- "I've gone by many names and taken many forms. And like you, I've realized I have a stake in this world and it's time I started fighting for it."
- ―Martian Manhunter to Bruce Wayne[src]
J'onn J'onzz, known by some as the Martian Manhunter, is an alien from Mars that eventually traveled to Earth and posed as a Lieutenant General named Calvin Swanwick in the United States Army, and later as Secretary of Defense. He was present at the time of the Black Zero Event in 2013, holding the position of head of United States Northern Command, and being tasked with preventing any possible threats towards the United States and her interests. Hence, he formed an alliance with the alien hero Superman in order to defeat the extreme threat posed by General Dru-Zod and the Sword of Rao.
At some point during the two years after the Kryptonian invasion, Swanwick was promoted to United States Secretary of Defense, and he became a reluctant ally to Lois Lane's investigation into the Nairomi incident. He later attempted to aid Superman again, this time against the monster Doomsday, though his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
After Steppenwolf's invasion and defeat by the hands of the Justice League, the Martian Manhunter formally revealed himself to Bruce Wayne, warning him of an impending retaliation from Darkseid and his forces.
Coming to Earth
At some point, J'onn J'onzz traveled from Mars to Earth, and took up a human appearance and identity, naming himself "Calvin Swanwick". He acquired the credentials that identified him as a five-star general of the United States Army. As part of his duties, he dealt with terrorists and rogue nations. Martian Manhunter might have met Thomas and Martha Wayne at some point, as he later assures their son Bruce that they would have been proud of his efforts.
General Zod's message
- "I'm just speculating, but I think whoever's at the helm of that ship is looking to make a dramatic entrance."
- ―Swanwick to Dr. Hamilton[src]
General Swanwick was alerted to the mission control room at Peterson Air Force Base when a huge UFO settled into orbit near Earth. Shortly thereafter, a menacing message was sent all across the Earth from the extraterrestrial General Zod, who demanded that a fellow alien from his planet, a man named Kal-El (who had tried to blend in with Earth's population for decades), be handed into his custody, and that if the latter wasn't turned in to Zod within twenty-four hours, the entire planet would suffer severe consequences of apocalyptic proportions. By the time the message ended, General Swanwick was already on the phone with someone at the White House. He informed that person that the Joint Emergency Evacuation plan would be activated, while advising against the use of Air Force One because the skies probably weren't safe at the moment.
Kal-El himself arrived at a military base shortly afterwards, surrendering if Lois Lane was to be freed. Kal-El and Lois sat in an interrogation room where the General questioned Kal-El on his motives, before handing him over to General Zod's second-in-command, Sub-commander Faora-Ul, who requested that Lois come, too.
Defeating the invaders
After the Battle of Smallville, Kal-El (now nicknamed "Superman") and Lois came, along with Kal-El's Spaceship, telling the General how to send Zod and his followers back to the Phantom Zone, this time permanently. The plan was to collide the Phantom Drive of Superman's infant starcraft with the Black Zero's, in an attempt to create an unstable Phantom energy singularity, which would suck all of Zod's forces back into the Zone. Before they could do so, however, Superman would have to personally destroy Zod's World Engine and end Earth's terraformation. Swanwick agreed to the plan and ordered the attack, after which Superman promptly took flight to the Indian Ocean.
Ultimately, while the plan was successfully executed (with only General Zod remaining on Earth), it came at the cost of Colonel Hardy and Dr. Hamilton's lives, with only Lois escaping the singularity's pull, due to Superman's timely intervention. Nonetheless, Earth and all of humanity had been saved from the alien invasion.
Official alliance with Superman
Shortly after the end of the Kryptonian invasion, General Swanwick had drones try to track down Superman's whereabouts, determined to find his address. Superman, however, wasn't pleased, and proceeded to slam one of the drones into the ground, right in front of Swanwick's car, much to the latter's dismay. Superman assured the general that, having grown up in Kansas, he was technically an American himself, so he would never act against the United States' interests. However, while Superman would always remain an ally to both America and all of Earth, he requested that it be done on his own terms, and that he trusted Swanwick's ability to convince Washington D.C. of that. With that said, Superman took flight again at supersonic speeds, leaving Captain Farris smiling, self-admittedly in awe of the handsome alien.
After the incident in Nairomi, Lois Lane approaches Swanwick (meeting him in the men's bathroom), telling him that the bullet that she had obtained in the incident is not made by any known manufacturer. Swanwick was upset over the incident in Nairomi, stating that Lois went there because she was greedy and Superman was responsible for the deaths of the people there, after he went in to rescue her, he eventually gives in to Lois's persistent requests, and identifies the bullet's maker. When he meets her next, Swanwick reveals to Lois that it is a special prototype ammunition made by LexCorp Industries.
The death of Superman
Later, after Lex Luthor successfully creates the mighty Kryptonian monster Doomsday, Swanwick, as the Secretary of Defense, communicates with the US President about how to respond to the new threat. The president, in desperation, orders the alien monster to be shot down with a nuclear missile, and while Swanwick protests (not wanting his ally Superman to be killed as well), he is overruled and the missile is fired, colliding with the fighting alien juggernauts right above Earth's atmosphere, and temporarily incapacitating them. However, right after the wounded Doomsday falls all the way back to Earth, he heels and rises up to his feel almost at once, and unleashes a tremendous electrical shock-wave from his body, more powerful than the ones before it. Swanwick gravely notes that Doomsday is apparently unkillable, as the attack has only made it stronger.
At Superman's grandiose military funeral, Swanwick, along with Carrie Farris, is seen among the many that mourn his death. Afterwards, Swanwick is presented the folded American flag that was over Superman's (empty) casket during his military funeral.
War of Earth
Visiting Lois Lane
Many months after the death of Superman, Swanwick disguised himself as Martha Kent and went to visit Lois Lane in her apartment. There, he revealed that the Kent farm had been foreclosed because Martha had fallen behind on payments. The two briefly discussed Superman's legacy only as a symbol and lamented how nobody really knew Clark the way her and Martha did. The Manhunter then encouraged Lois to move past her grief and "come back to the living".
After talking, he leaves the apartment and shape-shifts to his true Martian form, and then to Swanwick, whispering that the world needed Lois as much as Superman, before leaving.
Warning to Bruce Wayne
- "Can I help you?"
- "I'm sure you know Darkseid is not finished with Earth. The Anti-Life Equation is here somewhere. And we have to find it before he does. There's a war coming, and I'm here to help."
- —Bruce Wayne and the Martian Manhunter[src]
One morning, sometime after the Justice League defeated Steppenwolf, he flew over to Bruce Wayne's house and although he was impressed by their victory, he warned Bruce that the fight was not over yet, and Darkseid would eventually make his way to Earth. Bruce inquired as to who he was, and he notes that he was known by many names, one of which was the Martian Manhunter. He also mentioned was ready to step out and start fighting, now that there were more heroes in the world. Following their little talk, he flew off into the distance.
- "Here's the truth, a reporter got greedy for a scoop and went where she shouldn't have. Superman acted like some rogue combatant to rescue her, and people died. Don't invent a conspiracy theory to put back his halo. Or yours."
- ―Calvin Swanwick to Lois Lane[src]
Martian Manhunter is very serious and pensive. His Swanwick persona, while somewhat gruff by comparison, is, as an illustrious member of the US Armed Forces, and is quite patriotically dedicated to his job and country even if that sometimes makes him unwilling to compromise said job, notably with his initial unwillingness to speak of Lex Luthor's innovative bullets on record. Swanwick does, however, place national and global security above all else, being more than willing to join forces with Superman (an alien whom he initially mistrusted) and help the latter carry out an elaborate plan, as long as that meant defeating General Zod's invasion.
After Zod's defeat, Swanwick gradually gained a great deal of respect and admiration for Superman, speaking to the US government on the latter's behalf, disbelieving Kahina Ziri's slandering rumors about Nairomi, and covertly helping Lois Lane expose Lex Luthor's involvement. Swanwick displayed his great loyalty to Superman again during the battle with Doomsday, imploring the US president not to nuke the alien hero. Superman's death devastates Swanwick, who shows his immense posthumous respect during the former's military funeral.
Powers and abilities
- Martian physiology: As a Martian, Martian Manhunter is outwardly humanoid, but there are clear distinctions between him and humans, such as green skin, ridged patterns on his body, and bright red eyes in his true form. Inwardly, there are even more differences, with Martian Manhunter possessing many superhuman abilities.
- Shapeshifting: Martian Manhunter is able to change his appearance or form at will to resemble any other being of his choice, such as his Swanwick persona, or Martha Kent. He was able to masquerade as the human Swanwick for many years without being exposed. When he chooses, Martian Manhunter's red eyes come through in his disguises. He can also change his voice to suit the one he impersonates.
- Flight: Martian Manhunter can defy gravity, much like a Kryptonian, and is capable of high-speed flight.
- Telepathy: Martian Manhunter is a telepath, capable of looking into the minds of those around him. He uses this ability to discern that Bruce Wayne is the leader of the Justice League, so he can approach him directly to offer his services in protection of the Earth.
- Expert actor: Martian Manhunter is a excellent actor, able to pose as the human Swanwick for years without suspicion, and even fooled Lois into thinking that he was Martha.
- Expert tactician: Martian Manhunter is a highly intelligent individual, an excellent tactician and leader.
- Expert leader: As a Lieutenant General in the United States Army, Swanwick is able to efficiently lead and order other soldiers out in the field.
- Indomitable will: Martian Manhunter was unafraid of the godlike Superman (eventually befriending him), and was not intimidated by Faora.
Behind the scenes
- According to director Zack Snyder, Martian Manhunter's final scene in Zack Snyder's Justice League was originally written and shot as far back in 2017 to be the Green Lantern Corps member John Stewart. The studio asked him to remove the character, as they had plans for him at the time. Snyder chose to rewrite the scene for Martian Manhunter, and proceeded to shoot it around 2020.
- According to Harry Lennix, the ending scene was actually originally meant to include both J'onzz and Stewart.
- At the San Diego Comic Con International 2013, Harry Lennix was brought up on stage by Zack Snyder to read a quote from The Dark Knight Returns (the famous "I want you to remember the one man who beat you" speech) as a logo appeared on-screen, merging the Superman and Batman symbols, thus announcing the Man of Steel sequel to be the very first Superman/Batman film.
- In Man of Steel, Swanwick is the first non-Kryptonian to mention Krypton by name, despite never having heard the planet's name on screen. Whether this is a nod to Martian Manhunter's mind probing capabilities, coincidence, or alien knowledge isn't clear.
- Since the gap between Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is shorter than seven years, it's not traditionally possible for General Calvin Swanwick to serve as United States Secretary of Defense due to the National Security Act of 1947 which prohibits anyone who has been active in the military within the past seven years from taking the position. This is to ensure civilian control of the military. Either the rules of the position are different in the DCEU, or a special waiver of some kind was granted.
- Coincidentally, in real life, Lloyd Austin, the 28th U.S. Secretary of Defense bears a similarity to the Calvin Swanwick character. Both are African-American who served as Secretary of Defense and former High-Ranking U.S. Army officers, Swanwick is a retired Army three-star Lieutenant General and Austin is a retired Army four-star General. Both Swanwick and Austin also once held command position within the United States Unified Combatant Command, a United States joint military command that conducts broad and continuing missions worldwide. Swanwick as Deputy Commander of the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) with Area of Responsibility within the United States and North America and Austin as Commander of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) with Area of Responsibility within the Middle-East and Central Asia. Both Swanwick and Austin haven't retired from active-duty for minimum period of Seven years by the time they both served as Secretary of Defense which required by United States Law of National Security Act of 1947. While Austin did received waiver from both Congress and Senate to assume the duty of Secretary of Defense before retiring from active-duty for minimum period of seven years in the real-life, it is unclear whether Swanwick also did receive the same waiver from both Congress and Senate to assume the duty of Secretary of Defense before retiring from active-duty for minimum period of seven years, since the rules of the position might have been different in DCEU. But if the DCEU and real-life rules are indeed the same, so therefore Swanwick might have also received waiver from both Congress and Senate to assume the duty of Secretary of Defense before retiring from active-duty for minimum period of seven years, similar with Lloyd Austin, the incumbent Secretary of Defense in the real-life.
- The Martian Manhunter's most common human identity is that of detective John Jones (an obvious American adaptation of his Martian name), who is typically depicted as African American in recent years.
- Disguising himself as an African American United States military official, serving as a liaison between a Kryptonian and the government, and his identity being someone other than John Jones are all similar to his secret identity as Hank Henshaw, director of the DEO in the Supergirl TV series.
- His suit is seemingly inspired by Superman's kryptonian suit with similar muscle definition, similar markings near his waist, and similar boots and a cape.
- J'onn J'onzz name confirmation - @snydercut on Twitter
- Terrio, Chris, Beall, Will (writers) & Snyder, Zack (writer and director) (March 18, 2021). Zack Snyder's Justice League.
- Goyer, David S., Terrio, Chris (writers) & Snyder, Zack (director) (March 25, 2016). Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
- Goyer, David S., Nolan, Christopher (writers) & Snyder, Zack (director) (June 14, 2013). Man of Steel.
- Cox, Greg (June 18, 2013). Man of Steel: The Official Movie Novelization. Great Britain: Titan Books.
- Man of Steel: The Official Movie Novelization
- Zack Snyder confirms Martian Manhunter is a telepath at Justice Con 2021
- Zack Snyder Explains That Enigmatic Justice League Ending
- Justice League Snyder Cut's Harry Lennix: Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern Originally Appeared Together