Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Martian Request?

It occurs to me that I have a really irrational dislike of the Martian Manhunter. I honestly have no idea why. Especially since I enjoy Miss Martian quite a bit.

The odd thing is that I really really should like him. I love aliens nearly as much as I do robots. I think shapeshifting and telepathy are cool. (I think they're ripe with fascinating potential with regards to identity also.) I like that J'onn has an obvious weakness too, to keep him from being too overpowered. I like the color green.

And hell. Mars is cool.

But the character himself just leaves me cold.

I think it's because he's so mopey. Every time I read him, it seems like he's moping. Which isn't really a fair complaint given that the character does have legitimate tragedy, but when am I rational?

I think the real problem is that I never really was able to get a sense of his identity, about what makes the character tick beyond being a vaguely stern authoritative figure that also seems to serve as group telepathic network when not shrinking away from fire or having yet another angst breakdown.

I'm sure he's probably a good character, but I just don't get him.

So any J'onn fans out there got any storyline/comic recommendations for me so I might learn to appreciate him better?


  • At February 19, 2008 7:54 AM, Blogger Tucker Stone said…

    I liked that character in the final issues of the Detroit league, and for some of the glory days of the Giffen league--mostly when he played den mother and ate oreos all the time. Other than that, I'd agree that he's a total emotionless bore.

  • At February 19, 2008 8:47 AM, Blogger Flidget said…

    You think you have problems with the character?

    All that moping and angst and alienation means I keep confusion him with the android Red Tornado. I was about to post how much I liked him in Young Justice.

  • At February 19, 2008 10:22 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    You like Snapper Carr, but not J'onn J'onnz?


    Well, J'onn is fabulous in the early days of the JLI, but that's no surprise, because EVERYONE was fabulous then. His own series with Ostrander and Mahnke is very good. And I was surprised to see how charming he was in the "Year One" mini-series of the Justice League.

    I must admit that he's been a bit on the whiney side lately. It's as though they just don't know what to do with him, which is a shame. He OUGHT to be in the Justice League. Do we REALLY need Geoforce for God's sake?

  • At February 19, 2008 11:24 AM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    Wacky timing! I've been thinking about JJ recently, and contemplating elaborating on two of my favourite and key stories to the character.

    The obvious one would be New Frontier, I think. I like his early career as Det. John Jones and the notion of the character as a Gothamite, more than the background dressing JL-er.

  • At February 19, 2008 1:01 PM, OpenID thomwade said…

    Yeah. I think it's the JLI that made him so know...when he was not so mopey?

  • At February 19, 2008 1:19 PM, Anonymous Lis said…

    J'onn was a damn badass in Grant Morrison's JLA run as well. Certainly had his mopey moments, but not full of angst or emotionless as most untalented writers tend to do. I'm a huge fan of JJ, but I can see where many readers would share your opinion because he's been so poorly used over the years with a few notable exceptions. However, when people like Cooke or Giffen or Morrison get a hold of the character, he's amazing. The Ostrander run was interesting as well, if more morose (but the book wasn't meant to be light to begin with).

    Martian Manhunter is a terrible character in the hands of a lazy, bad, or disinterested writer. Now, I've read the original stuff, mind you, and it's nothing short of a miracle he made it into the JLA in the first place. He's just...there in the first Showcase - maybe the later stuff gets better. However, the Human Flame showing up in JLA #21 is from a '59 JJ story, which just floors me.

    The fact Martian Manhunter is rarely written consistantly and well is the biggest blow to enjoying the character.

  • At February 19, 2008 2:05 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    Some of my favorite MM appearances are in JLA Year One and JLA: Trial By Fire. Also, there are short stories here and there that show he's the opposite side of the 'immigrant' metaphor Superman is: While Superman is well-adjusted and cherished, Jonn is a nice guy that just doesn't fit with the group, no matter how much shapeshifting or telepathizing he does. Like he told Kyle, 'it ain't easy being green'.

  • At February 19, 2008 7:11 PM, Blogger originalslugboy said…

    The Ostrander/Mandrake series is incredible, and I was very sad when it was over (too early). And yeah, he was morose and mopey here, but not all the time... but it is telling the story of an incredibly nice, lonely guy, trying to learn as much as he can about his adopted home by setting up dozens of identities around the world, and learning from each of them.

    Most writers take the lazy route and just write him mopey, but rarely show us the reasons for it. Most of those writers probably don't understand or think about it.

    It's nice to see writers remember that J'onn loves his friends deeply (both the JLA and JLI)... I suspect he really feels close to Beetle, Booster, Guy, Fire & Ice- but where are any of them that he can talk with them anymore? I always got the impression that he wanted to spend his time playing around with them, but felt the need to play parent...

    Point to this? Er... I'm usually onboard with the lackluster Jonn theory (heck, and I LIKE Red Tornado), but go back and read your JLIs. Find the Ostrander series.

  • At February 20, 2008 12:13 AM, Blogger Derek said…

    Okay, I can't point you to any story that has made me like Martian Manhunter. Not as such. I started reading comics with the One Year Later jump, and he hasn't been very interesting since then.

    That said, seeing the character through Caleb's eyes has garnered a certain amount of affection from me.

    I also don't like him being so mopey, so the Martian Manhunter in my mind is a bit different than the one we've been seeing recently.

    Ever since I read NEw Frontier, I've been imagining J'onn as a hardcore TV fan. Making friendly bets on who's going to win the next Dancing with the Stars, coming up with elaborate theories about Lost, constantly trying to get his teammates to tune in to his favourite shows that on the verge of cancellation, that sort of thing.

    Bascially, Lyle Masaki with super powers. It really helps humanize the Manhunter for me.

  • At February 20, 2008 12:08 PM, OpenID looking2dastars said…

    I'll echo the comments on Morrison's JLA and the Ostrander series.

    I forget who wrote it or what issue it is - but the story that really made me start liking J'onn was one which showed his typical day and revealed that...

    1) J'onn takes personal responsibility for most of the Southern Hemisphere since Africa, Asia and Australia seem to have a lower percentage of superbeings.
    2) J'onn is actually more popular than Superman in Japan.
    3) J'onn has multiple secret identities that he filters in and out of so as to see life from as many angles as possible.

    I'd also recommend nearly any episode of the Justice League cartoon that he was in, but especially Tabula Rusa and The Christmas Special.

  • At February 21, 2008 6:56 PM, Anonymous Justin said…

    I really like Martian Manhunter, but I can't really point to any comics because I haven't read much about him. My fondness for J'onn comes from the cartoon. He just had this air of integrity and decency with more than a whiff of sadness. He's also feels empathy with almost anyone more readily than even Superman, which is no small feat. All of these things are qualities I have too, so it's easy to key into his mindset. I *like* that he's mopey, because it makes him more introspective and thoughtful than perhaps any of the other Leaguers. Although I have to add that I love the more laid-back, oreo-eating MM too.

  • At February 22, 2008 9:07 AM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    Martian Spamhunter!

    It really just isn't going to represent the story well enough, but if you aren't familiar with Secret Origins #35, this entry comes highly recommended.

  • At February 25, 2008 7:43 PM, Blogger philippos42 said…

    Huh. I think I latched onto J'onn back in the Detroit JLA. Not sure why I'd connect to a shapeshifting Superman riff, but I like the obscure & the underdog.

    For me, it's the Giffen-DeMatteis-Hughes-etc run of JLA where Gypsy's parents were killed by Despero, & the way he came to save her. (Of course I bought JL Task Force--well, the first half-year or so.)

    And the Oreos.

    When I try to think of J'onn stuff, I think of a couple of lines he had in the exceedingly weird Gerard Jones/Ed Barreto mini; I think it's called Martian Manhunter: American Secrets. But it's all context.

    I guess my affection for J'onn is like a very long inside joke. Superman & Wonder Woman are household names, Green Lantern has had some kind of book much of the time, Aquaman was on Super Friends (& is a Namor riff, so easy to get the gist of anyway), but J'onn is like--like our friend that we know, only if we've read JLA, & we get the little jokes about him.


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