Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Favorite Martian

I really should be crashing, considering the day I've had and the four hours of sleep I'm coasting on. Instead, I will briefly discuss the Martian Manhunter.

There's rumors good old J'onn J'onzz from Mars is gonna buy the farm in Final Crisis. This would make The LookOut a sad panda.

Many people don't seem to "get" the Martian Manhunter. They compare him negatively to Superman or cite his lack of a supporting cast of characters. But the thing is, he's a cornerstone of the Justice League. Every single one of these great heroes are his family and his supporting cast. Just look at the classic Giffen-era JLI years. Without J'onn as a straight man, it all falls apart. And as far as Superman goes, well . . .

Okay, here's the reason Martian Manhunter isn't terribly popular. He owns Superman and Batman in terms of grief and loss. He is, to be frank, depressing as all hell. Perversely, that's why I love him so much.

Superman's world died . . . and what does he get? Loving human parents to raise him from the word go, a rocketship, a Fortress of Solitude, a gaggle of Superpets, a Cousin and the body of a Greek God.

Batman's parents died . . . and what does he get? A mansion, a faithful butler, a Batcave and a vast fortune. And both of our orphaned boys get the chance to put grief behind them as they grow.

Martian Manhunter's entire world and family died - wife, two kids, all of it - . . . and what does he get as an adult? A dead scientist's apartment on an alien world he doesn't understand.

That's all.

That's it.

No guide, no grief counseling, no gifts. Just a dead scientist's legacy of him being marooned and outcast from his entire world.

(Okay, maybe he also finds out there's really kick-ass cookies on this new world but that comes later.)

The Martian Manhunter is the flipside to Superman and Batman. Supes is the hope and joy the Justice League stands for and Batman's the justice but they both are essentially kids living up to their parent's expectations or their childhood dreams. J'onn is an adult who's suffered through hideous tragedy, more isolated and alone than "Mr. Fortress of Solitude" could ever dream of being. A creature who keeps on helping people anyways, not out of guilt or a vow to his dead family, but out of hope for the human race. J'onn J'onzz can see inside people and he still believes in humanity. And this is after years spent as a cop and private detective in his spare time. That's pretty amazing to me, frankly.

The Martian Manhunter is also the eternal outsider. The Other. Before Justice League Detroit and the social outcry of Denny O'Neil, the Martian Manhunter always stood out as the one member of the League that wasn't some whitebread homogeneous hero. For a Hispanic kid growing up, it felt good to know that there was at least one JLA'er who got looked at a little funny because of the color of his skin and different facial features, even if he could shapeshift them away.

(It also didn't hurt that the dude was actually based out of my hometown - that is, when he wasn't hanging out in the JLA or Australia.
All the Marvel characters in Colorado were either kinda lame or supervillains, a prison full of supervillains or a freakin' superteam of mostly Supervillains.
. . . Jesus Christ! Thanks a lot, Marvel.)

I think the degree to which you enjoy the Martian Manhunter depends a lot on how much you identify with the outcast, the brooder, the odd man out. If you're a vanilla sort of person or a pistachio ripple fan. For me, he's the one character that makes any good Justice League story into a great one because he's the sort of genre glue that makes the team feel right to me. Like a family, goofy as that may sound. Even without the Giffen-era atmosphere, I always pictured J'onn as being the one the other Leaguers killed time with and who knew everybody intimately.

Ah, well. I suppose I'm just rambling at this point. What I'm trying to say is, I dig the Martian Manhunter and I really, really hope they don't burn him to death.

And if they do kill off J'onn J'onzz
, all I have to say is this . . .

Marvel better create a good goddamn Superhero in Denver already. Christ! What the hell did Colorado ever do to you, Marvel Comics? I mean, really?!?


SallyP said...

I really really hope that they aren't going to kill off J'onn. They haven't been doing too much with him lately, which is a shame, so perhaps they feel that nobody will miss him.

He OUGHT to be in the Justice League. He should be in EVERY Justice League, it is where he just shines. As you pointed out, if he hadn't been in the old JLI, the entire thing would have fallen apart. It seems to me that J'onn is on of the few ADULTS in the superhero business...and yes, I include Batman in the childish part of that equation.

Can't they just kill off Red Tornado instead? Who'd care?

First said...

So I was reading Salvation Run.

Apparently there's a villain named Girder who's responsible for building cages.

I need to investigate that further.

K. D. Bryan said...

Can't they just kill off Red Tornado instead? Who'd care?

I think Brad Meltzer would break down crying but other than him? Nobody.

So I was reading Salvation Run.
Apparently there's a villain named Girder who's responsible for building cages. I need to investigate that further.

. . . uh, ok? That's . . . nice?

Well, since you're reading Salvation Run, I'm curious - are the Body Doubles still alive and well? I always liked them. They're like the Dirty Pair of the DCU - always good for mayhem and a laugh.

First said...

I only mentioned Girder because he built the cage that's apparently holding MM.

I think it's been a few issues since I lost saw the Body Doubles. I'd have to re-read the issues and find out.