When it comes to core Justice League members, the one with the least recognition among general audiences is Martian Manhunter. Everyone knows about Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and even Aquaman, but what of the shape shifting J’onn J’onzz? Minus the character’s recurring appearance on Smallville from 2006-2010, Martian Manhunter has never really been given much time to shine. But, that’s all changing thanks to CBS’ Supergirl.
As was revealed in “Human for a Day,” the mysterious head of the DEO, Hank Henshaw (David Harewood), is in fact the famed character of DC lore. But how on earth did that come to be? Well, as explained co-creator Andrew Kreisberg during a recent set visit, “We were just so in love with David, and so happy to have him on the show and just loved everything he was doing with Hank.” He added, “I don’t remember which one of us said it, but it was like, ‘Oh, if we were ever going to make a Martian Manhunter show or something, David would’ve been the perfect Martian Manhunter.’ And it was Geoff who said, ‘Well, why can’t he be?’”
Of course, this reveal completely changed the way actor David Harewood began approaching his role. As he explained later in the day, “the whole idea of suppressing who you are was something I could understand, and pretending to be hiding a big secret seems much more interesting. I was also trying to wonder why he was such a bitch to Kara. All the way through the pilot, I was thinking: ‘There’s something going on here. No one can hate aliens that much. There’s something that I don’t know.’ So, I was happy that it was Martian Manhunter because he’s an alien, so it gave me a direction to take.”
Supergirl’s costume designer, Kiersten Ronning, spoke to us and a roundtable of journalists on a recent set visit about what it was like to create J’onzz’s outfit for the small screen. “[We wanted to make sure] the color palette complimented Supergirl,” said Ronning. “The way it’s built, it moves well. It’s not heavy. Having two superheroes in capes can be difficult, so we built his more off the shoulders, where hers kind of comes over, trying to keep it masculine.” Then, before leaving, Ronning did state, “there is a red X.”
With all the talk about how the character will eventually make his way into the DCCU once the eventual Justice League film rolls around, it’s interesting to see how the team behind Supergirl has been allowed to incorporate him at all. Taking the show in this direction is a big step toward making its mythology something grand, and the things Martian Manhunter could bring to the show truly seems endless. Also, it would be nice to see Kara have at least one fellow non-family member alien friend on Earth who isn’t trying to all kill her.
Supergirl airs Mondays at 8/7c on CBS.