Very often we see DC Comics change the Justice League’s history, typically by redoing the team’s founders’ line-up. When the Justice League of America debuted in The Brave and the Bold #28, it didn’t have Superman and Batman. They were later added as founding members and then again removed in Justice League of America: Year One, as a section of the Post-Crisis continuity. Then in 2011, The New 52 once again reshaped things, replacing Martian Manhunter with Cyborg as a founding member. That’s the shape the team maintained – until now.
While Christopher Priest has been writing Justice League only since the last four issues, but, he has already set about to make a huge change to the team’s origins, and although nobody directly accepted it, still J’onn J’onzz has been missing since Rebirth started in 2016. However, he has finally reappeared in Justice League #37 (created by Christopher Priest and Phillippe Briones), albeit as a flashback.
The part four of “The People Vs. The Justice League, arc, the earlier issue’s fraudulent Batman is shown to be a Justice League fan who wishes to “help” them by murdering their enemies. Just when he gets ready to pretend being Green Lantern, he told a captive Simon Baz about how he had interacted with the Justice League during his childhood. As per the story, he had once seen them fight the Shaggy Man, and the team comprised of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)… and the Martian Manhunter.
Although his name didn’t really figure out in dialogue, it is obvious that he was a member of the team and Cyborg wasn’t. This is not the only hint about Martian Manhunter being involved with the Justice League, but, it is the first time that he is seen in the thick of things.
The Flash #21, which was a part of “The Button” crossover with Batman, shows Barry Allen visit a Watchtower to access the Cosmic Treadmill. In the tower, he goes into a room full of the team’s historical artifacts, including the Martian Manhunter’s costume. Although there has never been given any details about how he was involved with the Justice League, it is proven there that he was certainly associated with them at some point, probably in a major enough manner that his costume became a part of their cherished historical artifacts.
Priest also gave hints towards the newly refurbished Justice League past of J’onn in Justice League #35, where the bounty hunter Glenn Gammeron talked about Martian Manhunter, with whom he had earlier worked in Justice League Task Force in the early 90s. Batman told him that J’onn J’onzz hadn’t been seen in a long time. Therefore, you never know if Priest is planning to write another untold story about the character.
How would it impact Cyborg?
The premise that Martian Manhunter was a founding member of the Justice League is absolutely contrary to the earlier origin story of the team as revealed in the first six issues of the 2011 comic created by Geoff Johns. Back then, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg had set up the team to battle Darkseid during his first invasion of Earth. The arc was utilized to narrate Vic Stone’s origins and has been the source material for the Justice League film, which also shows Cyborg to be its member.
In case, they reintroduce the Martian Manhunter as a founding member of Justice League, then when was it that Vic Stone became Cyborg? His origin story has been particularly linked to the setting up of Justice League, and if they show him as a late entrant, then it will change things greatly. We must also remember that New 52 and Rebirth are based in the same continuity, but, with some changes. If the League gets a different history now, then Priest and team must be ready to explain it.