J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars | Origin

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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Jack Schiff.

J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars


The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel (1955). Writer: Joe Samachson. Art: Joe Certa. The origin of J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars. Dr. Erdel, an elderly scientist, teleports Martian J'onn J'onzz to Earth, but Erdel dies before he can send him back. J'onn J'onzz, trapped on Earth, decides to use his Martian powers to fight crime. The name J'onn J'onzz is pronounced like the Earth name John Jones, a fact that is used for some wry comic relief in the tales. Dr. Erdel looks in many ways like a father figure. He is responsible for the "birth" of J'onn J'onzz on Earth, his entry into Earth society. There are no women characters of any sort in this brief story. J'onn J'onzz is a figure who moves in a world full of men.

This story is a super-hero tale. But it is also almost pure science fiction. It is a reminder of how deeply science fiction oriented Silver Age comics were, as compared to their Golden Age predecessors. There is much about computers in the early part of the story. Its later sections have brief but pointed comparisons between Earth and Mars' advanced society. Samachson shows his pacifist ideals here, ideals that were shared by many writers and editors at DC.

Joe Samachson's tales often have a noir feel. During 1956 he wrote a number of tales that mixed noir and science fiction for such comics as Mystery in Space and, especially, Strange Adventures. Here his hero becomes a detective on the police force. He looks and acts like the heroes of Hollywood's semi-documentary films, who also were tough detectives belonging to government crime fighting institutions. The splash panel of the tale shows a line-up, a familiar scene in Hollywood movies.

Certa dresses his hero in the suit, hat and trenchcoat of a tough detective hero. He could not possibly look more noir. The Earth face and body assumed by J'onn J'onzz look like those of the tough but decent detectives seen in movies. He is very grown up looking, and not in the least juvenile. He resembles such tough guy film actors as Charles McGraw.

By 1955, the main body of Hollywood noir had almost run its course. Noir was biggest in Hollywood from 1944 - 1951, although a more limited number of noir thrillers would be released through 1958. J'onn J'onzz looks and acts like the heroes of 1940's movies. He is a throwback to a type of character that had its Hollywood heyday over four years before.

J'onn J'onzz was the first new super-hero created in many years. Some people date the start of the Silver Age of comics with this tale; others prefer to look at the origin of the Silver Age Flash in "Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt" (Showcase #4, October 1956). Neither story actually led to the mass creation of new super-heroes; such action had to wait till roughly 1958 and 1959. It is not clear if J'onn J'onzz is really a super-hero in the conventional sense. One can also think of his stories as fusions between detective fiction and science fiction.