There is one character in the DC Universe who has been a part of almost every incarnation of the Justice League: the Martian Manhunter. However, despite his long history, he has seldom had his own title and remains, mostly, an undeveloped charcter. Just the thing that's perfect for Cartoon Network's "Justice League" cartoon.
J'onn J'onzz is the last survivor of an ancient Martian race. He is a telepath who can use his uncanny shape-shifting abilities to adapt and blend into any situation. By altering his physical density, he can also become immaterial and pass through solid objects. As an outside observer, J'onzz is fascinated by contradictions of the human race. When he secretly walks among us, he is overwhelmed by the conflict between intellect and emotion he senses within every one of us. Often, it is too much for his alien mind to absorb, so he retreats to the orbiting Justice League Watchtower, where he spends most of his time. Although he is the heart of the Justice League, no one in the universe is more alone than J'onn J'onzz.
Personally responsible for the formation of the Justice League in the new cartoon, J'onn is finally playing with the big boys. He wasn't on any of the "Super Friends" cartoons and even in the comicbooks he's a fairly blank slate. But now, voiced by Carl Lumbly of "Alias" fame (and if you're not watching "Alias," what's wrong with you?), J'onn is developing a personality.
The figure of J'onn released with the first Justice League series was, like all six figures, decent but mostly unimpressive. He came with no accessories other than a generic display base and a lenticular motion card. The second, four-figure series of JL toys comes with "Attack Armor" that fits onto the figure. In addition to the ubiquitous Batman and Superman, the line features a really nice Green Lantern and our second figure of J'onn.
Usually depicted as having powers almost on par with those of Superman, J'onn has been powered down for the cartoon. He's not as strong, and he doesn't have Martian heat vision. His mental powers and shapeshifting abilities are intact, and he can still change his density to phase through solid objects. The writers have also played down his fear of fire, making it less like his version of Kryptonite and more of a general threat.
Attack Armor Martian Manhunter is the first JL character to get a second mold. While Superman, Batman and GL were just reused bodies from the first series, J'onn has been adj'usted. Showing J'onn in his native alien form, the figure is slender and pointy, with odd alien anatomy sculpted in the style of Bruce Timm's drawings. There is a really distracting dry-brushed yellow on his torso and upper arms that doesn't serve much purpose (it's not duplicating anything from the cartoon) other than to show why Mattel usually avoids paint techniques like this.
The Martian's "Attack Armor" is quite clever: designed to mimic his shapeshifting abilities, the armor is molded from Series 1's Martian Manhunter body. The "armor" is made from soft rubber and fits over the figure's torso and arms. Complete with red straps and a dark blue cape, it allows you to change your toy from one shape to the other easily. Like Green Lantern's energy aura, it does prevent movement in the areas it covers, which means that J'onn goes from having the Big Five to moving only at the hips.
The Martian Manhunter's head (his normal head, not the pointy alien one) doesn't really look like the version on the cartoon, which is an odd departure for the animated-style toys. Much larger and blockier than what we see in Timm's design, this head sculpt is really the low point of both Martian Manhunter figures. Fortunately, the alien head of this particular version looks just like it should (save for the yellow splotches).
At 5 1/2" tall, the Martian Manhunter is a bit larger than the rest of the Justice League line, but I don't know if that's because J'onn is an alien or if Mattel just had problems with the mold.
The rubber "armor" torso has the unintended side-effect of re-creating another of J'onn's powers: his ability to turn intangible and phase through solid objects. Since the waist and arms end at nearly the same point, you can make it look as if J'onn is rising through your toy shelf to attack an enemy. His cape hangs down lower than the rest of the "armor," but that can't be helped. It still looks pretty cool.
Mattel is coming closer to putting out a really good animated DC figure, even if they're still wrestling with their case assortment problems. Of course, after the Keldor/Batman debacle at the summer cons, just being able to find the toys is a nice change.
Will Mattel ever wise up? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.