As you read this, I’ve just arrived home after six weeks of teaching (with lots of happy memories and a large pile of dirty laundry) with a column deadline looming. Thankfully, my official unofficial researcher, John Wells, needed extra space for his thoroughly researched history of the Manhunters, giving me a breather. Hey, John, how good are you at doing laundry?
Picking up where we left off last week in our look at DC’s multiple Manhunters:
MANHUNTER III (created by Jack Kirby) was a man of unknown origins who served the alien Manhunters in the decades following Paul Kirk’s disappearance. After years of heroic service, he was nearly killed at the hands of the Chopper and chose to retire. This incarnation of Manhunter was succeeded by public defender Mark Shaw (FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #5) but his subsequent activities are unknown.
[It seems evident that Jack Kirby, unfamiliar with the recent Goodwin-Simonson mini-series, intended the aged Manhunter to be Paul Kirk, something which was now impossible.]
MANHUNTER IV (created by Jack Kirby) was lawyer Mark David Shaw. Months after assuming his costumed alter ego (FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #5), he was confronted with the evil nature of the Manhunters and abandoned his costume (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #141) for the new alias of the Privateer (#143). In fact, Shaw remained a pawn of the Manhunters and was ultimately exposed and jailed by the Justice League (#150).
The repentant Mark Shaw briefly resumed his Privateer alias and joined the Suicide Squad in their efforts to defeat the Manhunters (SUICIDE SQUAD [first series] #8-9). Now based in New York City, Shaw retained a loose alliance with the Squad and readopted the Manhunter alias (with a redesigned — but still red and blue — costume) in his new role as a bounty hunter of costumed criminals (MANHUNTER [second series] #1). In the wake of a devastating attack by Dumas (#18-23), Shaw retired his costume once more (# 24) and appeared to have been killed during a strike on Eclipso (ECLIPSO #13).
In fact, Shaw had taken Dumas’ identity as his own, acting as a double-agent for the government’s Sarge Steel. Unbeknownst to Shaw, Steel also arranged for a surrogate Manhunter to be sent on the suicide mission against Eclipso. Horrified, Shaw cut his ties with the government. Months later, Shaw was unwittingly bonded with the Wild Huntsman and found the mantle of Manhunter thrust upon him once more (MANHUNTER [third series] #12). His present whereabouts are unknown.
[Though created by Jack Kirby and nurtured by Steve Englehart, Mark Shaw owes much of his popularity to his solo series’ writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale and to initial artist Doug Rice, who created an impressive costume influenced by both Kirby and Simonson.]
MANHUNTER V (created by Steven Grant and Vince Giarrano) was Star City musician Chase Lawler. Hoping to save his girlfriend Brenna Kampen from ruthless music agents, Lawler invoked the ancient being known as the Wild Huntsman but, having done so, had a change of heart and attempted to oppose the entity. The encounter caused a bond to form between the two and Lawler gained an uncanny — and unwanted — tracking ability (MANHUNTER [third series] #0). His head and chest concealed by a white mask, the new Manhunter also had a red vest and blue leggings as part of his costume.
After Lawler suffered cardiac arrest while in battle, his bond with the Wild Huntsman was broken and the spirit found a new host in the man who’d performed CPR on Chase Lawler — former Manhunter Mark Shaw. Unaware that he’d lost his powers, the Star City government subsequently offered Lawler a $5000 per month settlement if he agreed never to resume his Manhunter identity again (MANHUNTER [third series] #12).
MANHUNTER VI (created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Grummett) was a mysterious female assassin clad in a body suit that protected others from the genetically engineered disease she carried. She launched a succession of assaults on the war criminals whom she blamed for her condition and was joined by a robotic dog called Pooch. Manhunter eventually (and reluctantly) became part of the heroes known as the Secret Six (TANGENT COMICS/SECRET SIX #1). Also seen in TANGENT COMICS/JLA #1 and TANGENT COMICS/TRIALS OF THE FLASH #1, Manhunter is not part of mainstream DC continuity.
MANHUNTER VII (re-created by Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett, based on the work of Simon & Kirby and Goodwin & Simonson) is mercenary Kirk de Paul. He was one of the clones engineered by the Council but broke away during a skirmish with the real Paul Kirk (immediately prior to DETECTIVE COMICS #439) and spent the next several years as a mercenary in Africa. Clad in a black and white variation of Paul Kirk’s samurai outfit, Manhunter eventually crossed paths with a costumed hero — Nightwing (THE POWER COMPANY: MANHUNTER #1) — and was subsequently approached by Josiah Power to become a partner in his new metahuman security firm, the Power Company (JLA #61; THE POWER COMPANY #1-on). His presence in the high-profile agency immediately attracted the attention of Christine St. Clair and Asano Nitobe (THE POWER COMPANY #2, #4), who recently confronted Kirk de Paul (THE POWER COMPANY #5).
“MANHUNTER 2070” (created by Mike Sekowsky) will be a bounty hunter named Starker. In 2053, after discovering a rich vein of didanium in an asteroid mining expedition, the teenage Starker watched space pirates murder his father and was taken as a galley slave. Seizing an opportunity, Starker took control of the vessel, captured the pirates and unexpectedly received a bounty in excess of two million credits (SHOWCASE #92). Despite the financial windfall that provided him with a luxurious home and lifestyle, Starker decided to actively pursue a career as a bounty hunter and, over the next seventeen years, he acquired numerous enemies, most notably the Brotherhood of Space (SHOWCASE #90-93). He was aided in his cases by Arky, a robotic butler/computer, who maintained records on all known criminals. When last seen, Starker had been knocked unconscious on the planet Zodan and was helpless before approaching cavemen (SHOWCASE #93).
[Like the original Paul Kirk, Starker was never actually referred to as Manhunter. Though he was only cover-featured in SHOWCASE #91-93, “Manhunter 2070” made its debut in a three page vignette at the end of issue #90. 1990’s apparently no-longer-canonical TWILIGHT mini-series gave Starker the first name of John and claimed that he was the older brother of Silver Age hero Star Hawkins. In TWILIGHT #3, Starker was merged with Hawkins’ robot, Ilda, and perished in an assault on the demented Tommy Tomorrow.]
MORE FROM THE MAILBOX:
The Martians built Z’onn Z’orr in Antarctica a long time ago. How long ago was that and when did they leave?
According to 1997’s JLA #4 and 1999’s MARTIAN MANHUNTER #4, it took place “millennia ago ? long before there was human life” on Earth. Z’onn Z’orr was essentially a genetics laboratory that the White Martians intended to use to use to create a race of super-beings but they “snapped one too many DNA chains and the creatures that should have been gods ended up just ? humans.” MARTIAN MANHUNTER #4 explained this was actually part of a larger race war between the Green and White Martians. For their crimes against nature on Earth, the White Martians were condemned to the Still Zone, eventually escaping as the Hyperclan in JLA #1-4.
Could you give me a complete list of DC’s Dollar Comics?
Ah, yes, Dollar Comics, those throwbacks to the Golden Age when comic books were thick and had half-a-dozen or more stories in a given issue. Except, of course, that they only cost a dime back then. When Jenette Kahn took over as DC’s publisher in 1976, the average comic book contained only seventeen pages of story for 35?. Nearly half of each issue was filled with advertising and editorial content. Kahn’s initial response was 1977’s line of Dollar Comics. In terms of content, a Dollar Comic gave readers approximately the story pages of four 35? comic books for the price of three. From the retailer perspective, the Dollar Comic represented a greater profit than the standard 35? issues.
And just to make sure nobody missed them, the books were a quarter-inch taller than other comics and had a distinctive trade dress.
The first two conversions to the format — HOUSE OF MYSTERY and SUPERMAN FAMILY — hit the stands shortly before Christmas in 1976 and the other two expanded titles — G.I. COMBAT and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS — debuted in January of 1977. Sales on these — and several summer specials with the umbrella title of DC SPECIAL SERIES — paid off well enough to justify an expansion of the line in 1978. THE BATMAN FAMILY joined the fold in January and, at the dawn of the line-expanding DC Explosion in June, ADVENTURE COMICS came aboard. One of the perks of the Explosion was the complete elimination of advertising in the Dollar Comics and the addition of wraparound covers. They lost the quarter-inch height advantage, though.
The DC Explosion, sadly, became an implosion almost immediately and, within a year, the ads were back and the page count had shrunk. In 1980, DC made its second attempt at a line expansion and this time it clicked. The Dollar Comics were ad-free again by the end of the year. The downside: the story content was nearly twenty pages less than it had been in 1977. SUPERMAN FAMILY and WORLD’S FINEST hung on until the summer of 1982 before returning to the standard 32-page format (the former converted to THE DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL). Dollar Comics lived on only through G.I. COMBAT and DC’s ANNUAL program. And they came to an end in the fall of 1983.
When G.I. COMBAT #260 went on sale September, the retail was $1.25. The great experiment had ended.
Here’s the complete 1977-1983 line-up:
- Action Comics # 500
- Adventure Comics #459-466
- All-Out War #1-6
- All-Star Squadron Annual #1-2
- Batman Annual #8
- Batman Family #17-20
- DC Comics Presents Annual #1-2
- DC Special Series #1 (5-Star Super-Hero Spectacular), 5 (Superman Spectacular), 9 (Wonder Woman Spectacular), 11 (Flash Spectacular), 13 (Sgt. Rock Spectacular), 15 (Batman Spectacular), 16 (Jonah Hex Spectacular), 17 (Original Swamp Thing Saga), 20 (Original Swamp Thing Saga), 21 (DC Super-Star Holiday Special), 22 (G.I. Combat)
- Detective Comics #481-495
- The Flash #300
- G. I. Combat #201-259
- Green Lantern #150
- House of Mystery #251-259
- Justice League of America Annual #1
- Legion of Super-Heroes #294
- Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1-2
- The New Teen Titans Annual #1-2
- The Saga of Swamp Thing Annual #1
- Sgt. Rock Annual #2-3
- Superman Annual #9
- Superman Family #182-222
- The Superman Movie Special #1
- Superman Special #1
- Time Warp #1-5
- Unexpected #189-195
- Warlord Annual #1-2
- World’s Finest #244-282
That wraps up John’s excellent set up fill-in columns. Join us here next week for more answers to your questions (and maybe more than a few anecdotes about my adventures in teaching).
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