"I am Mars' sole survivor. There is a reason for that."
Martian Manhunter is one of the DC Universe's odd men out. On the one hand vastly powerful and a member of pretty much every version of the Justice League of America, (unless we're talking Pre-Crisis continuity, in which case, J'onzz was largely Put on a Bus from 1968-1984, only making a handful of appearances across the DCU during that time,) yet on the other, writers just don't seem to know what to do with him. His past has been retconned several times, his personality varies by writer, and since he has more powers than Superman, he suffers from occasional mind squicks, frequent bouts of Forgot About His Powers and Mind Over Manners to keep him from resolving plots too quickly.He first appeared in Detective Comics #225 (November, 1955), created by Joe Samachson and Joe Certa. An alien teleported to Earth by a Freak Lab Accident, J'onn J'onzz (pronounced fairly close to "John Jones" - in Justice League his first name seems to be halfway between the English "John" and the French "Jean") decided to use his abilities to help protect the innocent who could not protect themselves. All of his incarnations have that much in common (well, the DCAU and Smallville versions came to Earth on their own, but that's a minor detail).Factors that have varied greatly over the decades include whether he is actually the Last of His Kind, whether J'onn J'onzz is his real name, whether the green humanoid form he normally assumes in public is his true appearance, whether his memories of Mars are real or fake, and whether his Weaksauce Weakness to fire is psychological or physical.His powers vary tremendously, even within a single incarnation. In his earliest proto-Silver Age appearances, he worked mainly with Psychic Powers (and writers kept coming up with newer and sillier applications as the Age got more Silvery— like mental ice cream creation and sonic finger-snapping). Since then he's mainly been treated as a Flying Brick with a few extras.In his solo series from 1998, writer John Ostrander revealed that J'onn largely functioned as the "Superman" of the Southern hemisphere, operating as its most recognizable hero (which makes a lot of sense when you think about itnote J'onn is Superman-class powerful, but also figuratively & literally empathic, pan-cultural and used to changing to adapt to his surroundings; it's easy to see why people might relate to him more than "American Way" Supes), as well as maintaining numerous assumed identities the world over, including being a regular cab driver for Clark Kent.To the non-comic-geek public, he is best known for his role on the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series, where he was voiced by Carl Lumbly. He appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold as Batman's close friend, and acts as the Only Sane Man in a number of episodes. He has also popped up in The Batman, voiced by Dorian Harewood, on Smallville where he's played live by Phil Morris, and the So Bad, It's Good aborted pilot, The Justice League of America, where David Ogden Stiers (Dr. Winchester from M*A*S*H) filled the role. The animated film Justice League: The New Frontier had MM voiced by Miguel Ferrer. He also appears on the animated Young Justice as Miss Martian's uncle. He also recently appeared in Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes voiced by Cam Clarke.Note that from 2008 to 2010 J'onn was dead, but now he's back. With pants!As part of The DC Comicsrelaunch, he became one of the central characters of Stormwatch and has lost most of his friendliness, relationship to other DC characters, and love of Oreos. He left after issue 12, wiping his teammates' memories of him in the process, and leads the new Justice League of America.Powers used by the Martian Manhunter are a mixed bag with no cohesion that nonetheless makes him very formidable; the ones common to most incarnations are:
Note that all these are subject to change without notice; in the telefilm J'onn could just barely shapeshift and demonstrated no other powers (it was a very low budget show) but had no problem with heat. The Smallville Manhunter can't heal within Earth's atmosphere and remains almost exclusively in human form. On The Batman, he has telekinesis. The JLU version lacked speed, invisibility, Eye Beams and weakness to fire was only impliednote This version of J'onn took a couple seconds worth of a jet engine going nitro right near his face and showed no ill affects. And so forth.Other Tropes associated with him:
The Ageless: He can certainly be killed, but if Martians age at all, it must be incredibly slowly.
Apocalypse How: Pre-Crisis, Mars was fine... right up until 1969's "And So My World Ends" when Commander Blanx engineered a Class 6 Apocalypse by setting Mars on fire and leaving it a lifeless, barren husk. In current continuity, the planet suffered a Class 3, with Malefic's plague, H'ronmeer's Curse wiping out every Green Martian but leaving the rest of the planet intact.
Archenemy: Malefic—and sometimes Despero—is typically seen as J'onn's by the fanbase. Pre-Crisis, Blanx held the title for similar reasons.
Ax-Crazy: Malefic again. He's basically the Martian version of The Joker, only with less humour and more Mind Rape and torture. He is usually credited as the one who wiped out the rest of the Martians.
Badass: When a writer uses him properly, he more than qualifies.
Bald of Evil: B'rett, B'enn B'urnz, and Malefic. Also Blanx and the majority of White Martians.
Beware the Nice Ones: Generally The Quiet One of the Justice League, and way, way down low on the "will use extreme violence" list. But actually piss him off, and you'll quickly remember that he's on equal footing with Superman for all-around power, plus he can transform into ANYTHING he wills, and one of his basic abilities is Mind Rape.
Civil War: Mars has been engaged in a few. Pre-Crisis, J'onn was actually a leader in the Martian Civil War, leading the Desert Dwellers against Commander Blanx's Pole Dwellers for control of the Blue Flame of Mars.
Combat Pragmatist: Commander Blanx. He's always got a gun hidden on him somewhere, cheerfully attacks from hiding, and brings in an ally to club J'onn from behind in their duel.
Continuity Drift: In his first story, "The Strange Experiment of Doctor Erdel!", J'onn, masquerading as a human named John Jones, goes sightseeing around the world, comparing his observations to life on Mars. At one point, he mentions in passing a "Great Evolution", which eradicated crime on Mars for centuries. Later stories featured Martian criminals, though they were still treated as significant aberrations.
Cowardly Lion: Commander Blanx. He's a Dirty Coward who prefers to let his men do the fighting, and has no problem bringing in an ally to sucker punch J'onn In the Back in what was supposed to be a man-to-man duel. He'd rather run than fight, and has a healthy respect for his own skin. All that being said though, when he's cornered he proves himself a perfectly capable combatant, nearly killing J'onn, and at one point, throwing down with Superman while on Earth.
Dark and Troubled Past: Considering what J'onn endured, Post Crisis — witnessing the horrible deaths of his entire race, including his wife and child, and then wandering completely alone through a wasteland, possibly for eons — it's a testament to J'onn's willpower that he's even still sane. Though he may feel like a Fish out of Water here and sometimes gets frustrated with us, he loves Earth and is enormously grateful to be among living people again.
Depending on the Artist: NOBODY can agree on what his true Martian form looks like. Luckily, Martians are shapeshifters, so it doesn't really matter.
Diabolical Mastermind: Mr. V, alias "Faceless"", leader of the crime syndicate Vulture, who J'onn tangled with frequently in the fifties and sixties.
Evil Albino: Invoked by all Pole Dwellers/White Martians.
Evil Counterpart: Commander Blanx, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Other evil Martians showed up, but none contrasted with J'onn quite the way that the utterly cold-blooded Blanx did. One could make a case for the non-Martian Despero being another Evil Counterpart, with his Telepathy, history of persecution, and truly alien status.
Exposition of Immortality: The Manhunter has reminisced about his time on Mars prior to the accident that led to him being teleported to Earth in the 50s, which has shown that he was alive on Mars during the 18th century. His unchanging appearance is credited to Martians being very slow-aging.
Expy: Malefic to Commander Blanx. Both are Martian leaders with a link to J'onn who chose to wipe out 99% of their own species. They are very different in personality and motivations though, with Malefic being an Ax-CrazySerial Killer and Mind Rapist, while Blanx is an utterly apathetic sociopath who did it for the money. One could argue that the current White Martians are, as a species, Expies of Blanx's Pole Dwellers.
Fantastic Racism: Green vs. White Martians. And Red vs. white Saturnians, the Martians' bio-engineered sister species. Note that originally, this wasn't so much racism as nationalism, since Martians of both kinds can alter their color at will. Only in recent years have they been defined as separate species (and then again as one species split in two— It Makes Sense in Context, sort of.)
A Form You Are Comfortable With: For the last fifteen or so years its been established that J'onn's familiar green skinned muscleman form is a compromise between a human form and his true natural form (which is gaunt, finned, and significantly less human looking.) The reason he doesn't go all the way with this trope is because he can more comfortably maintain this form for longer periods of time.
Heroic Willpower: Post Crisis, the Martians were wiped out by a psychic plague that caused the victim to shapeshift into a form that would spontaneously combust. The only way to save oneself was to avoid telepathic contact with anyone, an almost impossible feat for a race that maintained low-level esper contact constantly. J'onn survived because he was able to hold out the longest without telepathic contact, tragically leaving him as the last man standing. J'onn survived because he was literally the strongest-willed person on his planet.
I Always Wanted to Say That: In Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (Oct. 1999): "You're probably wondering why I've called you all here today..." Thinking to himself: "Call me whimsical if you must, but I've waited years for the appropriate time and place to say that."
Karmic Death: Commander Blanx, who engineered the Martian apocalypse pre-Crisis gets crushed to death beneath a globe of Mars.
Kill All Humans: Blanx and Malefic both display this attitude towards their fellow Martians.
Kill It with Fire: Martians are weak against fire. Pre-Crisis, Blanx used the Martian Blue Flame to execute this strategy against the planet as a whole. That's right—he set Mars on fire.
Knight of Cerebus: Blanx may only have appeared for one issue, but he's still this, as his crime forever changed the tone of Martian Manhunter stories from traditional lighthearted sixties fare to introspective angst, and helped usher in the Bronze Age of comics in the process.
Last of His Kind: More or less. In Real Life, after Mariner and Viking proved Mars to be a wasteland, DC had to explain how this had happened and what became of J'onn's people. The exact nature of the catastrophe and how many survived it has varied over the years. (That said, although the Green Martians are functionally extinct, the White Martians continue to survive.) Their bio-engineered progeny, the Saturnians living on Saturn's moons, are still around, although they don't take much interest in Earthling affairs. Jemm Son of Saturn is the most well-known.
Mind Rape: A major crime on Mars; Malefic is naturally guilty of it. Despero is also very fond of this, and has inflicted it on J'onn on numerous occasions. J'onn once forced this on himself. To be fair, the process forcing it was an attempt to force sanity into The Joker's skull. And it worked, if you can believe it. Only for a few seconds, but still.
Monster Modesty: If he wanted to, he could easily shape-shift a nice suit to wear. Instead, he runs around in underwear and a cape. This was his policeman's (or "manhunter's") uniform on Mars.
My Suit Is Also Super: In John Ostrander's run as writer on Martian Manhunter, it's established that the telepathic, shapeshifting Martians wear clothes that are actually bioengineered organisms that shapeshift in accordance with the wearer's telepathic commands.
Older Than They Look: In John Ostrander's run, it's never established just how long ago the Martian Apocalypse happened (J'onn apparently isn't sure, himself), but the implication is that he was left wandering around a lifeless world, barely maintaining his sanity, for a very long time until Dr. Erdel's teleporter accidentally saved him.
Psychic Radar: The Manhunter can use his telepathy to pinpoint the location of a desired individual, at some pretty fantastic ranges. Just as well, since he generally has to fly up into orbit in order to not get confused by all the ambient thinking.
Race Lift: An unusual case. In his human Secret Identity of John Jones, J'onn first appeared as a white man, but tends to be depicted as a black man these days. What's strange about this is that J'onn can use his shapeshifting powers to appear as any ethnicity he wants. His race hasn't changed, just his preferences.
Secret Identity: In the Silver Age, J'onn J'onzz masqueraded as mind-mannered John Jones, a name no one could have possibly guessed.
And what appears to be one to the Hulk in this Jonn is addicted to cookies, two of the other superheroes hid them in a prank. Hilarity Ensues.
Martians call their planet Ma'aleca'andra, a reference to Malacandra, the Martians' name for their planet in C. S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy. (Though J'onn's name for Earth is Perelandra, which was Venus in The Space Trilogy; Earth was Thulcandra.)
White Martians to Pole Dwellers; arguably Malefic to Blanx.
In the Bronze Age, Jemm Son Of Saturn was created because the writer wanted to do a story about J'onn and couldn't get editorial permission. Post Crisis, it was established that Jemm's race is a bioengineered offshoot of J'onn's race (and, unlike the Martians, they're still thriving).
Sugar and Ice Personality: He's not consciously trying to seem aloof; Martian mannerisms are just different. J'onn's really a softy at heart, but people have to get to know him before they realize it. He's also surprisingly funny and whimsical, according to Martian standards, anyway.
Superpower Lottery: Although the extent of his powers varies depending on the writer, J'onn is usually portrayed as one of the half dozen or so heroes considered more powerful than Post Crisis-Superman (Pre-Crisis Superman was even too much for him).
Super-Powered Evil Side: Know why J'onn and all Green Martians have a fear of fire? Well... it's s psychic block implanted by the Guardians of the Universe to keep their extremely powerful, extremely evil Burning Martian selves held in check.
The Syndicate: Vulture, a criminal conspiracy from the sixties, led by the enigmatic Mr. V. It had agents scattered throughout Europe, and regularly stole weapons technology, missile codes, and top-secret documents in addition to the standard gold, jewels, etc. The organization was broken up into cells, with each cell being led by one of Mr. V's Body Doubles.
Weaksauce Weakness: Fear of fire. Martians are actually less vulnerable to fire than humans, and because of their shapeshifting abilities, can recover very quickly from any injury that they survive. The problem with fire is that they are terrified of it, and just being near a lighter can render them helpless. J'onn J'onzz himself has been on earth for decades, and no longer has such an extreme reaction to it. The fear of fire is actually a psychic barrier the Guardians of the Universe put into the Green Martians to stop their psychotically powerful Burning Martian selves from taking over the universe. J'onn's is called Fernus, and he was capable of nearly killing the entire Justice League all on his own, with J'onn mystically chained inside his head. Alternatively, J'onn's fear of fire is caused by him having witnessed his entire family being burnt to death, and is therefore not a Weaksauce Weakness but a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is pointed out that this weakness is not physical at all when his version of Flashpoint - which is ostensibly the same as his mainstream one, except without the whole heroic path his life took - mentions that he used to be doused with fire by the Russian soldiers who kept him in captivity. This was so frequent that he eventually found out the fire didn't really cause him any harm, and when he did... Well, let's just say it didn't end well for the Ruskies. It seems to be both physical and mental with his Young Justice incarnation. In the course of one episode, J'onn phases through a fire arrow from Red Arrow, but he was still affected by it, and Miss Martian shut him down completely by showing him a vision of him surrounded by flames.
Wham Episode: "And So My World Ends…" the Silver Age story which saw Blanx kill off all life on Mars, saw J'onn leave the Justice League to lead his few surviving people, and forever changed the tone of all Martian Manhunter stories.