Martian Manhunter's Fluid Gender & Sexuality Are a Huge Missed Opportunity

With years of character development and changes, the Martian Manhunter’s gender and sexuality have rarely been brought up by DC writers and readers alike, creating a huge missed opportunity. The solo run Martian Manhunter from 2015 creates an opportunity for writers to expand upon this potential. It wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibilities for a Martian to experience gender and sexuality more fluidly than a human.

Once a martian from Mars, J’onn became marooned on Earth after disaster swept over Mars and killed everyone, including his wife and child. To the world, he’s presented as a hero, a founding member of the Justice League of America, and a police detective in his human form. His desire to live among humans and learn about their world turns him to help them and present like them in many ways, even by creating full lives as different people.

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In Martian Manhunter #3 by Rob Williams, Eddy Barrows, and Eber Ferreira, J’onn decides to destroy himself after finding out he was built to be a weapon to be used against Earth to revive Mars. His plan didn’t quite pan out as he had hoped, and he found himself being split into four individuals around the world. None knew they were the Martian Manhunter, all of them leading lives with false memories. Each one was a different aspect of J’onn: a man named Daryl Wessel represented the hunter inside him, a Martian named Mr. Biscuits represented J’onn’s subconscious, an older gentleman named Mould represented his head and a woman named The Pearl represented J’onn’s heart.

J'onn J'onzz kisses Aquaman

J’onn’s purpose for creating these people was to live as humans did in different cultures and as different people. They were happy with their lives, The Pearl didn’t even want to merge back into J’onn, and he felt sympathy for the woman who represented his love and spirit. She could’ve been an alternate human form for J’onn, opened up pathways where he would explore his gender, and even his sexuality. In fact, in Martian Manhunter #5, The Pearl kissed Aquaman after he saved her from drowning. If she represents J’onn’s heart, would it not stand to reason that she also experiences attraction in a similar way to the Martian? With the reveal that she thinks Aquaman is attractive, The Pearl showed once again that maybe the Martian Manhunter is a lot more fluid than readers may initially think.

With all these alters, only one presents itself as a woman, and this alter is arguably the most important representation: Martian Manhunter's heart. The Pearl lived her life believing in a past that didn’t happen. She was a cat burglar, one that stole from the rich and gave to the poor, showing her care for others. In the face of danger, she chose not to run away, just as J’onn would have, instead staying to fight her way out. The Pearl was the one to ground Martian Manhunter through his difficult decisions and pushed him to save the Earth, showing just how important and strong his heart is. With J’onn’s heart being portrayed as a woman with a full life, the door to exploring a more fluid side of gender and sexuality was opened.

Despite all these new possibilities presenting themselves to the audience, J’onn J’onzz never got to explore what could have been. DC could have easily slipped into a wonderful story about J’onn experiencing attraction and gender different from how some humans may experience it. Martian culture has not been touched on as much, and The Pearl shows that there is room for expansion. DC missed the opportunity for great representation by never expanding on the Martian Manhunter’s potentially fluid gender and sexuality after that run.

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2022-08-14T16:50:10.000Z

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