[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.]
Well before the Snyder Cut was released, we learned that one big new DC Comics character would be making an appearance in the film: Martian Manhunter. Director Zack Snyder previously revealed that Harry Lennix’s character Calvin Swanwick – who was a military official in Man of Steel and a senator in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – was actually Martian Manhunter in disguise. A fact that was news to Lennix himself.
But nestled inside the four-hour opus that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League is our first appearance of Lennix as Martian Manhunter, as well as a scene in the epilogue of the film in which Martian Manhunter tells Ben Affleck’s Batman that he wants to join the Justice League. It’s an exciting moment for fans of the comics, and likely a confusing one for those unfamiliar with the character.
So let’s break down who Martian Manhunter is, what this would have meant for Justice League 2 and Justice League 3, and why the addition of the character was a last-minute concession when Warner Bros. nixed Snyder’s original plans for the epilogue cameo.
RELATED: Exclusive: Harry Lennix Confirms He’s Martian Manhunter in The Snyder Cut
The character of Martian Manhunter debuted in DC Comics in 1955 and was introduced as a green-skinned alien from Mars. Also known as J’onn J’onzz, the character is often portrayed as an ally to DC heroes and a member of the Justice League. He has the ability to shapeshift, but can also fly, has superhuman strength, regeneration, telepathy, and heat vision. For these reasons, he often filled the role of Superman in the Justice League when the Man of Steel was absent. His main weakness in the comics is fire, which would have posed a problem in the Knightmare hellscape Darkseid wanted to create on Earth.
Martian Manhunter’s first appearance in Zack Snyder’s Justice League is when he shapeshifts into Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and has an encouraging conversation with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) about her grief, telling her the world needs her out there instead of hiding in her apartment.
Indeed, Lennix was originally set to join the production of Justice League back in 2017, but Warner Bros.’ concerns over runtime meant his character originally hit the cutting room floor. So he filmed his hallway scene in August of 2020, and he filmed the character’s second (and biggest) scene in 2020.
Martian Manhunter appears during the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League in a newly shot scene where he confronts Ben Affleck’s Batman, introduces himself, and tells him he’d like to join the Justice League. This would have had major ramifications going forward, as Snyder’s plans for his Justice League sequels involved the League uniting against the forces of Darkseid.
RELATED: Zack Snyder Reveals His ‘Justice League’ Sequel Plans
But Martian Manhunter was not always planned to be in the Snyder Cut epilogue. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Snyder revealed he wanted to introduce Green Lantern John Stewart in this scene, but Warner Bros. asked him not to:
“We shot a version of this scene with Green Lantern, but the studio really fought me and said, ‘We really don’t want you to do Green Lantern,’” Snyder said. “So I made a deal with them, and they let me do this [instead]…” Snyder expressed regret that the studio prevented him from bringing Stewart to the screen for the first time. “They were like, ‘We have plans for John Stewart and we want to do our own announcement.’ So I said all right, I’ll give you that. So [Martian Manhunter] was the compromise,” he said.
Snyder clarified that he still planned on revealing Swanwick as Martian Manhunter in a future film, but this specific ending was originally designed to introduce Green Lantern as a major part of the ensemble for Justice League 2 and Justice League 3.
For now, though, it’s nice to see a great, hard-worker actor like Lennix get his own superhero moment.
KEEP READING: What Harry Lennix Has Learned After 8 Seasons of ‘The Blacklist’, and Why It May Never End
Gunn’s favorites include everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Bong Joon-ho.
Adam Chitwood is the Managing Editor for Collider. He’s been working for Collider for over a decade, and in addition to managing content also runs point on crafts interviews, awards coverage, and co-hosts The Collider Podcast with Matt Goldberg (which has been running since 2012). He’s the creator and author of Collider’s “How the MCU Was Made” series and has interviewed Bill Hader about every single episode of Barry. He lives in Tulsa, OK and likes pasta, 90s thrillers, and spending like 95% of his time with his dog Luna.