Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film for the fans. It means every scene is packed with references to concepts like the Speedforce and the Anti-Life Equation, as well as appearances from fan favourite characters like Martian Manhunter. Sadly, it also means these characters and concepts aren’t explained or dwelt on. If you go into the new cut of Justice League blind, you might find yourself very confused by everything that’s going on.
Martian Manhunter in particular has a very strange introduction.
Midway through the film, he’s seen shapeshifting into the form of Martha Kent to give Lois Lane the pep talk she needs to get back to work and ultimately rescue Clark from his post-resurrection confusion. He later appears to a dishevelled Bruce Wayne, and thanks him for forming the Justice League.
But who exactly is Martian Manhunter? And what on Earth is he doing in Justice League?
Answers are hard to come by in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, largely because the character was never in the original cut of the film. According to actor Harry Lennix, the character he first played in Man of Steel (Calvin Swanwick) was never intended to be Martian Manhunter. This decision came late in the game, and was only added in post-production on the new cut of the movie.
Still, his appearance opens up the possibilities for the Justice League franchise, should it continue in the future.
Martian Manhunter’s Comics Origins
To understand who Martian Manhunter is, first we have to explain a small foible with DC Comics history.
In 2011, DC Comics launched an entire reboot of its comics universe, effectively erasing every bit of history that came before it. This means there are two distinct periods in DC Comics: pre-New 52 and post-New 52. Every character has an “old” and “new” origin story, with most film and TV adaptations trending closer to the “old” origin stories for inspiration.
That being the case, let’s take a look at the classic origin for Martian Manhunter.
The character was first introduced in the mid-1950s as a shapeshifting alien from Mars called J’onn J’onzz. Basically, J’onzz gets magically teleported to Earth and then the teleporter breaks, leaving him no choice but to stay on Earth and fight crime.
As you can probably tell, the 1950s were a simpler time for storytelling.
Eventually, the character ended up joining the Justice League of America as his mysterious powers of flight, telepathy, shapeshifting, super-vision and super-hearing proved to be incredible and powerful additions to the team. (His weakness to fire was less helpful.) Since then, he’s been an integral part of the Justice League, often being the spiritual and emotional leader needed to bring peace and genuine justice to the world of crimefighting.
Should the character continue to appear in DC properties (dependant on the whims of Warner Bros.) it’s likely he’ll have more of a role to play in the Justice League’s more “cosmic” adventures. He could even prove to be integral for the inclusion of Green Lantern in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what Warner Bros. and DC have planned for the character.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League appears to set up J’onn J’onzz as a major player in the DCEU but given plans for the Snyderverse are currently up in the air, it’s unknown how important the character will be in upcoming films like The Flash and beyond.
Martian Manhunter deserves his time in the sun, but it may be a good long while before he gets it.