The original Martian Manhunter was a bridge character between the Gold and Silver Ages. He first appeared in Detective Comics (vol. 1) #225 as a police detective with a secret alien alter ego, but he evolved into a fully blown superhero as the Silver Age took flight. That Manhunter from Mars was a founding member of the Justice League, but his place post-Flashpoint has been replaced by Cyborg. In the Post-Flashpoint Universe the Manhunter is a member of Stormwatch, a clandestine super-powered team what originated in the Wildstorm Universe.
Paul Cornwell was approached to write the first arc of Stormwatch for the New 52 and explained the Manhunter’s addition to Comic Book Resources:
It was a suggestion that they [DC editorial] made when they came to me with the team, […] Stormwatch aren’t superheroes. They’re not a superhero team. And they don’t do superhero things. They do something in particular, and the Martian Manhunter being there really suits that. But at the same time, he puts a bit of a cog in the works because as people have already started saying, he and Stormwatch have different ways of going about things. And they do.
On the Manhunter’s characterisation, Cornwell said “He got very cuddly and… he’s not meant to be cuddly. ”
J’onn J’onzz is the “Martian Manhunter”. A lot about his background in the New 52 remains unexplored/concealed. Someone who knew his true origin commented that,
J’onn J’onzz, the “Martian Manhunter”, Telepathy, strength, shapeshifting, energy manipulation. He wants humans to think he’s the last Martian: a tragic, noble, orphan, but…
However, the Manhunter cut him off before he could continue (Stormwatch (vol. 3) #5, Mar 2012). He also told a Green Lantern that Mars was not always uninhabited and that he held a “special grudge for world killers” (Green Lantern Corps (vol. 3) #4, Feb 2012).
While the Martian Manhunter’s existence is publicly known his motives and affiliations are often clouded in secrecy. Many assume that he was or is a member of the Justice League (Stormwatch (vol. 3) #1, Nov 2011), but the Manhunter dismisses such talk as poorly informed public speculation (Stormwatch (vol. 3) #6, Apr 2012).
There was once a time when he tried to work with the League. However, the relationship between the Manhunter and the Justice League soured to the point that it came to physical blows. He left them knowing that he knew all their secrets. The League felt so burnt by that experience that they swore off recruiting new members for a considerable period (Justice League (vol. 2) #8 (June 2012)).
The Manhunter’s actual affiliation was to a clandestine organisation called Stormwatch – a centuries old organisation of soldiers assembled to protect the world, and even the universe, from all manner of dark and cosmic threats. He once told a team-mate that “I am known in some quarters as a hero. I can wear that shape, but when I need to be a warrior I do it with Stormwatch.” Operating from the Eye of the Storm – a captured Daemonite space station buried in hyperspace – the team neutralises threats and confronts enemies that even the Justice League are unaware of.
The Manhunter was leading a Stormwatch team to recruit Apollo (a kryptonian class superhuman) and Midnighter (a master strategist) when the rest of the team became involved with an emergency caused by Harry Tanner, another of Stormwatch’s members, on the moon’s surface. The case ended so badly that the Shadow Cabinet, Stormwatch’s mysterious backers, replaced Adam One – the group’s leader – with the relatively inexperienced Projectionist. However, Tanner then turned on the team and kidnapped the Projectionist leaving them leaderless. The Manhunter mourned her loss and admitted to Apollo that he “was starting to enjoy” the Projectionist’s company. With no contact from the Cabinet, Stormwatch elected the Engineer to be their new leader with the Manhunter supporting the consensus (“The Dark Side”, Stormwatch (vol. 3) #1-6, Nov 2011-Apr 2012).
Stormwatch’s monitoring abilities makes them aware of event far outside of the usual human domain. The Martian Manhunter stepped in on their behalf to help the Green Lantern Corps question one of the Keepers, a race of aliens who intended to steal the Central Power Battery from Oa. J’onzz gave the Lanterns intel, but erased their memories of his identity (Green Lantern Corps (vol. 3) #4-5, Feb-March 2012). He was also working for Stormwatch when he discovered a young group of super powered humans and aliens who turned out to members of superhero team called the Legion of Superheroes from 1,000 years into the future (Legion Lost (vol. 2) #5-6, Mar-Apr 2012).
As a the member of an elder alien race the Manhunter has knowledge of science and threats that the human members of Stormwatch have yet to encounter. He used that knowledge to tutor the young girl Jenny Quantum and pushed her to understand her developing powers. His knowledge of the Chrysz-rr (“the Gravity Miners”) and their conflict with the Daemonites proved pivotal in staying their latest incursion towards the Earth (“Supercritical”, Stormwatch (vol. 3) #7-8, May-June 2012).
Powers and Abilities
The Martian Manhunter is a powerful telepath who is able to read the deepest thoughts of a single person or to alter the perceptions and memories of an entire crowd. His role on Stormwatch often calls him to be the diplomat as he uses his telepathy to dampen the hostility of belligerents so that he might talk to them peacefully.
The Manhunter’s telepathic abilities are his main focus, but he also possesses a raft of other powers including super strength, density control, flight, shape-shifting, and a form of heat vision. These powers not only allow him to move stealthy through humanity by ghosting through walls and assuming our image, but also to become a capable and angry warrior who surprises his enemies by mimicking monstrous creatures pulled from their subconscious.
- Stormwatch #1-6 “The Dark Side”
- Green Lantern Corps #4-5
- Legion Lost #5-6
- Stormwatch #7-8, “Supercritical”