to leave his chest or arms bare while always keeping his legs warm. 

His normal appearance is not his true form

The Martian Manhunter's standard costume isn't what he truly looks like. It's actually a form J'onn J'onzz chooses to more closely resemble the people of Earth without hiding the fact that he's an alien. Essentially, it's J'onn's way of helping others feel more comfortable around him without being deceitful. 

Depictions of his species' true form have been inconsistent over the decades. In his original appearance, his form was simply his normal costume. In the Justice League animated series, his true form involved a more cone-shaped head, almost shell-like skin, and angular, lanky limbs. Though there's no set depiction, most versions look at least vaguely similar to the one in the cartoon, though it's not uncommon for the Martian to look a little more abstract. 

His species isn't the only kind of Martian

J'onn J'onzz is Martian, but he's not the only species from the planet to have claimed that term. Traditionally, there are three species of Martians: White, Green, and Red (and occasionally yellow). The differences involve more than their dominant color, however, encompassing culture, origin, abilities, and true form.

In the ancient history of Mars, there were originally two species of Martians: the warlike White Martians and the peaceful, scientific Green Martians. For a time, they were able to coexist peacefully and work together towards common goals, including the colonization of the rings of Saturn. During this effort, they found it necessary to clone themselves to have enough workers to finish the project, and these clones became the Red Martians. The Greens treated them well, but the Whites treated them like slaves. In time, the Red Martians rebelled and became the children of Saturn, plunging the Green and White Martians into a civil war from which they never recovered. 

Though their true forms differed, White and Green Martians possessed all of the same powers and abilities. The Red Martians, however, were different. Though they shared the same physical abilities of strength and metamorphosis, their mental powers were far stronger, making the Saturnians capable of both telekinesis and powerful blasts of psychic energy. 

He's the last of the Green Martians — except when he isn't

Most modern versions of J'onn J'onzz's origin involve the extinction of his entire species, though their killer varies. In many versions, the Green Martians are completely wiped out by the White Martians in their civil war before J'onn can finally imprison them. In others, the Martians are killed by some kind of virus, which is usually some form of H'ronmeer's Curse, a plague that burns its victims and sometimes spreads telepathically. In yet another, J'onn's teleportation to Earth not only transported him through space, but also forward through time long past his people's end. 

No matter the cause of the extinction, J'onn J'onnz is very rarely the last son of Mars. In one version of events, a group of Green Martians managed to escape their planet's extinction and terraform a new planet in another system. Sometimes, J'onn isn't the sole survivor of his species, but simply one of the very few to have escaped the White Martians' oppression. Typically, though, there will be at least one or two Green Martians left to become challenging villains for the Martian Manhunter to defeat. 

He's hundreds of years old

By the time J'onn J'onzz arrived on Earth, he'd already lived for hundreds of years on the planet Mars. His people don't age like Earthlings do. Humans age as their cells' reproduction processes break down over time, but Martians' shape-changing physiology does not, allowing them to live for hundreds of years.

J'onn's age changes from version to version, but he's usually at least 200 years old before he comes to Earth for the first time and typically never older than 500 during his superheroic adventures with the Justice League. The upper limit of his life span isn't known, but it's quite likely that he's essentially immortal unless something other than time strikes him down. Martian Manhunter #1,000,000, for example, shows J'onn still alive and well in the 853rd century. 

He's been on Earth for decades

Thanks to his potentially infinite life span, it shouldn't be too surprising to learn that J'onn J'onzz originally came to Earth during the 1950s. Upon arrival, J'onn disguises himself as Detective John Jones and works from the shadows to make the world a better place. It isn't until the likes of Green Lantern and Wonder Woman make their superhero debuts that J'onn does the same and reveals himself as the Martian Manhunter.

Though some versions, such as the Justice League animated series, depict him arriving in the present day, most tend to keep his arrival during the 1950s as an homage to his original creation by writer Joseph Samachson and artist Joe Certa. J'onn's 1950s arrival means he's been on Earth for decades by the time Superman and Aquaman are finally active as superheroes in the modern day. Thanks to his ambiguous life span, this isn't a biographical detail that will need to be updated as time marches on in the real world. 

He has more than one secret identity

Though his most famous secret identity is Detective John Jones, the Martian Manhunter has adopted a multitude of secret identities over the years, often maintaining several at a time. In the late 1960s, he operated as Marco Xavier to infiltrate an international criminal empire. In 1998's Martian Manhunter #2, readers discovered that J'onn also lived in Japan as Yuchiro Takata, a retired Japanese businessman who had founded a company dedicated to reverse-engineering alien technology for the betterment of mankind.

This fact is often utilized in adaptations of the character as well. In Zack Snyder's Justice League, J'onn lives on Earth as Calvin Swanwick, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense. In the Justice League Unlimited animated series, J'onn doesn't have a secret identity until he takes a leave of absence from the team to explore Earth, eventually adopting the guise of an elderly Chinese man to better live with a human woman he's fallen in love with.

He's a founding member of the Justice League

In 1960, DC Comics decided to incorporate some of its lesser-known heroes (aka, not Superman or Batman) into a brand-new superhero team known as the Justice League of America. The team's founding roster included The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter. The five heroes banded together to defeat an alien invasion and decided to form a team to combat any similar threats in the future. 

Together, they fought villains like Starro the Conqueror, the alien despot Despero, the Injustice Gang, and Doctor Light. The team soon expanded to include the Green Arrow, the Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Superman, Batman, and many others. Together, they kept the world safe from interdimensional crises and even met their predecessors, the Justice Society of America. Throughout each trial, the team relied on the keen wisdom and experience of the Manhunter from Mars. 

He's the soul of the Justice League

Over time, the Justice League changed dramatically. Members came and went. Iterations of the team would disband, move headquarters, revamp their lineup, and reunite in new and interesting ways, but throughout nearly every single one of those versions, one constant always remained: J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter. Nearly every version of the team has counted the jade warrior among their ranks; it's actually far easier to count versions that haven't than to count all of the ones that have. 

In addition to being one of the League's most powerful members, J'onn is a font of wisdom and experience for his teammates, who often refer to him as the soul of the Justice League. As the team's longest-serving member, J'onn enjoys the sense of camaraderie and family it provides. More than that, the team's ideals constitute the core of the Manhunter's Martian philosophy. 

His brother is evil

Not all Martians share J'onn's philosophy, however, including his demented brother, Ma'alefa'ak. Commonly referred to as Malefic, J'onn's brother was born without his people's natural telepathic abilities — and without their inherent weakness to fire. Lacking psychic abilities, Malefic was never able to be a part of the Martians' telepathic collective. Lonely and resentful, Malefic eventually turned against his people. In one story, he's the one who released H'ronmeer's Curse and destroyed the Green Martian civilization. 

Eventually, Malefic discovers that his brother survived their people's demise. He follows J'onn to Earth and becomes one of the Martian Manhunter's many supervillains. A relatively unknown character, Malefic has only appeared a handful of times in comic books, but has featured in several adaptations, including 2012's Justice League: Doom. In this animated movie, Malefic is a member of Vandal Savage's team of villains who attempt to destroy the League.

Miss Martian isn't his cousin or his sidekick

Made popular by the Young Justice animated series, M'gann M'orzz, aka Miss Martian, is the closest thing that J'onn J'onzz has to a traditional sidekick, but that term doesn't apply very well. In her first appearance in 2006, Miss Martian was a new member of the Teen Titans who'd never even met the Martian Manhunter before. During her time on the team, they eventually discovered that M'gann was actually a White Martian who didn't agree with her culture's warlike nature and sought to make up for their evil deeds by becoming a hero on Earth. 

Not only is she not related to J'onn, but she's not even a member of the same species. She had never met him before Earth. They quickly became friends, bonding over their shared ideals and memories of Mars. Even at this point, though, they didn't work together often and never shared the traditional mentor-sidekick relationship that other heroes did.

He first appeared in live action in 1997

Zack Snyder's Justice League made waves among DC Comics fans when Martian Manhunter arrived, but this was far from the character's first live-action appearance. That particular honor belongs to a best-left-forgotten made-for-TV movie from 1997 titled Justice League of America. Aired on CBS and intended to serve as the pilot of a television series, the movie features Green Lantern, The Flash, The Atom, Fire, and Ice as they seek to defeat a weather-controlling supervillain called The Weatherman. 

Played by David Ogden Stiers, the Martian Manhunter secretly leads the team. He doesn't possess the powers he usually has in the comics; he can only shape-shift temporarily and has no telepathic powers whatsoever. The television movie had the double trouble of being poorly received and expensive, and the studio quickly dropped any plans for its future. 

He's a major supporting character in Smallville and Supergirl

J'onn J'onzz's live-action adventures didn't end with the made-for-TV misadventure, however. The Martian Manhunter eventually found his way to the CW show Smallville. The show focused on Clark Kent's formative adventures before he became Superman, and during the show's later seasons, a mysterious man named J'onn (played by Phil Morris) began helping the Kryptonian. 

J'onn next received the live-action treatment next on Supergirl. Played by David Harewood, J'onn had assumed the identity of Hank Henshaw, the director of the DEO, the arm of the U.S. government in charge of dealing with extraterrestrial threats. When Kara becomes Supergirl for the first time, she begins working for the DEO. She eventually discovers J'onn's true nature, befriends him, and begins fighting crime alongside him. The show spent a significant amount of time delving into J'onn's Martian backstory, going so far as to set several stories on Mars, make the White Martians a recurring villain, and introduce both M'gann M'orzz and Ma'alefa'ak. 

He forms the Justice League in the animated series

Despite these many live-action appearances, many fans still remember the Martian Manhunter best for his starring role in the Justice League animated series and its sequel, Justice League Unlimited. Voiced with a South African accent by Carl Lumbly, J'onn J'onzz traveled to Earth to warn humanity of an impending invasion, but was imprisoned by the government so they could study him. J'onn managed to contact Superman and Batman after the invasion began, allowing the Man of Steel to find and rescue him. Freed from his prison, J'onn used his telepathic abilities to summon Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl to their side.

With J'onn's guidance, the heroes defeated the invaders (who were essentially White Martians) and saved the planet. Afterward, the heroes decided to build a Watchtower satellite in outer space and form a brand-new team known as the Justice League. J'onn would remain with the team for all four seasons of the show. 

His Justice League voice actor played his dad in Supergirl

Carl Lumbly's history with the Martian Manhunter didn't end there, however. In addition to voicing the character in several later animated movies, the actor would eventually join the cast of Supergirl in its third season as M'yrnn J'onzz, the father of the superheroic Martian Manhunter. Lumbly used the same South African accent from the Justice League animated series when playing J'onn's father, and the casting was quite a treat for fans of both shows. 

M'yrnn joined the cast when J'onn received word from M'gann that the resistance movement on Mars discovered evidence that J'onn's father was still alive. Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter traveled to Mars, discovered that M'yrnn is a prisoner of the White Martians, and staged a successful rescue, bringing him with them back to Earth. J'onn spent the next few months helping his father recover from the experience and connecting with him after decades apart. M'yrnn eventually passed away due to the psychic injuries he sustained during his captivity, but not before telling much of his people's history on to his son. 

He LOVES Oreos

One of the Martian Manhunter's most endearing idiosyncrasies is his absolute obsession with the DC Universe's version of the popular Oreo cookie. Called Chocos, they are by far the best thing that J'onn has discovered during his time on Earth. The chocolate cookie is so beloved by the emerald Martian that his Justice League teammates often rely on it as a go-to gift for the Manhunter. 

In one particularly silly story, J'onn's obsession with Chocos reaches a newfound height bordering on addiction, leading him on a rampage through the countryside in search of more cookies. It takes the entire Justice League to finally contain him long enough for the Martian to regain control of himself once more. Since then, J'onn has taken measures to ensure that his eternal love for the cookie never again reaches such damaging extremes, much to his teammates' collective relief.