Top Ten Things Writers Need to Remember When Writing the Martian Manhunter
You shook your head at Number 10, Number 9, and Number 8. You'll always remember where you were when Number 7 went live. Number 6 made you tear up just a little and say to yourself, "It's true. It's all so true." And Number 5 and Number 4 left you wanting only more Martian appreciation goodness. So now here's what you've always wanted: Number 3.
3. Give the Manhunter From Mars a proper nemesis.
Like it or not, superheroes are defined by the characters around them. And no character can provide a better crucible for characterization than his or her nemesis. A villain must attack the hero's various weaknesses, and in so doing, define who the hero essential is. Part of Batman's success is due in part to his stellar Rogues Gallery: it's iconic, archetypal, and each villain, when contrasted with Batman, highlights a different aspect of Batman's fundamental nature: Joker his need for order above chaos, Two-Face his need for justice over revenge, Riddler to test his detective skills, and so on. There's a reason Batman's Rogues Gallery bridged the gap to popular culture: great villains only make their heroes greater.
Now, our friend Frank over at The Idol-Head of Diabolu has undertaken a massive effort to compile a list of all Martian Manhunter villains in I-HoD's "Vile Menagerie." There are all sorts of worthy villains listed, spanning the Silver Age to villains from Final Crisis. Though Frank makes a strong case for many of the foes J'onn has battled, such as Professor Hugo, Commander Blanx, and Despero, I'm still holding out for "THE" Martian Manhunter villain. You know, the guy whose name you can't help but mention when talking about the character: like Batman and the Joker or Superman and Lex Luthor, there really is no Martian Manhunter counterpart.
That's not to say that there isn't a proper villain hiding in J'onn's Vile Menagerie, it's just that no one in modern times bothered to take the idea and really run with it. (And I don't mean a one-time villain like the Human Flame. I mean a constant thorn in J'onn's side.) And since most villains in his Vile Menagerie were also JLA villains, I think the strongest contenders for a proper nemesis are--you guessed it!--lying in the Silver Age. Professor Hugo is at the top of my list. Why? Becuase you just can't go wrong with a megolomaniacal genius with aspirations of world domination and a real nasty streak:
Yeah, that's right: Kneel before Zod! I mean, Hugo!
My second contender would be Commander Blanx. Since Blanx is also a Martian, albeit an evil (white) one, he's uniquely positioned as the perfect foil for our good-hearted J'onn J'onzz. Blanx is maybe even a better candidate for the role of Nemesis of the Martian Manhunter, considering that not only did Blanx have grand world-dominating desires, but when it came to the rivalry with J'onn, it was personal. Blanx wanted to downright destroy him, and when it comes to arch-nemesi, there's nothing better than a guy who wants to destroy the hero and everything he stands for. J'onn himself called Blanx his "arch-enemy."
It was J'onn's efforts to return home that brought Blanx to Earth. Ouch, that's irony.
Whether it's a foe the Manhunter from Mars has faced before, or whether it's an entirely new creation, J'onn needs a nemesis. Or two. Or three. Whoever it is who ultimately becomes his arch-enemy, though, they must take into account who J'onn J'onzz is. Once you see our Martian friend battling a well-crafted villain, then you'll truely see him shine.
Forget Blanx. The best part about JLA #144 is the fact J'onn's still wearing that same striped red tie he's been wearing for the past FIFTEEN years. That is dedication. Oh, and kudos to Dick Dillin for drawing the invisible Martian head while J'onn is traveling icognito--a nice homage to Joe Certa.