Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Favorite Martian?

I know I'm really asking for it, but here goes...

One of the things Brad Meltzer was able to reveal at the New York Comic Convention was the identities of the two heroes DC said he could kill in
Identity Crisis, if he wanted to:
the Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onnz) and the Atom (Ray Palmer).

I thought he was going to kill J'onn or have him be the murderer. And I wish he had killed the Martian Manhunter.

Before you blast me with your ill-defined Martian vision, hear me out. I like J'onn; I like him a lot. With his dry wit and deadpan humor, he's by far the funniest person who's ever been in the Justice League (I'm looking at you, Plastic Man!). He does tragedy just as well; J'onn's personal losses far outstrip those of any other Leaguer. Of the big seven, he'd probably be the most interesting people to go to dinner and the movies with. Really, I couldn't possibly like J'onn any more than I do; I'm the man who wrote him a friggin' theme song (it's on Big Monkey Radio, you know).

But it's time to remove him. Long past time.

The Martian Manhunter is, and always will be, an also-ran because he has no Golden Age roots. I'm not going to argue
why that matters so much or whether it should matter than much. It probably shouldn't. But the fact seems to be that characters with Golden Age antecedents or predecessors constitute the tree of DC mythology; everything else, no matter how powerful or popular, is just a leaf, an apple, a decoration on the tree. Editorial storms will blow stuff like that sometimes, but the tree remains. That rootlessness weakens him more than fire every did, and he's just not going to overcome it.

The Martian Manhunter's origin requires too much suspension of disbelief. I know, I know; in a universe with power rings, and 5th dimensional imps, and Chemo, and the Speed Force, that seems like a stupid statement. But, for me at least, all that other stuff I can squint at; I can think of them as additions or exceptions to what I know to be real, rather than direct contradictions. But he's the Martian Manhunter; he's from MARS. That. Is. Not. Right. I can't even
pretend that an "alternate Mars" could develop a form of life like his.

Speaking of his form of life, we all know J'onn has too much power, which makes him a storytelling albatross. Either he becomes a Deus Ex Machina (remember his "special gift" to Despero?) or the Elephant in the Living Room ("oh, um, J'onn's ...not here. He's off... coordinating. Things."). And now I'm told they've even removed his (admittedly absurd) vulnerability to fire. Yeah, that's what we really need: and even more powerful Martian Manhunter, with no weaknesses.

Oh, there are ways around it, like making him stick to his non-redundant powers. On JLU, they pretty much limited him to changing into other humanoid shapes, telepathic communication among team members, and that phasey thing he does. Then they made him a sociophobe stuck on the satellite, then "banished" him for his own good to live among humanity as a human. In the Silver Age JLA, the writers simply ignored the bulk of his powers and confined him to sucking and blowing. In the Bronze Age, writers and editor just gave in and got rid of him. He left Earth entirely, people.

Which reminds me... I know that a lot of newer readers think that "J'onn is the soul of the League". But that's only because DC keeps having characters say that, shoving it down your throats because they have absolutely no idea what else to do with the Martian Manhunter. The fact is, J'onn was in the League from 1960 through 1969. Then he left-- FOR THIRTEEN YEARS.

J'onn was utterly and completely absent from the longest continous version of the Justice League, the Satellite Era. Whether that's been retconned or not, J'onn's principal involvement in the League was blowing and sucking during the Silver Age, shepherding the disastrously ill-conceived Detroit League when Aquaman and Batman were smart enough to bail, and playing straight man for the wacky antics of the Giffen League. And the Satellite League is one Brad (and a lot of other people) grew up reading, so those of us who like the Martian Manhunter are going to have watch him get banished again; just kill him off and be done with it.

Do NOT get me wrong. I have long advocated building a mythos around the Martian Manhunter so that he could stand on his own as an icon, as a dynastic centerpiece, as the kind of character that belongs in and at the forefront of the League.

But they haven't. So he doesn't.


Anonymous said...

Isn't he pretty much their MOST Silver Age hero, though? They could surely do something with that. I mean, I've always perceived J'onn as pretty much an Icon of the Silver Age. Each age has its Icons - whilst Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman continue on, people like J'onn represent the new era of the Silver Age entirely, without having a basis elsewhere. J'onn is Sterling Silver, and nothing but.

You'd think they could do something with that.

Oh, and I think "misfits and outcasts" would be a better theme for a J'onnz dynasty than accruing more detectives to his banner. Seriously - Ralph will just make him look bad.

Anonymous said...

I have long held to the belief that characters should be killed in the rarest of circumstances. The fact that a majority of the writers of Justice League have not understood or liked Martian Manhunter enough to write stories about him to your liking is not good enough justification for killing him. He serves a purpose in the DC Universe. He may not be an icon, but he doesn't have to be. I like him just fine the way he is.

gorjus said...

I really like the Martian Manhunter that appears in the "New Frontier" series by Darwyn Cooke. A bit spooked, naive but deeply heartfelt, the "John Jones" who befriended Slam Bradley and hung out with beatniks (a la the Gerard Jones series in the 90's) is a cool cat.

Yeah, he's overpowered. But the White Martian JLA series was so rad! Admit it. You love it.

Jon said...

I love that J'onn's biggest function is to go down prior to a major crisis so that the writer doesn't have to deal with two Supermen and a Wonder Woman in their big fight scenes. In Kingdom Come, he's reduced to a muttering shell, in Virtue and Vice, he's dropped because having a psychic handy would blow the big reveal, now he's been blown clear to the astral freaking plane. Because that's how explosions work, I swear.

It's kinda like how Red Tornado's job is to get chunks of him ripped off to put the villain over as a threat.

Axel M. Gruner said...

If being from "Mars" is so far-off the normal suspension of disbelief in a superheroe universe, why is a caucasian analogue of homo sapiens from Krypton more believable?
Also, you shouldn't scratch a character just because there wasn't anybody in decades able to tell a decent story with him. If so, why bother with Aquaman? True, most of J'onns adventures sucked major rocks. But when done right, he's amazing... New Frontier, and even the miniseries with the Beatniks and Gaines... cool...
J'onn makes a fine analogue/commentary to Superman. He's mostly a carbon copy of Clark, but he has what he hasn#T and hasn't what he has.
I really enjoyed the christmas episode of JLU. Stranger in a strange land, gets his pullover from Ma Kent, and in the end he's there relaxed, in his original shape, sings some merry Martian tunes, and now even the Kitty likes him. Also, when he ran away and Wonder Woman went after him... hugs for the Martian... it worked. *sniff* You couldn't do stuff like that with the Kryptonian.

Anonymous said...

Martian Manhunter would be such a great character for space opera, for detective stories, for horror comics, even as an omniscient narrator a la Phantom Stranger. But in the context of the JLA he’s out of place. Not only is he relegated to backup Superman/backup detective (how much tougher did that angel seem after it had whipped JJ so hard he was smouldering?), but when people attempt to develop his character they do so by developing his powers. And they do this, I believe, because of a double-bind inherent in the character. If you give him a supporting cast of his own; a recurring rogue’s gallery of his own, he’s no longer ‘the Alien.’ His most essential characteristic, the thing that makes it touching when he puts his hand on Adam Strange’s shoulder, or makes it funny that he loves Oreos, also makes it impossible to flesh out his character any further. I doubt if anyone wants to hear this, but in many ways, he’s almost a Marvel character, selflessly fighting for a world that hates and fears him. They have a similar problem with Captain America, every time he moves out of Avengers Mansion and gets a life, he stops being The Man Out of Time. With MM, you could see the tension this problem created again and again in the short-lived Ostrander series. As a ‘super-hero,’ he is the impossible protagonist. As a ‘comic-book alien,’ he has worlds of untapped potential that I frankly never expect to see developed. So as much as I love him, if it ever again comes down to killing him or killing the Atom, you’ve got to go with him. Besides, either one would be back within two years. With J’onn’s innumerable powers it would be easier to explain.

Bully said...

While I agree with much of your criticism of J'onn, I'll stand by my two pronged belief about death in superhero comics:

1. Killing someone off because no one really has a good idea on how to handle him is a massive slap in the face to the character, creators, and fans. Send him off to space. Or back in time. Or Detroit. Killing him off is a coward's way of admitting "Uh, we can't think of a good story for this guy." Why is this? Because...

2. A superhero death means nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Shall I repeat? Nothing. As we have seen over the few decades (and especially over the past year), there is no story that cannot be undone by another writer. I truly to believe the only reason Uncle Ben and Mar-Vell aren't back running around the Marvel Universe is just that it hasn't happened yet. So don't tease us into believing a death is anything we have to be emotionally tied up in.

That said: Send MM off into a parallel dimension. Where Martians never died out, but developed into a fierce, warrior race. Now J'onn finds himself a stranger in his own land, forced to fight for his own identity and sanity in a world gone mad...

Oh, c'mon: J'onn J'onnz: The Sword of Mars. Tell me you wouldn't buy it.

Scipio said...

"If being from "Mars" is so far-off the normal suspension of disbelief in a superheroe universe, why is a caucasian analogue of homo sapiens from Krypton more believable?"

I don't know anything about Krypton; there is no Krypton.

There IS a Mars. And J'onn's backstory contradicts everything we know about it.

That's why.

Anonymous said...

Mark Millar did something fun with MM in an old special - he had J'Onn having a collection of about 200 secret identities. John Jones was the one he spent the most time with, but they were all more like hobbies and works of art than actual secret identities (although it was implied he did use one to keep an eye on Superman). So theoretically, J'Onn could vanish completely to spend five years as a beloved supporting character with pyrophobia in someone else's book - then suddenly, with NO WARNING TO PREVIEWS AT ALL, Hal Jordan's new boss/girlfriend/inuit chum changes into...

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: the man that read comics, and endorses them whole-heartedly, from an era when Superman shot rainbows fingertips (?!) says that Mars developing an advanced civilization of telepaths is to much a suspension of disbelief? Scip, those painkillers are not to be used every hour on the hour.

Scipio said...

"if it ever again comes down to killing him or killing the Atom, you’ve got to go with him. Besides, either one would be back within two years."

Which is, by the way, why Brad Meltzer didn't kill either of them. He knew someone else would just bring them back later.

There's comparatively little chance, however, of "Sue Dibny: Sword of the Satellite".

Scipio said...

"from an era when Superman shot rainbows fingertips (?!)"

Sigh. The really sad part is I know EXACTLY which story you're talking about (and, in all fairness, "Superman's New Power!" was temporary).

"Scip, those painkillers are not to be used every hour on the hour."

Oh, but I and the pink elephant beside me disagree!

Anonymous said...

Do you remember the tabloid issue of the Giffen years, exposing everyone's deepest, hidden secrets? J'onn's expose was: "He's big. He's green. He looks like Gumby. Let's leave him alone."
It's like enough cool stories were told about him (or maybe, not as many crappy ones) that he just seems like a good guy to have around. I'd be sad if J'onn was killed/traded for a younger, longhaired type/rebooted. Like Ned Flanders, y'know? You don't necessarily expect him to carry every story he's in, but when used correctly, he really adds something when he's there.
(Although, honestly, I'm still mad about his shoddy treatment of Beetle in Countdown. Out of character. I've been pretty much on vacation from the regular monthly DC universe titles since.)

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I think the reason J'onn has never been an iconic character is that he doesn't boil down neatly.

--Superman: The Ultimate Power Guy.
--Batman: The Ultimate Regular Guy.
--Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Woman Guy.
--The Flash: Fast Guy.
--Green Lantern: Magical Wish Guy. (Or "hit in the head guy.")

What is the Martian Manhunter? A knockoff Superman? A fusion of Superman and Batman? Super-breath waiting to happen?

As a super-hero, he feels redundant. The "detective" side doesn't work so well, what with him being a shapeshifting telepath who can turn invisible and walk through walls. That leaves him nowhere to sit.

His initial idea, "Martian warrior stuck on Earth," wasn't particlarly iconic or captivating. It's Hawkman, minus the visual "wow." I don't think it's his lack of Golden Age roots; it's a flaw in his basic conception.

Later amendments and retcons made him a rich and interesting character, but they make him more complicated and less iconic.

He's a firm b-lister, and that's okay. I'm glad they're not killing him off.

A funny thing: J'onn as the "heart of the league" wasn't true when they started calling him that, but it's true now. He's been the mainstay of the league for twenty-some-odd years now and has long been its heart.

Besides, he likes Oreos. That alone makes him worthy of preservation.

Anonymous said...

Bah. I don't always agree with you Scipio, and this time I pretty much have to violently disagree. The fact that he wasn't in the Satellite League means NOTHING, because he was in the Silver Age League. And he was in the Bwa-ha-ha League. And he was in the Morrison NuLeauge. Hell, he was even in the Detroit-era league. So I'll see your missing 13 years and raise you, let's see, over 20+ years on the League. Hell, he's disbanded more Justice Leagues than some other Leaguers have served in.

J'Onn is a remarkable character in a lot of ways - the fact that writers don't know how to write him is no excuse for killing him (I could argue that by that logic, Superman should be killed off given how he's been handled for the last 20 years). His "Martian" roots causing a suspension of disbelief? Well, Batman's origin causes me a honking huge suspension of disbelief - I find his origin a hell of a lot less believable than Martian Manhunters. Because J'Onn's origin has a heaping helping of fantasy, while Batman is supposed to be a "real person". Except only a psychotic nutjob real person would put on a Bat-suit and beat up criminals instead of getting himself some counselling for his long-standing repressed grief issues.

J'Onn the soul of the League? Sure its pretty much Silver Age fans who make that claim (like Waid and Morrison), but its ironically Giffen and DeMattias who made it actually true. It may not be true of the actual Silver Age version of him, but it sure as hell is true of the 80's/early 90's version of the character. And when people say that they like J'Onn it is, in fact, the Giffen/DeMattias version (or the John Ostrander version - similar takes) that they are talking about.

Lack of a Golden Age Legacy? Humbug. J'Onn is pure Silver Age man, he's beholden to no one. He's an alien, shapeshifting detective who's helping his adopted planet - one solved crime at a time. How can you not love the Silver Age goodness wrapped up inside that twinkie? His legacy IS the Justice League, even if weaker writers think of him as the "guy who gets beat up real bad to show how tough our new bad guy is".

Too much power? Meh - Ostrander dealt with that just fine, thank you very much. Giffen and DeMattias didn't have too much of a problem with it either. If you're really worried about "too much power", just depower him - take away his super-breath or something. A telepathic, shape-shifting alien would be cool without the super-strength or anything else. (I find the "too much power" complaint to be a complaint on the writer's ability to do interesting things with the character anyway, not a real complaint about the character).

If its time for a homage to the "Bronze Age" Justice League this time around and J'Onn can't be there, so be it - put him on a bus and send him off. Because we've had our "Silver Age" homage for the last almost decade, and in another eight years there's bound to be someone who wants to write their loving paen the late 80's Justice League that they read when they were 10 years old. That person will want to use J'Onn, and it won't matter if he's dead now or not.

Anonymous said...

"There IS a Mars. And J'onn's backstory contradicts everything we know about it."

As opposed to everything we know about the underwater kingdom of Atlantis?

Tell me again, by the way, why the Golden Age-rooted Aquaman is still an also-ran? They didn't start putting him through constant "changes of direction" until the early nineties, and he wasn't exactly iconic before then. Aquaman, unlike Martian Manhunter, at least had the benefit of mass public exposure via the Superfriends cartoon, and despite it all has remained little more than a punchline.

Scipio said...

There is no Atlantis; just like there is no Krypton. So I 'feel free' to believe whatever DC tells me about it.

"he wasn't exactly iconic before then. Aquaman"

Don't be silly, of course he was. That's why he was in the Superfriends and the Martian Manhunter wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Bully said "Send him back in time."

Why not send him into the future...

I can see it now.


Anonymous said...

Course, J'ohn's in the current, kick ass Justice League cartoon, and Aquaman is just a recurring guest star, so, you know, time's change.

Look, I like his character. He's alien, wise, experienced, and emotional like no one else in the league, or the DC Universe. He serves the role of Mr. Miyagi, or Yoda, or Auron. (huh, I wonder what the DC/Final Fantasy overlap is?)

Maybe his powers need to be dampened, or just adjusted to emphasize his more unique ones, (shape-shifting and telepathy). But (and this is the important bit) as a character he is hard to replace.

And the ultimate come back, Zatanna has a golden age legacy and was in the Satellite Era league. Do you really want her in the League?


In Martian Manhunter 1,000,000 (HA!), where it was revealed that J'ohn will live forever and one day become the planet Mars, it is suggested that he's ALREADY a member of the Legion in disguise!

Anonymous said...

Kill my favorite DC character? No.

Despite an unbelievable origin and lack of Golden Age roots (which I don't care about, although I understand your reasoning), J'Onn is a believable (within the context of a super-hero comic), likable, well-developed character with deep ties to the DCU. He's overpowered and crappy writers devalue him? That's not the character's fault.

If he's out of commission for a few months, fine. Killing a character with as much going for him as J'Onn is just wasteful.

Despite totally disagreeing with you, Scipio, I found your post well-thought and persuasive. Still, there are maybe 5 superheroes I don't want to see die ever, for any reason, and J'Onn's at the top.

Chris Griswold said...

I don't tink his weakness to fire has been removed. Joe Kelly's JLA run showed that it should never be removed because doing so unleashed a primal form of Martian kept at bay in the Martian race's genes only by the weakness to fire.

gorjus said...

Steven--great point about how J'onn might be active in the future! I ADORED the idea that he and the Resurrection Man would be fighting Vandal Savage in the zillioneth century or so. J'onn as protector of all Earth Myths . . .

One person has poetically said what we've all been trying to say: "Through his Detective John Jones identity, the Martian Manhunter tied DC's pulp past with its science fiction future, and he continues to help link DC's other iconic characters to one another." That is from the keypad of Mr. Scipio himself, and is exactly why I think J'onn should stick around.

Walaka said...

I think that "Sterling Silver" should be the name of the new anthology comic that J'onn headlines.

This post really hooked me. JJ (MM) is my iconic figure: the only comics crap I have left (action figures and such) are of him; heck, I even brought one in to a diversity training "artifact-sharing" day.

I know that his origin sucks; I postively hate the mess that has been made of his history by conflicting retcons; I am aware that he doesn't hold a pivotal place in the development of comics (he really didn't start the silver age, y'know); and it's true that he hasn't developed a coherent mythology around him.

And yet...

His character does contribute so much when he's used well. I don't care about the "too-much-like-Superman" business; all the flying strong guys (and there are a lot) are too much like Superman. Some alikeness is fine; the joy is in the variation. And J'onn has found his place as the elder statesman, the heart of the League, the big guy, not necessarily the Leader, but the Senior Man.

He's the James Coburn character in The Magnificent Seven.

He's Fish in Barney Miller.

He's Victor McLaughlin to Superman's John Wayne.

Let's use him, not lose him.

Jeff R. said...

Just as a point of reference, J'onn wasn't completely absent during the Satellite era. He came back to play chess with Despero in 177-178 and, of course, returned to be on hand for the destruction of the Satellite.

Another thing J'onn really needs is a counterpart in the Crime Syndicate...

Tragic Fanboy said...

Kill J’onn? Naahh… That would not only be admitting the “we don’t get him” argument, it would upset a whole heep of fans (including me). I understand that he was banished to Mars 2 for thirteen years, probably because of “we really don’t get him”, but when he made his return just prior to Detroit, it seemed to me that the writer was like, “why in the hell did they DO THAT”? The “heart of the League” thing that has resulted since then and the retcons simply strike me as one of the best characterizations for J’onn. It makes since that J’onn, an adult who has lost home and family, would make the Leauge his “center” and give it his all, throughout its incarnations. Relatively speaking, he was walking around the Earth incognito for like 20-odd years, right? The main problem is that when a writer who does “get” a character is not commercially successful, that interpretation is often dashed in favor of “let’s try something new” this time (not just J’onn; Hawkman, Black Panther, etc…) , but for God’s sake, just don’t throw the character away…

Oh yeah, and I seem to remember him saying that the fire weakness “had changed considerably” after the Burning Martian thing…

Anonymous said...

I love ya Scipio, I love your blog, but I think you were a little off on your Superman piece yesterday, and WAY off on Martian Manhunter today, in ways that other commenters have already detailed, so won't repeat.

But I agree with one thing... I don't think J'Onn belongs with the JLA anymore because he is redundant while Superman and Batman are around. He needs a good writer with a clear vision for him to take him in his own direction... which HAS been done before by the likes of Giffen/DeMattias (not in JLI, in their miniseries), Ostrander, and Gerald Jones.

Anonymous said...

>>One person has poetically said what we've all been trying to say: "Through his Detective John Jones identity, the Martian Manhunter tied DC's pulp past with its science fiction future, and he continues to help link DC's other iconic characters to one another." That is from the keypad of Mr. Scipio himself, and is exactly why I think J'onn should stick around

I hope we're not really debating whether J'onn should stick around. He definitely has a place in the DCU, and I personally agree that its roots are in pulp and science fiction. I just think the place he currently occupies as perennial den mother for the JLA is only a small, usually dull portion of what he could accomplish, and that he's probably trapped there until some writers do put him through a death/weepy funeral/ Search for Spock/"All New Martian Manhunter!"/"The Classic MM is back!!" sequence because to take him any further would cut directly against the grain of what recognizable personality he's accreted over the years.

Anonymous said...

Scipio, have you read this? It's amazing.

Put them all out of their misery.

Scipio said...

If it makes you feel any better, k26, I'm not certain that I agree with me either.

What I express is not THE way I feel about J'onn; it's just ONE of the ways I feel about J'onn. Sometimes.

My opinions are ... multiversal.

I'm just pleased that I'm not the only one who gives a darn about J'onn...

Anonymous said...

"There is no Atlantis; just like there is no Krypton."

But there is an ocean, and it's notably devoid of undersea kingdoms populated by water-breathers. For that matter, there may be no Krypton, but there are plenty of red suns, and there's nothing special about the light they give off.

"Don't be silly, of course he was. That's why he was in the Superfriends and the Martian Manhunter wasn't."

By that logic, Apache Chief and the freaking Wonder Twins are "iconic." Not only is Aquaman not iconic, he's a cipher - that's why his comic gets overhauled every couple years while Martian Manhunter has stayed more or less the same character for decades.

Anonymous said...

JJ has no problems that a more coherent origin and a pruning of his powers wouldn't solve. Not necessarily a de-powering, but just some reigning in of the wackier abilities, invisibility, martian-vision etc. It's the ridiculous range of superpowers that makes him such a problem character, and a coherent origin could cure some of that. Maybe it could tie him in to one of DCs other sci-fi oddities, like Captain Comet or Adam Strange.

Anonymous said...

Ostrander gave us a coherent origin. I wish fans (and other DC writers) would read it.

Bill Reed said...

There are times when you come off oddly vindictive, and this is one of them.

Screw the Satellite era. We all know that it sucked and Elongated Man wore his horrid red outfit the whole time and it just led to assrape. J'onn's been around all the other time, and he's the coolest Leaguer around.

There's no reason he needs to be depowered, either. That's just an excuse for writers who can't come up with decent stories. It's not *about* the fights or powers, man.

Also, I shall bring back Sue Dibny. Oh, yes. I will find a way. Just wait.

Axel M. Gruner said...

I think you are trying to polarize your disciples here, Scipio. Either that, or Scipio from Earth-2 has taken over...

"There is no Atlantis; just like there is no Krypton. So I 'feel free' to believe whatever DC tells me about it."
Or is that that you're trying to establish a Augustinian religion of DC? "I believe because I know it is absurd...?"
Please remember from your Old Greek days that gnosis is always superior to pistis. If you can't believe in far-off Mars, that's fine (but ironic), but by now you should know that J'onn is iconic - maybe he's just become that a few days ago, or JLU made him.
In the pantheon of the DCU he has become an analogue to "The Unknown God" the Athenians build a temple to.
J'onn is the "Unknown Heroe" and the "Unknown Icon". The one we have in case for everything else relevant we know is there, but forgot to put in the other gods... um... icons... um... characters...

MarkAndrew said...

I really, really don't like the Martian Manhunter. Nothin' you can do with him that you can't do better with Superman or Batman.


How hard is it to believe that threre's a race of people on Mars..

Who can (A) change shape,

(B) turn invisible, and

(C) muck with pitiful earth brains to avoid detection.

Anonymous said...

An interesting point: J'onn is superfluous on the League when you've already got Superman and Batman there.

Remind me again why Superman and Batman must be in the League? I mean, really really must? Maybe the "Overexposure" thing Weisinger (or was it Schwartz?) had was right on the money. They've got their own places to play in.

Anonymous said...

The classic arguement: story vs. storytelling.

Story: The JLA is the Greatest Heroes On Earth, so by definition must include Superman and Batman (and by extention, the Martian Manhunter).

Storytelling: It is redundant to have both Superman/Batman and Martian Manhunter on the team, so we need to (choose one) keep Superman and Batman off the team (after all, don't they have their own books?) OR find something else for J'Onn to do.

The third possibility is seldom mentioned because it's harder and not a comfortable absolute -- find a writer creative enough to write JLA for a long stretch of time and utilize all of the characters well. IMHO the only JLA writer able to do this was Morrison.

And no, Morrison's run wasn't perfect by any means, but lack of creative ideas and neglecting his characters wasn't why.

Anonymous said...

In the pantheon of the DCU he has become an analogue to "The Unknown God" the Athenians build a temple to.
J'onn is the "Unknown Heroe" and the "Unknown Icon".

Iconwise, J'onn's pretty easy to pigeonhole. He's the Outsider - the stranger who will never truly belong but will give everything he has to his adopted home (Superman doesn't fit this bill because he's so completely assimilated to earth - he's accepted as human by pretty much everyone but Luthor). Think of Star Trek and Spock. That's the role J'onn plays (it's worth noting that it's such a popular role that every Star Trek since then has had an Outsider - Data, Odo, that hologram guy, She-Spock, etc.).

If you're concerned with J'onn's power levels, you can always reset them in a dozen ways or more, although given the tendency to increasingly up Superman's power levels (soul vision?), I'd be more worried about him.

Anonymous said...

Also, I shall bring back Sue Dibny. Oh, yes. I will find a way. Just wait.

This, it should be noted, is inevitable. The only one I truly fear for is Max Lord. Who weeps for the Lovable Bastard?

Anonymous said...

The only one I truly fear for is Max Lord. Who weeps for the Lovable Bastard?

Let the darn yuppie rott.

Bill Reed said...

Oh, that's easy.

The Max that killed Ted Kord's confused clone? Evil robot.


Or, as is more healthy, let's just ignore crappy comics and make better ones.

Anonymous said...

I adore J'onn, and watching writers either push him aside because they don't "get" him, or because he's too powerful for their current storyline just kills me. I do understand the need to eliminate deux ex machina characters like J'onn in order to tell a story, but there are better ways to do it than just kill the character off. JLA: League of One is a good example of how to do so.

J'onn, to me, seems to be the member of the JLA, and perhaps the DC superheroic community at large, who is the wise pillar of rationality and logic in a world gone mad and stupid. When he learned what certain members of the Satellite Era, what did he do? Turn around with resolve to "fix it." Period. Too bad Despero got in the way (didn't they already play that chess match?).

J'onn enters comics right in the middle of their development, I think. He's part of a transition into telling superheroic stories that aren't just about being super. I'd love nothing more than to see him back in a detective role--and yes, there are ways to make the job difficult for a mind-reader. Darwyn Cooke handles the concept wonderfully.

But then, I adore J'onn plenty, and am just a tad biased. ;)

Anonymous said...

Umm...I would read J'ONN J'ONZZ AND THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES. I would totally read that, you guys! That is the perfect solution, to everything!

...J'onn, displaced in time, ends up with the Legion. He's an outsider there, too, even more than he is now, because he's old where they're young, has a gazillion powers where they all just have one each, and even though they're all from a happy galaxy of different races and planets, he's the biggest alien of all of them, because he still has all those 50's weirdo Otherness space-alien man-from-Mars connotations hanging around him anyway...and just to make things even weirder, he's alive in that time-period too, as the whole planet Mars, and sometime if he wants to he could even go talk to himself. Maybe the Legionnaires aren't so familiar with him from history? Maybe Mars is the only world that's been dead for like forever, in the whole Galaxy?

It has a LOT of possibilities.

As far as dynastic J'onn goes, though, I'd like to see him hang around with Animal Man...

Also, you know, when I was a kid the first thing I read with him in it was a Brave and the Bold (or something) where he teamed up with the clean-shaven-era Green Arrow and Speedy to track down three Martian criminals who'd come to Earth to cause trouble, and not knowing anything else about him I guess that just stuck with me, the idea that bad Martians were always coming to Earth, and J'onn's job was to catch them...well, and it's a pity it's impossible for that ever to have been right, because that makes him make sense, anyway. At least, it made him make sense to me then.

Chris Arndt said...

You are so wrong about the Suspension of Disbelief it's not funny.

There is not one bit of problems suspending the disbelief that the Manhunter came from Mars any more or less than I have a problem with Batman surviving as long as he does.

You. Aren't. Looking. At. It.

J'onn J'onzz has a DC Universe problem in his origin. He proclaim to be stranded on Earth because his super-futuristic Martian race hasn't become extra-planetary in their travels yet. That was his original exile origin. He was an exile on earth; stranded on a backward planet Earth. His own powers of flight and invulernability were inadequate to fly him to Mars. The vacuum of space would kill him.

Yet why and how would someone who is a colleague of Superman and Green Lantern have a problem getting to the next planet from the Sun? THAT is the suspension of disbelief problem.

Scipio said...

Also, I shall bring back Sue Dibny. Oh, yes. I will find a way. Just wait.

This, it should be noted, is inevitable. The only one I truly fear for is Max Lord. Who weeps for the Lovable Bastard?

It's now 15 years later, in 2021. Max Lord was the villain in DC's most recent major motion picture; Sue Dibny is still dead.