Arrowed: Martian Manhunter

The new feature inspired by great cosplay and fan art where I imagine various DC properties taken to the small screen and wonder aloud just what their shows would be like. Today's pitch: The Martian Manhunter.
Cosplay by: KalEl NC Sean; picture by Brent Allen Thale

I bet the show would just be called Manhunter, but whatever it's called, J'Onn J'Onzz is the original Justice Leaguer who seems unlikely to show up in the films. Send him to television, I say! We even have a viable template for the series: American Secrets. This 1992 Prestige-format mini-series from Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto was set in the 1950s and used the Cold War and McCarthyist paranoia of the time to good effect, spinning a web of intrigue that fit the character both as a detective (a murder mystery) and as an alien (an invasion). Since the Martian Manhunter doesn't really have an iconic city to explore à la Star(ling), Central or Gotham, the decade would be the world we explore. Maybe the show would feel the need to be more contemporary, but could still flash back to the 50s (or intervening years) just like Arrow keeps going back to the Island. Or go crazy: Every season takes place in a different decade, the Manhunter's world getting groovier and groovier while he keeps hunting for some White Martian arc villain.

Obviously, most of the action would feature a human-looking John Jones, either as a P.I. or as a cop, showing his true form and powers only rarely (at least at first), in scenes with other aliens or for intimidation purposes. There might also be a CG version of J'Onn for flashbacks to Mars. Another alternative would be the modern-day Martian Manhunter who has several human identities, each played by a different actor, but that seems too gonzo for TV. Still, it addresses the problem of what to do about his supporting cast. Martian Manhunter doesn't exactly have the biggest or most recognizable cast of friends and villains, after all. Sticking to my original pitch, I'd build up the police force he works with, obviously, the alien invaders (shape-shifters, of course, you never know who's who in this), and people involved in the season's big murder case. And it all ties in together. I also think it's a good place to bring in either Golden Age/Earth-2 villains (for the period feel), or any villain with a communist or atomic age connection. Other DC shows have drawn from other sources to fill their ranks up, and Manhunter would be no different. As the conspiracy surrounding the invasion gets bigger, I'd even wink at DC's Invasion! crossover (with echoes of Millennium... which also features the word "Manhunter" prominently).

How would YOU handle a Martian Manhunter series?


American Hawkman said...

I'd have J'onn and Diana Meade as police detectives in the modern era, with frequent flashbacks to other eras and J'onn' s encounters with other aliens, monsters, and criminals throughout, using Vulture and Faceless as a recurring threat. (Faceless here being the Faceless Hunter instead of a human criminal.) Include J'onn stealing Marco Xavier' s identity eventually, and DEFINITELY the Ostrander bit with the Martians possessing humans to survive eventually. I'd have guest shots from Mikaal Tomas, Adam Strange, and Jemm before all was said and done. You almost have to use Ms. Martian eventually... introduce her as a confused Martian threat J'onn frees from something like Protex, then have her assume the role of his spunky teenage niece. (And take over the John Smith identity while he's Marco Xavier, to keep the actor employed.)

SallyP said...

That's one beautiful cosplay. And a Martian Manhunter television show would so rock.

Could we maybe throw in the Dibnys and Detective Chimp?

Jeff R. said...

I'd be tempted to go the other way with the title, 'Martian'. (And thus save the Manhunter title for Mark and Kate.) And possibly put the shapeshifting front and center, giving a new identity each week in a wandering samaritan procedural ala Fugitive, Incredible Hulk, Quantum Leap etc. Try to keep the audience guessing for the first act or two each episode which character is going to eventually transform into J'onn (and, often, which other ones are going to be White Martians.)

Siskoid said...

Whatever you like, Sally.

AmHawk... still in my writers' room...

Jeff: That would be really whacky! I love it. No comment on its viability.

Anonymous said...

I'd leave J'onn with pretty much only those main powers that Superman lacks -- telepathy, invisibility, limited shapeshifting -- and make him equal parts impressed with and appalled by humanity. I second teaming up Detective Jones with Officer Meade.

That's also more or less how I'd position him in comics. Since we are no longer leaning on the post-Crisis convention that J'onn has been "the" JLA member since day one, make him the core of a different group of heroes, who aren't quite JLA quality and would benefit from not standing next to Superman and Batman. J'onn as the mastermind / leader, Aquaman as the powerhouse, Green Arrow as the bag of tricks, and so on.

Siskoid said...

Impressed and appalled? Works for Doctor Who!

Good ideas though. No reason to keep him as powerful as he is, especially on a television budget.


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