When it comes to Martian Manhunter key comics, I don't think there's really that many major ones. The character made his first introduction in the later Golden Age of comics, even though some sources state the Silver Age.
The character has evolved, but his early appearances saw his adventures somewhat drab. He often fights forgettable crooks, gangsters or con men, and even his early supporting cast of characters weren't all that memorable.
However, during the superhero revival of the Silver Age, the Martian Manhunter became quite a popular character as an original and long time member of the Justice League of America. This here is a Martian Manhunter key issues series, and I doubt it will be a very long one. We'll see, though.
DETECTIVE COMICS #225
Origin of Martian Manhunter begins
When it comes to the holy grail of Martian Manhunter key comics, this one right here is it. The first appearance of Martian Manhunter in Detective Comics #225 also kick starts the character's origin as well.
As we all know, the character became a popular member of the Justice League of America, but in the beginning, he was a backup feature in the pages of Detective Comics.
In the story, The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel, we see the beginning of the Martian Manhunter origin as well. Dr. Erdel pulls a green-skinned alien from Mars to Earth with a teleportation beam, and the shock kills Erdel.
However, later stories would reveal that Erdel is alive...of course. Anyways, the alien named J'onn J'onzz is stranded on Earth, so he adopts the name John Jones and decides to be a crime fighter.
The rest as they say is history. Definitely one of the more sought out DC 1st appearances during the Silver Age, and this character has debuted live action in the Supergirl TV series. No joke there, and it was pretty awesome to see in episode 7 of the TV series.
November, 1955 is the cover date for the first appearance of Martian Manhunter in Detective Comics #225.
DETECTIVE COMICS #226
In this story, Martian Manhunter is depicted of having the ability to see into the future. This ability is not one of the accepted powers that Martian Manhanter has and does not possess this power in Modern continuity.
Like Superman, the powers of Martian Manhunter evolved and J'onn J'onzz seemed to have new powers sporadically shown during his early appearances.
The 2nd appearance of Martian Manhunter in Detective Comics #226 was published December, 1955.
DETECTIVE COMICS #227
More key issues outside of the Batman mythos, here we have the 3rd appearance of the Martian Manhunter and if there is one power that was constant throughout the evolution of this character, it's that J'onn J'onzz has telepathetic powers. In this issue, he uses his telepathic powers to discover whether the villain in the story is guilty of multiple murders or not.
Like his 1st and 2nd appearances, this 3rd appearance is definitely not over-looked in the current market. May be a hard find as well. Detective Comics #227 and the 3rd appearance of Martian Manhunter was published January, 1956.
In the early years of Martian Manhunter stories, Captain Harding was John Jones supervisor obviously. He is a prominent supporting character for Martian Manhunter during the Silver Age years.
However, he's not really a big or iconic character in the DC world of comics. This comic also features the 4th appearance of Martian Manhunter. Detective Comics #228 has the cover date of February, 1956.
5th appearance of Martian Manhunter
When it comes to early appearances of Martian Manhunter, a lot of them are pretty uneventful stories. He doesn't have a very strong cast of characters or supporting characters to really be an exciting headlining character.
Probably why he was later simply used as a supporting character himself for the Justice League of America. A lot of his early appearances are definitely not confusing at all to discover. He simply makes all his early appearances in the back up stories in Detective Comics for quite a while until Brave and the Bold #28, 1st appearance of Justice League of America.
So you want his first through 40 appearances? Just go on down the issue numbers starting from his first appearance in Detective Comics #225.
Although some debate about this, Martian Manhunter is a very late Golden Age character. His first appearance is not in the Silver Age of comics.
This character in his very early years was definitely not a strong enough character to kick start the revival of the superhero genre like Barry Allen's Flash did. I really don't see the argument for Martian Manhunter's 1st appearance marking the Silver Age, but there are some out there who do.
Detective Comics #229 is the 5th appearance of Martian Manhunter and nothing really remarkable happens in this story. The cover date is March, 1956.
Not quite sure if this should be considered a big key issue or even a key issue at all. Overstreet notes it so I might as well.
In later revamps of this character, J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger would redefine the character's origin and have J'onn J'onzz displaced in both space and time. This later revamp would have the Martian Manhunter the last of his kind.
In his earlier adventures, however, he apparently isn't the last since he contacts Mars and talks to his parents in this issue. Detective Comics #236 is the 1st Silver Age issue for the title as well. It has the cover date of October, 1956.
Intro of Diane Meade
Every hero needs a love interest, and John Jones's female love interest is Diane Meade. In her initial 1st appearance, Diane Meade is a rookie patrol woman who is assigned to partner with Detective John Jones.
Obviously, this throws in a wrench to John Jones's secret identity as a Martian and all. Although a love interest, this character isn't really a long supporting character for the Martian Manhunter.
Diane Meade was present during his very early stories but disappeared from publishing for a long time when the John Johns persona was abandoned in the comics. The character would resurface again in the Modern Age.
Diane Meade was definitely created as Lois Lane type character for Martian Manhunter, but she's definitely no Lois Lane either. Detective Comics #246 has the cover date of August, 1957.
J'onn J'onzz I.D. revealed for 1st time
Although this is what Overstreet and CGC label the comic, J'onn J'onzz only reveals his Martian self to help solve or stop a crime being committed by a Martian crook. However, a few cops see him as his martian self, but they don't not know that the Martian Manhunter is John Jones nor do they find out.
The only person that seems to find out about that is Captain Harding. So, basically, the Martian Manhunter reveals himself to the world in this issue and gets his superhero on, but John Jones's secret identity is pretty much still a secret save one.
This is a pretty big issue for the character. He does reveal to the world that he exists, and that move would set him up in joining DC's most iconic superhero team. Detective Comics #273 has the cover date of November, 1959.
When it comes to the character of Martian Manhunter, it's often a strange debate. You have an extremely powerful character - A guy with most of the powers of Superman and them some on top of that. He can also read minds, shape-shift, phase and turn invisible just to name some.
In his early adventures, more powers were just thrown on top of him as needed by certain plots. He has mind over matter and could even peer into the future in one story.
He is bad ass for sure, but there lies a problem with that. You see, you already got Supes filling the void of a character like that.
Also, being that powerful kinda tones down the drama. Sure, it's neat and all but it kinda gets boring when a character can do it all, although he does have a weakness to fire much like Superman has to Kryptonite. This weakness to fire and the reason would be changed by various writers a long the way as well.
Like Batman, John Jones is a detective. Cool! Now you have a character combining Superman elements and Batman elements.
However, Batman fills that detective void much better. Also, Manhunter can read minds and turn invisible and walk through walls. Talk about cutting corners when it comes to drama in the detective genre.
Bruce Wayne has to use his wits to piece together a crime. Martian Manhunter? Well, you get the picture.
Even his early supporting cast was lackluster. They even had Diane Meade play a Lois Lane character for J'onn J'onzz, and I'm sorry to say, but nobody does that role better for a character than the original - Lois Lane.
Another problem with the character is the lack of any interesting villains in his early appearances. No specific super-type villains that put Martian Manhunter to the test, no evil arch-nemesis whose name alone puts fear into the character.
Like I've always said, a hero is only as good as his villains. His supporting cast is important as well.
Martian Manhunter would eventually evolve, however. He basically had to since things later on just wouldn't make sense if they continued with certain elements depicted in his early appearances.
He is a pretty cool character and those early appearances of his sure are valuable. It's apparent that he reveals himself as a Martian in Detective Comics #273 so he could basically get his superhero on with the Justice League of America.
We'll get to that soon, though. Just click on the PART 2 link below to continue.