Friday, April 10, 2009

Famous First Fridays: The Human Target

Christopher Chance, the Human Target has to be one of the most successful back-up characters to ever grace the comicbook page. Though he appeared in only sixteen solo strips during the Groovy Age, he's been rewarded with many guest appearances, mini-series, and series--not to mention a TV show starring Rick Springfield--and another TV show currently in development for FOX, in the decades since his debut.

The Human Target's origins are as interesting as his comicbook adventures. Y'see, way back in 1968, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman cooked up a character called Jonny Double, a detective who was also a master of disguise. For reasons seemingly lost in the mists of the ages, by the time Jonny Double saw the light of day (Showcase #78, August 1968), Wein was no longer part of the creative team and the master of disguise part of the character was dropped. Jonny Double had become just another down-on-his-luck gumshoe with a name that no longer made sense.

By 1972, Action Comics editor Julie Schwartz was casting about for a new back-up strip. He wanted something different, something that would hopefully draw fans who thought Superman too staid and boring to spend their pocket change on Action. Len Wein, hot from his co-creation of the Swamp Thing and publisher Carmine Infantino dusted off the original Jonny Double premise and came up with the first adventure of Christopher Chance, the Human Target for Action Comics #419 (September 1972). While it didn't draw a whole lot of fans to Action Comics as Schwartz had hoped, something about a "hero" who was in it for the money--not to mention brave and/or crazy enough to disguise himself as someone about to be murdered--did strike a chord with many fans. The Human Target became one of those "cult" hits that never sets the world on fire, but is never fully extinguished, either. The strip ran as a back-up in Action Comics for just over a year--ten issues (Action #'s 419-420, 422-423, 425-426, 429, and 432) before disappearing for nearly half a decade. Chance returned as a back-up in Brave and the Bold for two issues #s 143-144 (June-August 1978) from where it was quickly bounced due to the infamous DC Implosion which forced DC to cut the back-up features from most of its comics. Evidently there were several Human Target episodes completed before news came down that it would be canceled, and those strips showed up in various issues of Detective Comics beginning with issue #483 (January 1979), and running in issues 484, 486, and 493.

One last neat bit of trivia before we get on with the comics: You'll notice Dick Giordano's name in the credits as inker on this debut story. Evidently Giordano really dug Christopher Chance as he penciled more Groovy Age Human Target strips than anyone else, and inked all but the last one (but he did pencil it)!

Okay, let's get on wit' da comics, already!

IMPORTANT NOTE: After completing this post, I learned of the tragedy that has recently hit Len Wein and his family. The Wein's home was badly damaged in a fire, and they lost a beloved pet, along with tons of personal items, comics, and pieces of irreplaceable comicbook art (including the cover to Giant-Size X-Men #1). As of this writing, fandom is awaiting the word on when, and how to help Len and his family during this time. Keep your eyes and ears open (Harlan Ellison's site looks to be the best place to do that), Groove-ophiles, and let's do what we can to help Len and his family!

1 comment:

  1. I had heard about the Len Wein fire, but did not realize he had lost so much — and I know losing a pet can be very difficult. Mr. Wein is certainly one of my all-time favorite comic writers....My prayers and best wishes to the Wein family . . .



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