This article is the second half of a large entry, about H.G. Wells’ Martians and their direct equivalents.
So you should read the first half of the article first.
History (part 2)
For many years, the administrative Martian “cherubs” worked to devise a method of exploring the near planets. They eventually came up the Crystal Egg. Dozens of these were launched into space over many years, in hopes of sprinkling the path of their Morning-Star (Earth) with enough that would fall as meteors.
At least one appears to have survived. It fell into the hands of one Mr. Cave. Little information could be gleaned from Cave’s egg, though. He regularly secreted it away or wrapped it in velvet so that he could use it to peer back to its source in private.
Another experiment—possibly directly involving an egg—seems to have attempted to use the human eye in place of a Crystal Egg. Here, a Mr. Davidson was somehow altered and gained clairvoyance.
Alas, such appears to have been unidirectional, sacrificed his native sight, and was only usable at a consistent range of several thousand miles. No more and no less.
Thus, the project was abandoned, and Davidson’s sight slowly returned.
For years, the Earth, unwitting, was so-watched with both organic and crystalline instruments for many years, as the Martians observed and planned, and finally built.
Embedded in a dormant Martian volcano, a cannon was constructed, penetrating deep beneath the planet’s surface. Projectiles were loaded, compressed hydrogen gas was inserted into the lower portion of the tube.
And thus the fledgling Martian space program, not entirely unlike that envisioned by Jules Verne for Earth’s , was underway.
Near midnight on 1894 July 12, with Mars seen near opposition with Earth, for ten consecutive nights, the Martians launched a series of manned projectiles toward Earth, ready for invasion, from a hydrogen-powered cannon at several hundred thousand miles per hour.
After the tenth, Mars fell silent.
Again, the reason is unknown. The cannon may have been damaged or damaged the environment; the few projectiles may have represented a full evacuation of the dwindling population. Or even reasons entirely alien may have been involved.
Two months later, against all odds, the first cylinder landed on the common between Horsell, Ottershaw, and Woking.
Woking was very nearly destroyed when a delegation of humans—thinking the Martians to be vastly inferior and barely able to move themselves—approached their landing site. The Martians vaporized the men with their Heat-Ray, and then let loose on the approaching crowds and surrounding town.
Then, at peace for a moment, they were able to get to work and prepare for the arrival of their fellows.
Each night thereafter, near midnight, for a total of ten nights, a green flare shot across the sky and landed mere miles apart from each other. And, from there, invincible and without mercy, the Martians cut a path of chaos and destruction across England. From Woking, to Weybridge, and on through London to Mortlake and beyond.
The military had little to no effect on the monstrosities. They only superficially damaged one, and destroyed another, before being routed.
Those humans found by the Martians and seeming to be good meals (by comparison to the old race of Martians) were harvested, and the rest killed.
Those who could escape evacuated the country. Though some stragglers roamed what was left of the British countryside.
Some of the refugees were, in fact, pursued, handing the Martians their only clear defeat. Wading into the waters around London, the sole warship in sight, the H.M.S. Thunder Child engaged the approaching tripod. Foregoing firing of ineffective weapons, the Thunder Child rammed and destroyed two of the Martian walkers.
It was damaged, but moving for the third Martian when the narrator’s brother (our witness to the event) lost sight of the battle due to distance and spreading Black Smoke. While the final fate of the Thunder Child is unknown, it is known that this is the only clear victory humanity would see for quite some time.
And then, perhaps three weeks into the Martians’ campaign, it ended.
Where humanity could not defend its sphere, the trillions of mindless bacteria and virii managed to take hold. Having at home no use for, and so lacking an immune system, the Martians proved quite susceptible to infections of every sort, beginning with the putrefying agents.
Literally overnight, the invaders transformed from indestructible monsters to mobile piles of rotting meat and finally to alien corpses. Through no fault of their own, humanity was saved. Moreover, the attack from without brought humanity close together.
While many sources describe the Martian transit to Earth as six years, this is a misinterpretation of the narrator’s opening comments (“The storm burst upon us six years ago now”).
While it is conceivable that the entire war was meant to have occurred two years after the book’s publication (that is, in 1900), the narrator consistently cites the distance to Mars as 40 million miles (or thereabouts). He also claims that the Martians in transit were “drawing nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles.”
Even at a “mere” 10,000 miles per minute (which is 600,000 miles per hour) gives the Martians a travel time of around two months. Therefore, it is fairly clear that “six years ago” refers to the entirety of the Martian invasion.
This is consistent with the epilogue, where scientific advances gleaned from the Martian artifacts are briefly described.
It is granted that this interpretation is blatantly inconsistent with the publication date. That would be only three or four years—perhaps the story was not initially meant for release so soon. But a publication date for a science-fiction story hardly seems a useful discriminator when more concrete dates are actually contained within the text.
July, similarly, seems to be the date of launch. The opposition was mentioned in an early August report, and it was still summer when the Martians landed (seeming unseasonably warm, in fact, mid-September seems fair).
A quick glance at some astronomical charts shows that, conveniently, in two months, the Earth would be exactly where Mars had been in its orbit. Making it the shortest possible trip during the opposition.
The narrator tells us that, “Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance.” His own first glimpse of the aliens filled him with paralyzing dread and disgust, which would corroborate that statement.
The Martians’ bodies are billowy-looking affairs, generally round and about the size of a bear. Their skin tends toward an oily, greyish-brown leather, reminiscent of fungus growth.
Gorgon-like clusters of lank, swaying tentacles—each about the thickness of a sturdy walking stick—seat themselves to either side of the mouth.
At the front of the body, there appears a rounded head (the entire back of which appears to be a large tympanic membrane). Though with neither brow nor chin ridges, or any structure obviously corresponding to a neck, that term might be overly specific.
At the top of this structure, though, there are two huge, dark-colored disks, “at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled, and monstrous.”
The eyes are intense. Not only in their glare, but in their physical appearance, which seems to gather and reflect light, much as the eye of a cat does.
Beneath the eyes, quivers a v-shaped mouth. A pointed upper flap (for the word “lip” seems inappropriate) tucks into a wedge-shaped opening, dripping considerable volumes of saliva as it moves.
To the each side of the mouth are the aforementioned manipulative appendages, with sixteen tentacles divided into two symmetric bundles.
It is assumed (though never shown) that the Martian ingestive apparatus—a retractable bone tube—can be found either within or beneath the mouth.
On the topic of movement, it seems that this may be their most alien trait, judging from the narrator’s account.
In the oxygen-rich but higher-gravity environment of Earth, the creatures’ breathing is a laborious tumult, causing them to continuously pulsate, heave, and convulse.
Every clumsy, deliberate movement masks none of the obvious pain caused by moving in the heavier gravity. It causes movement to appear slow and tedious. Even their far-lighter appendages can frequently do little more than sway or hang.
Those encountered in The War of the Worlds have all the personality of any movie monster. Crush, kill, destroy. Though they also tend toward humiliation and defeat of opposition, for no really obvious reason.
They are passionless, cold, and calculating, their equivalent to our limbic systems being one of the many features they have discarded in evolution. Apparently needing no sleep, they also work continuously, never resting for more than a moment. And even then, seeming to rest with a specific purpose.
Their apparent true motives are to feed on human blood. They would almost certainly have been planning “ranches” of the most productive humans they acquired.
More Martians, part 1
Not two years after the invasion of Earth, flashes were seen once again on the surface of Mars, presumably heralding another invasion. The governments of the world, on the brink of despair, charged scientist Thomas Alva Edison with forming resistive technologies.
Edison surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations, and Earth decided to bring the war to Mars. The Martians found in this venture, however, were passionately evil, giant hominids. Thet were ultimately destroyed by flooding their planet.
Given the massive inconsistencies with the original, Edison’s Conquest of Mars is being more or less discarded for the purposes of this writeup. Granted, it is theoretically possible that the Martians in Serviss’s story are merely stronger members of the “old” Martian(hominid) race, but even this seems unlikely.
(This story is typical of a genre we now call “edisonades ” — Ed.).
Mercury Theater Martians
In 1938, Howard Koch adapted “The War of the Worlds” as a radio drama. It was aired by affiliates of WCBS’s Mercury Theater on the Air on Halloween of that year (and set exactly one year in the future), starring and directed by Orson Welles.
Those Martians were nearly identical, but with some key differences.
In particular, their cylinders traveled much faster. They covered the forty million miles in about one hour. That’s about 35 APs of speed, which probably would’ve destroyed the Earth, just from the shockwave of the crashes, not to mention Mars.
They also sent many more cylinders across the entire planet, apparently anywhere between one and three to every major city.
Once on Earth, they manifested the Walkers (which were three times the size of those in the original story) almost immediately.
They seem to have succumbed to disease in only a few days.
The portion of the forces nearest New York began near Princeton, moving northward to meet a second trio of Walkers, one of which was destroyed (the only one hit, in fact). The remaining five knocked over skyscrapers in Newark (they might, thus, require a STR Attribute of closer to 8 APs), then walked onto Manhattan.
After frightening away or killing the populace with Black Smoke, they fell ill and died there.
Except for the repeat of their sudden death, it is conceivable that this more extensive invasion was a literal second attempt at destroying humanity.
More Martians, continued
George Pal’s Martians
In 1953, the Martians attacked once more.
This time through, gone were the tripods. They brought cobra-like spaceships with defensive shielding, and used these to run roughshod over Earth’s populace. Only when stepping outside of their vehicles to inspect their new prize, did they discover their folly, quickly succumbing to Earth-bound germs.
Almost overnight (again), they died, crashing their ships wherever they were hanging or flying.
Again, the differences are significant. But this could easily be cast as a third invasion force, with technology improving, but the cause of death of their predecessors still unknown.
Their flyers, for example, are similar in nature (if not in locomotion) to the tripods (replace Running with Flight, and add Sealed Systems: 25).
Followup to George Pal’s Martians
In 1988 (“War of the Worlds: The Second Invasion” television series), it was revealed that the Martians appearing in 1953 (see above) had not died. They instead went into a hibernative state. Their bodies were claimed by the United States government.
Eventually Fort Jericho, the base in which they were stored, was accidentally irradiated. This killed the germs the aliens carried. The creatures not only regain consciousness, but develop the ability to temporarily (due to radiation poisoning killing the host) take control of human bodies.
Starting with the terrorists who caused their awakening, the Martians use their human hosts to launch a genocidal war against an unsuspecting Earth.
Dr. Harrison Blackwood teams up with microbiologist Suzanne McCullough, computer programmer Norton Drake, and army Lt. Colonel Paul Ironhorse to save the world from this alien menace. They start with preventing the Martians from reclaiming their 30-year-old war-machines.
After this significant setback, the Martians move to recruitment. First, they look into reviving Martians captured in a failed attack on Canadian soil. They then move to recruiting humans that they can inhabit.
A brief foray into Grover’s Mill is made to attempt recovery of the ship used in the 1938 invasion (see above, the Mercury Theater version). The Martians at least temporarily recover a Heat Ray.
Followup to George Pal’s Martians (cont.)
After failing to claim files that would lead them to thousands of their buried and hidden brethren, they launch an all-out war on a mostly-unsuspecting humanity. They focus primarily on bioterrorism (viral releases and poisons), though nothing is ever ruled out.
Subliminal messages, nuclear bombs, and infiltration are all used. Defense is also built, as the aliens learn about immune systems and try to strengthen their positions, biologically and tactically.
In the second season, deadlier aliens from Morthrai arrive on Earth and execute their predecessors. Meanwhile, Blackwood and McCullough lose Ironhorse and Drake, but are joined by mercenary John Kincaid; They fight in a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland against a second wave of invaders dedicated to the death of all life on Earth.
Here, the fight becomes progressively more intense, with the cloning capabilities and psychic powers of the new invaders steadily coming to light. But an increasing number of good-natured aliens appear and help in Earth’s fight.
The Morthren are turned back when it is learned that their leader, Malzor, destroyed Morthrai and came to Earth in a complex scheme of revenge. When this information is passed to the Morthren, Malzor is killed and the aliens surrender.
These Martians seem to bear little resemblance to those described by Wells. And, in fact, Mars is not referred to during the series. However, they are close enough. And are certainly intended to be the 1938 and 1953 invaders.
These smaller aliens should be given Personality Transfer (Bonus: Does not leave body behind; Limitations: Requires physical contact; only works in the presence of at least 1 AP of radiation, modeled as Cell Rot with an Area Effect). And possibly a few APs of Shrinking (Always On).
They are lead by a triumvirate known as the Advocacy.
The humanoid Morthren, of course, are not even conceptually based on the Martians, and do not use Martian technology. So they will not be treated here.
Jeff Wayne’s Martians
In modern times or later, NASA launched a manned mission to Mars, the Bermuda. Not long after losing contact with two of the scout vehicles, this mission’s commander noted a green mist rising from a nearby valley. Soon after that, their transmission was cut short.
A century prior, though, the Martians were identical to those described by Wells (the musical is the same story, containing lengthy excerpts of the text). Except that they seem to be more fond of singing “Ulla, ulla.”
John Christopher’s Martians
While not (necessarily) from Mars, John Christopher (among the pseudonyms used by Samuel Youd) wrote the Tripod Trilogy. That’s The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire. He eventually added the prequel, When the Tripods Came.
Youd never intended these to be the Martians of Wells, but realized after the first installment’s publication how precariously close the two were.
The Tripods arrived in the present day. Unlike the Martians (or, perhaps, learning from the mistakes of their predecessors), the pilots of the Tripods apparently have:
- A working immune system (possibly through some sort of shapeshifting).
- A visual acuity more like a human’s (as they require searchlights to see in the dark).
- Something of an emotional being.
The Tripods they pilot, though, are dead ringers for the Martian devices.
When the BBC adapted and expanded the Tripods trilogy for a television miniseries, it was further influenced by Wells. They added a Heat-Ray, the hooting calls of the aliens, and so on.
In 2001, Pendragon Pictures announced yet another remake of The War of the Worlds. It was set in modern Seattle, but stayed close to Wells’s material. Though it was supposed to include ten-story-tall tripods.
With the attack on and destruction of the World Trade Center later that year, production was pushed back, and Pendragon’s production is being retooled to precisely retell Wells’s story, rather than update it.
Pendragon says on their website, “this new version will be an accurate adaptation of the Wells classic story placed in its original 1898 setting.” The new target date is 2005.
Tom Cruise’s Martians
Sigh. Paramount Pictures has recently won a court case brought by the Wells family in an effort to take back rights to film versions of The War of the Worlds, sold to them in 1951 (by Frank Wells).
They have announced work in conjunction with Tom Cruise’s C/W Productions and possibly director Steven Spielberg, though no details have been released.
DC Universe History
Clearly, these aren’t the DCU’s Martians, neither white nor green. However, they could be a race that arose after J’Onn’s race died off.
Or they could just as well be from a different planet.
On the other hand, there was a stretch of DC continuity when the DCU Martians weren’t from Mars at all. So there still might be some wiggle room, there.
Regardless, they could easily have harassed England at the end of the XIXth century, and perhaps just over a hundred years later, they’d like a rematch. Let’s hope they’ve improved their walkers, though. Since the model seen here could easily be taken out by a modern low-end tank, let alone a Justice Leaguer.
An alternate possibility is that, whether or not these were Martians were from Mars, they might have made planetfall in Scotland. The invasion, of course, was shorter-lived and less widespread than what Wells documented, and the British government was able to cover up the crisis, more or less.
I hate those guys
Decades later—in 1940, to be precise—the Nazis intended to infiltrate the compound where the Martian technology had been hidden. From there, they’d begin a full invasion of Britain using alien technology.
It is this plot which Alan “Green Lantern” Scott, Jay “Flash” Garrick, and Bruce “Batman” Wayne (or his Post-Crisis replacement) were sent to disrupt. Which in turn led to the formation of the Justice Society of America.
If desired, this allows for replacing the Valkyries with elite troops wielding Martian weapons. Gudra (who later joined Axis Amerika) would have been a German special agent wielding a small Heat-Ray and a flying Handling-Machine.
Doing this probably loses the “JSA fights Ragnorock” story. But since that wasn’t a very good idea to begin with, and subsequent retcons have only made it worse, that might not be the worst change ever made.
In a more ironic move, the no-wheel technology of the Martians could have been used by the Nazis to build the War Wheel. Commander Steel and especially Robotman (whose brain could be said to “pilot” a mechanical body) might also have their origins rooted in salvaged Martian technology.
It is, perhaps, also noteworthy that DC had an Elseworlds adaptation by Roy Thomas of The War of the Worlds.
There, the 1938 Martian invasion (from the radio play) caused Clark Kent to reveal himself as Superman. There are some annoying contrivances (dragging in Luthor, for example, which reads like it stemmed from editorial edict), but overall, it’s a good read.
For the purposes of that story, this writeup—particularly the Heat-Ray—may need enhancements, depending on the tactics used by the Martians (chiefly, frequency of Team Attacks), and also the GM’s idea of the Golden Age Superman’s BODY Attribute. Our numbers will work very well if Kent has a BODY of 7-8 APs, but will need revision for other ranges.
Also in DC’s non-continuity appearances is the Justice League’s animated series. While clearly not the Martians which Wells wrote about, the alien creatures shown in “Secret Origins,” the pilot, indeed used vehicles not unlike the Martian tripods.
See our Killraven profile.
Source of Character: The War of the Worlds, The Crystal Egg, and The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes by H.G. Wells; Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Words (I swear I’m not making it up—check it out on Amazon or something) was also used, but it’s not much more than an abridged version of Wells with disco-ish background music.
Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Morgan Champion, Roy Cowan, Phil Dixon, Eric Eick, David Johnston, William Peterson.