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28 December 2004 @ 08:47 am
It's Not Easy Being Green...  

Martian Manhunter Need Not Apply

by Joal Ryan
Dec 22, 2004, 4:00 PM PT

No, it's not easy being green. Go ask Martian Manhunter.

As movie projects featuring founding members of comic book land's Justice League of America ramp up, the green-skinned detective from our solar system's fourth planet can't get arrested in Hollywood.

Which begs the question: So, um, who's Martian Manhunter?

"The Martian Manhunter is the Shemp of the Justice League," says TV writer-producer and comics guru Mark Evanier.

More specifically, Martian Manhunter is one of the seven original members of the JLA, the all-star superhero collective founded by DC Comics in 1960.

The other founding heroes: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and the Green Lantern. Each character has a movie on the way, a deal in the works or a rumor in the mill.

You know, unlike Martian Manhunter.

The Flash and Wonder Woman are the latest JLA dues-payers potentially bound for big-screen stardom.

The Flash project is being mounted by Warner Bros., keeper of the DC comic universe. David Goyer, screenwriter of Batman's long-awaited theatrical comeback, Batman Begins, has been tapped to write and direct a flick for the speedster, the studio confirms. The project is said to be in development, with no targeted release date. The character previously fizzled in the blink-and-you-missed-it 1990-91 CBS series, starring future Dawson's Creek patriarch John Wesley Shipp.

The Wonder Woman project is unconfirmed. Warners would not comment on reports, ignited last week by an Ain't It Cool News tipster, that have Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon close to coming on board to write and direct for the invisible plane-piloting Amazonian, most famously portrayed by Lynda Carter in the 1976-79 TV series, Wonder Woman. (NBC had a new TV version on the drawing board in 1998 but shelved it after failing to find a suitable star.)

Whedon reportedly also is a sought-after candidate for the latest X-Men adventure. That comic book flick was to have been helmed by Bryan Singer, who directed the first two mutant movies, before he jumped to Warners' long-stalled Superman project, Superman Returns, now set to fly into theaters in 2006.

The seafearing Aquaman and the power-ring-wearing Green Lantern, meanwhile, aren't nearly the hot properties that Batman, Superman, the Flash and Wonder Woman are right now. But their names have been floated in the past as potential movie headliners.

You know, unlike Martian Manhunter.

The poor guy didn't even make the cut for Superfriends.

Says Evanier: "It is kind of sad."

True, the Flash and the Green Lantern were left out of the animated Superfriends adventures, too. (They turned up later on Challenge of the Superfriends.) And, true, Martian Manhunter has been included in the Cartoon Network's recent JLA shows, including Justice League Unlimited.

But while the Flash got his own TV series, and the Green Lantern may yet get his own movie (to go along with Flash's), about the closest the Martian came to mainstream fame was a 1997 pilot for a live-action Justice League series for CBS. David Ogden Stiers, a fine Major Winchester on TV's M*A*S*H, but hardly a prototypical superhero type, was cast as the crimefighter also known as J'onn J'onzz. In the end, the series didn't sell; the pilot didn't air.

To Evanier, Martian Manhunter's image problem dates back to his origins as a backup feature in the Batman-headlined Detective comic.

"He was just a space filler," Evanier says.

Evanier figures Martian Manhunter only got into the JLA because he was a superhero at a time when DC Comics didn't have a whole lot of superheroes. That, and he could fly.

Not that Martian Manhunter's hopeless. There is the cable TV gig. And there is the fact that even second-tier heroes, such as Marvel's Iron Fist, have been the subject of recent feature film talks.

"All it really takes is a hot, young filmmaker who remembers a comic when he was young [to want to make the movie]," Evanier says.

Martian Manhunter may need that trailer yet.