J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, has been a central member of the Justice League in almost all of its iterations. A powerful hero with a number of abilities not currently represented in the movie version’s line-up. From telepathy to shapeshifting, the Martian hero can offer filmmakers new opportunities, should they decide to include him in this expanding universe. But how can DC and Warner Brothers work to bring J’onn into the movies?
4. Make Him the Villain
As much as I love J’onn J’onzz and hate to see his good name slandered in the eyes of movie audiences around the world, I must admit that one of the easier ways to bring the Martian Manhunter to the DCEU is to make him a villain. The central role given to antagonists in film would give him ample opportunity to establish his history and powers. His powers make J’onn a good counterpart to Superman or Wonder Woman, using his more unique features to throw experienced heroes off their game. The difficulty in countering an equal physical match would force these heroes to negotiate and reason with their villain, something which is lacking so far in DC’s movie offerings. I would hope that once defeated, the writers would redeem him, but that is up to them.
3. Use His Secret Identity
In his original comics appearance, J’onn J’onzz took on the human name of John Jones in order to serve the public as a detective. By using John Jones as a character within a police department that works closely with established superheroes, audiences would first be exposed to J’onn as a human. This promotes empathy for the character before the reveal that he is himself an alien, allowing for his inclusion in a later team film. The nature of his secret identity allows him to work with other heroes whose identities would naturally come into contact with a detective, such as with Barry Allen’s job as a police scientist or Clark Kent’s position as a reporter. Seeing a hero interact with John in both of their identities increases the screen time and gives importance to a character who could be seen as just another police officer.
2. Pair with Other Characters
Another way to introduce audiences to the Martian Manhunter would be for DC to have him serve as a secondary hero within another character’s movie. For example, J’onn would work well in a Green Lantern film, as the Martian title of Manhunter could be tied to the Green Lantern’s predecessors, the robotic Manhunters. Additionally, Superman and J’onn have a number of similarities, as both are the sole survivors of their respective worlds. Having another hero whose own conflicts drive the plot, with the Manhunter in a supporting role, allows the writers to keep the narrative weight on a more established character without expecting J’onn to carry his own film.
1. Make Him Part of the Backstory
But the best way to bring another overpowered alien hero into the Justice League universe is to actively do what most of the DCEU movies have been avoiding: craft an actual background for the characters and the world they live in. J’onn, as a long-lived alien with a vaguely defined powerset, is perfect fodder for filling in the gaps of the DC movieverse. Much of what has made the comics of DC distinct from Marvel, particularly during the 90s and 2000s, was the direct line that was drawn from the 40s to the present without major gaps or jumps. Marvel’s universe of heroes basically stops after World War Two and jumps to the present, which the movies have emulated. DC, on the other hand, had heroes who lived through WWII, grew older, and had kids, with the arrival and acceptance of Superman in the present day seen as a reaffirmation of superhero values, rather than a resurgence.
In the 90s, writers even closed the gap between the Justice Society and the Justice League further with a team called the Justice Experience which operated in the late 60s and early 70s, of which J’onn J’onzz was the sole surviving member, under the name The Bronze Wraith. Establishing a previously unaccepted team of superheroes in the movies to bridge the gap between Wonder Woman and the present would work to add texture to the universe as a whole. One of the problems Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice faced was the sudden appearance of an older Batman who had clearly been around for years, but was never brought up in Man of Steel. Now that the precedent has been set, why not go wild? Throw in all sorts of superhero shenanigans that took place decades before the current team. If Justice League represents the current world’s acceptance of aliens and superpowered beings, then make that matter to the story. Use the Martian Manhunter to build a better universe, storywise, and by doing so, create a place for him within it.