Stopping the transmission on the Magic Sphere, J’onn J’onzz faced his friends to explain himself.
“Green Arrow, you know that eons ago the Oans created a robotic police force known as the Manhunters in order to bring justice to the universe. Their creations originally had a most noble purpose. However, a flaw in their programming led them to become corrupt. They began to seek personal power, and they classified anyone who disagreed with their tactics as criminals to be hunted and eliminated. The Guardians of Oa stopped their attempted revolt and replaced them with more human agents like our ally Hal Jordan and his predecessors in the Green Lantern Corps. However, the Manhunter cult had also inspired human followers across all of the cosmos. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “No Man Escapes the Manhunter,” Justice League of America #140 (March, 1977) and “No World Escapes the Manhunters,” Justice League of America #141 (April, 1977).]
“On Mars, Martians embraced their creed and worked in secrecy to achieve their goals. It was one such group that I eagerly joined as an idealistic youth! None of my own immediate allies were androids, nor did we call ourselves Manhunters, but it was that failed ancient Oan experiment that inspired the founding of the group generations before my own time! It was those Martian Manhunters, if you’ll allow the term, who ended all crime on Mars, and it was exactly such a group that I joined and swore loyalty to at the time. Remember, this was long before any of us learned that there were still remnants of the robotic Manhunter cult in existence around the universe.”
Nubia averted her gaze as she said, “While I deplore skulking in shadows, I can see nothing wrong with what J’onn has done so far. I would hear more about your past, beloved!”
J’onn smiled at her faith in him, and with a moment’s concentration he resumed the mental broadcast to the Magic Sphere.
“You will have already noticed that our secret group was comprised of members of all Martian races,” J’onn explained. “Green, yellow, and white Martians were all welcome. You will likely recognize one such white Martian in particular!”
The scene depicted the future Commander Blanx as his deathly pale visage loomed into view, and he dominated one of the secret meetings with fiery rhetoric.
“The Mars of today is weak!” he shouted. “Our society has lost any motivation to develop the martial skills that would rightly allow us to rule the universe once Project Star Ride is a success! Without crime to fight, we have lost any challenge! Our group banded together with high ideas, but little purpose! We must take over Mars and teach the rest of our people to shake off their lethargy!”
The others shouted him down, and J’onn saw himself as one of the dissenting group.
“None of us took him seriously,” J’onn said in the present. “He was a capable leader of our citizen militia from the white-skinned polar dwellers, but he was a radical. He had warped our creed, and like those ancient androids, he thought anyone who opposed him should be hunted down and purged from Mars! I did not think — could not even guess — that one day Blanx would become the scourge of Mars! How could I have known his radical ideas would eventually infect much of the militia, and he would rise to power on a campaign of bloodshed and promise of conquest?”
Batman nodded and said, “Continue, J’onn. We’d all like to hear more.”
As J’onn recalled a different event in his past, his memories were displayed upon the Magic Sphere’s screen, the veracity of the images guaranteed by the power of the magic lasso.
The scene shifted to Professor Mark S. Erdel’s lab near Middletown. The elderly scientist stared in wide-eyed shock as his Robot-Brain accidentally teleported J’onn J’onzz to Earth.
“Dr. Erdel meant no harm,” said J’onn. “His scientific experiment had wrought something beyond his ability to remedy. I had been plucked from my family home to your world, and there was nothing anyone could do to alter that, since Erdel died from the shock moments later! I assumed a human form, and after traveling the world to learn more about your planet, I returned to Middletown and began my life as a police detective named John Jones in 1955! As you know, I used my Martian powers to fight crime while posing as a normal man. I never appeared in public in my true Martian form in those days because aliens were only a source of fear and paranoia back then, even after Superboy was revealed to be Kryptonian back in 1958!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Day of the Alien Scoop,” The New Adventures of Superboy #12 (December, 1980).]
J’onn turned to face Nubia in particular as he continued speaking. “Nubia, earlier today you almost saw through the first lie I told my friends when you mentioned my exile,” he said. She nodded at him but turned away as he continued. “In truth, there was no exile, and no Martian civil war, either. I was still living happily with my family at the time Dr. Erdel’s device brought me to Earth! I fabricated the story about the war and my supposed exile to justify why Blanx sought me out when he arrived on Earth, as well as to explain why I did not allow you to help me return to Mars after I first met you all, and you defeated Blanx years ago!”
“Yeah, I know the story you told them,” said Green Arrow. “I saw it when I was shown your recording on that case years after you’d left Earth, and I started having questions about exactly when and how the Justice League was formed. I guess that recording was a pack of lies, too!”
“Not exactly,” replied J’onn. “During my time on Earth I did indeed pass up a few opportunities to return home, because circumstances dictated that it was necessary for me to do so. For example, I managed to communicate with my family at one point, and even helped them solve a crime that occurred on Mars, but solar emissions disrupted that means of communication! (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Great Earth-Mars Mystery,” Detective Comics #235 (September, 1956).]
“The civil war on Mars was merely a convenient fiction. Life had continued as normal without me, except that crime had returned to my world shortly before I was taken away. I was eager to return home, and there was no exile or political ban that would have kept me away. I simply could not return, because I was needed here at various times or because I lacked the technology to do so. It took me years just to repair the Robot-Brain that Erdel used to bring me here. It was smashed by a criminal at one point, and stolen at another. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Escape to the Stars,” Detective Comics #228 (February, 1956) and “The Lost Identity,” Detective Comics #271 (September, 1959).]
“Once, a rogue Martian criminal arrived here by accident. I could have used the method he used to get here to return home, but that would have meant that I had left a dangerous criminal from Mars loose on this world. I could not do that, so I sent him back, and stayed here. (*) My brother T’omm was brought here by accident when I tried to operate the repaired machine. I had no choice, as I could not use the machine except for a one-way trip. I used it to help my brother get back home, and again I remained here! (*) The settings needed to perform such a successful transfer had to be reset, and that took many months! Meanwhile, unknown to me, my people had developed Project Star Ride, and the first intentional arrivals here turned out to be Blanx and his followers!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Thief Who Had Super-Powers,” Detective Comics #231 (May, 1956) and “J’onn J’onzz’s Kid Brother,” Detective Comics #287 (January, 1961).]
The Magic Sphere showed J’onn J’onzz twenty years after he had first arrived on Earth. He was standing before Commander Blanx and several other polar dweller white Martians.
“My friends,” continued J’onn, “I kept the existence of the Red Brotherhood and my membership in it a secret from you all when we first met, but the first lie I ever told you occurred when I described who Blanx was, and what occurred when he and his followers found me on Earth! Blanx did not come to kill me, at least at first. Instead, he offered me an alliance, since we had both been members of the Red Brotherhood! During our discussion, he also disclosed to me that there were similar groups secretly based on Earth as well! From the way he spoke, I could see that he was more insane than ever before! In his eyes, anyone who disagreed with him was weak, and thus evil!
“I even discovered that Commander Blanx was the man responsible for the return of crime on Mars, as over the years some of his followers had begun committing crimes in order to create the impression that a strong government was needed once more in order to crush the crime wave! I refused his offer, and everything else occurred as I originally told you! I was captured, and if several of you had not banded together to both free me and defeat Blanx, I might have died that day!”
The Magic Sphere showed Superman, Batman, Robin, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, along with a young Hal Jordan standing over captive white Martians. The scene was well known to all of them, since it was a much-celebrated origin moment for what would later become the Justice League of America. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Origin of the Justice League, Minus One,” Justice League of America #144 (July, 1977).]
Superman turned to him and said, “J’onn, after we defeated the Martians whom you described as radicals and your enemies, I offered to fly you home. You refused, explaining that Mars was lost to you, and evil had won there! That never rang true to me, since I came to know that, had that truly happened, you would have been the first to risk your life to restore the Mars you used to know. You would certainly have never left your family to face an evil regime alone!”
J’onn nodded sadly as he said, “You are correct. The truth was that I could not return home until I had investigated Blanx’s claim that there were other similar secret societies here on Earth, nor could I tell you about such groups or my membership in one. Thus I lied and claimed to be staying here because Mars had become tainted to me. Years passed, even as I secretly searched for the subversive radicals Blanx had mentioned. By that time I had made my Martian identity known to the public and with pride even helped to found the JLA with many of you. I have never been prouder of any association. I bitterly lamented ever joining any society that had produced even a few maniacs like Commander Blanx and his fellow criminals! I often longed to tell you as I worked side by side with you as a team or in small groups. Green Arrow, when you, Speedy, and I battled the Capsule Master, or later when you and I fought Carthan, I relished our friendship, and I now offer you my apologies for the deceptions I told you all! (*) May you someday forgive me!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Wanted: The Capsule Master,” The Brave and the Bold #50 (October-November, 1963) and The Brave and the Bold: Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter: Times Past, 1976: The Devil You Know.]
Green Arrow nodded and said, “Forget it. You had your reasons. As far as I’m concerned, you and I are all right, ‘Uncle Martin’!”
Humbled by his words, J’onn smiled and said, “Thank you, my friend. Anyway, I did finally manage to track down the group Blanx had mentioned. They were a secret criminal organization known as Vulture! As soon as I defeated these Earthlings who shared the goals the Red Brotherhood espoused, I knew I could finally return home! By this time I had already repaired the Robot-Brain and could transport myself to Mars with little difficulty, as I did during the Capsule Master case. However, upon my return to my homeworld, I swiftly learned that Commander Blanx had attracted enough followers to acquire and tap into the Blue Flame itself, for reasons unknown to me at the time.
“This weird natural power source flamed out of control and destroyed most of my homeworld! While many of you joined me there and helped me to defeat Blanx, the damage had already been done. My world was ruined, and I soon left you all to find and help those few Martians who had already fled to escape from the wild power Blanx had let loose!” (*)
[Editor’s note: See “And So My World Ends,” Justice League of America #71 (May, 1969).]
Batman spoke up. “You justified your sudden return to Mars by claiming that you were free to return at that time because a thirteen-year-long exile that had been imposed upon you during a civil war had expired! Now I see that you really remained here until you had dealt with the remnants of that Earth-based group inspired by the Red Brotherhood!”
“Yes,” said J’onn. “Though I must point out that I’d left the matter of the ‘thirteen years’ quite vague at the time. In fact, these were not thirteen Earth years, but thirteen Martian years, which are nearly twice as long as those on Earth.”
“J’onn,” said Nubia quietly. “I do not — cannot — respect lies, since they are the craven weapon of those who follow the war god, such as the Duke of Deception. Still, I have pledged my love to you, and still trust and love you now.”
Superman glanced at the others and said, “She speaks for us all. You are one of us. We understand why you felt the need to lie about your past!”
J’onn J’onzz lowered his gaze for a moment, clearly moved by their support. “I thank you all!” he replied. “It does feel good to be free of such secrets once and for all! It has been a great burden for far too long. As for the claims made by C’yk Eda, I thought the last remnants of such madness had been dealt with long ago, during the Earth-Mars War, when the Marshal led his own Red Brotherhood faction to take over New Mars and invade Earth! If another part of that secret society has arisen here, then I pledge myself to find and defeat it!”
“We will help you,” vowed Nubia. “You are not alone in this battle, as you once were. This is our fight as well!”
Captain Comet strode forward and said, “J’onn, you’ve certainly satisfied all my concerns. The Marshal claimed that there were Martians here on Earth, and that, unlike the more open attacks he and his followers made in the recent past, this splinter group — this Red Brotherhood — had carefully and systematically abducted and taken the place of normal citizens all around the world! These sleeper agents have been placed here for some purpose, but he didn’t know when or how they planned to strike! He was a very bitter man!”
Stepping away from the Magic Sphere, J’onn replied, “I suppose we should be thankful that his spite led him to warn us of this new madness! I will not allow the Red Brotherhood to destroy Earth the way Blanx did my homeworld!”
“I have an idea,” said Hawkman. “I can use the Absorbascon to search for them! As you know, it allows the user to access all planetary knowledge, but it is also like being given a library in which none of the books are in any order. It takes a long time for the user to draw forth any particular needed fact. I can spend some time doing just that, though. Unless the Martians have developed a sophisticated mental screening process, perhaps I can locate something about their plans!”
Green Arrow nodded and said, “In the meantime, the rest of us can do our own investigating — in our own ways!”
“Oliver, I appreciate your support,” said J’onn.
Green Arrow smiled. “Sheesh, J’onn. When we teamed up against Vulkor years ago, he used some alien science to turn me against you. You didn’t hold that against me then, and I won’t be blaming you for falling in with the wrong crowd when you were a young Martian! It can happen to the best of us. After all, I used to hang around with businessmen!”
“What are our plans?” asked Nubia. “I’m not about to leave your side until we find these villains!”
“I think it is time for me to return home,” said J’onn. “If this group did originate on Mars, then a visit to New Mars and my people might be the place to start. While I wasn’t welcome there after the Marshal’s first attack, I have faith that my people have long since come to regret their warlike actions. In spite of a few radical groups, the Martian people are normally peaceable!”
“J’onn, Nubia, I started this whole thing,” said Captain Comet. “May I join you? I’d like to do my part to help out.”
Nodding his head, J’onn shook Comet’s hand. “We would be glad to have you by our side. If your information leads us to stop another senseless act of violence by some of my people, we will be once more in your debt. As it is, you’ve indirectly enabled me to rid myself of a shame I’d carried for far too long!”
Elsewhere, a Martian in purple armor turned to several other aliens. A few were fellow Martians, but several came from other planets.
“Our spy at the prison has confirmed that our secret has been exposed,” he said. “The Earth heroes will be on their guard. I think it is time to initiate our long-desired attack!”
The aliens each raised their voices in agreement, while one yellow-hued Martian made plans of his own.