Besides a 4:3 screen ratio, which certainly surprised some viewers, Zack Snyder’s Justice League brought many new additions to the story. The most notable of which was the mysterious green figure that posed as Martha Kent and introduced itself to Bruce Wayne as the Martian Manhunter at the end of the movie. But who is the Martian Manhunter, what does he want, and what’s his future role in the franchise?
The character’s appearance first happens at around the 140-minute mark in the movie, which sent the audience reeling with awe and confusion. Those familiar with the DC universe softly whispered “the Martian Manhunter” to themselves upon first glance at the character. Others, however, couldn’t recognize the iconic member and one of the founders of DC Comic’s Justice League. And while Zack Snyder basks in the success and positive criticism of his work, we’re going to discuss the appearance of the Martian Manhunter and how it differs from the character’s appearance in the comics.
Snyder announced the Martian Manhunter’s appearance long before his cut was released, revealing him to be Calvin Swanwick, a military official from Man of Steel, promoted to senator in the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Harry Lennix, the actor portraying Calvin Swanwick, wasn’t aware of the fact that his performance was setting the stage for the appearance of one of the Justice League’s founders.
The alien from Mars came to Earth, where he assumed a human form, identity, and credentials of the United States Army’s five-star general, hunting terrorists and other worldwide threats. This role aligns well with his role of Mars’ policemen in the comics, though we’ll get to that part later.
US Army General Calvin Swanwick was promoted from general to United States Secretary of Defense about two years after the events that took place in Man of Steel. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the SecDef went out of his way to help Lois Lane identify Lex Luthor as the main perpetrator of the Nairomi incident. He also attended Superman’s funeral, folding the flag over the Superman’s (empty) casket.
In The Snyder Cut, the Martian Manhunter took the role of Martha Kent, encouraging Lois Lane to move past her grief and “come back to the living.” After the visit, he shape-shifted to his proper form and seconds later to that of SecDef Calvin Swanwick, much to the audience’s satisfaction and confusion.
In the movie’s closing scenes, the Martian Manhunter introduces himself to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. He states that, though impressed with their (Justice League’s) victory, he warns Bruce that the fight was not over yet and that Darkseid will eventually come to Earth. He also insinuates his desire to join the League and flies off into the distance. End. Roll credits.
With his extraordinary appearance in the movie, part of the audience is left questioning the new hero’s appearance. And while this is the Martian Manhunter’s first debut in the DCEU, his first appearance in the comics happened in 1955.
In the comics, Martian Manhunter, also known as J’on J’onzz is a superhero from Mars, and the last surviving member of his race, much like Superman. But instead of having his home planet destroyed by a cataclysm, Martian Manhunter’s world was destroyed by the martian holocaust, which killed his wife and daughter and the rest of the martian species.
J’on J’onzz watched helplessly as his family died before his very eyes, shattering his psyche and nearly driving him insane. Through a series of events, he was brought to Earth, where he regained his mental health and started using his powers to fit into human society. The character later appeared in numerous editions of the Justice League, across multiple timeless in the comic universe.
However, the events between the character’s origin story and his first appearance in the Man of Steel, and later Zack Snyder’s Justice League, remain unknown in the DCEU universe. The appearance of the Martian Manhunter in the movie was actually a compromise between Snyder and WB. Initially, Snyder wanted to introduce the Green Lantern in the closing scene; however, WB asked him not to.
Snyder did clarify that he originally planned to reveal the Martian Manhunter later in the franchise. Still, upon reaching a compromise with WB, it’s clear that we’ll see the Martian Manhunter as part of the Justice League sequels.