If I Was Making...MARTIAN MANHUNTER

Vadakin continues his exploration of what would make successful transitions of characters from the Justice League into their own films. In this article excerpt he turns his attention to the Martian Manhunter.

Follow EdGross:
By EdGross - 4/2/2013
Martian Manhunter 2

by Vadakin. Superman. Born on an alien world, he was sent away as an infant to escape its destruction. Landing on Earth, little Kal-El was raised by a kind farmer and his wife, with no memory of the world he had lost. When he was old enough, he discovered his path and learned of the planet Krypton, it's tragic demise and his birth parents last act to save him. When Clark Kent became Superman, he sought to honor the home he had lost and protect the home he had gained. But Superman was raised as a human being. His thoughts are human thoughts. His feelings are human feelings. His connection to Krypton is not of man who has lost his home. It is not a memory for him. It is a story, one he knows is true but will never fully connect with. Earth is the only home he knows. But imagine things were slightly different. Imagine Kal-El grew up on Krypton. Imagine he raised a family there, had a life. Imagine that life was ripped from him as he was pulled through time and space to an alien world with no way to get home. And then imagine that even if he could get home, the world he cherished so much, the people he loved were long since dead and he was truly alone on this new world. And there you have the Martian Manhunter.

It is the story of a man trying to find a place in a world he doesn't know. The story of a husband and father grieving for a lost family. You might describe him as a depressed Superman and that's not too far from the truth. J'onn J'onzz is a character struggling to find meaning in tragedy. Unlike the other heroes of the Justice League, he has no stake in our world. He is truly an outsider and his journey is long and painful. The life he knew is gone and the life he has gained isn't all it's cracked up to be. He observes the human race without ever feeling connected to them. That's why if I was making Martian Manhunter, I'd probably do it on television.

The Wanderer

kungfu_3

There are certain characters within the DC universe that are ideally suited to television. The Question (I may talk about this in a future article) is a prime example. You boil it down to a show about a private detective caught up in conspiracy theories. The X-Files serves as an interesting template for such a show. Martian Manhunter on the other hand is something that I see being connected to the David Carradine show, Kung Fu. The idea of an outsider, a wanderer, walking through life, encountering people as he searches for meaning (Kung Fu's story was about the character Caine, wandering through the Old West in search of his brother) is something that would suit Martian Manhunter.

J'onn Jonzz is also deeply rooted in 1950's science fiction. An alien visitor encountering humanity, perhaps making judgements, is the kind of thing you would find in landmark movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still. But the story of a man travelling the Earth, learning the value of humanity while coming to terms with his own loss may not be a ratings grabber. Long time readers of Martian Manhunter will also be fully aware that the character is a detective (initially for the police, later as a private detective), calling himself John Jones.

Martian Manhunter 6

I would suggest combining both concepts. Set the TV show in modern times and make it a cop show (with supernatural elements) but with flashbacks throughout, going right back to being pulled to Earth in the 1950's. The flashbacks would track his journey across the years and would inform whatever case he happened to be working on in present day. While the flashbacks show his journey towards accepting humanity, the present day cop stuff could chart his journey towards becoming a superhero.

That's my TV pitch for Martian Manhunter. Make it a personal story within the framework of a science fiction influenced police procedural. It is a much smaller scale than you might expect from a character with his powers and that's the point. It isn't about The Martian Manhunter, it's about J'onn J'onzz. The problem with such an approach is that there's quite a bit of material that you'd miss out on due to the smaller, more personal approach. So let's look at Martian Manhunter from that other perspective. Let's look at a movie.

With Envious Eyes

“With envious eyes” is a phrase from the opening monologue of one of the great science fiction works – The War of the Worlds. The basic premise, for those who don't know, is that an old and intelligent Martian civilisation, seeing their planet lose its life supporting ability through the passage of time, turn to Earth as salvation and draw up plans to invade. I bring it up because if you're going to make a movie about Martians, an invasion from Mars seems like an obvious route for the plot to take.

Martian Manhunter 1

It's certainly not hard to imagine a scenario where the peaceful Green Martians are destroyed by the aggressive White Martians in a war over the precious few resources left on Mars, and the White Martians turn their attentions towards Earth, with the only Green Martian survivor, J'onn J'onzz, being the only one who can save the Earth from the White Martian menace. It's the kind of movie I could see being made in isolation, but in the context of the Justice League, a White Martian invasion might be better suited to a team up movie.

Mars itself has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years in the comics. In some versions, Mars is an uninhabited wasteland with any civilization having been destroyed long ago. In early versions, Mars is still inhabited, while across the history of Martian Manhunter, Martians have visited Earth, from Miss Martian to J'onn J'onzz' evil twin brother, Ma'alefa'ak (who is responsible for the extinction of the Green Martians).

There is also the question of Mars itself. Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds adaptation moved away from the idea that the aliens were Martians, due to what we now know about Mars compared to what H.G. Wells knew when he wrote the novel. Films in recent times that have featured Mars have also failed to ignite the box office and with the failure of John Carter, a movie about Martian civilizations may not be something Warner Brothers is excited to deliver.

But every character and story has a hook, a way to get beyond the difficulties of adapting such a work to the big screen in a way that will connect with the audience. Which brings me back to J'onn J'onzz, the man without a home. If you try to make a movie about Martians...Green Martians, White Martians, evil twin Martians, you're liable to lose the audience. Martian Manhunter feels like 50's science fiction, but the best science fiction of that era wasn't about the threat or the larger reality being exposed. The Day the Earth Stood Still was squarely focused on the character of Klaatu and his exploration of humanity. That's how you approach Martian Manhunter.

Martian Manhunter 4

You focus on J'onn, on his struggles. You connect with the audience by showing his experience with humanity from the perspective of an outsider. But on a more personal level, you make it about a man who has lost everyone and everything he has ever known and loved. How do you go on from that? How do you pick up the pieces and try to build a new life? Do you wander the world forever, never making connections? Or do you mourn and then move on and try to embrace what the universe has left you? Whether on TV or in a movie, that's the story you tell. You can introduce White Martians or Ma'alefa'ak to challenge J'onn and give him something to fight for and fight against, but at it's core it should be a deeply personal story.

For the rest of this article, please click HERE.
DISCLAIMER: This article was submitted by a volunteer contributor who has agreed to our code of conduct. ComicBookMovie.com is protected from liability under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and "safe harbor" provisions. CBM will disable users who knowingly commit plagiarism, piracy, trademark or copyright infringement. Please contact us for expeditious removal of copyrighted/trademarked content. You may also learn more about our copyright and trademark policies HERE.
3
LIKE!
32 Comments
Superior - 4/2/2013, 6:10 AM
I thought Levi made this article at first, lol.
But still, great job!
knocturnalzen10 - 4/2/2013, 6:13 AM
it's fitting an interesting that no matter what everything will hinge on what MOS does. to get any kinda other characters moving for DC on the big screen an if not then they will just be rebooting batman again................. smh
NorrinRaddical - 4/2/2013, 6:16 AM
really nice thoughts Ed. In response to "the Wanderer", I liked New Frontier's take on him as well. The way he initially appropriated 50s culture into his do-gooding
EdGross - 4/2/2013, 6:25 AM
I can't take credit, NorrinRaddical, the author is Vadakin. He wrote the full piece for my site at Voices From Krypton.net, but I just like sharing these things because they're so well thought out.
Tainted87 - 4/2/2013, 6:33 AM
Damn, there goes the neighborhood ;)

Gotta hand it to you Ed, you sure know the Martian Manhunter. My concern with a television show is that the effects just wouldn't be adequate during flashbacks. You can't just hire a bunch of extras and put them in orc suits - these guys are Martians. But apart from that, I love it. I love Kung Fu, makes me miss David Carradine all the more. There's some badass line from every episode (for me, the most memorable is in the pilot, but still) that Caine half-heartedly mumbles that becomes the quote of the day for me at work!

If one's words are no better than silence, one should keep silent.

I really think you touched down on all the points of a tv show, so I don't feel stupid continuing my looooooonnnnnnggggg movie editorial, although some revisions will probably have to be made so it doesn't sound old hat, heh.

Great read sir.
Tainted87 - 4/2/2013, 6:34 AM
Errrrrr ok, good job Vadakin!
AC1 - 4/2/2013, 6:35 AM
Nice, I really like the idea of flashing back to J'onn arriving in the '50s.
EdGross - 4/2/2013, 6:36 AM
Tainted87, I feel as though I've disillusioned you. So sorry.

And Levitikuz, Vadakin's done a series of these articles and they really are thought provoking. Some great concepts there.
AC1 - 4/2/2013, 6:39 AM
The idea of him first arriving on Earth in the '50s could also help play up his own 'fish out of water' story - in the '50s, he'd obviously be an alien in both species and personality, but by the modern setting, his personality could adapt a bit more to human culture but still be quite out of date... so like, in the modern setting, he acts like a man from the '50s or '60s. This way, he can grow as a character but still be a bit of an outcast. It'd also be a nice way to hearken back to the Golden and Silver Age personalities of superheroes.
PsyGuy - 4/2/2013, 6:43 AM
First can we make him playable in 'Injustice'?
AC1 - 4/2/2013, 6:44 AM
Vadakin's great. Even when I occasionally don't agree with some of his ideas (which is rare anyway), his passion for superheroes and seeing them done right is really great to read.

And it's great that you're posting his work here for us to enjoy, Ed.
Tainted87 - 4/2/2013, 7:00 AM
@Ed, no way. :)
SUPERSHADOWBAT - 4/2/2013, 7:22 AM
Good article and great knowledge of Martian Manhunter. Makes me think that maybe it should be MM that should get an introduction in the next Superman movie. Seeing as they are both aliens, MM might see this as a way to connect with someone who has a little more in common with him than the general human populace. It could then lead to the other heroes who will make up the JL.
drfate - 4/2/2013, 7:26 AM
Horrible take dude. Copying, borrowing, ideas like that will only produce another horrible DC movie. The way to go with Martian Manhunter is, not to model previous stories like Kung Fu or The Day the Earth Stood Still, but to do SOMETHING ORIGINAL.

I know, I know, a daunting task indeed. Even Superman was a ripoff of John Carter. But it is possible. The focus should be on who Martian Manhunter IS. He's a Martian. He's a Manhunter. And there you have it. Explore that and what would a last Manhunter, who is a Martian have to do.

The setting could be Earth, but doesn't have to be. If it were, I'd like to see an exploitation of his detachment from humans used constructively. I would write more, but the more I think about it, the more I think I will just pitch my idea myself and make a buttload of Hollywood moolah! Haa Haa! Mooohaaa hahaahahh Ah AH AH HAaah haaa (twisting moustache...)
aresww3 - 4/2/2013, 7:33 AM
Great ideas, I have a slightly different approach but the themes raised are spot on. so great stuff.
Devilbeam - 4/2/2013, 7:35 AM
Make him freaking badass like he is in the new 52. And hot damn those are some huge eyebrow ridges
6of13 - 4/2/2013, 8:11 AM
@DrFate I agree with you on "He's a Martian. He's a Manhunter". I see a movie being deeply influenced by what J'onn does for a living i.e finding criminals, various undesirables or whoever etc. And even when J'onn is on Earth, he continues in that regard because he feels that by allowing certain individuals to remain sought by the law only allows them to do more harm until they are apprehended. So, out of his own moral obligations, he takes a job as a detective.


superbigguy32 - 4/2/2013, 8:37 AM
Martian Manhunter NEEDS to be a movie. If you'd adapted it for TV I can hear it now, "we're going to make it more reality-based, so he's not going to be from Mars. He's going to be from a distant country, yada, yada, yada.

If this is going to be a MOVIE, and I hope it does I vote for actor Christopher Obi. He played Mirror Man on Snow White and The Huntsman. In the movie MM needs to be tall. Like 6'8 or 7'1 and needs to be ripped like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. That's when CGI like Avatar,
superbigguy32 - 4/2/2013, 8:40 AM
The Hulk, and Gollum for examples.
superbigguy32 - 4/2/2013, 8:48 AM
I also read in a Superman book that MM was one of the first beings to greet baby Kal-El when he first arrived to Earth. Minutes before Jonathan and Martha Kent found him. That would be a very cool way to intertwine both movies.
Vadakin - 4/2/2013, 8:48 AM
The truth is, and I talk about this in the article, we're not going to see MM until Justice League where he will likely be used the way Justice League Animated used him, as a bridge between the Earth heroes and whatever alien threat is out there, be it White Martians or Darkseid.

I proposed a TV show because I feel like the personal story of J'onn is suited to that format. In an ideal world, that show would follow him throughout time, starting in the 50's, watching his exploration of humanity as he comes to terms with the fact that he can never go home and everyone he has ever loved has long since died. We'd see him begin to adapt to life on Earth and watch him become the Martian Manhunter, culminating in a film where he is revealed to the world and the full extent of his abilities are displayed, either in Justice League or a solo film.

But I'm not talking about a teenage MM on the CW. It would need to be a mature show with mature themes. Not an R-rated HBO show but still something thoughtful. I like to refer to J'onn as an old soul. There's a sadness to him and a disconnect from the world around him but also that unquenchable desire to see justice done.
Vadakin - 4/2/2013, 8:54 AM
An intelligent, thought-provoking TV show that leads into a movie is the ideal but I get that it's unlikely, which is why I talk about a movie as well. Justice League is the obvious starting point for introducing MM. He's a character who isn't that well known outside the fandom.

Even though I wrote the article, I don't actually think we'll ever see a Martian Manhunter movie. Given how long it's taken to get Wonder Woman and Flash off the ground, the chances of MM getting a movie are smaller than The Atom. He's just not high on the list. The best chance the character has is for a strong introduction in Justice League. The problem there is that MM is one of the characters a Justice League movie is likely to cut out.

It's not easy being green.
Manhunter - 4/2/2013, 9:05 AM
I think that TV would be a hard sell for this character. First of all he would be on the CW who doesn't really do this kind of program. To make him successful on the CW he would run around with his shirt off doing pushups the entire episode. The idea of getting to see the character portrayed every week is super exciting but in reality it would not work. J'onn has many different powers, to show him correctly on the small screen would be very expensive.

I think he would work best being introduced in a Justice League movie. He could potentially unite the team to fend off some kind of interstellar threat. However we have already seen the whole "team saves planet from Alien Army" in Avengers so that idea is kind of tired as well. But if he is introduced in a JL movie and becomes a well-liked character the sky is the limit. I think J'onns threatening appearance could be mixed well with comedy and he could become the breakout of the movie.

I think my ideal Manhunter movie would be a gritty Noir mystery. With J'onn trying to solve a human crime or something more morally questionable so the answer would not simply be for him to smash the villain’s head against the wall. This however is a difficult sell for an already difficult character to describe. But If a Guardians Of The Galaxy movie is possible then so is Martin Manhunter. Just maybe drop the Martin. People don't seem to be interested in movies about Mars so you have to trick them into caring about him first then get into the Mars back story.
H3LLBLAZER - 4/2/2013, 9:35 AM
If DC is planning on replacing J'onn with Cyborg in a JL film, then they have to think about which of the two can carry his own solo film. My money is on J'onn he has the better rouges gallery. Besides I think any character can be relatable with the right problems, and struggles. Or if DC wants diversity then I'm guessing they will go with Cyborg, because I don't think DC will use Stewart for JL.
jphoenix666 - 4/2/2013, 10:24 AM
I've always liked the idea of a Martian Manhunter movie, I knew it was possible, his character is so complex & his origins would be amazing to see in a solo movie. I wrote a plot summary for it:

The last survivor of Mars J'onn J'onnzz thought he'd
come to Earth to erase his tragic past having to watch them die and start a new fighting injustice. Disguised as human detective John Jones he struggles to learn the challenges of being human and what it's like to live on a new world by himself being without his family & being mars' sole survivor trying to fight for Justice and the
innocent. While on the job one night, John Jones
begins tracking down a petty criminal by the name of
Michael Miller. When Miller is involved in a freak
accident and is transformed into the super villain The
Human Flame. J'onn's strengths & weaknesses will be
tested in the fight for his life to ultimately become
the bounty hunting Martian, The Martian Manhunter!

Thanks for making people believe it's even more possible.

@markofthedemon You want diversity in a Justice league film. Have Idras Elba or another African American play Martian Manhunter. There's your diversity problem solved.
Chewtoy - 4/2/2013, 10:49 AM
The big problem with the Martian Manhunter getting a movie is that Hollywood is convinced that all films about Mars are box office poison. Hell, it's why they took the word "Mars" out of the title of "John Carter". It's why they took Mars completely out of the "Total Recall" remake. Hollywood freaking hates Mars... I kid you not.
novaprime - 4/2/2013, 11:06 AM
As far as i would love to see the Manhunter on Film..and no matter how Great this Article is .. i still cant see a regular Audience attending this!! I would love it..us as Cbm fans would love it , but regular people wouldnt
6of13 - 4/2/2013, 12:37 PM
@Chewtoy Interesting point
They should title the movie Manhunter. I don't think they actually need the Martian bit at all. J'Onn can be a detective on a special task force hunting down a serial killer.
THEDARKKNIGHT1939 - 4/2/2013, 12:46 PM
Martian Manhunter is such a cool character. He is the the tragic version of Superman. Where Superman came to earth raised by human values, Martian Manhunter came to earth as an adult and outcasted by society.
Tainted87 - 4/2/2013, 1:21 PM
Ah geez.
I don't get why people think ONE person should play J'onn.

John Jones, sure, but that's just a front. It's like Tony's suits.

J'onn is a man, a woman, a child, a freakin CAT. John Jones is a detective who leaves the force to become a PI. He's going to be going undercover, boys and girls.
JYCowboy - 4/2/2013, 1:27 PM
I love Vadakin's take on the DC Universe as I have read most of his post on these characters. Thank's EdGross for posting them here.
RedNTheHood - 4/2/2013, 3:44 PM
Good, but this movie won't ever happen

Please log in to post comments.

Don't have an account?
Please Register.