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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!