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DF Interview: It’s Martian vs. Martians in Rob Williams’ new Martian Manhunter book
By Byron Brewer
Shape-shifting Martians are invading Earth – so where is J’onn J’onzz to stop them? Trust no one as the Martian Manhunter tries to stop these ruthless alien terrorists from destroying everything!
A longtime DC favorite and founding Justice League member (depending on your reboot) returns in his own ongoing in June, courtesy of writer Rob Williams and artist Eddy Barrows. Dynamic Forces wanted to catch up on the intergalactic adventure so we talked with Williams at a nice little spot in the asteroid belt. Here’s what he told us.
Dynamic Forces: Rob, how did this new ongoing come into being?
Rob Williams: It came about via discussions with Dan Didio. Dan told me DC was going to be launching a Martian Manhunter book and asked if I'd like to pitch. The remit I was given was that they really wanted to get under J'onn's skin, find out who he really is, make this character three-dimensional. So I tried to come up with an approach and a storyline that would show different facets to J'onn J'onzz than we've seen previously, and to tell a fun, imaginative story that says your preconceptions about who the character is may not be the whole truth.
DF: The Manhunter has always had a staunch core of fans but has been difficult for writers for the same reasons as Superman. What is your take on the character?
Rob Williams: My take is, I think it's fair to say, pretty different to what we've seen before. Now, I don’t want to alarm the hardcore Martian Manhunter fans. He's still that guy. I loved J'onn in books like the Giffen/Dematteis Justice League. But a key theme in our book is: 'If he can shapeshift and look like anything, why does he choose to look like a green version of Superman?' Is it because he doesn't want us to be scared of him? And, if that's the case, what, exactly is there to be scared of?
I think if you did tell a Martian Manhunter story where he's just doing 'Superman' style things, then he would come across as rather second rate by definition, But that's not who he is. He's VERY alien, not just a human--looking green guy, and we're going to get a real sense of that here. There's an eerie, kind of unnerving aspect to some of what we're doing that is fun. There's aspects of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter's The Thing in here.
DF: Tell us about the book's initial storyline. Was there any particular inspiration for this?
Rob Williams: Well, the fact that there is a Martian covert invasion is the inciting incident and the threat. But we're not talking Independence Day here. They're shapeshifters. That They Live thing of you not knowing who is human and who is not. There's a lot of psychological horror aspects in the book. Along with a small degree of political satire and intrigue that is kind of like Homeland. The Martians are among us, and are trying to create an atmosphere of chaos around the globe. They want to make us fear and hate each other. Just turn on the news and you'll see what I mean. But how much of that is humans being idiots and how much is alien destabilization?
DF: Are we going to see any threads from the character's past coming into this new book? With all the reality-shifting, is this a NEW MM or have we seen this iteration before?
Rob Williams: It's the New 52 J'onn. But, as with the other New 52 books, aspects of the character's past are there. Some old characters turning up, albeit perhaps not in the way you expect. The core of the character remains though. He's the Last Martian, or so we believe. And even then, there may well be more to him. Maybe we've never fully known J'onn's true story before.
DF: What is it about the Martian Manhunter that makes him so appealing, especially to old-time fans of the JLA?
Rob Williams: I think he wants to do right in a very simple, straightforward way. A nobility. I always felt he was the sad, wise guiding mind. The emotional core of the League. There's a degree of sadness and pathos to him, certainly. At what he's lost, at what he can never have again. He makes us feel for him.
DF: What does artist Eddy Barrows bring to the table here?
Rob Williams: Oh, Eddy's brilliant. The widescreen scope of some of the visuals in Martian Manhunter are very challenging but he makes it all look so effortless. But this book also has some very small sad and comedic moments, and some VERY unusual characters, so you need an artist with a full armory of strengths and Eddy very definitely has that. One moment this mook is a kind of Studio Ghibili Miyazaki approach and the next moment it's big superheroics, then it's noir-ish. But he's making it all look amazing.
DF: Rob, can you hint at what we MM fans can look forward to in the near future from this book?
Rob Williams: They're going to see sides of J'onn that they've never seen before. New characters. A new team. In its own way, this is a team book. You'll have to pick it up to see what I mean.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Rob Williams for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Martian Manhunter #1 from DC Comics hits stores on today, June 17th!
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