Why Was Martian Manhunter Replaced by Cyborg as a Justice League Founder?

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies DC
Movies DC

That’s the question on everyone’s lips as we approach the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie. Why WAS Martian Manhunter replaced by Cyborg as a Justice League founder? Cyborg’s establishment as a founding member isn’t new for this upcoming movie. Back in 2011 when DC Comics overhauled its entire comic-book line, it introduced Cyborg as one of the Justice League’s founding seven, alongside Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Superman and the Green Lantern.

This was carried over into the 2016 ‘Rebirth’ relaunch; and took place at the expense of Martian Manhunter, who at the same time was written out. So why did this happen? There are a number of reasons:

Because Diversity

DC Comics were keen to bring themselves up to date and reflect contemporary culture. It wasn’t really okay that there were no people of colour in the Justice League — and no, aliens don’t count. Step forward, Cyborg — also known as Victor Stone. Formerly a college football player, Stone was transformed following a tragic accident that saw him benefit from experimental technology. Half man and half machine, his body parts were replaced with cybernetic tech, turning him into a formidable metahuman. This was done by his father, the brilliant scientist Silas Stone.

He’s Human

The original founding seven line-up consisted of two aliens — Superman and Martian Manhunter — plus Amazonian demigod Wonder Woman, and Atlantean ruler of the seas, Aquaman. That’s four out of seven that aren’t properly human. And with Green Lantern absent from this outing, that would leave just Batman and the ridiculously overpowered The Flash representing the human contingent.

Cyborg’s addition evens up the human presence in the movie, and gives audiences a character they can identify with. Victor Stone, cybernetic enhancements aside, is a pretty regular guy — one who has lost his dreams of football success and a regular life to become a superhero. That definitely wasn’t in his plans. We can certainly sympathise with his plight. He’s also young, of course, which resonates with younger audiences — fairly critical to the success of superhero movies.

Martian Manhunter is Too Much Like Superman

Martian Manhunter
Martian Manhunter: are his powers too samey?

Martian Manhunter may have been central to the Justice League for nearly 50 years but the truth is, he shares a similar backstory to Superman. He’s the only survivor of an alien race, who comes to Earth from another planet and adopts it as his home, and humans as his family. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Similarities like this can be particularly problematic for a movie franchise, especially if the characters are on the same side and share screen time.

They even have similar powers. Super strength, super speed, super hearing as well as flight, heat vision and mind control powers are all in both characters’ wheelhouses. Wonder Woman shares some of the same powers too, plus there are some obvious crossovers with The Flash. It makes sense, then, to switch things up and bring something a little different to the team in the form of Cyborg. He’s basically a living computer, plus his weapons offer the team the ability to mount range attacks. Something that will most likely come in handy against villains like SteppenwolfDarkseid and an army of Parademons.

The Influence of Animated TV Incarnations

Cyborg was a part of the Super Friends cartoon, whereas Martian Manhunter wasn’t. The animated series ran from 1973 to 1986 and was based on the Justice League characters. The long-running show was extremely popular.

But not only did Cyborg feature in the old Hanna-Barbera series, he was also a main character in Teen Titans, which premiered back in 2003. This cartoon series was aimed at children, and Cyborg underlined his screen popularity here. The character was given bags of personality in the series, and introduced the vast majority of this young audience to the character for the first time. Many of these early fans will now be of an age where they’re looking forward to seeing the character on the big screen, battling it out with the big boys. Cyborg, we welcome you.

Justice League hits screens in the UK from November 16 and in the US on November 17.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.