- "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same... Yet, across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."
- ―H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
The Martians, as they are referred to, are a spacefaring extraterrestrial species which engaged in colonization efforts on planet Earth in the early 20th century. While the fact that they launched themselves from Mars is unquestionable, there have been doubts about whether that planet represents their actual homeworld. After the failure of their mission to populate Earth, the creatures redirected their efforts to Venus, with presumably successful results.
In the late 21st century, likely after conquering Venus, they turned back to Earth with much more advanced technology, and attempted to, once again, conquer it. This also failed, but they likely plan to conquer Earth once more.
The Martians are roughly bear-sized, land-based cephalopod-like creatures. Their bodies are massive and they appear to have no skeleton, and move by crawling around with their long whip-like tentacles.
The entire body of the Martian consists of head and tentacles, with the head being vastly inflated, with a pair of disproportionally large black eyes and a mouth shaped like the letter "V". A hearing membrane is located on the back of the head, but appears to be useless in Earth's comparatively thick atmosphere. The Martians, however, are still capable of communicating with each other thanks to their limited telepathic abilities.
Their appearance is rarely seen, though, as they are most usually found inside their huge tripods and other machines, which they control from within, using them like an artificial body.
Martians breathe oxygen and can take advantage of the increased abundance of this substance in Earth's atmosphere compared to that of Mars. To a certain point this counter-balances the negative effects that the increased gravitational pull of Earth has over their metabolism.
Most of the internal body of a Martian consists of its huge brain, which grants them with an advanced intellect. They have no digestive system whatsoever, and instead survive by transplanting the blood of other creatures directly inside their own veins, along with which come all the nutrients they need.
On Mars, the creatures take sustain by consuming the blood of a native humanoid life form with a fragile built and a silicon-based skeleton. When invading Earth they start to feed on Humans, for which they have as much consideration as Humans have for the non-sapient animals they hunt.
Some kind of ecological peculiarity has seemingly resulted in the Martian environment being completely free from infectious bacteria; which resulted in the Martian body having no immunological system and no other biological defenses against the germs.
Perhaps because of their over-simplified biology in regard to digestive process, Martians need no sleep and are also able to direct practically all of their energy to neurological processes.
An ancient species on a dying planet, the origins of the Martians are still shrouded in mystery. Their curious anatomy and physiology appears to be the result of an increased evolutionary tendency to continuously augment the brain and hands (or other manipulatory organs) at the expense of the remaining body systems; ultimately resulting in a cephalopod-like creature, almost nothing but head and fingers.
The question of whether this evolution was natural or artificial (or a combination of both) is disputed, however; as is the question of whether or not they are truly native to the planet Mars or were simply using it as a launching base to reach Earth.
Culture and society
It has been theorized that the Martians' asexual physiology, completely devoid of food processing, sleep and mating concerns; is what ultimately resulted in their complete lack of emotions as Humans commonly understand them.
They are, in many ways, a dark reflection of humanity itself, an image of what we may evolve into ourselves if we fail to live peacefully and sustainably. The Martians are extremely focused and productive creatures, for which work is practically the only concern, 24 hours a day, and they are extremely persistent in eliminating prey. They work fast in groups and appear to have limited telepathic abilities which could conceivably represent a very archaic form of hive mind. Additionally, they have a complete disregard for organisms whom are technologically inferior to themselves, perceiving them as food or pests, laying waste to them without a pang of remorse. In fact, it is not too far-fetched to speculate that this lack of respect for other species could well be the reason their original planet is so barren: they used-up their own resources without thinking about the consequences. In fact, while they eliminated all deadly viruses on their homeworld, they had failed to defend themselves from Earth's diseases. For all their technological mastery, they had detached themselves from the natural world, and underestimated the power of nature, ultimately meaning their invasion on Earth was a failure.
The Martian weapons are referred to as heat rays and are able to disintegrate by heat everything in a range of several meters. They also make use of the so-called Black Smoke, a dense substance which kills instantly if inhaled but which is rendered harmless in water. Despite being a gas, the smoke is so heavy it behaves almost like a liquid and remains mostly on ground level, thus posing no threat to the Martians standing on their tall tripod machines. One peculiarity of the Martian technology is that they appear to have never developed wheels, since all of their vehicles are based on mechanical limbs instead. Alternatively, they may have utilized wheels in the past, and newer technology rendered them obsolete.
The most iconic Martian technology is their tall fighting machines, better known as tripods. The tripods resemble water towers on three tall, stilt like legs. Two thick steel tentacles jut out from the sides of the machines, behind the "eyes" of the water tower. These primary limbs are used to operate the aforementioned heat ray, and are not used for much else, except for firing black smoke shells. At the back of the body a mass of lanky whip like tentacles rest by a mesh basket used for collecting Human specimens, whose ultimate fate is consumption. These small tentacles are used for grasping life forms on the ground, and placing them in said basket. The fighting machines stand at around 100 feet tall, as they easily stand over the crest line. The machines, when hit, spew a ruddy brown fluid, which is speculated to be either fuel or body fluid, possibly blood. It is even possible that it may be both, as Martians may use blood as a fuel source as well.
The three lesser known machines are the flying machine, which was never used due to the mass death of the Martians, a handling machine, resembling a five legged spider with tentacles, and a machine used for expanding Martian pits.
- The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells (1898 novel) (First appearance)
- The War of the Worlds (1938 radio adaptation)
- Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds, by Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman (1975 novel)
- Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds (1978 album)
- The War of the Worlds: Next Century (1981 Polish film)
- War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches (1996 anthology)
- Rainbow Mars, by Larry Niven (1999 collection)
- Superman: War of the Worlds, by Roy Thomas (1999 comic book)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. II, by Alan Moore (2002 comic book)
- H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (Pendragon Pictures' 2005 film)
- H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds (Asylum Entertainment's 2005 film)
- The Martian War, by Kevin J. Anderson (2006 novel)
- War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008 film)
- War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012 animated film)
- War of the Worlds: The True Story (2012 Pendragon Pictures' mockumentary)
- The Great Martian War 1913-1917 (2013 mockumentary series)
- War of the Worlds (BBC 2019 TV series)
Since their original appearance in H. G. Wells' science fiction novel The War of the Worlds (which is often considered as the foremost example of the "alien invasion" subgenre) the Martians have been portrayed quite differently in subsequent works of fiction by a myriad of authors. The idea that the The War of the Worlds invaders are not actually native to planet Mars is very often used in these works.
TV and movie adaptations
The species featured in the 1953 theatrical movie adaptation of the novel; in the 2005 movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg and in the Asylum movies H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds and War of the Worlds II: The Next Wave are all highly different from each other and from Wells' original description, especially when it comes to physical appearance. Of all movie adaptations, perhaps only the one produced by Pendragon Pictures depicts the Martians and the overall story faithfully to the source material. With the exception of the Pendragon Pictures film, all movie adaptations have transferred the Martian invasion from the original late 19th, early 20th century England to a modern or contemporary setting and none have specifically depicted the invaders as being original to Mars (the idea of native civilizations originating on Mars was met with increasing skepticism starting in the 1950s and ceased to be taken seriously by the late 20th century; Mars is now generally regarded as an outpost or base for invaders from another star system). The 1953 movie in particular was followed by a TV series which expanded upon the origins of the invaders, a race apparently native to the Pleiades Cluster and named Mor-Taxans; which might in fact be acting under the influence of another, unseen superior power.
Wells' Martians have been present in the DC multiverse as well. Superman has famously battled them in Superman: War of the Worlds, where no mention is made of DC's traditional Martians (the Martian Manhunter's race). In Secret Origins, the three-part pilot episode of the Justice League animated series, a similar species is seen named the Imperium, which have invaded Mars and fought a war with the natives prior to their invasion to Earth. Their physical appearance bears no similarity to H. G. Wells' Martians though.
Wells' creatures were also featured in the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which they are once again invaders to the red planet, this time fighting against Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoomians before directing their attack forces to Earth. To the Barsoomians, they are known as "Mollusk Invaders" or simply "Mollusks".
Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds, by Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman; retells the original story from the point of view of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous characters of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Professor Challenger. In this book it is stated that Wells himself has purposely distorted some facts about the Martian invaders, which as Professor Challenger deduces are not in fact native to Mars. In the end of the book, Challenger manages to communicate and establish more peaceful relationships with the creatures, now living on Venus; and learns that they are mostly nomadic travelers which move from system to system. He and Holmes also deduce that the Martians have probably gone through artificial genetic enhancing to achieve their current form and that their primordial form was probably similar to some degree to the tripod machines they use.
The anthology War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches by Kevin J. Anderson also gives accounts of the Martian invasion as experienced by a number of historical figures, real and fictional; some stories in this collection have also linked the Martians from Wells' fiction with other well known fictional aliens such as H. P. Lovecraft's creations (in "To Mars and Providence" by Don Webb) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom inhabitants (in "Mars: The Home Front" by George Alec Effinger). Anderson later went on to write the similar novel The Martian War, also featuring Wells' own Selenites from The First Men on the Moon as a species which has been conquered by the Martians. Both Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds and The Martian War present a huge contrast with the original novel in which humans are no longer depicted as completely helpless against the Martians, but instead manage to offer a respectable and resourceful resistance to the invaders.
The aforementioned "Mars: The Home Front" story is notable for creating the name Sarmaks, which has since become a popular way to refer to Wells' creatures, especially by Edgar Rice Burroughs enthusiasts as well as in the Wold Newton universe.
In Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars collection, they are known by the name Softfingers and are one of several famous Martian species from different works of fiction to be featured as inhabitants of the red planet.