5. Martian Manhunter (576 points - 17 first place slots)
"I've heard it said that he's the heart of the Justice League -- I'd agree."
"Awesome power set with a melancholy back-story, J'onn, when properly written, anyway, often comes across as being more human than many actual human characters."
"If Superman is the heart of the DCU, and Batman the mind, then the Manhunter is the soul."
"Fuck you Morrison, this is the heart of the League and killing him was a bitch move to create BS suspense in your story, and you didn't even handle it well, you hack! At least we got the awesome Requiem story by Tomasi and Mahnke, so there was that. Anyways, here's a guy who hasn't carried a solo series, but who is still easily in my top 4, solely based on what he's done in the various JLA books over the years. One of the most powerful characters in any comic and also one of the most empathetic and compassionate, a wonderful character and to paraphrase Superman, we all hope for a resurrection."
"I've always believed that J'onn is much more than the heart of the JLA. He's the heart and soul of the entire DC Universe. If there was one character in all of comicdom that I could wish into existence, it's J'onn."
"Founding member of the JLA and a straight up guy with a lotta "heart". Maybe when he comes back to life he could join the Indigo Lantern Corps!"
"Never realized my love for him till after he died. Read so many stories of him since then and loved them all."
"A really solid and awesome character that is routinely under used. He's almost as strong as Superman but he has shape changing, phasing, invisibility and telepathy powers! Every time people say Superman is DC's big gun part me wonders why? J'onn can do all Superman can and then some. Aside from his power J'onn has a big soft center. He's in a lot of ways his generation of DC's father figure. Everyone comes to him for advice and help and he's glad to give it. Also unlike Superman he's the last of his kind but can't integrate into Earth like Clark can and he remembers his planets death. All these thing make him such a compelling character."
"Forever the heart of the JLA to me, it was surprisingly enough the Detroit JLA era that made me a J'onn fan, but after that and JLI, the Manhunter from Mars cemented himself for me as an all-timer. Possibly the most powerful hero in DC, and possibly the most humane as well, with both of those things stemming from his "inhumanity". I'm still waiting for DC to fix all the ruination that OYL and Final Crisis inflicted on him."
He is my favorite Leaguer of all time.
J'onn J'onzz, from the mid 18th century up to the mid 20th century, had been a Manhunter on the planet Mars in our own solar system. A Martian Manhunter is akin to our own policemen and detectives, and J'onn was a commendable crime fighter on his planet. He had a wife and a daughter, M'yri'ah and K'hym, whom he loved deeply. The Martians had been a thriving and space faring race for centuries, even venturing to Earth on occasion, inadvertently inspiring the Egyptians to build their colossal pyramids. However, their doom was approaching swiftly.
J'onn's own brother, Ma’alefa’ak, had been stripped of his fellow Martians' innate telepathic gifts for the crime of mind "raping" another, and had grown very bitter over time. In his anger and insanity, he created something that would come to be called Hronmeer's Curse after the Martian God of Death. It was a plague that preyed on a Martian's natural fear and weakness to fire. J'onn learned of his plan to destroy their race from the inside out, but was unable to stop him. J'onzz was then abruptly the last of his own race, and nearly lost his mind.
It is currently unknown how long J'onn wandered the red dusts of Mars, but we do know that in 1955, a scientist named Dr. Erdel discovered lost Martian teleportation technology here on Earth, and was beginning to uncover its secrets.
The good Doctor would soon find out, rather abruptly, that the machine in fact led to the distant planet Mars, and in a bright flash, brought with it a green skinned creature known as J'onn J'onzz. This sudden revelation caused Dr. Erdel to have a violent heart attack and die, leaving J'onn stranded on a foreign planet with malfunctioning teleportation technology.
The Manhunter from Mars, last of his kind, now found himself in a strange and different world. Knowing that he currently had no way to return to his dead planet, J'onn wandered into human civilization, attempting to find a new life among them. J'onzz had almost completely lost his mind on Mars, but being able to now live life however he pleased provided him with a sense of comfort. Using his vast shape-shifting abilities, he took many forms across the globe, seeing life from every possible standpoint. He took the shapes of men and women of all types, and even animals. He spent much of his time in the role of a man named John Jones, a deceased detective. J'onn took a liking to this particular guise, as he still possessed a strong passion for crime-fighting.
J'onn first revealed himself as an official superhero when he joined the Justice Experience as the Bronze Wraith. He only used his strength and psychic abilities as the Wraith, careful not to reveal his extensive Martian shape shifting abilities. However, his time with the team was short, as they would quickly be altogether defeated by the villainous Doctor Trap. J'onn was the only survivor, but was able to exact justice on the Doctor with the help of the Justice Society.
Shortly before his tenure as the Bronze Wraith, J'onn sensed the arrival of a small alien spacecraft heading towards Kansas. He investigated the vessel, although it resisted his attempts to scan it too deeply. When the Kents arrived, he became invisible to avoid detection. He left knowing the Kryptonian child would be safe with them, but was concerned about the power he would one day possess. He returned eight years later as Josh Johnstone and worked as a hired hand on the Kent Farm. He wanted to see how the alien child was integrating into human society. He could tell that Clark Kent thought of himself as a human being. He was further assured of the boy's heroic nature when he defended him from racist thugs in Smallville.
For years after his tenure with the JE, J'onn continued wandering Earth, taking many different forms and identities. Although he believed that if he again revealed himself as a superhero that he would draw more trouble to himself, something quickly changed his mind. The super-powered protector of Metropolis, Superman, revealed himself to the world, and soon costumed vigilantes were saving lives everywhere. Eventually, in an freak alien invasion, Hal Jordan, Flash, Aquaman, and Black Canary rushed into battle. J'onn quickly put aside his fears of revealing himself, and changed to his typical Martian garb, but kept his overall appearance more humanoid. He battled alongside the other heroes, and they left triumphant. From that point on, these five heroes, along with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman fought together as the Justice League Of America. This team would become a mainstay in the DC Universe, consistently protecting the Earth from otherworldly threats and even home-grown emergencies.
Through many years with the Justice League, J'onn J'onzz managed to find some measure of solace among his new found friends. The people of Earth accepted him, along with his fellow superheroes. He still kept many secret identities across the globe, maintaining a carefully built system that he used to learn all about his fellow Earthlings.
Eventually the Justice League would relocate to Detroit and have a dramatic change in it's membership leaving only J'onn, Aquaman, Zatanna and Elongated Man. Four additional heroes known as Vixen, Gypsy, Steel and Vibe joined the league and J'onn would become a large contributor in their development as heroes. He became closest to young Gypsy who was a teenage runaway with an invisibility power of her own. She was homeless in the streets of Detroit and she used her powers to protect herself. Aquaman eventually left the JLA to return to his duties in Atlantis and Zatanna left the JLA after merging with the Godhead.
Near the end of this team's roster, the only members left were J'onn, Elongated Man, Vixen, Gypsy, Steel and Vibe. What became even worse is when Gypsy has a premonition that two members of her league, Steel and Vibe, are going to be killed. After widespread panic blanketed the Earth. In an effort to turn humanity against their super heroic benefactors, Darkseid sent several of his minions, including Glorious Godfrey and Brimstone, to Earth. Godfrey, using his ability to control anyone just by telling them what to do, told the people of Earth not to trust the superheroes. Soon, he had with him an army of followers ready to storm the White House and take over the free world.
The League would try to turn back popular opinion even going into a pitched battle with Brimstone. After they fail to stop him, Brimstone caused great damage. Superheroes themselves become outlawed by executive order of Ronald Reagan. After this event Elongated Man quits the JLA. This left J'onn alone with his four rookie members and left J'onn with no other choice but to disband the league. This left the League weakened and open to attack and Professor Ivo took that opportunity to kill all the young Justice League members. Just like Gypsy's premonition the first to be killed was Vibe. He was killed by one of Professor Ivo's androids on the same day J'onn disband the League.
Professor Ivo sends an android to kill Gypsy next but she manages to find a conscience in the android that is sent to kill her. She convinces the android to not only spare her life but to safely returned to her parents as well. Steel was not so lucky. He to would be killed by one of Ivo's androids. After this J'onn and Vixen stop Ivo but the damage had already been done.
J'onn would meet with one last line of defense at the final onset of the invasion. Doctor Fate had organized Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Guy Gardner, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Teen Titans members Changeling and the Kid Flash, and the Blue Beetle in one last ditch effort to stop Godfrey. But much to the surprise of all those engaged in battle, a small legion of children unaffected by Godfrey's mind control make a buffer between the heroes and his army. Suddenly, Godfrey's mind-controlled minions are snapped out of their trance when he slaps one of the children. He was quickly defeated, and the people of Earth trusted their masked protectors once more.
Following the chaos of Glorious Godfrey's invasion, a new Justice League rose from the ashes. Based in several Earth-bound United Nations Embassies, the new League found itself led by the Martian Manhunter and a man named Maxwell Lord. Lord acted as the face of the Justice League in the UN, and recruited all-new members. The new roster included the likes of Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Ice, Fire, Mister Miracle and more.
The new Justice League would become the Justice League International as it works within the United Nations. Originally J'onn would often act, alongside Batman. He performed most of the tactical work, organizing the team and sending them on various missions. After the League went international J'onn become the leader and that allows Batman to stay in the background. The league was basically run for several years as J'onn as the leader but Max Lord was in a big way the owner of the league.
Under J'onn's leadership the League would go through some of it's best years. It did not have a lot of high caliber member but it did have a very familial atmosphere. There was always crisis in the league but the had real bonds with each other. The League would have some members that would come and go but the core of the League stayed for years. J'onn, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice and “the one true” Green Lantern Guy Gardner.
One thing J'onn developed during this time in the League is an addiction to Oreo cookies. Booster Gold and Blue Beetle who delighted in practical jokes would find it very funny to hide and even buy all the Oreo cookies they could in an effort to drive J'onn nuts trying to find them. These pranks like all there others started out good but ended up bad for Booster and Beetle.
Unfortunately for Gypsy shortly after she is returned home Despero arrived and murdered her parents. Despero tries to kill Gypsy as well but she was saved by the new Justice League. Devastated by her parents death she returns to being a superhero. Booster Gold himself takes her on as a member of his team the Conglomerate. After the time J'onn and Gypsy spend together they grow very close. They end up developing a father/daughter relationship. Later after yet another incarnation of the League they would both work as members of the Justice League Task Force. which I refuse to talk about.
The League was reformed after the White Martian invasion and included some of Earth's premier heroes. J'onn would again be an integral part alongside Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash ( Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) and Aquaman. He would often link his teammates telepathically to co-ordinate their plans. The ghosts of his Martian heritage would be a problem on more than one occasion and J'onn would often be key to beating them. When the White Martians attacked again, it was J'onn who helped provide the means of beating them, nearly sacrificing himself in the process. He would also have to foil the schemes of his brother, Ma’alefa’ak. Unbeknown to J'onn, he had survived the death of his people caused by a plague he had wrought and intended to finish the job by killing J'onn.
He was he one of the League's most powerful members, which was a problem when another piece of his Martian heritage came to Earth, a Burning Martian called Fernus. He had been attempting to overcome his fear of fire with the help of Scorch. The therapy triggered ancient genetic memories that had been repressed by the Guardians Of The Universe and transformed him into a being of fire and hate. As Fernus, he attempted to asexually reproduce by causing a nuclear strike in Japan. The League was little match for his immense physical powers and his psychic assault. However a joint effort by the League, Scorch and most importantly, Plastic Man allowed J'onn to re-assume control of his body. In the epilogue of this story, J'onn claims to have overcome his fear of fire unless the flames have a psychic dimension. This is sometimes overlooked in more recent adventures.
Following the events of the Infinite Crisis J'onn, much like the other heroes, went to find himself. During 52 we learn that J'onn has been working undercover to destroy Checkmate and avenge the death of Blue Beetle at the hands of former Black King, Maxwell Lord. He is successful, albeit temporarily as Checkmate is later reformed. He is also one of the first heroes to confront Black Adam as he rampages on week fifty.
In an attempt to maintain his Martian heritage he has made himself look more alien than man. Recently he has found that he is not the only surviving Green Martian, something that changes everything he has ever thought about his past. J'onn tracks down a group of them who are being held at a secret facility. J'onn rescues them and hides them from both their captors and his former teammates. He soon learns that they are in fact White Martians who had been hypnotized into thinking they are Greens. The story ends with a friendship, of sorts, forming between J'onn and White Martian Till'All and the pair returning to the League together.
J'onn was captured by Dr. Light and Effigy and brought to Libra who stabbed him through the heart with his spear tipped scale thus fulfilling the Human Flames inner most desire to have him killed. Suddenly, J'onn's body reverts to it's original Martian form and sends out psychic projections of himself and Justice League members (dead and alive) viciously attacking members of the Secret Society until Libra disrupts it and gives J'onn the final blow. In his final moments J'onn broadcast a telepathic message to the Justice League. That night, after his body is discovered, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Gypsy, and Black Canary simultaneously record part of his life story in their sleep.
His remains were interred in a pyramid removed from Egypt and placed back in it's original location on Mars in a ceremony attended by many heroes. He was eulogized by Superman.
4. Superman (627 points - 47 first place slots)
"The big guy. The prototypical 20th century hero. He probably would be number one on my list, but I feel he's been horribly managed on a few occasions and mediocre many times. When the material is great -cough*all star superman*cough-, he can be more inspiring than you would imagine any funny book character could be."
"He had to be in my list, best hero ever!!"
"Growing up, I was a Marvel kid and never really liked Superman. Only recently, mostly due to the Brainiac and New Krypton stories, I have a new found appreciation for the character. "
"In the DCU, there's the Man of Steel and then there's everyone else."
"The inspiration to all. You can't have a list like this without Supes somewhere in it."
"He's the top hero and all others follow IMHO"
"When I think about DC, I think Superman – it’s that simple."
"When he is done well his stories are great but when it's done bad his books are terrible."
"When written well, there is no more heroic character in all of comics. One of the few global cultural icons of the world, which also tends to hamstring the character."
"A character I have loved pretty much all my life. People say he's boring or outdated. Those people just don't get it and sadly never will. Superman is everything superheroes are about and can be used in a myriad of ways. Clark's the basis of all superheroes and I can't think of a better one."
Wow. Wow. He should've been in the Top 3. Wow.
As with most of the original super-heroes, especially DC Comics characters, Superman has had several origins over the years. Mostly this was necessary due to the sloppy inconsistency in the first strips from the Golden Age, which never even granted Superman the power of flight for quite some time. These early comics also did not focus on the supernatural and science fiction elements that in time came to be considered part of the mythos. The early Superman fought mostly everyday humans like bank robbers and traffic offenders; most people would not believe this about him if it were not so well documented. It was not till the Silver Age that Superman had fleshed out his powers to what became widely known and began battling aliens, robots and other supernatural enemies. During the Crisis On Infinite Earths, every single DC hero was battling Anti-Monitor. They could not save most of the other dimensions, and this resulted in whatever dimension was left being merged with Earth-One. Following the Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC Comics decided to retire the Silver Age Superman and revamp him from scratch. In 1986, there was a two-part story titled “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” published in Superman vol 1 #423 and Action Comics #583. This was basically a way of retiring the Silver Age Superman. A month later in 1986, writer/artist John Byrne re-imagined the series and rewrote the history from scratch under the title The Man Of Steel.
In all stories, though, the basics of his origin remained that he was born as Kal-El on the planet Krypton and due to a catastrophe that destroyed that planet, he traveled half a galaxy away and was found as a child in Smallville, Kansas, by Jonathan and Martha Kent. The elderly couple, who could have no children of their own, adopted the strange baby and reared him as a normal child by the name of Clark Kent. They kept his origins secret, even from him, till the boy's powers became too hard to hide. In John Byrne's modern retelling, his super-humanoid powers manifested themselves slowly, as opposed to earlier tellings that described Superman's innate gifts right away, which resulted in him never donning the Superboy identity.
DC Comics had also intended to remove the Superboy stories from Clark’s early life. In Superman: The Movie, for example, Clark is seen lifting one end of a car as a toddler. Another change was that Jonathan and Martha Kent lived for a long time and are still currently living, unlike the previous versions in which they died before Clark moved to Metropolis. Another change to Superman was that DC wanted Superman to be a little weaker. So they toned down his strength and speed greatly. They also removed his ability to travel through time and also lowered his invulnerability. Instead of being invulnerable, Superman now created an “energy field” around his body when he was exposed to yellow sunlight. Byrne also revamped Superman's greatest enemy on Earth, Lex Luthor, from a criminal scientist and expert jail breaker to a businessman.
Later, Bryne would revamp Kal-El’s arrival on Earth again by introducing the idea that Superman was born on Earth through a “birthing matrix.” Many "Superfans" criticized Byrne for his drastic changes, which would later result in him quitting DC. Even though DC thought his changes were drastic too, they continued to use this origin for Superman. After High School, Clark left the farm behind and traveled to the fictional city of Metropolis (whose skyline was based on Toronto) and got a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet alongside editor Perry White, reporter Lois Lane and photographer Jimmy Olsen. The newspaper was somewhat modeled after the New York Times and was considered the bastion of serious journalism, with Lane as the go-getter story-breaker and Perry White as the uppity curmudgeon. Clark immediately fell for Lois Lane and over the early years had a hard time dealing with her with his two different personalities. Lois always loved Superman, but Clark never wanted to reveal his true identity. Later Superman would fight the Kryptonian criminals that arrived on Earth through a different dimension. (Whether this was the Phantom Zone, the twilight continuum to which Krypton exiled its criminals, is not known.) Superman was forced to use lethal force on the criminals and as a result, he killed them. After wards, Superman exiled himself into space because of what he had just done.
Eventually Superman returned to Earth. As Clark Kent, he proposed to Lois Lane and revealed his secret identity to her, and she accepted his proposal. In any case, Clark's move to Metropolis meant a huge upping of appearances for Superman as the "Man Of Steel" found himself battling all manner of enemies while attempting to protect Metropolis. Superman found some respite in his Fortress Of Solitude, which was a base of operations, most often located in the arctic. Byrne's version used the haven as a way for Superman to be normal and reflect and commune with his Kryptonian nature. Earlier versions had it as an almost zoo of alien artifacts, with a gold door and the usual super-hero trappings.
Often mistakenly thought for absent-minded or awkward, Clark is actually using his super-senses to monitor metropolis. Although his fellow staffers greatly respect his work (except for Lombard, who doesn't respect anyone's work) Clark has few people he can call friends at the Daily Planet. Because Superman's powers occasionally interfere with computers, Clark is forced to work on a typewriter.
In 1992, DC Comics published a new storyline called The Death And Life Of Superman that chronicled Superman's death at the hands of a powerful alien by the name of Doomsday, who also fell during the battle. There was huge publicity around the event with national news coverage and it was rumored that Superman really was being killed off for good. For a while there was a very real fear that this would indeed be the case due to declining sales of the once highly valued franchise in the early 1990s. The event instead revitalized the brand with huge sellouts of Superman #75, the issue where the Man Of Steel was finally killed by Doomsday, and the story arc Funeral For A Friend, which had various members of the Justice League grieving for their fallen brother. The coverage of the event was so prevalent in the media at the time that there was even a Saturday Night Live sketch of Superman's funeral that had the Justice League trying to fill in for Superman's many powers by splitting his duties over lesser-powered characters.
The renewed popularity of the character was milked for a full year when no less than four separate books with characters claiming to be the real Superman were released. There was a new Superboy, a Cyborg Man of Tomorrow, The Last Son of Krypton, and a character named Steel, who all claimed the Superman mantle. This was the arc called Reign Of The Supermen. Near the end of the Reign Of The Supermen, Kal-El resurfaced with no powers and was using a battle suit. Steel and Supergirl (Linda Lee Danvers) destroyed the battle suit and it revealed Kal-El wearing a black uniform with a silver “S.” Superman would team up with Superboy, Supergirl, Steel, Eradicator, and Hal Jordan to stop the cyborg from destroying the world. Superman would be able to defeat the cyborg, and he revealed that it was the scientist Dr. Hank Henshaw who had been controlling it. Superman eventually was brought back to life through the aid of Jonathan Kent and after battling a couple of his doppelgangers, returned to the hero business.