Sunday, October 7, 2007

Five Reasons To Love the Manhunter from Mars

Art and color by Paul Rivoche from JLA-Z #3 (1/04)

I never got around to voting in CBR/Comics Should Be Good's reader poll of the Top 50 (or so) characters at the DC and Marvel Comics Groups. J'Onn J'Onzz placed well, as can been seen here. However, he has yet to have fan "flavor text" added to his listing, as solicited compilation master Brian Cronin so I submit the following...

Five Reasons To Love the Manhunter from Mars:

He's not the best. In an idealized universe like the one found at DC Comics, every major hero has to embody some conception of perfection. This is the American Way, as this nation adores winners, be they Übermenschen or underdogs. J'Onn J'Onzz, despite often being described as "more powerful than Superman," plainly isn't. He's been beaten through the overwhelming force of super-villains and fellow heroes, on to the most minor of thugs armed only with a matchbox. The character makes no pretense about being omnipotent, either. It's refreshing to see a hero who's constantly knocked down get right back up again and keep chugging along with the full knowledge he'll be getting knocked right back down again and again. He's heroic in a very European fashion, fully conscious of his faults and limitations, without the slightest hint of self-pity, and braced to take on whatever comes his way to the best of his abilities.

He's not popular. Yeah, he made it to the 11th place in this year's "Comics Should Be Good" ranking of DC characters, but the guy not only doesn't have his own book, but often doesn't appear in any book on a given month. He's delightfully underexposed. You will never be forced to buy weekly installments of a Manhunter comic written by committee using often underwhelming "talent." You will never be subjected to an obligatory, undercooked crossover event starring the Alien Atlas where he proves how great he is by making other characters seem comparatively lame. You will not be exposed to a silly live action television series centering on the adventures of the Martian Marvel when he was a mopey teenager, nor a series of overproduced but underwhelming feature films. You will rarely even meet anyone who knows that J'Onn J'Onzz ever had nicknames like "Martian Marvel" or "Alien Atlas." Urban youths will not begin to carve the Martian "pie" into their hair, and you will never be cut off in traffic by some jerk with a Manhunter symbol bumper sticker. Writers can go places with J'Onn J'Onzz prohibited for "popular" characters, and artists need not cleave their representations of him to a rigid style guide. The Manhunter from Mars doesn't belong to licensors and middling tastes, but to fans and creators.

He's a geek. His "girlfriend" really wasn't. He not only doesn't get babes, but doesn't even seem to want them. He's way more into science, religion, and philosophy. He pays lip service to "normal" life, but he's obviously all about his "campaigns," even when hidden among the mundane. He's awkward and freaky looking, prone to wearing ill-fitting and poorly considered costumes that too often expose parts of his body better kept under wraps. His kid sidekick was a naked toddler with antennae. You've never heard of his rogue's gallery, but it consists of a mad scientist, a fat spy, and a knick-knack. While he's worked with all the big names, he's just as prone to spend time with the biggest losers in comics. He's got a tons of squandered potential. He's one. of. us.

He could be worse. He's a telepath, but he had nothing to do with those League mindwipes, and wouldn't even invade the sanctity of Maxwell Lord's villainous mind to know there was a serpent in his midst. He can turn invisible and intangible, but still takes a beating in every battle so that other heroes can claim all the glory. He can stretch and assume the form of any object, but abstains so that guys like Elongated Man and Plastic Man aren't rendered redundant as teammates. He can fire laser beams from his eyes, but will not kill a living soul, not even his worst enemy. J'Onn J'Onzz has so many powers, that every time he chooses not to abuse them, he's all the more heroic in his restraint and respect for others.

He's a Communist. Seriously, the guy believes that everyone is equal, and that they should work to the best of their ability while taking only what they need. If you're a thieving fourteen-year-old runaway and you want to be a super-hero, he'll let you join the Justice League of America. If you're a murderous scheming running dog capitalist who pretends to have a change of heart and support super-heroes while really plotting against them, J'Onn will take your money and give you a say in defending the planet. If you're his nemesis, a world-conquering tyrant who'd gleefully level cities while draped in the U.N. flag, but now want to become a young hero in training, J'Onn will take you under his wing. The Manhunter would prefer to work with dregs like Vibe than the self-aggrandizing Guy Gardner, who feels he's better than other heroes and deserves more for his efforts. J'Onn J'Onzz does not discriminate according to age, race, faith, or any other distinction aside from those who wish to take more than they give or assume power over others. Most of all though, he gives of himself entirely, regardless of the consequences, for the common good. While he had a tragic circumstances tacked on to his origin in the late 80's, his motivation isn't based around any personal loss. While he didn't choose to come to Earth, once here his choice was made clear from his very first appearance. "Earth is far behind Mars in many ways-- but this is natural, since it's a younger planet! But this evil they have-- called crime... Mars once had crime-- centuries ago! Until the Great Evolution, we had wicked men who preyed on the good. But our enlightened science made crime obsolete! There seems to be much crime here-- so perhaps, while I am stranded on Earth, I can help the Earthlings by fighting this crime!" The Martian Manhunter isn't out there fighting the good fight due to some obsessive fixation, but out of a sense of social justice and moral obligation. It's textbook socialism of a type humans can't muster because hey, we're only human...

If I wasn't so prone to procrastination and had actually voted:
01) Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz, 11th place, 439 votes, 6 1st place)
02) Ambush Bug (46th place, 158 votes, 6 1st place)
03) Aquaman (Orin, 30th, 270, 6)
04) Wonder Woman (8th place, 543, 13)
05) Nightwing/Robin (Dick Grayson, 6th place, 666, 11)
06) Steel II (John Henry Irons, unranked)
07) Huntress (50th, Helena Bertenelli – 126 (2), Helena Wayne - 19) – 144 (1)
08) John Stewart (Green Lantern/Darkstar, unranked)
09) The Question (Vic Sage, 13th, 396, 4)
10) The Atom (Ray Palmer, unranked)
11) Vril Dox of L.E.G.I.O.N. (unranked)


Luke said...

As I like to say over on my blog: Woo, Martian Manhunter!

MM is a great character, the kind of character who is just a few degrees off "center" and thus becomes that much more interesting to read. Don't get me wrong, I mark out for Superman, but J'Onn is the ultimate enlightened outsider.

Great blog, dude!

Diabolu Frank said...

Dude, you've got Steel's shredded pre-corpse as your profile picture. That's wicked sick. No, the good kind.

I'll be checking out your blog... let's say tomorrow. I've got to get started on a week's worth of JLDetroit era posting and hit the sack for an early rise, but I'll be comin' around.