It's Not Easy Being Green – AJ Lieberman On "Martian Manhunter"

Fri, June 23rd, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

He's the lone survivor from another planet, who found himself suddenly jettisoned to earth. Not only that, but he has special abilities and powers that set him apart from the average human. Oh, and he also wears a cape.

Sounds like I'm talking about Superman, doesn't it?

I'm talking about DC Comics' Martian Manhunter (aka J'onn J'onzz) though, and this summer, writer AJ Lieberman is hoping to help make the big green guy a bit more distinguishable from that fellow with the "S" on his chest. First, Lieberman is contributing a Martian Manhunter story to DC's "Brave New World," a $1.00, 80-page one-shot arriving in stores on June 28. This will then lead into an eight-issue limited series that begins in August with Al Barrionuevo on covers and pencils.

CBR News contacted Lieberman, who was happy to talk about both projects. We began by discussing that last time Martian Manhunter was seen by readers…

At the end of "Infinite Crisis," we saw J'onn using his powers to gather all the heroes in Metropolis, and then...I'm not sure. Did he fight in the battle of Metropolis? Can you clarify where he was as of the end of "Infinite Crisis?"

J'onn was part of the fight in Metropolis and told the earth's heroes what Superboy's plan was in "Infinite Crisis" #7. After that, he was part of the recovery and clean-up in Metropolis and then went out on his own. By the end of IC, Martian Manhunter is nearing his frustration with things.

Does your story take place immediately following IC, or does your story belong to the OYL ("One Year Later") camp?

The story begins OYL – and it will have parts that flashback to various parts of the missing year – but because of scheduling and release dates, this "Brave New World" series needed to almost be a standalone story. To that end, some questions about Martian Manhunter's past and recent events will be answered while other questions will be raised.

Will we learn what happened to J'onn after IC in your book or in the pages of "52?"

From what I understand, J'onn will be in "52" at points, but the main parts of his journey will be in the "Brave New World" series where some of the strained alliances he's had in the past start to surface. I was done writing almost all eight books (in the miniseries) before everything in "52" was ever fully outlined, so we were able to get Martian Manhunter into an emotional place in that story that will make sense for the BNW series.

How did you get this gig? Did you make a pitch? Or did they come to you with the character?

The series came about when Matt Idelson and I met for lunch and he brought up the idea of Martian Manhunter. One of the great things about Matt as an editor is his ability to bring up a character I never would have considered tackling – especially having spent so much time in Gotham (writing Batman books). So, after we talked about the character, I went off and came up with a story, fleshed it out and gave it to Matt. Matt liked it, DiDio liked it, and here we are.

I know Dan Didio and his editorial team have "mapped out" the DC Universe post-IC. So did they hand you the character saying "This is who he is now?" Or did you have more say in defining who J'onn is in this book?

No, this baby's all mine. Check the DNA. Due to the lead time, I was done writing very early, before the writers on "52" were completely finished outlining their story. As I said earlier, there will be some elements in "52" that will carry over. As far as getting an outline from Dan, that didn't happen. I can't speak for everyone, but one of the -- if not the -- best things about working with editors like Matt and Dan are that they allow the creative teams to do their jobs.

What can you tell me about your story? Why do you think readers will be interested?

Well, I would think any fan of the JLA would be interested in a story where J'onn gets out from under the JLA's influence. In order to set up a possible new monthly book, I needed to give J'onn a chance to grow as a character. I wanted to show J'onn grappling with the ideas of identity, acceptance, and loyalty. Any changes J'onn makes, physically and emotionally, are directly related to the fact that since he's been on earth, he's literally not been himself – he's been a version of himself. The discoveries he makes in the eleven page teaser (in BNW) and the first issue of the miniseries start changing all that.

The solicitation indicates that he's on a search to find out more about his origins. I thought his origins were fairly clear, or has this changed on "New Earth?"

The "new earth" continuity doesn't really change what happened in J'onn's past. He was still dragged through time and space and brought to earth. As for him finding out about his origins, I will simply say that it's more about the Martian Manhunter discovering something from his past he never thought could exist, as well as what he'll do to protect it and what happens when everything he assumed about this discovery starts to unravel.

How do you view the character? In a lot of ways, he seems like a green version of Superman in that they're both the last survivors of their planets.

You're correct. Martian Manhunter's only rival as far as power/abilities is Superman, and yet the two could not have evolved more differently since arriving on Earth. While both are aliens, J'onn has never achieved the same kind of acceptance Superman has. Although Superman experienced some isolation growing up due to his powers, he effectively passed as human. J'onn never had that opportunity. And to me, it's this lack of acceptance that has made all the difference in his development. The BNW story deals with this very issue.

What kind of villains can we expect to see J'onn face off against?

You know, sometimes the people closest to us turn out to be our greatest enemies.

Interesting. From the last issue of IC, it appears that J'onn is getting a new costume.

No comment…yet.

Well, that gives us readers something to look forward to. Thanks AJ!

And now you can discuss this story on CBR's DC Universe Forum.

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