DC Comics' J'onn J'onzz (aka Martian Manhunter) is a founding member of the Justice League and one of the "elder statesmen" of the DC Universe. The new "Martian Manhunter" series, however, has seen a dramatic change in J'onn's status quo. Here, writer Rob Williams and artist Eddy Burrows speak about the book and the new direction for the character, as "Martian Manhunter #3" goes on-sale today.
In your new MARTIAN MANHUNTER series, it’s revealed that J’onn J’onzz is not, in fact, the last living Martian like we’d always thought. And, we learn the Martians have actually been planning an invasion of Earth with the Martian Manhunter as the key agent of their “Epiphany” plot.
What’s it been like getting to re-work the history of a character like Martian Manhunter, who’s been thought of as one thing for so long, and turns out to be something very different?
ROB WILLIAMS: Fun! Shape-shifter-y fun. One of the main things we wanted to do was explore different facets of who J'onn is. What goes on below the surface? Get to the heart of this character, pull him in different directions and put his soul on the line. And I really wanted to explore just how alien this “guy” is. He's not just a green muscled human. He's an alien. He could look like anything he wants. And that means he's trying to fit in with humanity.
Now, maybe he's doing that out of an overall niceness, or maybe it's because, if we saw who he really was, we'd be terrified. So, who is the Martian Manhunter, really? And there's good and bad in the answers.
EDDY BARROWS: I had the opportunity to work with the Martian Manhunter in 2013, within the Justice League, but drawing his monthly series has been challenging. Rob Williams is doing an awesome job, you can feel the character’s pain and suffering when he finds out his world is a lie and what the real reason he's on our planet is. We are telling a strong, emotional story, dynamic and full of action, with a good dose of suspense! I am loving drawing each page of this comic!
Where did the inspiration for a story—and its art—as large in scope as “Epiphany” come from? It’s got a classic, science fiction feel to it—almost like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Are there some classic works of sci-fi that informed the storyline?
WILLIAMS: Oh, there's a bunch of influences. There always is. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one, John Carpenter's The Thing is kind of in there too. The paranoia. The feeling that you don't know if the person in front of you is who they really appear to be. There are a couple of visual nods to Carpenter's The Thing in #3 that are fun. It's really a sci-fi staple to have us potentially be infiltrated by aliens. But I like the core idea of: you turn on the news each night, and you see all those horrific acts that you can't believe human beings could ever do. But what if human beings didn't do them?! It allows us to say a few things about the use of fear for social control in the media too.
BARROWS: Honestly, I haven’t used specifically sci-fi works as sources of inspiration, the scenes come naturally as I read the script, as if I was watching a movie. It sounds weird, but that’s how it happens. After the layouts are ready, that’s when I look out for reference for the scenes on the Internet, mostly for backgrounds. About the story’s atmosphere, some TV series I like to watch, such as Supernatural and The Flash, help me set the suspense and dynamics this comic needs! I do love sci-fi but in MARTIAN MANHUNTER. I almost haven’t used the classics as a direct source of inspiration.
In MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1, we saw the debut of one of the coolest new characters in comics—Mr. Biscuits! Where did the idea for this biscuit-eating mystery man come from?
WILLIAMS: Mr. Biscuits was really inspired by Miyazaki's characters in Studio Ghibli movies. Miyazaki does that strange, jarring, slightly dangerous, ambiguous character thing so well. And also Roald Dahl. I'd recently been reading James And The Giant Peach with my kids. Mr. Biscuits kind of felt like he could've been part of that crew. He’s a character that seems to have fallen out of a child's story. He’s kind of innocent and strange, and, potentially, very, very scary. You don't know where he's going at any moment. He doesn't know. He's not sure if he's good or bad, but he does know that he likes biscuits. A lot.
BARROWS: Rob sent me his ideas AND the design for the character, I just added a few elements based on Jiminy Cricket (from Pinnochio), especially the silly, awkward way he walks. I have a great time drawing Mr. Biscuits’ scenes, seeing him in action is guaranteed fun, and we’re seeing a lot of that in the next issues, wait and see!
In this new series, there doesn’t seem to be any limit to what Martian Manhunter is capable of — he turned into a Martian-dragon in MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1. Is there any limit to J’onn’s power? And how are the heroes of the DCU going to react now that his true power and purpose has been revealed?
WILLIAMS: Well, for the good of mankind, J'onn took himself off the playing field in #2. We saw in that issue, when he faced off against the Justice League, that he could pretty much take down the bulk of the DC Universe alone if he truly wanted to. He's a weapon of awesome power, and he has the telepathic ability to change minds. How do we know we've not been following his instructions all this time?
One of the things we wanted to do in the book is show just what an alpha-level player J'onn is. And if he has been sent here to conquer mankind, we're all in a great deal of trouble. J'onn has to choose his path in this story. Is he good or bad? Or, like all of us, is it more complicated than that? The threat of him is terrifying though.
BARROWS: So, in the beginning I didn’t have many ideas of how I would draw J’onn J’onzz’s transformations, they kind of happened as the story developed. I realized I could go far beyond what was asked in the script, so when Rob suggested a Martian pterodactyl for the plane scene, I thought a Martian dragon would work a lot better. It is fun to explore this aspect of the Martin Manhunter. By the way, he’s not the only character that has those powers, so keep reading the series to learn who I am talking about!
As you mentioned, at the end of MARTIAN MANHUNTER #2, things weren’t looking great for J’onn. Can you give us a little glimpse into what’s next for the character and the storyline in MARTIAN MANHUNTER #3?
WILLIAMS: #3 deals with the fallout of J'onn's sacrifice. You're going to see the story behind the Martians' secret plans, FBI Agent Daryl Wessel is going to discover certain truths about the Martian invasion, and a deadly chase is going to begin as the Martian Man-Eater is unleashed upon the world. Oh, and Mr. Biscuits may just spring into action for the first time. Eddy Barrows and the rest of the art team do a phenomenal job, and I think it's our best issue yet. Mr. Biscuits' design was by Eric Canete, who also illustrated the variant covers for issues #1-3.
BARROWS: All I can tell is issue #3 has astonishing surprises for us. It is my favorite issue so far, both in its script and in art. We have Mr. Biscuits in action, and we are introducing a spine-chilling villain. And what will happen to the Martian Manhunter? Read the next issue to find out!
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