Two of the greatest heroes of the DC universe – Superman and J’onn J’onzz the Manhunter from Mars. Both founding members of the Justice League of America, both the last survivors of their long dead home worlds who have found peace on Earth and a role as its defenders.
However, if two of the greatest superheroes the DC Universe have ever known were to fight, who would win?
This piece will outline the strengths and weaknesses of these two greats and determine, as far as can be determined with two fictional characters, who would win were they to clash. So put on your cape, make sure to put out any fires and lets jump straight in!
Superman: His Strengths
Superman is by far and away the favourite to win this fight, I’m sure most of you will be thinking. I mean, this is Superman we are talking about right?
The guy who put the entire multiverse into a safe box during Final Crisis, the guy who defeated (at his own cost) Doomsday a creature who wiped out the Justice League, the man of steel himself.
No matter how strong the Martian Manhunter is surely he won’t be able to compete with Clark Kent?
Looking at his strengths you can see why. Depending on the version of Superman we are looking at, he can not only fly but fly fast – fast enough to turn back time according to Superman: The Movie and several other comic book sources.
Superman’s powers are however not limited to his speed. Alongside his ability to fly Superman can use:
Super Strength: The extent of Kal El of Kryton’s physical strength has changed over the decades in which he has existed. At one time Superman could only lift objects like trains and cars whereas now he is known to be able to lift entire planets (if required).
As such regardless of which version of Superman the Martian Manhunter might fight one thing is for certain – Superman is really strong.
Invulnerability: Although during the 1930s Superman’s ability to withstand pressures was limited to being able to bounce bullets off his chest, since then the Man of Steel has become much more able to withstand injury, at times withstanding the blast from atomic weapons.
Whilst Kryptonite is always poisonous to the Man of Tomorrow, he can withstand most other forms of attack.
Exception to this will be listed in the section dealing with Superman’s weaknesses but it is clear that for the Martian Manhunter to win the fight he would have to utilise one of Superman’s weaknesses and they are few and far between.
X Ray Vision: Thanks to Superman’s incredible X Ray Vision he is able to see through most objects, whether they be clothes, buildings or impregnable alien spaceships.
This means that any opponent is unlikely to be able to hide behind an object in order to stop the Man of Steel from seeing them. One exception to this is lead which is why Superman’s arch enemy Lex Luthor so often uses it in his fiendish plots against the Last Son of Krypton.
Heat Vision: Superman has the ability to use his heat vision to great effect when you against an enemy or rival. Thanks to his heat vision, Superman can easily harm or even kill and opponent. Thankfully as Superman is a hero, he rarely uses his heat vision as a weapon but if he was forced to it could easily render any opponent unable to defeat him.
Super Breath: Though this power has changed over the years, Superman’s ability to freeze anything use his breath has come in useful many a time and often helped keep a super villain at bay.
Superman’s super breathing power has also in the past allowed him to breath under water or in space without breath apparatus.
These powers have changed over time and Superman hasn’t used them as frequently as in the past but if he needed it, it certainly would help the Man of Steel defeat the Martian Manhunter if he could try to freeze him.
Super Hearing: The Man of Tomorrow can hear a hell of a lot with his super hearing powers, and this would also give him an advantage over the Manhunter from Mars as J’onn J’onzz would be unlikely to move too far without Superman knowing about it.
The Martian Manhunter: His Strengths
Whilst J’onn J’onzz may not have the same cavalcade of powers as Superman he is far from powerless.
With a strength often equal to Superman and a Martian biology which has often proved more of a help than a hinderance to the Manhunter from Mars, J’onn J’onzz certainly would not be a walkover if the two titans were engaged in battle.
Invisibility: Thanks to his Martian ancestry the Martian Manhunter can become invisible whenever he wishes to, ensuring that he can pass almost undetected wherever he wants to go.
Whilst Superman’s X Ray Vision can see through buildings it can’t see through what is not there so J’onzz’s invisibility would certainly give him and advantage over the Man of Steel. If Superman can’t see him then The Martian Manhunter would certainly be able to land some effective blows.
Shapeshifting: Whilst Clark Kent may be able to disguise himself thanks to his incredible glasses, J’onn J’onzz can go one step further by transforming him into whatever he wants to be.
Inherent to his species, J’onzz has often been able to effectively transform himself into whatever person or object he wishes to.
His ability is often used in order to hold down a job as a Detective in Gotham City however in a battle with Superman it could be easily used to distract the Man of Steel and keep him off guard so that he could be overpowered.
As a master of disguise, J’onzz might even be able to play on Superman’s unswerving loyalty to many of his close friends in order to defeat him.
Telepathic powers: The Martian Manhunter has mostly used his telepathic skills for good. It is often used as a covert means of communication with other members of the Justice League, if other communication channels have been compromised.
It could also be used to a potentially deadly effect if utilised in a battle with a fellow hero. Were the Martian Manhunter able to get inside Superman’s head and either distract him or convince him to simply surrender then the Man of Steel, despite his strength, would be unable to defeat his opponent.
Now that we’ve examined the strengths of the two mighty heroes let’s look at their weaknesses. Whilst everyone knows that Superman can be easily susceptible to Kryptonite it is not his only weakness.
Superman: His Weaknesses
The Man of Steel may seem invincible, but he is far from unbeatable. Villains such as Darkseid, Lex Luthor, Brainiac and Mogul have bested the Man of Tomorrow in fights as have his friends Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel (also known as Shazam).
This is why when properly assessing who would win in a fight between Superman and the Manhunter from Mars it is important to look at the Kryptonian’s weaknesses:
Kryptonite: It may seem fairly obvious, but Kryptonite is one of Superman’s most powerful weaknesses. Only a small sliver of the radioactive remains of his home world can either greatly injure or even kill Superman.
If the Martian Manhunter were able to get to get hold of even a small amount of the rare substance, then he would certainly have the upper hand.
Magic: This is how magical characters like Shazam and Zatanna have defeated or stopped Superman in the past. Superman’s powers are often weakened when faced with magical objects or people who can used magic.
Whilst the Martian Manhunter is not a magician himself he could easily get access to an object that had magical properties and utilise it in his fight against Superman, ensuring that the Man of Steel would lose.
Red Sunlight: Thanks to Superman’s home planet of Krypton having a red sun, if blasted with red sunlight Superman’s body reverts to how it would have been on Krypton – ordinary and without superpowers.
Superman’s powers come from Earth’s yellow sun which, when interacting with Kryptonian biology, gives him his extraordinary powers.
Without the Earth’s sunlight Superman would be a much easier foe for the Martian Manhunter to defeat meaning that if he were to use Red Sunlight, the Manhunter from Mars would likely win.
Virus X: A little known Kryptonian superbug, Virus X is a disease which ravaged Krypton and caused the death of many of its inhabitants. Whilst extremely rare, it has been used against Superman in the past.
If the Martian Manhunter were able to get a hold of it and use it in his fight against Superman then it is certainly possible that the Manhunter would win.
The Martian Manhunter: His Weaknesses
One thing that Martian’s hate is fire. It is probably J’onn J’onzz’s greatest weakness and has been responsible for his defeat and even death several times in the DC Universe.
Yet even without fire the Manhunter from Mars could still be vulnerable to a variety of different forms of attack which Superman could use if the two had to fight.
Fire: As mentioned above, fire is the Martian Manhunter’s main weakness. Even seeing a fire, let alone actually being burned can seriously harm J’onn and would render him unable to defend himself.
Superman, given his heat ray vision, could easily use fire as a means of ending any conflict with the Manhunter from Mars.
Mental Attack: As J’onn is telepathic, his brain is sensitive to any attempts to mess around with it. As such a sustained mental attack can render the Martian Manhunter unable to fight back against any threat to him.
Whilst Superman does not have the same telepathic powers as the Martian Manhunter he could easily utilise a device to make his thoughts more powerful and therefore beat his opponent.
Electrical Impulse Destabilising His Metabolism: This is a rather specific weakness but one that has proved deadly to J’onn in the past.
A specific electoral impulse whilst J’onn is shapeshifting or in his original Martian form could render the Manhunter a null threat and end up with his losing any conflict.
Whilst Superman cannot shoot electricity unlike some other heroes, he could certainly use this weakness to his advantage to defeat J’onn.
Conclusion – Who Wins?
Whilst Superman does have more established weaknesses than J’onn he does also have greater powers. Equally, J’onn’s rather basic fear of fire means that Superman would not have necessarily use all of his strength to beat his friend in combat but merely start a fire.
This would render the Manhunter unable to defend him and the fight would quickly be over.
Even without fire Superman’s greater physical strength and ability to use a variety of his powers at once would likely make this a tough but not unwinnable fight for him.
Whilst the Martian Manhunter could win given the right circumstances, in nine out of ten scenarios the Man of Steel is triumphant.