DC’s the Human Target (part 2)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

Continuing the stories starring the Human Target as the back-up feature in Action Comics! Read part one here!

Action 423

Action Comics #423. April 1973.

“The Deadly Dancer Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Christopher Chance poses as a man named Hyram Walsh, an accountant informing on the mob, to draw out a hitman named Dancer – that man who killed his father. He knocks out two thugs trying to collect the price on Walsh’s head and leaves them in an alleyway. Tracking the killer down to an abandoned movie theater, Chance confronts Dancer. It is an intensely physical struggle, with a single gun between them. After a number of exchanged blows, Chance grabs the weapon. Chance points the gun at his assassin and reveals his true identity. Before he can kill him, Chance watches decades of mental illness finally catch up with Dancer. The man descends into madness before Chance’s very eyes, and he begs and pleads Chance to spare his life.  The killer by now has completely snapped and begins hallucinating – seeing his father. Christopher takes pity on the villain, and stays to comfort him until an ambulance arrives to take him away.

***

Action Comics 425, July 1973

“The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract! Part 1”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler: Neal Adams

Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Let’s let Christopher Chance describe this issue: “It started as a favor for a friend, for Luigi, my landlord, whose cousin, Antonio, had wagered his half-share of a circus that he could walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls … only someone was trying to make sure he didn’t live that long. Easily, Luigi convinced me to impersonate his cousin … . Luigi tucked the real Antonio away as I became a reasonable facsimile … now I was the would-be killer’s intended victim … and it di not take him very long to strike! But surviving that kind of “accident” is what I do for a living. Within seconds, Id regained my feet, then pursued my unknown attacker across the silent circus grounds, around a blind corner, and ran straight into the tunnel-like muzzle of an angry gun … held by … Antonio!” (from the splash of Action Comics #426.

***

Action 426

Action Comics 426, August 1973

“The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract! Part 2”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

How Antonio came out of hiding and ended up confronting Chance was never explained, but Chance deduced Antonio was NOT the killer he had been chasing (he was not winded, etc., and must have happened between Chance and the killer he was chasing) and Chance subdued him and convinced him to stay hidden until his killer is flushed out. Antonio agreed.

Chance, as Antonio, was half-way across Niagara Falls as the tightrope snapped! Suspended in mid-air Chance flew down to the crowd and knocked out his assistant – his partner Martin in disguise. Chance revealed he was suspended by wires from the news helicopter -hence his “flying” when the tightwire broke.

Chance was betting his partner wanted it to be an accident as opposed to a sniper shooting at him. If Martin had used a rifle, even Chance admits he might not have lived through it!

***

Action Comics 429, November 1973

“The Rodeo Riddle Contract”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Someone is trying to kill rodeo star Rick Ryan. Chance ducks attempts on “his” life – by a thrown branding iron and a bucking bronco while keeping tabs on three suspects. Chance corners the three hoping one of them would snap. He did! Chance chases down the would-be killer and hog-ties the varmint. But he wasn’t supposed to kill Ryan – just scare him into marrying his girlfriend – so says his girlfriend in a twist confession!

***

Action_Comics_432

Action Comics 432, February 1974

“The Million Dollar Methuselah Contract”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wikia: Christopher Chance is hired by millionaire oilman Henderson Repp, who suspects his nephew is trying to kill him.

While riding a motorcycle through an oil field, disguised as Repp, Chance is attacked by an unknown assailant with a bazooka but only pretends to be dead to trick the assassin into believing he has succeeded. Chance is picked up by Repp’s secretary Deedee and visit an oil well to congratulate the workers as Repp would.

That night, Deedee is kidnapped and held captive at the same oil well seen earlier as Chance heads to the scene disguised as Repp again. The assassin fires on a dummy riding the motorcycle and that allows Chance to shoot the gun out of his hand. As Chance begins to climb the tower, the assassin threatens to explode a grenade and kill them all. Chance appears to lower his gun but fires a shot that dislodges the well cap. The oil shoots up and knocks the gunmen off the tower as the grenade explodes harmlessly.

The next day, Chance tells Repp that he should be safe as the assassin has provided enough information to arrest Repp’s nephew.

***

Thus ended the Human Target’s Action Comics run. We hear nothing else from Christopher Chance until he turns up in Brave & Bold in the midst of the greatest comic event of all time: The DC Explosion!! Why are you laughing? Then he appeared for several issues in the Dollar-Comic era of Detective Comics.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through the Back Pages of DC’s Bronze Age. Go to my home page and type “Back Pages” for more Bronze Age goodness!

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

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The Back Pages: The Human Target (part 1)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

419

The Human Target

From Wikipedia: “Christopher Chance, first appears in Action Comics #419 (December 1972), and was created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. This character, a private investigator and bodyguard who assumes the identities of clients targeted by assassins and other dangerous criminals …”

In the Bronze Age he appeared in Action Comics, Brave & Bold, Detective Comics and Batman. He was given a one-shot comic based on the 1991 TV show, and a six-issue miniseries based on the woefully ignored 2010 TV show. A Vertigo imprint title ran for 21 issues and a Special.

***

action 419

Action Comics #419. December 1972.

“The Assassin-Express Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler: Carmine Infantino

Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wiki: “Christopher Chance practices his skills on a private sound-proofed shooting range inside his Boston apartment. His close friend Luigi brings in a Mr. Smithers who wants to hire the Human Target for a case. Smithers works for Horizon Chemical Corporation and has accidentally hired a killer to murder his boss T.C. Newman, although he only intended to engage in some industrial espionage. He is hiring the Human Target to get the murder off his conscience. Chance takes the executives place on a train to California where he knows the assassin will strike, and figures out that his assailant is posing as the conductor. After dealing with a bomb in his compartment, he gives chase to the man and they end up fighting on the top of the car. Chance activates the emergency break with a gadget in his cufflink, and the hitman goes flying off to his death. Later, Smithers is relieved that they were successful, but he also loses his job when his boss discovers what happened.”

Infantino’s art, sometimes an acquired taste, is fantastic here! Giordano smooths the sharp edges for which Infantino’s art is most criticized. And the story sets the stage for future Human Target stories. A great beginning!

Plus this story has the honor of being reprinted in the special edition of Action Comics #1000!

***

Action 420

Action Comics #420. January 1973.

“The King of the Jungle Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wiki: “Christopher Chance is hired by famous hunter Gunther King, who believes that his rival Ernest Holoway is trying to kill him. The Human Target travels around disguised as King on safari in Kenya, dealing with traps that have been set for him. After fighting a lion and a buffalo, he gets into a gunfight with the hidden Holoway, but King steps in and apparently kills his nemesis before he can shoot Chris. Chance examines the body and realizes that Holoway had been murdered beforehand, the whole thing was an elaborate plot for King to get rid of his competition. The two men struggle, and Gunther King fires his muddy rifle which explodes into his face. The hunter falls backwards into a river, and his body washes away.”

***

Action 422

Action Comics #422. March 1973.

“The Shadows-of-Yesterday Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wikia: Christopher Chance takes on Hyram Walsh as his client, a man who is being pursued by a ruthless killer with ties to Chance’s past. The assassin is the same man who killed Chance’s father. He takes on the case for nothing because the man can’t pay, and reflects on his origins.

Many years ago, when Christopher was a young child, his father Philip Chance struggled to provide for his family. In his desperation, he took out a loan from local gangster Amos Sharkey to invest in the stock market, but lost it all and was unable to pay. To send a message to others who couldn’t settle their debts, Sharkey sent a hitman named Dancer to kill him. One night while the two were walking home from school, they were cornered by Dancer in an alleyway. Chris leapt to defend his father, but was swept aside. His father sobbed and begged for his life, but was shot without hesitation. Strengthened by his own rage, Christopher tackled the murderer to the ground and nearly choked him to death before police sirens came. On his deathbed, Philip Chance told his son that he had to make something of himself, and be successful, like his dad never could. Christopher Chance watched his father die before his own eyes, and felt terrible that he couldn’t save him. He swore that as long as he could prevent it, nobody would ever have to suffer that kind of fear and humiliation again. That night, something changed inside of him, and he found himself completely unable to experience fear. He spent the rest of his life training himself to the peak of physical perfection, preparing himself for the dangerous path that lay ahead. Christopher Chance would become the Human Target.

(The flashback about Chance’s origins is reprinted as part of another Human Target story in Brave and the Bold #143 featuring another appearance by Amos Sharkey.)

The annual statement says that issues of Action Comics were selling around 542,000 copies!

The Human Target’s other Action Comics appearances are detailed here.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

DC-TV: Shazam #26!

Shazam #26.  November, 1976

Cover Artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

“The Case of the Kidnapped Congress”

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler/Inker: Kurt Schaffenberger

Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

Captain Marvel discovers that Sivana has stolen the Brooklyn Bridge! He is summoned to meet the old wizard Shazam and meets Mary Batson, Freddy Freeman and “Uncle” Dudley in the ancient cave.

Shazam warns Billy that Sivana threatens to destroy America city by city – Captain Marvel must stop him! Fortunately, Billy’s boss at TV station WHIZ arranged for Billy to travel the country to do specials reports on young people. He is given a TV van and a driver – Uncle Dudley! Rather than needing to return to Shazam’s cave, the six gods who give him his powers will be available to Billy in his TV van via the Eterni-stone! (Thus, the comic is now morphed more closely to the TV show)

Off to Washington to assess Sivana’s threat! While discussing where to turn next, Bllly, Mentor and new friend Rod Porter watch as the Capital Building disappears. Captain Marvel is baffled to discover most of the population don’t care. Much the same thing would happen today, in fact.

Sivana televises his threat – make him Supreme Ruler of the Universe or we will never see our senators and representatives again!

With a clue from the Elder Hercules, Cap deduces the Brooklyn Bridge and the Capital were whisked back in time 100 million years. Cap restores the Bridge and fights off a dinosaur intent on having politicians for dinner! He guesses Sivana is hiding in the Capital and (as Billy) is captured by Sivana’s caveman guard. Billy turns in to Captain Marvel and forces Sivana to restore the Capital Building to its rightful time. Sivana escapes into the time stream and warns Cap his next caper will be in Philadelphia.

More thrills in the City of Brotherly Love on sale in the third week of October!

***

Missives in the letter column discuss issue #24, the last reprint issue before its brief hiatus and its reinvention into the first DC-TV comic.

***

Kurt Shaffenberger is called the “World’s Greatest Artist” in the letter column. I agree! No one short of CC Beck fits better with the style and mood of Shazam! The story is aimed at younger readers, so some of the internal logic may cause us older and more cynical readers to squint and look askew. But I take these comics for what they are – fun adventures!

There’s nothing wrong with that!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

The DC-CW line-up: Our story so far…

Our Story So Far

We are at the mid-season cliffhangers of the four DC-CW Television shows. Here are some thoughts:

SUPERGIRL

Supergirl is DC-CW’s touchy-feely show. I don’t mean this in a bad way – but the show deals with the emotional health of the characters much more so than the other shows.

But that doesn’t mean it lacks fun and plenty of comic-booky action.

This season we meet Samantha Arias, a co-worker of Kara (Supergirl) and who slowly discovers she has super powers. She IS from Krypton and turned into Reign by Krypton’s version of the devil. Now Reign is killing off National City gang members and other bad guys to the delight of Morgan Edge, who is blaming Supergirl.

Also, Mon-El is back. He was thrust into the future and formed the Legion (of Superheroes). Now some of them are in the present, although we’ve only met Saturn Girl so far…

The mid-season ends with Reign defeating Supergirl in a brutal battle over National City. Supergirl is in critical condition and Reign/Arias confronts her young daughter …

FLASH

The Flash is halfway through its best season since its first. We’ve slogged through almost every evil speedster in the DC Universe as the season-long Big Bad and fortunately Flash is NOT repeating itself, again. The joy that imbued the first season is back in this one. Mostly thanks to two events: the upcoming marriage of Barry and Iris and the introduction of Ralph Dibny. The joy from the former is obvious (we’ve been rooting for these two since the premier episode) and the latter reminds us of what fun this show can be. Ralph can be likeable and unlikeable, and he is played to perfection by Hartley Sawyer – he even LOOKS like the Elongated Man from the comics!

It all makes a refreshing change from the previous season: the constant losing to the Big Bad, the plans made that were thwarted forty minutes later episode after episode … add to that the characters’ gnashing teeth and rending garments over the unstoppable foretold death of Iris … episode after episode. By the time it was done, we sighed in relief. Not because of the “happy” ending, but just because it was over.

I see signs of the “episode after episode” problem with this year’s Big Bad – the Thinker. The cliffhanger ends with Flash framed for the Thinker’s murder. I hope they can continue the upbeat tone until the end of the season.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

The unloved step-child of the DC-CW is still going at season three. This season is probably its best season so far. But compared to the prior two, that is not saying much.

Now the Legends are fixing anachronisms in time. Somehow this led to the resurrection of Damian Darkh. Darkh’s Big Bad villainy was the low point of Arrow and was misused in last season’s Legends. I rolled my eyes when I saw this overused and overpowered character revealed as the Big Bad this season (there is a Bigger Bad lurking but we don’t really know much at this point). I roll my eyes in every episode in which Darkh thwarts the Legend’s plans. Episode after episode …

Still, I like the show. It’s fun, pure and simple. Everyone seems to be having a great time and you can feel that through the screen. I wish they had more to work with as far as decent stories and effective bad guys instead of the same old same old.

The cliffhanger ends with John Constantine recruiting the Legends … I applauded. I knew the character was coming to the show for at least one episode, but it was still a pleasure.

Rumors abound that a character from Arrow will join Legends, replacing Firestorm. It could be anybody – I’m hoping for Ragman!

ARROW

Arrow is also coming off an awful season, which itself followed a bad season (with the aforementioned Darkh). Both suffered from the problem that plagued Flash last season: constant losing to the Big Bad … episode after episode. Big Bad gets captured at one point but only to escape. No progress, no satisfaction for the viewers.

This season is better, although the same problems remain – repeated failure against this season’s Big Bad (which the cliffhanger shows us to be a TEAM of Big Bads). Also, Team Arrow has broken up …  again. Oh, and Oliver Queen is on trial accused of being the Green Arrow … again.

This season is better, but I wish it were better still.

***

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Oh, and the line-wide crossover Crisis on Earth X? Superb (although not without its flaws, but they are minor)! And it did something the comics rarely did during cross-over Crises – make permanent changes that will affect the second halves of this season. By why drag out Eobard Thawn again? How many villains has DC created in its 82 years of publishing? Use different ones. Please?

BLACK LIGHTNING is coming in January!

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

Adoption Month Spotlight: Calista Flockhart!

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month! This year my theme will be famous celebrities who have adopted!

Calista Flockhart!

From Wikipedia:

Calista Kay Flockhart (born November 11, 1964) is an American actress. She is best known for starring as the title character in the legal comedy-drama series Ally McBeal (1997–2002) and Kitty Walker in the drama series Brothers & Sisters (2006–2011). She has also been featured in a number of films, including the comedy film The Birdcage (1996), the romantic comedy film A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), and the drama film Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000).

Flockhart has won a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award, and garnered three Emmy Award nominations.

Flockhart

From: https://mom.me/entertainment/4004-celeb-moms-who-have-adopted/item/calista-flockhart/

In 2001, 36 and single, Calista Flockhart decided to become a mom, adopting son Liam, now 10. Naturally, a few months later, she met the love of her life, Harrison Ford, while spilling a drink on him at a party. Already a father of four, Ford embraced Flockhart and her son with open arms. “She’s brought a child back into my home,” Ford told Reader’s Digest in 2009. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be a part of a child’s growing up, which is always an endless springtime. You see the blossoming and the growing and the nurturing and the payoff.”

(Interesting that an article about Calista Flockhart spends most of its time on Harrison Ford …)

Ironically, Calista has recently been known as playing Cat Grant on the CW’s Supergirl, whose eponymous character was also adopted by Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers (named Fred and Edna Danvers in the comics), an echo of Jonathan and Martha Kent’s adopting of Superman…

See? I can’t get away from comic books no matter how hard I try …

***

frontcover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival

 

Abby’s Road is available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

 

Adoption Spotlight: Mariska Hargitay

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

Mariska Magdolna Hargitay; born January 23, 1964, is an American actress best known for her role as Detective/Sergeant/Lieutenant Olivia Benson on the NBC drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she has earned multiple awards and nominations, including an Emmy and Golden Globe.

She is the daughter of bodybuilder and actor Mickey Hargitay and actress Jayne Mansfield (should you wish to attempt to withstand it, watch “The Loves of Hercules” starring both and recently featured on the reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix).

Hargitay made her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film Ghoulies and her major television debut in the 1986 adventure drama series Downtown. She appeared in numerous roles in film and television shows throughout the late 1980s and 1990s before being cast as Olivia Benson, a role that led to her founding the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides support to women who have been sexually abused.

In April 2011, she and her husband Peter Hermann adopted Amaya Josephine and attended her birth. In October 2011, they also adopted a baby boy, Andrew Nicolas Hargitay Hermann, who had been born in mid-2011.

(above provided by Wikipedia)

Hargitay

 

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“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

frontcover

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

With Super Friends Like These …

Super Friends #1.  November 1976.

Cover by Ernie Chan & Vince Colletta; Editor: Joe Orlando

“The Fury of the Super Foes”

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ric Estrada, Inkers: Joe Orlando & Vince Colletta

Colorist: Jerry Serpe

Robin finishes Marvin’s training for the day just as the other Super Friends enter the Hall of Justice. The Troublalert tells them villains are attacking the three locations of Project SR – a robot designed to end war! The Super Friends divide into teams of three – Holy Gardner Fox! – to fight off the villains!

Superman goes to Hudson University (joining Robin, who is a student there) to fight the Toyman and Poison Ivy who are trying to steal the robot’s artificial brain.

Aquaman goes to the underwater lab where scientists are working on the robot’s indestructible steel for its body. His “old foe” the Human Flying Fish attacks the lab.

Batman and Wonder Woman (with Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog in tow) go to Gotham City to prevent the Penguin and the Cheetah from stealing the robot’s solar-powered battery.

In each case, the heroes almost get the better of the bad guys, until the villains youthful sidekicks appear!

Honeysuckle ensnares Robin; Toyboy distracts Superman; Sardine squirts squid ink to blind Aquaman; and Chick and Kitten sidetrack Batman and Wonder Woman to allow the villains to escape!

Superfoes

Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog do manage to catch Chick and Kitten and take them to the Hall of Justice. The Super Foes’ sidekicks are impressed and think they might be on the wrong side. As the tour continues, Chick sends a secret message to the Penguin – they are in the Hall of Justice, just as planned!

Wonder Dog overheard Chick’s betrayal, but how can he tell Marvin & Wendy of Chick’s betrayal?

To Be Continued…

house ad Kotter and Superfriends

***

The letter page explains briefly why there has been no Super Friends comic up until now and a brief, and convoluted, origin of Wendy and Marvin and their connection to Batman and Wonder Woman: Wendy is the daughter of the man who taught Bruce Wayne detective skills and Marvin is the son of the original Diana Prince – the nurse who allowed Princess Diana to assume her identity [cough Lamont Cranston/Kent Allard cough}.

***

There was (and still is) a lot of debate about whether the events of this comic were “out-of-continuity” with the rest of DC or not. I doubt the intended readers of this comic cared.

It was aimed at younger readers; fans of the TV show. Taken that way, it was a fun first effort. The story was direct without being simple and the art clean and clear without being juvenile. Older and more cynical readers will roll their eyes at this issue, but let their eyes roll. They aren’t the target audience. They never were.

And they still aren’t!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!