Sculpture of a Wellsian Martian Tripod in the town of Woking.

As an adjective, the term martian is used to describe anything pertaining to the planet Mars.

However, a Martian is more usually a hypothetical or fictional native inhabitant of the planet Mars. Historically, life on Mars has often been hypothesized, although there is currently no solid evidence of life there at present. Some scientists have theorized that there is evidence of fossilized microbes in the meteorite ALH84001.[1][2]


History of the concept

The planet Mars

The idea of intelligent Martians was popularized by Percival Lowell[3] and in fiction, especially by Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter (Barsoom) Series, H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Despite the observation by Alfred Wallace that Mars' atmosphere was too thin to support an Earth-like ecology, various depictions of a Martian civilization were popular throughout the 20th century. The first pictures of Mars returned by space probes dashed hopes of contacting Martians, although claims of past Martian civilizations have continued into the 21st century (see Cydonia for one such claim).

Martians in fiction

Martians, other than human beings transplanted to Mars (as in the film Red Planet), became rare in fiction after the visit of the space probe Mariner 4 to Mars, except in exercises of deliberate nostalgia — most frequently in genres such as comics and animation rather than word-based works.

Literary Martians

  • The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells. The Martians are an ancient, advanced race with a tentacled, cephalopod-like appearance, who are invading Earth as their own planet is cooling down. They are slower in Earth's gravity. They cultivate a "red weed", which is what was giving Mars its red color and destroys Earth plant life. They invade Earth with huge tripedal "fighting machines" armed with "heat rays" and "black smoke" (a kind of poison gas), against which human armies of the time are helpless. They conquer London and much of England (and possibly other countries as well), use human beings as a source of nourishment, but are ultimately overcome by terrestrial microbes. At the end it is implied they then travelled to Venus.
  • Aelita (1923): Aelita, Queen of Mars, novel, written by Russian writer Alexey Tolstoy. The Martians live in class based society; their workers rise up against the ruling class but the revolution fails.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of books depicting his character John Carter on Mars. In his novels, he refers to Mars as Barsoom.
  • Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, a vast future history published in 1930 and spanning billions of years, includes a long and carefully worked-out account of several Martian invasions of Earth over a period of tens of thousands of years. Stapledon's Martians - sentient cloudlets composed of countless microscopic particles and capable of drifting across interplanetary space - are completely different from Wells', yet the book shows his influence and follows the general scheme of a drying and dying Mars and of Martians seeking the warmer and wetter Earth. Much later in the book, the humans themselves flee the dying Earth, invade and colonise Venus and exterminate its native intelligent species.
  • C. S. Lewis wrote, in Out of the Silent Planet, about three humans visiting Mars, and there meeting three different kinds of native intelligent creatures (sorns, (or séroni), hrossa, and pfifltriggi), as well as hunting hnakra and meeting the Oyarsa, or eldil in charge of this planet, called Malacandra in the Old Solar language. These Martians are dying out , but resign themselves to their fate. Unlike Earth, their planet is not corrupted and they live in harmony with each other, ruled by an Osarya, a being like an Angel, who bears similarities to the God Mars.
  • Raymond Z. Gallun's Seeds of the Dusk, published in 1938, shows the influence of both Wells and Stapledon, but with a special original twist. In this case the invasion is successful and it is the Itorloo, distant descendants of Mankind, who are exterminated by a plague microbe artificially produced by the invaders. But the Itorloo had been an arrogant race, extremely cruel to sentient bird and rodent races which shared the Earth of their time, while the new plant dominant species leaves these alone - so that the reader is left to conclude that, on balance, the change might be for the better.
  • In four stories by Eric Frank Russell published in the early 1940s and collected in the classic Men, Martians and Machines, humans together with very likable Martians are shipmates who go out together into interstellar space, and guard each other's back while encountering various other aliens. Not accidentally, Russell's humans included blacks as well as whites - quite unusual for the time. Russell's Martians are chess-loving octopoids, with tentacles extending down and out from a central head with large eyes. They can survive in Earth-normal air, but prefer to don low-pressure helmets for comfort.
  • Ray Bradbury's novel The Martian Chronicles depicts Martians as a refined and artistic race of golden-skinned beings who closely resemble humans. They are almost completely wiped out by the diseases brought to Mars by human invaders. On the other hand, Bradbury's short story The Concrete Mixer (1949) inverts the idea of a Martian invasion: the invaders are welcomed with open arms, and fall victim to a not overtly hostile but nonetheless deadly alien culture—that of Earth.
  • John Wyndham dealt with Martians in two short stories, Time to Rest (1949) and Dumb Martian (1952).
  • Fredric Brown wrote Martians, Go Home (1955), a spoof of Wells' Martian invasion concept.
  • Many "invasion of Earth" stories owe much to Wells, even when their invaders come from elsewhere in the cosmos. The derivation is especially clear in John Christopher's trilogy The Tripods (1967–1968), depicting boys born on an alien-occupied Earth and dedicating themselves to overthrowing the cruel invaders - who, like Wells' Martians, move about in huge three-legged machines, towering high above the countryside.
  • Larry Niven featured humanoid Martians with a primitive material culture inhabiting an environment of red dust and salpetric acid, most notably in Protector (novel) (1973), which also includes their genocide (by impacting an ice asteroid into their habitat). A copy of the Mars ecology is found on the Ringworld surface.
  • Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Martians (usually, human beings born and bred on Mars) as characters in his novels and short stories, including:
    • Red Planet (novel) (1949). Humans have colonized the planet Mars along the model of the British East India Company; two prep-school students discover a Company plot to suppress the colonists, and enlist the native Martians' help.
    • Double Star (1956). The issue of giving Martians the vote becomes a central issue in Earth politics, and the hero eventually overcomes both his own deep-rooted anti-Martian prejudice and the entrenched political power of the bigots and helps enfranchise the downtrodden Martians (publication of this book coincided with the early Civil Rights Movement of the Blacks in the US South).
    • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). An Earthman raised on Mars returns to Earth and creates chaos.
  • In D. F. Jones's 1977 novel Colossus and the Crab, Martian life predated life on Earth, but faced a process of devolution as conditions on the planet worsened. The surviving life is two vast intellects who are the moons Phobos and Deimos.

Film, television, and radio Martians

Monument commemorating where the martians "landed" in West Windsor, New Jersey
  • The October 30, 1938, radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds was the cause of much confusion when it was aired, with some people believing an actual Martian invasion was taking place.
  • Looney Tunes – Included the cartoon character Marvin the Martian (1948-), a comic foil to Warner Bros. mainstays Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in several animated shorts. He attempts to blow up the Earth as it 'obscures his view of Venus'. Later he appears as the Martian Commander in Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 century.
  • Red Planet Mars (1952) - Scientist Peter Graves contacts Martians by radio, they respond by preaching Christianity and thus Communism is defeated.
  • The Twilight Zone - Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? has Martians attempting to colonize Earth. A humanoid Martian appears with three arms. However the colonization is prevented by Venusians.
  • Invaders from Mars (1953) – A film, remade in 1986.
  • Phineas and Ferb - Phineas and Ferb build a portal to Mars in which they found, alongside Candace, green aliens that have musical instrumental body parts.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (1958–1959) - A British television serial in which a crashed spacecraft is discovered in London, which reveals that humanity on Earth is the result of experiments by a Martian civilisation, now long dead. It was remade as a film in 1967.
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians - a 1964 film that regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made.
  • My Favorite Martian (1963–1966) – A television comedy series and film.
  • Doctor Who - Includes a race native to the planet Mars known as the Ice Warriors, whose planet is dying out. Mars also was the location of a water-borne virus known as the Flood, which appeared in the 2009 Doctor Who Autumn special titled "The Waters of Mars".
  • Futurama (1999–2003, 2007-) – A television series set in the 31st century. In the episode Where the Buggalo Roam Martians are depicted as Native Americans, saying their ancestors sold their planet to the Wongs for a single bead, revealed to be a giant diamond. At the end of the episode they leave Mars as their own planet is 'a dump', planning to buy a new planet.
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967–1968) – The Martians at war with Earth are the Mysterons — an invisible race of superbeings hell-bent on revenge after an unprovoked attack on their Martian city by Captain Black, a Spectrum agent investigating strange alien signals.
  • Spaced Invaders (1990) – A sci-fi comedy in which dim-witted Martians attempt to invade a small Illinois town during a re-broadcast of Orson Welles 1938 "War of the Worlds".
  • Total Recall (1990) - A science fiction action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, where the plot concerns an apparently unsophisticated construction worker who turns out to be a freedom fighter from Mars who has been relocated to Earth. He later learns of an alien artifact proving life had previously existed on Mars.
  • Biker Mice from Mars (1993–1996, 2006–present) – A cartoon series about three Martian Mice who crash-land on Earth after their ship is attacked by their enemies, the fish-like Plutarkians. The Mice—leader Throttle, gentle-giant Modo, and wild-mouse Vinnie—decide to remain on Earth to fight the evil Plutarkian Lawerence Limburger, who threatens Chicago. and then the villainous Catationains in the 2006 revival series.
  • Mars Attacks! (1996), – A satirical film directed by Tim Burton, based on the equally satirical Topps trading card series Mars Attacks (1962); see below in other media). Unlike typical fictional martians, they have to wear glass-like helmets to breathe on Earth. One of the martians, dressed as an eerily beautiful woman, chews a stick of nitrogen-based chewing gum so it could both survive and deter suspicion in its disguise.
  • Mission to Mars (2000), - Martian(s) are shown as tall, feminine and very peaceful humanoids who abandoned their planet after a large meteor struck. However, one of their ships dispatched life forms onto Earth, which at that time contained no life. So they are shown in the film as ancestors of mankind.
  • Ghosts of Mars (2001), Humans battle Martians for life on Mars.
  • Martian Child (2007), - A child named Dennis, who is abandoned by his parents, thinks he is a Martian. He is adopted and the man who adopted him goes through the woes of making the child "come back to Earth".
  • Mars Needs Moms (2011) The men martians have been banished from the planet by the females. They are shown to have flat rounded heads, no noses, and large backsides.

Martians in comics

  • In the DC Comics universe, the Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz) (1955) is a superhero and member of the Justice League. In at least some variations, he is believed to be the last of his race, the peaceful Green Martians. His species has a fear of fire, and has super strength, telepathy, and shape-shifting powers, which allows J'onn to take human form. Other DC creations include Miss Martian and the White Martians, the enemy of Green Martians. The White Martians still exist, although the Green Martians imprisoned them in another dimension. Some Martians colonised Saturn, the Red Saturnians are descended from the Green Martians, and the White Saturnians from the White Martians.
  • In the Adventures of Superman story "Black Magic on Mars" from issue #62 (January 1950), Martians led by the dictator Martler, an admirer of Hitler, appear. With Orson Welles' help, Superman stops them from blitzing the Solar System. After Martler is exiled to an uninhabited asteroid, the Martians show that they prefer peace. These Martians are short, grey skinned, and have domed heads.
  • In the future world of Marvel Comics' Killraven (1973-), the Martian Masters who orchestrated the invasion in The War of the Worlds returned to Earth a century later and conquered it; they were overthrown by rebels led by the psychic human Jonathan Raven, alias Killraven.
  • Mr. Martian of Big Bang Comics is an exile from Mars.
  • In Marvel Family #36 Mars is shown to be inhabited by a warlike treacherous race that resseamble 1940s military dictators. They join the Invaders from Infinity (see List of Captain Marvel (DC Comics) enemies) after being defeated, and try to help them destroy the solar system, but are defeated and set back to Mars while the Invaders are imprisoned and destroyed.
  • In Wonder Woman Pre-crisis comics Mars is the base of Mars, god of war (see Ares (DC Comics)). Souls of warriors from other planets work there, and it is also the base of the Duke of Deception.

Martians in video games

  • In the video game Radical Dreamers, the main villain appears as a giant, lime-green, Martian octopus in one scenario. Other references to Mars are made throughout this scenario.
  • In the Metal Slug series, the Mars People are very similar to the ones described by H.G. Wells (though they are more reminiscent of squids as tall as a short, non-achondroplasic human, than giant tripodal war machines) and are constantly trying to conquer Earth. They also make fun of science fiction movies and strange phenomenon.
  • In the turned-based tactics game X-COM: UFO Defense the alien invaders use Mars as a base of operations in which to launch UFO attacks on Earth.
  • LucasArts/Konami video game: "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" in some levels appear martians as big Green Brained humanoids carrying a Bubble Gun also a Martian Space Ship appear; several Levels have names of 80's B-movies like: "Martians GO Home!", "The Day of the earth ran away", "Martians need Cheerleadears"
  • In the video game Stalin vs. Martians (2009), you play the leader of the Soviet Union taking charge of defending the Earth from invading Martians.
  • In the computer game Airburst: A Martian named BCM who is a playable character in the AirBurst series. He can be seen somewhere in the UK game developer website of Freeverse software, Strange Flavour ltd.
  • Doom 3 features Martians as an ancient extinct race of people. Over the course of the game, the player discovers the Martians, using teleportation technology, had accidentally opened a portal to Hell, ushering in a demonic invasion of the planet.

Martians in other media

  • The 1962 trading card series Mars Attacks (no exclamation point, unlike the 1996 film based on it) depicts an invasion of Earth by hideous, skeletal Martians. They are divided into warlike Gnards and more peaceful and intellectual Paecs.
  • The Misfits have various songs related to Martians, e.g. "Teenagers from Mars" and "I Turned Into a Martian".
  • Lil Wayne often refers to himself as a martian.
  • Lil B made a based freestyle titled "Like a Martian".

See also


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