Folks who've been reading this blog for a bit may recall that Michael Netzer was a bit surprised by my lack of commitment to his Quixotic crusade to save J'Onn J'Onzz. You see, while I love the character, I recognize the difficulties that come with him. He's difficult to write, too powerful, has yet to wear an appealing costume, and is only modestly popular at best. I'd much prefer he die in as convincing a manner as possible, despite it being entirely unlikely to stick, until a creator with a strong handle decides he must return. Otherwise, we end up with another confusing debacle like Bloodwynd or that last mini-series where he turned into an irritable Skrull vinyl fetishist to make him kewl.
Another vocal fan of the character with an objective viewpoint is Scipio at The Absorbascon. He's made a case for saving J'Onn, another against it, written a theme song for him, considered him the perfect hero to tie together the entire DC Universe, and campaigned for an archive edition.
On the other hand, he's always requesting the character be altered. He should become a black man, return to his former beat in Middleton or as noted here, take on a whole new supporting cast of muchly unrelated also-rans or just curl up and die. This sort of thing drives me nuts, because he knows enough about the character's earliest JLofA appearances to know his primary power in that contact was super-breath, and claims the Manhunter as a personal favorite. If he likes the character so much, why does he want to rework him so thoroughly?
I don't believe he understands the whole of the character, and it's rare to find anyone who does. I don't claim to myself, and I've made something of an academic study of the matter. I believe Scipio is a genuine fan of the character, in much the same manner I was when I started the "Rock of the JLA" site in the late 90's/early 00's. I would never start such a site today, as most of my affection for J'Onn was at that time derived from his interpretation as a member of the JLA between 1987-1997. I was defining the team through the character, and vice versa, rather than comprehending the Manhunter on his own terms. Also, I was using the site and a slice of the character's history to "prove" how great he was amongst all other heroes.
Some months back, I wrote Of Hook Hands and Idol-Heads about this fallacy in my thinking. Scipio can correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect he only recently was exposed to the Manhunter's solo adventures of the 50's through the "Showcase" volume. That collection was mostly written by Jack Miller and Dave Wood, two of the worst writers of the Silver Age. Scipio has an advantage over me regarding those stories, as I've made a point of not reading more than one story every few weeks, and he's gone through the whole thing. I remember how disillusioned I was when I started reading J'onn's 60's adventures by that same crew, and seeing how epically awful they were. This was Ed Wood level schlock, but with fewer charming idiosyncrasies. It initially made me want to disavow any connection between the Pre- & Post-Crisis incarnations of the character. However, as noted in "Hook Hands," I came to realize that denial was just a coping mechanism to avoid accepting the character, warts and all.
When I look at Scipio's proposed "Dynastic Centerpiece," all I see is a fan fiction square peg trying to force its way into the icosagon that is the entire, conflicting, exasperating whole of Martian Manhunter's being.
- L-Ron was Max Lord's sidekick when Oberon was away, and only occasionally interacted with J'Onn.
- Dubbilex is a Jack Kirby creature telepath that may have met J'Onn in passing during some crossover or another, but has only a surface resemblance in common.
- Metamorpho served on multiple teams with the Manhunter, including the JLI and Outsiders, without there sharing nary a word.
- Red Tornado usurped the Manhunter's role in the Justice League of America for over a decade and contributed to his extended exile from comics (late 60's-mid 80's.) If anything, they should be enemies, and in fact have fought on at least one occasion with no friendship to speak of.
- Fire was never especially close to J'Onn, aside from a racist and/or apocryphal depiction of the character in one issue of John Ostrander's solo series.
- You may note I refer the J'Onn J'Onzz heroic persona as just "Manhunter" throughout this text, because once the character became a super-hero in the 60's, that's how he was referred to. Every other Manhunter since the "Manhunter from Mars" was introduced in the 50's has stepped on his title, as he was in a sense the Silver Age incarnation of the only DC character to have had the name before him, Paul Kirk, a character retired long before the Golden Age ended. Scipio's suggestion to add the current bearer of the title into his orbit, Kate Spencer, fails to recognize her culpability in his "death." Dan Didio is a fan of the character after all, to such a degree he's sworn to keep her adventures in print somewhere for as long as he's at DC. With one "Manhunter" promised the title in perpetuity, J'Onn J'Onzz only dilutes "her" brand, right?
- The Question, either incarnation, has no historical relevance to J'Onn J'Onzz whatsoever.
- King Faraday, who's connection comes from one Elseworlds mini-series.
- Miss Martian, who I'm not sure has ever met the Martian Manhunter.
This is part of the reason J'Onn J'Onzz will soon be dead: People assuming there isn't more to the character and history than is commonly known, or defining him through jaundiced perspectives. I accept part of the blame for that, as I continue to fail in my mission with this blog. I have kept focusing on churning out story synopsis for set periods in sequence, or posting filler art to lighten up the history lesson/give myself a breather. I don't have enough character bios up. I haven't explored huge swaths of history. I've rarely explained what about the character drives me to make this effort, or what I've discovered about the character's nuances from this undertaking. It isn't enough to post information with philosophical interpretation and balanced recommendations. I've repeatedly stated that part of the point of this blog, really the lion's share when I think about it, is to influence and improve the Manhunter from Mars' representation and regard in future endeavors. Perhaps it's too little too late, But I intend to try harder. Regardless, there is a future for J'Onn J'Onzz, and I suppose it begins with an ending, but this too shall pass...