The Martian Manhunter

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I’m pretty sure I have mentioned before that the Martian Manhunter is my favourite comic book character. In fact, I think it a running theme in everything I write; no matter how unrelated it is I manage to give the Green Martian a mention.  In this gushing jumble of assorted sentences, which stems from a conversation I had with Lewis in a shopping center a few years ago, I will try to explain why I believe the character to be one of the best around. As with most comic book characters the continuous line of reboots can get pretty confusing, and while this article will contain some information from the New 52 version of the character, I’ll be primarily focusing on the original, because that’s the version I’m most familiar with.

Powers and weaknesses

The Martian Manhunter is one of the most powerful heroes in the DC universe with abilities including superhuman strength, durability, flight, regeneration, shape-shifting, intangibility, invisibility, telepathy, telekinesis, extrasensory input, and optic blasts. While you may groan, bemoaning him for being boring like Superman because nothing can really harm him, you’re bloody wrong.

J’onn J’onzz has one major weakness- fire. In some imaginings fire cannot physically hurt him, with his susceptibility to it being purely mental, while in others, fire can damage him. This may seem like an awful weakness for a character to have, especially when you are in the business of saving the world, but this has an important edge on his stories. Giving the Martian Manhunter a common vulnerability means that the reader or viewer is often on edge, scared for the character’s well-being.

Origin

I know the 90s weren’t the greatest time for comic books, some of the stories got pretty damn weird, but it’s during this time that The Martian Manhunter got his notable 32 issue series. This rendition of the Manhunter set out his origin in the Son of Mars story arc. The telepathic Martian race was under attack by a virus, and it wasn’t just the common cold; it was a prophesied plague known as h’ronmeer’s curse. The virus spread rapidly through from Martian to Martian as they communicated telepathically with one another, and resulted in the Martians bursting into flames… nice. J’onn being the species’ most successful detective, or “Manhunter”, was tasked with finding the cause of the curse. J’onzz managed to prevent infection by closing his mind off from his people, including the ones he loved most- his wife and daughter. Unfortunately for the Green Gumshoe, his wife and child weren’t as resilient as him and as their minds connected they burst into flames in front of his eyes. J’onn did eventually find the culprit (his own brother) but only after the rest of his race had perished. The Manhunter then spent decades, possibly centuries, wandering his burnt planet alone until he was brought to Earth in a teleportation accident, where he took on the guise of PI John Jones among many others. I personally prefer this origin the character- a detective that was too slow in figuring out the problem which resulted in the death of his planet. The addition of his family burning in front of his eyes adds so much more to his characterisation than the New 52 origin, which has him off world training to become the next leader of Mars as his planet burns.

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But what is important about his origin? Tragedy is certainly one of the key aspects of a Superhero’s origin, but what makes MM’s origin so important to me is that, it is the most tragic out of all of them. Yeah OK, Batman watched as his parents were murdered in front of him, but at least there are 6.7 billion other people milling about Earth upon which Bruce Wayne can inflict his untrusting demeanor. While Superman also lost his planet and his people, Kal’El was a baby when he was sent off into to space and was basically raised as a human, and even though his adoptive-dad did die, his mum is still there (Thank God she was called Martha… -Lewis). Yet despite the tragedy on Mars, and him almost giving up completely (satisfied to use his shape-shifting abilities to reanimate his daughter and wife), once on Earth the Martian Manhunter becomes one of the most dedicated heroes acting not only in the US but across the entire globe.

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Character personality & role within the JLA

So after all that I can still hear you thinking “Why the hell do you like this guy so much?”

Well, in short, the Martian Manhunter is the heart, soul and often the brain of the Justice League. While Aquaman is off aquaman-ing in Atlantis, Superman plays house as Clark Kent and Batman runs a business empire as Bruce Wayne, the Martian Manhunter is either in the Watch Tower watching over the Earth or spending time with one of his countless personas- always working. The Martian Manhunter has identities spread across the entire globe, from a Dallas based PI to a Japanese millionaire, an Italian cat to a Brazilian orphan. J’onn J’onzz is also one of the few heroes to spend a majority of his down time in developing countries- what a top bloke (Or at least he was before the New 52).

The Martian Manhunter co-ordinates many of the Justice League plans and due to his telepathic abilities can act as the entire team’s communication array, while also while acting and reacting in the field. J’onn J’onzz is also ready and willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the rest of the team. For example, in JLA issue 1 (from the 90s) the JLA fight a weird Angel thing (told you the 90s were bizarre) and, despite knowing he couldn’t beat the villain, J’onzz takes a beating to give the rest of the team time to regroup and form a battle plan. Then to top it off, he is one of the first on the scene to catch a burning space station despite being seriously injured and the fire from the falling station being able to kill him.

Not coming from Earth, the Martian Manhunter brings a different, some could say slightly more clinical view to the defence of the Earth, a viewpoint which is particularly noticeable in the Justice League Unlimited Cartoon. However, this makes him no less determined to protect his adoptive home and its people from threats. This clinical view could work really well within a Justice League film but with the current iteration of Superman being as mopey and miserable as he is, there may not be space for a second Alien on the team.

So, hopefully the above has given you, the dedicated reader that made it to the end, an idea as to why I like the Martian Manhunter so much, and why I really want to see him used in the DC films as well as his very enjoyable (if not slightly altered) television appearances on Supergirl.

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Ok. Well thanks for reading and as always if you agree, disagree or want to point out any glaring mistakes, don’t hesitate to post a comment, leave a like, or give this piece a share!

Supergirl

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Benportrait1It has been a while since the superhero show’s first season came to an end (the delay is mostly Lewis’ fault), and while I had a free weekend I thought I’d do a bit of a review for you if you’re interested, and if you aren’t it doesn’t matter, I will write it for my own amusement.

So first off, let’s do a season overview.

We start off with a young Kara Zor-El being put into an escape a pod before being sent after her new born cousin Kal-El to look after him while he grows up on Earth. However, her pod gets knocked off course and by the time she reaches Earth Kal El has become Superman. Once she becomes an adult, Kara decides to come out of hiding and use her powers to protect the people of National City, working alongside her adopted sisters and the DEO. So for this first outing of Supergirl we see her developing into her own superhero, attempting to move out of her cousin’s shadow, while fighting some slightly altered Superman villains.

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Enough of that, if you have seen the series you know what happened, and if you haven’t watched it I’d go and do that before you read anymore; just in case I give anything away.

Comparing this (CBS show) to the other three DC TV properties on THE CW (Season 1 wasn’t run by THE CW but season 2 will be so it is the natural comparison), the others being The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl comes in a strong yet distant 3rd which seems oxymoronic but let me explain. I think Supergirl is better written and acted than Legends, but compared to The Flash and Arrow Supergirl is inferior. However, some small changes could fix the issues I have with the show… the script needs work but I am going to focus on the story elements here.

A major issue for me surrounding the series is the use of the Martian Manhunter; I know he keeps cropping up in things I write but he is one of my favourite characters and I just want him to be used properly. For most of the season MM spends his time disguised asHank Henshore, the human director of the DEO, and this does limit him, as does his reluctance to use his powers, which makes for a strong character-developing story for the character.

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However, on multiple occasions when MM does use his powers the character seems incredibly watered down in order to make Supergirl look more impressive. In the comic book universe, The Martian Manhunter took on the entire Justice League at the same time and was recruited to the JLA in the New 52 to fight Superman if the Kryptonian got out of hand. Superman described him as the most powerful person in the DC universe, but in Supergirl he is demoted to sidekick duty and, as a fan of the character, it really grinds my gears.

Secondly, I am not keen on the Kara Danvers alter ego. Part of the point behind Superman’s minimal disguise is that Kal El and Clarke Kent’s mannerisms and demeanour are polar opposites. While Superman is a confident and impressive individual, Clarke is a nervous nobody that blends into the background; something perfectly encapsulated by the Reeve films (less so by the newer Caville films). Supergirl/Kara Danvers is the same character, the only difference between the two being that Kara wears glasses (that she can’t go two minutes without pushing onto her face, which could be interpreted as a nervous tick but the alter ego needs more than that). Furthermore, the introduction of a love interest from minute-one of the show tarnishes the otherwise fairly strong female superhero. Most Superheroes need a love interest, it is part of the genre, however the issue with the blossoming Kara/Jimmy Olsen romance is that it isn’t written particularly well, and the Kara character comes across as a bit wet and desperate for his attention. Personally, I think the season’s story would have been stronger without it.

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Finally, and most importantly, I think that there are more interesting characters that deserve their own TV show, primarily the DEO. Every minute spent there with the Martian Manhunter and Alex Danvers (Supergirl’s adopted sister) is far more interesting. Also, there is a difference between being hopeful, which is a requirement for any Superman related property, and just saying “hope” a lot. Unfortunately, Supergirl’s script falls into the latter category.

So that brings this to an end. I do realise it sounds harsh as, on the most part, Supergirl is a fun take on the Superhero genre, but now that The CW has the franchise perhaps we will see an even better show.

If you agree or disagree and want to tell me about it please post a comment, it will give me something to think about during my lunch break. And if you enjoyed this review, why not give it a like?

Cheers,

Ben

Trailer Review: Batman Vs Superman SDCC trailer

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Ben: So, Batman Vs Superman. What did you think?

Lewis: I think it looks pretty fuckin’ good

Ben: I think I agree. The teaser trailer left me wondering how it would turn out, but this has confirmed that I am looking forward to this film.

Lewis: It definitely looks a whole lot better than the teaser trailer suggested… I’m actually on board with the premise now, and Affleck actually looks pretty believable as Batman.

Ben: He does, doesn’t he? I like the idea of this film, Batman’s almost hatred and mistrust of Superman due to the fear of what he’s capable of, as well as his anger over the fight between Superman and Zod. I like how it seems to tie into Man of steel rather than just forgetting about it.

Lewis: Yeah, I really like how it’s tying all of it together. Jeremy Irons looks like a really good Alfred too, it’s like he’s acting as the devil’s advocate I debate of whether Batman should fight him. Although, I doubt the whole film will be Batman vs Superman, not with Lex Luthor getting involved.

Ben: Yeah I was going to say that. Mr Irons looks very good in that roll. Do you think this will be a different kind of Alfred compared to Michael Caine’s?
The much debated casting of Jesse Eisnburg as Lex Luther… he is a good actor so I personally don’t have an issue. He seems to be stringing things up for sure, and from the looks of it he is armed with Kryptonite.

Lewis: Hmmmmm, I’m not too sure about Jesse Eisenberg, he usually only plays himself, but I guess we’ll have to see. As for the relationship between Bruce and Alfred, I think it’ll be a little different to Bale and Caine’s take on it. I think they’re both older, so I think they’ll be a little pissier with each other rather than getting on so well. It does all feel very soon though, almost too soon after the Dark Knight Trilogy.

Ben: That’s fair, but I think he has what it takes to bring something new to the part.
I got more of a “coming out of retirement” vibe from Affleck’s Batman… more than just a bit of extra training.
Yeah that is how I saw it, a slightly more bitter relationship but with Alfred still being the grounding factor, which definitely came across in the trailer. Also, how do you mean “too soon”? There were also hints at the Joker possibly making an appearance.

Lewis: I meat that It feels like we only just finished the Dark Knight Trilogy, and now there’s another Batman story arc that could potentially be very different. Then again, it might not completely discount the Dark Knight films.
Yeah that’s true, the scrawled writing teasing Batman could well be him.

Ben: I suppose so, but I think the fact that I know Zack Snyder is going in a different direction means that it doesn’t bother me.
It looks like he’s teasing him about the death of Robin.

Lewis: Wonder Woman looks pretty awesome too, I wonder what part she’ll be playing in the fight?

Ben: Well it looks like something big busted out of Lexcorp, I have heard it could potentially be Doomsday, so she could help in fighting that. Or she could kick both of their arses setting them straight in the process.

Lewis: She could end up taking the more mature standpoint. Doomsday would be interesting, that’d give Batman and Superman something to team up against.

Ben: It is a real possibility. Or something might happen to Zod, there’s some potential in bringing back him back to life. Either way, Doomsday or Zod, I’d like to see Wonder woman win where the other two failed, it’d be a good introduction to the character.

Lewis: Yeah, and the start of the Justice League, which is set to be released in 2017 I believe. All in all I think this is going to be a good introduction to a new series of films. I’m also excited for that solo Batman film that Afleck’s going to be directing/starring in

Ben: Considering Affleck’s directing career that should be good. Will it be able to challenge the Marvel Movie Machine though?

Lewis: I highly doubt it’ll be able to compete, but I think it’ll still have a fair bit of success. Marvel’s already cornered that market, and it will be very difficult for DC to push their way in.

Ben: But if it pushes both to make quality films that can only be a good thing.
One last thing from me, I just want to mention how good the trailer was. It gave us enough to speculate and get excited about but managed not to give everything away; there are plenty of questions still to be answered.

Lewis: Exactly, it reminded me a lot of the Star Wars trailer in that it gave us familiar things but also a lot of things that need answers, and that weren’t answered in a 2 minute trailer (unlike Jurassic World or Terminator Genisys).

Ben: Yes, a lesson can be learned here by a number of franchises…