As I mentioned in the post-mortem I wrote up on last December's theme month, I was awfully surprised about how much love J'onn J'onnz's current look got in the comments on the post in which Batman tried to trick him back into his old look. And by "how much love it got," I just mean "that it got any love at all," because I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it. In that same post, I mentioned that in the near future I should really devote a post to looking at the many other look's of J'onn J'onnz, Manhunter From Mars, and, well, a month and a half later, I'm ready!
Are you? Cool. Then let's go!
Now, the Martian Manhunter is a pretty old character, created way back in 1955. In all that time, he's only really had one dramatic costume redesign, and has, in fact, changed the shape of his head more often than his clothes.
In the above image, in which we see J'onn giving Superman a tasty knuckle sandwich, imported all the way from Mars, we get a pretty good idea of his original look. Blue cape, boots and undershorts, held up by a belt, Superman-style. Pluse a red X-shaped harness across his chest, either to make him look slightly less naked, or to let us know, "Hey, I wear a harness. All the time. I'm totally up for whatever you earthlings want to do in the bedroom."
His head shape is at its most human at this point, too. Basically, he's got my head atop the body of Johnny Weissmueler. Only green.
Eventually, he'd get slightly more alien, looking, as seen on the cover of his 1996 one-shot:
Basically, his brow grew more prominent, and his eyes redder. In JLA: Year One, that's the look he had as soon as he went public, so that the smooth, human-shaped head didn't really exist Post-Crisi. In generaly, J'onn's look was explained as being a variation of Superman's and other superheroes, so that he wouldn't intimidate earthlings with a more alien look.
In John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's Martian Manhunter monthly, they explained that the head-shape above was J'on's "public" form way back in the day when he lived on Mars. Martians had public and private forms; the public ones are what they wore to work and to meetings and grocery shopping; the private ones are what they wore around the house with their loved ones.
His look would change slighly from artist to artist and book to book, but only slightly. Sometimes he had human looking eyes, sometimes he had all red eyes, sometimes he had red eyes with black pupils. Whether his cape collar was folded under or pointed straight up may vary, as would the size of his boot cuffs, or his height (There doesn't seem to be any standard as to how tall characters are in relationship to each other in the DCU; of course, J'onn's shapechanging ability might render that moot anyway).
In the wake of Infinite Crisis' "One Year Later" drastic-changes-for-drastic-changes sake, J'onn got his new costume, the one I really dislike:
It keeps the color scheme of his original costume more or less in tact; in the first appearance it appeared black, but has gradually grown bluer and bluer.
The change seemed sudden and arbitrary to me, especially consdiering Ostrander's explanation of the original, as a Manhunter uniform from Mars, grown from the Zo'ok plant. Besides, the head-shape was wrong, a variation of his "private" head-shape, and the pointy ears and wrinkly chin looked a little too much like Marvel's shape-changing alien race the Skrulls, which we should all be quite sick of in two months time, thanks to the Skrull-centril Secret Invasion event series.
The new look was accompanied by a terrible eight-part miniseries, and a new bad-ass, grumpy attitude. Eventually it was explained that this attitude adjustment and costume change was the result of J'onn touching Black Adam's mind in World War III.
Now, while these are the main looks J'onn's sported during his career,he has adopted other looks, usually on a very limited, short-lived basis. Personally, I think they're all superior to his current neckbrace and bodysuit combo, but I'll submit them now for your approval. What do you think, should J'onn maybe switch to one of these looks permanent-like?
First, there's this charming little number:
That's his "J'oann J'onnz" look from a wonderful two-part arc in Justice League Task Force, courtesy of writer Peter David and penciller Sal Velluto. In it, a team of scientists stumble into a hidden underground world ruled by warrior women, and J'onn must lead an all-female task force in to retreive them. Of course, he'll have to disguise himself as a woman as well. Hilarity, naturally enough, ensues.
The advantage of this particular look should be quite obvious, particularly given DC's proclivity to sex their books up all of a sudden. If that were J'onn J'onnz's new look, it wouldn't be long before he was back on the Justice League, and Ed Benes was putting him front and center in each and every panel composition.
Ostrander and Mandrake's Martian Manhunter ongoing introduced quite a lot of new concepts to the character and his background, fleshing him (and the history and culture of Mars) out like never before. One of their innovations was that J'onn maintained more than one secret identity, which was traditionally that of Colorado policeman or private eye John Jones. He used his shape-changing and mind-reading powers to pose as lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds, in part to better understand humanity and in part to fight crime on a variety of different fronts (For example, one guise was as an agent within the Department of Extranormal Operations, another was as a dim-witted supervillain, others were actually the secret identities of other superheroes).
For example, J'onn was sometimes Japanese businessman Yuchiro Takata, who was secretly Bio Armor Jade Warrior, a gigantic, metallic superhero who defended Japan, and gave rise to a popular manga adaptation.
Here's J'onn in Japan, adopting the Bio Armor Jade Warrior look and tactics he saw in a manga to attack giant robot menace Antares, in Martian Manhunter #2:
As Bio Armor Jade Warrior also comes in gray:
Another identity of J'onn's from that series was The Bronze Wraith, a superhero who served on the half-forgotten team The Justice Experience, a retcon-created super-team that existed between the disbanding of the Justice Society, but before the founding of the Justice League. One the Wraith's teammates was Acrobat, a superhero who was the father of DEO agent Cameron Chase, form the even-shorter-than-Martian Manhunter-lived series Chase. She and The Justice Experience popped up in Martian Manhunter. Here's Mandrake's drawing of J'onn as The Bronze Wraith, from #17:
The costume itself isn't too bad. It's a tad dorky, and even less cool than J'onn's normal look, but I've certainly seen worse. What really bugs me about it is the name. If he were The Green Wraith or possibly The Blue Wraith, I could see that, but Bronze? I don't see any bronze on that costume. Maybe he's usually really tanned? The thing is, I can't really see that costume working on J'onn in his normal, non-disquised form. Because it's essentially just a costume that looks like his scantily clad costume, and would look super-goofy.
One of my all-time favorite J'onn appearances came in JLA, back when the Justice League comic wasn't horrible. The climactic story arc in Joe Kelly, Dough Mahnke and Tom Nguyen's run on the book was the six-part "Trial By Fire," in which J'onn quit the League for some much-needed rest and relaxation, which involved conquering his fears of fire and enjoying a romantic relationship with former Superman villain Scorch.
In JLA #84, Superman pays the vacationing J'onn a visit, and the latter grills them up some big steaks, while kicking it in his vacation clothes:
I love that image, off J'onn's crazy-huge biceps just exploding out of that orange golf shirt. (That is orange, right? It's not one of those colors that is kind of pink, is it?). Here's a full-body shot of what J'onn wears around his backyard:
Man, that's awesome. And something I didn't even notice until I scanned this panel:
Behold, the f'lipp f'loppz of J'onn J'onnz!
How cool would it be if J'onn started dressing like that all the time? Instead of the dark body suit and cape he's sporting these days, he started kicking ass and taking names while wearing a pastel golf shirt tucked into his dockers, rocking white flip flops? I think it would certainly make him a more menacing looking opponent. I mean, if he shows up to fight Despero dressed like he's headed to a Memorial Day picnic, Despero's gotta be thinking J'onn's not sweating bullets about the prospect of having to deal with him, you know?
A much less drastic redesign of J'onn's work clothes can be seen in "New Maps of Hell," the six-part story arc from JLA: Classified #10-#15, by Warren Ellis and Butch Guice. This was the last really good story arc in the now-cancelled JLA:C series; I remember being pretty down on it when I originally read it, but returning to it in trade recently, it was much, much, much better than I remembered. I guess that holds true for most of Ellis' writing though; when he writes for the trade, you're much better off waiting for the trade.
Anyway, here's what Guice put J'onn in throughout:
I imagine this is just an art mistake more than a conscious decision to change his look, but it's a pretty dramatic mistake, giving him those big, gold wristbands. Of course, Guice had Kyle Rayner wearing some weird-ass ring-generated armor throughout too. I like Guice's art in this story, and I like the way he draw's J'onn's shorts there, but I don't think the wristbands add anything of value to the costume. Other than making him look like a Wonder Woman wannabe (Sorry, Power Man!)
Finally, for another great alternate J'onn look, we need to look to an alternate continuitiverse, that pocket continuity where just about everyone is better designed than they are in the regular DCU, Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier.
When the captive J'onn J'onnz is finally released by his friend King Faraday, here's what he shape-changes into, once Faraday tells him that real men wear pants:
It can be complimented with a pair of sunglasses,
and, the tie and collar can be loosened in especially stressful situations.
Looking sharp, J'onn!
And those are most of J'onn's alternate looks. Tomorrow, we'll look at his very best one. Don't miss it!