Having a household name is a huge accomplishment for anyone or anything to have. At the mention of the name, an image, a voice, a sound, an emotional response is triggered by having this type of reaction to a name, places, people, and faces live on into immortality. Comic book characters are no different. Everyone knows Batman, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman. Even though someone may not engage in one of their stories, they know those characters. They literally have the staying power. But a character who has held a spot next to these characters, has held his own against these characters, and has a whole world’s worth of potential has yet to climb that ladder: Martian Manhunter. Comic book fans know him, yet the primary audience does not. For a character with a classic superhero origin and all of the classic superpowers, he has yet to step in the main spotlight of a solo, live-action outing, and his time to shine is long overdue.

As his name suggests, he is Martian and hails from Mars, but his real name is J’onn J’onzz. Instead of being a little green man, J’onzz is a full-grown green man with a family. A respected Martian. Like all other Martians within the DC Universe, he has the superpowers of *long inhale*: strength, flight, speed, heat vision, telekinesis, telepathy, elasticity, density control, shapeshifting, mind control, and invisibility, among others. Despite the vast amount of powers, Mars was overrun and ruined by White Martians, a hostile species, which killed J’onzz’s family and forced him to flee to Earth. There, he settled, started anew, and later joined the Justice League. But with that abundance of abilities and such a tragic story, it’s a perfect formula for a solo outing!

Until now, Martian Manhunter has been reduced to a mentor or a sidekick. He was reduced to that role in Smallville, The Batman animated show, Supergirl, Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and had just a cameo in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. But he is much more than some glorified cameo. He is a character that has tons of potential behind him.

Source: Martian Manhunter on DC YouTube Channel by Charles Torres

The main ability Manhunter uses is his shapeshifting, so when he is not on duty, he can blend in. One of the most popular faces he has put on is that of a detective. Since he has invisibility, telepathy, shapeshifting, and mind control, Manhunter has the best powers to be an unstoppable detective. Whether he is trying to solve a simple murder case, a complex plot to overthrow a world government, or trying to unravel why a Mother Box is on Earth, he fits nicely into those narratives. That could open the door for mystery fiction and crime fiction. That type of story could adopt some elements from Rorschach from Watchmen fame by being a freelance detective who goes behind the scenes and disobeys guidelines to get the answer. A recent detective story that just came out for DC is Superman’s story in Justice League: Warworld. That story put Superman back in the noir style of detective work, and what he had to uncover as journalist Clark Kent is an alien plot that wants to take Earth for their own. It’s a story more fit for Martian Manhunter than Superman. As audiences saw in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he could adopt a role in the military. That brings his eyes and ears closer to global problems and wouldn’t make it odd for him to have a special interest in a dire situation. But that could bring another layer of the story; as Martian Manhunter, he wants and could go to the problem, but as a government official, he can’t and cannot. But for a character that could have many faces, that means there are many lives he could live, and that brings almost limitless possibilities. He could be a cop who has to try to balance two lives. A man who wants another chance with a family and struggles to be faithful to them while keeping his secret hidden. He can be an astronaut with all the answers to space travel but needs to hold back how much he knows so his identity isn’t blown. He can be a famous writer who tells and sells his personal account as a Martian as pure fiction. Or all those roles.

And Manhunter is not a pushover when it comes to physical fights. He has the strength to not only stand toe to toe with Superman but has the capability to defeat Superman in a physical battle. That triumph alone says he could match the strength of any heavy hitter in the DC Universe and beat them. When someone has the rare ability to defeat him physically, Manhunter simply needs to stand there and use his mental abilities to walk away as the victor. For many opponents, Manhunter has an answer. He could counter pretty much any threat or anything threatening coming his way. Any action scene involving him could be memorable due to the versatility he has access to. It won’t be a fight similar to the ones in Man of Steel but their own. His strength, shapeshifting into monsters and creatures, invisibility, and telekinesis could add up to action scenes that haven’t been seen in film before.   

Manhunter has undergone a few phases in his long run in DC history. Most of the time, he is a good-hearted, good-natured person. He respects those around him and does what he can to defend his new home planet. But in the new 52 run, he was more aggressive and hostile. The Justice League listed him as a threat. As tremendous and filled with potential as he is, all those abilities can set him up as being too perfect. Switching between his characteristics in most of his run and his new 52 one could show inner conflict—something that could weaken him, other than his weakness to fire. Experiencing worldwide genocide makes him a good-hearted person. Manhunter knows how precious life is and how much of a crime it is against nature to take it away so barbarically. But for that same reason, it could make him sensitive and prone to anger. Seeing his people and his family taken away in front of his eyes could leave a nasty scare in his mind that perhaps anger could soothe. Or, he could be heavily troubled by peaking into the minds of so many people and seeing the horrors of humanity. It could make him conflicted to save a species that is just as barbaric as the one that took out his own.

Source: Martian Manhunter on Warner Bros. Entertainment YouTube Channel by Charles Torres

Each time Martian Manhunter gets a shot to stand on his own outside of the books, it’s always by someone else. It’s demeaning for the character. It reduces the character and paints an unfortunate image that he could only exist by being near someone else. He is a person of two worlds, has a wide array of abilities, can change into any life he wants, and has the power to overtake Superman. How is Martian Manhunter sidelined? It’s criminal. He checks off the boxes of what makes good comic book characters memorable. He has the look, the powers, the story, and the conflict, but it is simply…not…used. Martian Manhunter could be a character that could hold up a large section of the DC mythos, especially with the DCU coming. He has been a part of the Justice League since their comic book debut in 1960. Every other member has had or is getting their moment. Martian Manhunter absolutely needs his!