I always been fascinated by the Martian Manhunter’s origin. Particularly the post-crisis version that involves the destruction of Mars.
The origin is so close to be perfect that I think a future writer needs to reevaluate futher in the future, the same way J. M. DeMatteis did so long ago in the 80s.
Much like Superman, Martian Manhunter is one of the last of his kind, but usually writers would want to differentiate between those two where Kypton was (in most versions) destroyed by a red sun. Martian Manhunter is defined by the act of sabotage by a single individual that destroyed Mars. In pre-crisis earth it was General Blanx. Post-crisis earth it was Martian Manhunter’s brother, Ma’alefa’ak.
There is someone to blame for the death of Mars and while it’s acceptable to have a bad guy be responsible, I’ll admit both versions are very silly reasons even as a fan of the character of Martian Manhunter and Ma’alefa’ak I thought it could be better.
You see Mars is real planet that actually exists, and we know enough about the real-world Mars to know why it’s inhospitable. Facts that could be incorporated into the fictional Mars history to explain it’s demise.
For example, we know ancient Mars once held oceans and lakes equivalent to earth several billion years ago.
An artist’s impression of what Mars would look like if it still had water (Photo Credit: Kevin Gill)
What caused Mars to lose it’s water was solar winds, penetrating the planet’s weak magnetic field causing evaporations of it’s oceans and lakes, leaving the planet an arid planet.
Now…If we step into the world of comics again, Martians like Martian Manhunter are able to survive without the use of oxygen and while he eats and drinks, we don’t know if it’s because he needs food to survive or because he enjoys eating. Regardless, assuming Martians need those things to survive. I look at how DC writers explain how Martians were able to survive living in a environment like that.
Writer John Ostrander explains due to a civil war between Green and White Martians leaving much of the land a desert, Martians had to live near deep canals of water to survive. Martians also had to control their birth rate due to this limiting environment, so usually only one child was accepted.
Yet Martians still needed to protect what was left of life from furthering damage. This is where writer Matt Kindt created Gatekeepers and Growers in the new 52 Justice league of America book. A group of select important Martians who devote their life to preserving the planet by psychically bonding with the planet’s atmosphere and life.
If you were to incorporate these ideas into a single book, you still have the same answer that people like Ma’alefa’ak caused the death of Mars unfortunately. I do think there is a explanation that is far more interesting than that. Looking at the last two Martian Manhunter books; Martian Manhunter(2015-2016) by Rob Williams and Martian Manhunter(2018-2020) by Steve Orlando. I see quite frankly a potential direction that would actually be more relevant to our times.
In the new 52 Martian Manhunter series. The Martians were a society much like ours but environmental degradation led to a civilization that was struggling to keep the planet protected from the atmosphere affecting the life on the planet. It was dying again, and the Martians being such powerful people with their telepathic abilities created from their collective anxiety and fear a psychic force that was formed from the aura of doom that surrounded them to create a semi-real monster with destructive capabilities that it would wipe out Mars.
In Steve Orlando retelling of Martian Manhunter origin we are given a similar explanation with H’ronmeer curse. For whatever reason Martian civilization is socially degrading. Corruption and crime are rapid and H’ronmeer curse, a psychic force linking all Martians minds is spreading a telepathic infection that is slowly killing them. Manhunters like J’onn J’onzz are tasked with slowing down the infection while his wife M’yri’ah is treating them. Many people wonder if it’s real but M’yri’ah proposes a interesting theory. That H’ronmeer curse is not mystical or real but that the idea alone is proactive enough to cause it to be real for Martians telepathy to create.
In our world, people often find uncertainty of the future terrifying. It is why we see people often create several Doomsday scenarios over the years. With scenarios that range from climate change, biblical end times, viruses that could reshape the world, and even a fear over AI technology can become a threat to us from fear over a possible impending doom. While we as humans rely on technology like the internet and the media to spread these end time concerns just imagine how more terrifying it would be for Martians who have a telepathic thoughtstream to share ideas and even emotions.
DC comics should redux these stories to revision Martian Manhunter origins just like this. Incorporating these ideas from different writers to create a story where Mars wasn’t killed by people like Ma’alefa’ak but instead a scenario where the planet was doomed already for the collective Martian civilization itself to just destroy the rest through psychic death to end all but a few of of the Martian people.
The perfect Martian Manhunter origin story.