Spoilers follow for the Justice League Snyder Cut.
Do you remember General Calvin Swanwick from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman? Maybe not—but you won’t forget him after Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It turns out Swanwick, played by Harry Lennix, has been the Martian Manhunter in disguise all along. The actor behind the no-nonsense officer has said that not only is his character the esteemed (and shape-shifting) Justice League member, but he also filmed new scenes for the Snyder Cut.
“Swanwick and the Martian Manhunter, it’s like his alter ego,” Zack Snyder told IGN during Fan Fest 2021. “They have the same voice.”
And sure enough, we see in the Snyder Cut that Swanwick is the Martian Manhunter. So let’s delve into who exactly the green-skinned sleuth from space really is. We’ll discuss:
- Who Is Martian Manhunter?
- Martian Manhunter’s Origin
- J’onn J’onzz’s Powers and Abilities
- Martian Manhunter and the Justice League
- Martian Manhunter in the Snyder Cut
- Martian Manhunter in TV and Games
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Who Is Martian Manhunter?
The Manhunter from Mars made his first appearance way back in November, 1955, in Detective Comics #225. Created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa, the unusual detective went by the name of John Jones and used his considerable physical and mental powers to bring criminals to justice. In time, the Martian Manhunter would drop the disguise and take his crime-fighting to a new level. He became a founding member of the Justice League.
He joined the League because of what it stands for, he once told Superman. “Protect the weak, right what is wrong, seeking justice for all, helping humanity understand and achieve its potential,” he said. “I am the League and the League is me.”
The Martian Manhunter has been a mainstay of the Justice League since its inception.
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Martian Manhunter’s Origin
J’onn J’onzz was inadvertently brought to Earth by a well-meaning scientist’s wayward experiment. Unable to return to his people on Mars, J’onn assumed the appearance of a human. Under the name John Jones he set out to live among humans as a private investigator, hoping for the day his fellow Martians would reach Earth and take him home.
Or so the Martian Manhunter believed. In time, it was revealed that Mars was decimated long before J’onn came to Earth. His people were wiped out by a telepathic plague, his wife M’yri’ah and daughter K’hym among them. But J’onn was not the sole survivor from Mars, he eventually learned. Ma’alefa’ak, another surviving Martian, was his archnemesis—and his brother.
The ever-changing DC multiverse has rewritten his origin over the years. In his 2015 solo series post-Flashpoint, J’onn was a writer and poet who was transformed by blood magic into a living weapon of Mars. After DC Comics’ Rebirth, a 2018 solo series established J’onn J’onzz as the crooked Chief Hunter of Mars. A scientist’s portal ripped him away from his dying planet, through time and space, to Earth. There he witnessed heroic police detective John Jones’ murder and assumed his identity in tribute. He revealed his true form to his partner and the world after stopping the terror inflicted by a Martian criminal.
No matter the start of his story, J’onn is an awe-inspiring hero from Mars who will do whatever it takes to protect his new home of Earth.
J’onn J’onzz’s Powers and Abilities
The Martian Manhunter’s powers are staggering. His superhuman strength, endurance, and reflexes are just the beginning. J’onn is one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet. (He often speaks to the entire Justice League at once through a mental link.) He can fly, become invisible or intangible, emit blazing energy from his eyes, and shapeshift in both size and mass.
J’onzz’s weakness is fire, and he is often unable to control his fear of it. He also can’t resist Choco cookies, the DC universe’s version of Oreos.
Martian Manhunter and the Justice League
Although J’onn was a founding member of the Justice League, he took a break for a time and left Earth. When he returned in the pages of Justice League #228, he was there to stay—until the events of Flashpoint changed everything in the DC Universe.
In the New 52, the Martian Manhunter was a member of Stormwatch before he was recruited by Amanda Waller to join the new government-run Justice League of America. He also formed a spin-off group with his close friend Stargirl, called Justice League United, that was based in Canada.
After Rebirth, J’onn is again a member of the Justice League and fights alongside them against planetary-level threats like the Batman Who Laughs.
Martian Manhunter in the Snyder Cut
General Calvin Swanwick made his debut in Man of Steel as Zod’s ship was spotted settling into a lunar orbit. “I’m just speculating,” he said, “but I think whoever’s at the helm of that ship is looking to make a dramatic entrance.”
Stoic and seemingly unflappable, Swanwick didn’t even bat an eye when Superman descended from the sky to surrender. There’s a reason why the general was unfazed—he was the Martian Manhunter in disguise, an alien on Earth himself, Snyder revealed years after the film was released. (Swanwick did, however, seem miffed when Superman destroyed his drone.)
By the time of the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Swanwick was promoted to Secretary of Defense. He assisted Lois Lane on the down low, ultimately manipulating and helping both Clark and Lois to do their best, as Snyder explained at Fan Fest 2021. We also spoke to Snyder about J’onn while he was promoting his cut of Justice League.
“I think he’s been on Earth… we’ve talked about it a lot [and] he’s been on it for quite a while,” said the director. “Long time, longer than generationally long. We believe he’s taken different forms over the course of history. He’s been around, knocking around a little bit, but always in the shadows, because the Martian timeline is tricky at best. Our feeling is, and there’s more of a deep dive certainly to take there, but his rise in the government was because he is smart. He can read minds. It wouldn’t be that hard, I think, with that skill set. He could become president, I think, if he had wanted to.”
While Swanwick didn’t appear in the first cut of the Justice League movie, Lennix has said that he did film new scenes for the epic four-hour Snyder Cut—as the Martian Manhunter. And indeed, we see in the finished film that the Manhunter shows up twice. First, he visits Lois Lane disguised as Martha Kent. After the visit, when he steps into the hallway outside Lois’ apartment, we see that Martha was actually J’onn, once again working to give Lois advice. And then at the end of the film, after Bruce Wayne has another “Knightmare” about a dark future world, Martian Manhunter visits the Caped Crusader. “There’s a war coming,” he says, referring to Darkseid’s search for the Anti-Life Equation. “And I’m here to help.”
No version of the League would be complete without him.
Martian Manhunter in TV and Games
- TV: Martian Manhunter was a major character in the animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited; he’s also appeared in The Batman, Batman: Brave and Bold, Young Justice, and Justice League Action. In live action, J’onn J’onzz was a super ally and friend in both Smallville and Supergirl.
- Video Games: The Martian Manhunter has been just as popular in video games. Play as J’onn in DC Universe Online, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Infinite Crisis, and LEGO Batman 2 and 3.
It remains to be seen if the Snyder Cut version of the Martian Manhunter will pop up again the DCEU. Who knows? Perhaps this take on the Justice League will get a sequel at some point, and the seven will finally be able to fully unite.
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Kelly Knox is a freelance entertainment writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.