Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Secret Origins: Goodwin and Simonson's Manhunter

DC Comics has had a habit of giving us new superheroes with old names. They've been doing it for a loooooong time (Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Hawkman, etc.) and have kept up the practice to this very day (Robin, Blue Beetle, most of the JSA). Most of the time, they keep the name and toss out everything else. It's rare when an "old name" is spruced up with the original character intact. One of those times, though, one of the very best, was when writer/editor Archie Goodwin and artist Walt Simonson pulled Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Manhunter out of the mothballs in Detective Comics #437 (August, 1973).

Paul Kirk, Manhunter was actually a pretty obscure character, enjoying a twenty issue run in Adventure Comics back during the early 1940s. When, in 1971/72 DC went to a double-sized, twenty-five cent, one-new-story-plus-a-reprint-back-up format for all their comics, Kirby (or one of his assistants) decided to reprint Manhunter in the pages of the New Gods. The stories caught Goodwin's eye and imagination, so when he was trying to come up with a back-up strip for Batman in his Detective Comics run, he chose to update Paul Kirk.

Goodwin was a wise editor. Not only did he choose a great character to work with, but he also chose a magnificent new collaborator in Walter Simonson. The two of them created a character and storyline that became legendary. And here, you lucky Groove-ophile you, is Goodwin and Simonson's astounding origin of Manhunter (minus the extraneous parts that would only distract you). From Detective Comics #439 (October, 1973), here's "The Resurrection of Paul Kirk"!

3 comments:

  1. I always enjoyed their take on Manhunter. I almost had Simonson do a Manhunter sketch in my sketchbook when I met him but decided on Batman instead. My buddy got Manhunter however and it was beautiful. Those Detective issues were some of the best things DC put out in the early 70's.

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  2. Cathedral Perilous is probably my favorite 7-page story that does not feature the Spirit. Terrific series, with Gotterdammerung being one of the best Batman teamups ever.

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  3. I especially love the continuity Simonson had with the Simon & Kirby Manhunter. Looking at that image at the top of page 2, it perfectly captures the Simon % Kirby style.

    I was annoyed in the otherwise fantastic 1984 collected MANHUNTER reprint that the colors messed up this image. For this reason, I prefer to re-read these in the original DETECTIVE COMICS issues.
    There was so much labor and attention to detail in this Manhunter run that I've frequently pulled it out to re-read over the last 45 years or so.
    Along with great runs like Wein/Wrightson SWAMP THING, Kirby's 1970's DC canon of work, O'Neil/Adams DETECTIVE and BATMAN, McGregor/Russell AMAZING ADVENTURES/KILLRAVEN series, Starlin's 1970's WARLOCK series, Neal Adams' STRANGE ADVENTURES/Deadman run, and Levitz/Giffen's run in LEGION 385-306.

    There are some series that resonate the first time you read them, that are so good you can enjoy them again and aagain. This is one of them.

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