I’m beginning my final week of teaching in the Johns Hopkins summer program, and here is my official unofficial researcher, John Wells, with EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know about Manhunters old and new?
Paul Kirk is the Manhunter. The Manhunter in the Power Company is a clone of Paul Kirk. Is the Manhunter from the old All-Star Squadron also Paul Kirk? What about the Manhunter from the last Manhunter ongoing series that DC canceled back in the 80s or 90s? Does the All-Star Squad even exist in current post-Crisis and Zero Hour DC continuity? Were all the Manhunters created by Archie Goodwin? What about the pre-GL Manhunters that the Guardians created? How do they fit into the Manhunter timeline?
– Adam (email@example.com)
The All-Star Squadron’s Paul “Manhunter” Kirk was the character who eventually fought the Council. And, yes, the All-Star Squadron still exists in current DC continuity, as seen in YOUNG ALL-STARS #1-31 and, more recently, comics like ALL-STAR COMICS 80-PAGE GIANT #1 and THE TITANS # 36.
No, Archie didn’t actually create any of the Manhunters though he and Walt Simonson revamped the Golden Age hero to such a degree that they made him their own. Archie had originally intended his character to be brand new with perhaps a civilian name including “Paul” or “Kirk.” Eventually, he and Walt decided to run with Paul Kirk and establish their hero as the same man who existed in the 1940s. Goodwin eventually edited the 1994-1995 incarnation of Manhunter, who was musician Chase Lawler.
Steve Englehart conceived the Guardians’ Manhunters in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #140-141 (1977) based on two recent stories — one involving Jack Kirby’s revamped Manhunter (a.k.a. Mark Shaw) and its ancient Manhunter cult in FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #5 (1975) and the other dealing with the revelation that the Guardians had experimented with other law-enforcers prior to forming the Green Lantern Corps in GREEN LANTERN #90 (1976).
Eventually, the complicated history of the Manhunters was laid out in 1987’s SECRET ORIGINS #23, as part of the Englehart-scripted MILLENNIUM event. These are the basics on the various Manhunters:
THE MANHUNTERS (re-created by Steve Englehart, based on the work of Jack Kirby) were blue and red uniformed androids, each armed with “a stun-gun and miniature battery” and designated by the Guardians of the Universe to fight evil on their behalf throughout “the most savage sectors of space.” (Even the Manhunters, according to GREEN LANTERN 80-PAGE GIANT # 3, were no match for the forces of Apokolips). Following a rebellion, the Manhunters were stripped of their power and exiled to their respective host-worlds. The androids remained obsessed with manhunting, eventually forming a cult with the rallying cry, “No man escapes the Manhunters!” (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #141) The Guardians, meanwhile, went on to form the Green Lantern Corps.
The Manhunters established a presence on Earth in 1066 A.D. and, under the guidance of their leader, the Grandmaster, “began to recruit sympathetic humans — sleeper agents — to do their bidding from behind the scenes.” In 1940, upon learning that an Earthman named Alan Scott had taken the guise of Green Lantern, the Manhunters began recruiting men who could function as costumed heroes and, unwittingly, function as their eyes in the burgeoning community of super-heroes, notably Dan Richards and Paul Kirk in late 1941 (neither of whom were aware of the Manhunters’ evil nature). In 1947, Molly Maynne was also recruited by the Grandmaster to fight Green Lantern as the Harlequin. Following Paul Kirk’s apparent demise, another man was tapped to replace him and, following his death, a young lawyer named Mark Shaw became the newest Manhunter (SECRET ORIGINS #22).
Eventually, the Manhunters launched an attack on Hal Jordan, the Guardians’ official Green Lantern on Earth, and were exposed by the Justice League (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #140-141). Learning that the Guardians were cultivating a new race of immortals on Earth, the Manhunters went into crisis mode, activating sleeper agents across the planet to frustrate the efforts to protect these so-called Chosen. In the ensuing series of battles with Earth’s super-heroes, the Grandmaster and most of the Manhunters were destroyed in assaults on their planetary base of Orinda and their inner-Earth sanctuary. The Chosen, despite the androids’ best efforts, were transformed into the New Guardians (MILLENNIUM # 1-8).
The Justice League and Green Lantern have each charted minor encounters with individual Manhunters in the recent past (THE FLASH [second series] #140 and GREEN LANTERN [third series] #117), Kyle Rayner discovered that one of the androids had gained sentience and replicated itself. Despite the destruction of this cell, pockets of Manhunters are still believed to exist (GREEN LANTERN [third series] #129-131).
PAUL KIRK, MANHUNTER (created by Ed Moore) was a regionally well-known private detective and “tracer of missing persons” who helped out Police Chief Tim Holden in an unnamed Georgia city in adventures chronicled over the course of late 1940 and 1941 (ADVENTURE COMICS #58-72).
[Paul Kirk was a manhunter only in the descriptive sense and was never actually referred to by that name. Despite the name, he’s not the same person as Simon & Kirby’s subsequent costumed Manhunter. A Paul Kirk story was reprinted in MILLENNIUM EDITION: ADVENTURE COMICS #61.]
MANHUNTER I (created by Tex Blaisdell and Alex Kotzky) was policeman Dan Richards though, strangely, referred to as Donald in his debut. In November of 1941, while seeking to clear the name of a fellow officer, he was approached by the Grandmaster to take a blue costume and fight crime on behalf of the Manhunters. Richards was also provided with a canine partner named Thor, who unbeknownst to him was an android through whom the Manhunters could monitor his activities (SECRET ORIGINS #22 and POLICE COMICS #8). Manhunter joined the All-Star Squadron on February 23, 1942 (ALL-STAR SQUADRON #31) and was later affiliated with the Freedom Fighters, as well (YOUNG ALL-STARS #2). After nearly a decade of adventures (POLICE COMICS #8-89, 91, 93-101), Dan finally abandoned his costumed alter-ego in 1950. Years later, after being wounded, Richards retired from the police force (SECRET ORIGINS #22).
Now married and the father of a daughter, Richards began writing crime novels (INFINITY, INC. #46). When Dan’s granddaughter, Marcie Cooper, was offered her a position with the Manhunters, her grandfather urged her to join (SECRET ORIGINS #22). As the new Harlequin, Cooper proved to be a ruthless agent and nearly killed her grandfather before being subdued (INFINITY, INC. #47). Dan was last seen at the wedding of Hector Hall and Lyta Trevor (INFINITY, INC. #51).
[In one of those crazy coincidences, the Quality Comics incarnation of Manhunter and the DC Comics incarnation of Manhunter hit the stands within a month of month of each other. Dan Richards debuted in POLICE #8 (March, 1942 — with an on-sale date of January 9) while the new Paul Kirk first appeared in ADVENTURE #73 (April, 1942 — on-sale date unknown).]
[In the pre-Crisis account of Dan Richards’ history (ALL-STAR SQUADRON #50), he left Earth-Two on April 1, 1942 to help the Freedom Fighters on Earth-X.]
[AC Comics reprinted the Dan Richards/Manhunter adventures from POLICE #10 and POLICE #20 in in MEN OF MYSTERY COMICS #22 and MEN OF MYSTERY COMICS #24, respectively.]
MANHUNTER II (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and significantly revamped by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson) was big game hunter Paul Kirk Returning to his native Empire City in early December of 1941, Kirk was needled by Inspector Donovan, who insisted that the thrills of an African safari couldn’t compare to the rush of a criminal manhunt. When Donovan was murdered by the Buzzard, Kirk felt compelled to avenge him and the Grandmaster obliged, provided him with the trademark red and blue costume (SECRET ORIGINS #22 and ADVENTURE COMICS #73). On February 23, 1942, Manhunter joined the All-Star Squadron and met the other Manhunter — Dan Richards — for the first time (ALL-STAR SQUADRON #31). In a joint meeting before the Grandmaster in May of that year, Kirk and Richards learned of their mutual origin (YOUNG ALL-STARS #8-9).
[Simon and Kirby originally named their hero Rick Nelson but an unknown editor decided to change it to Paul Kirk, effective with ADVENTURE COMICS #74, to create the illusion that the series was a continuation of “Paul Kirk, Manhunter.” Clearly, however, they couldn’t be the same man: the earlier Paul Kirk was a well-known lawman while the later version had never considered manhunting until Inspector Donovan’s death. The Manhunter stories from ADVENTURE #73-79 were reprinted in NEW GODS [first series] #4-9 and DETECTIVE COMICS #440, respectively. In the reprint of Manhunter’s origin, his name was altered from Rick Nelson to Paul Kirk in all but one overlooked panel.]
Paul Kirk continued to function in costume through the spring of 1944 (ADVENTURE COMICS #73-92), when he retired as Manhunter to become a government operative in Nazi-occupied Europe (DETECTIVE COMICS #439 and SECRET ORIGINS #22). Late in the war, hoping to curb the destructive impulses of the Tigress, Kirk resumed his Manhunter guise in Africa (THRILLING COMICS #1).
Seemingly killed in 1946, Kirk was recovered by the mysterious Council. In the ensuing decades, the scientific organization bred an army of clones from Paul Kirk’s cells while healing and genetically enhancing the original. The revived Kirk quickly realized that the Council was composed of fanatics and vowed to oppose them as Manhunter, now clad in a striking red, white and blue costume (DETECTIVE #439-440). In the end, Paul Kirk succeeded in destroying the Council at the cost of his own life (# 443). His allies, Interpol agent Christine St. Clair and martial arts expert Asano Nitobe, continued to seek out and kill all of the evil Manhunter clones (MANHUNTER: THE SPECIAL EDITION). Paul Kirk’s amazing story was later immortalized in St. Clair’s book, “Mask of the Manhunter” (MANHUNTER [second series] #1).
Despite Paul Kirk’s best efforts, the Council soon returned, now using clones of Golden-Age villain, the Sportsmaster, as their enforcers. Today, the organization’s central opponent is Nemesis, daughter of Dr. Anatol Mykros (JSA ANNUAL #1 and JSA SECRET FILES #2).
[As noted earlier, Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson virtually recreated Manhunter in DETECTIVE COMICS #437-443, giving him a striking new look (“an elaborate stylized variation on actual samurai garb,” in Goodwin’s words) and attitude. The complex narrative can’t be adequately recounted here but it’s a testament to its power that the story has been collected in three separate editions — 1979’s MANHUNTER: THE COMPLETE SAGA, 1984’s MANHUNTER (first series) #1 and 1999’s MANHUNTER: THE SPECIAL EDITION.]
[Two notable but non-canonical accounts involving Paul Kirk also exist. In one (SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #1-5), a benevolent clone of Manhunter joins the Secret Society of Super-Villains to oppose Darkseid — and dies in an attempt to kill him. In the other (THE GOLDEN AGE #1-4), Paul Kirk loses his memory for nearly five years after learning in 1945 of the Ultra-Humanite’s plot to impersonate the Americommando.]
COMING NEXT WEEK: More Manhunters!
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