Saturday, December 02, 2006

Kemosabe’s Plea To Save Manhunter

Hello faithful readers. FanBoyWonder is gladly giving some blog space to our faithful Kemosabe and fellow fanboy John Micek to talk about DC Comics’ Manhunter. Take it away Kemosabe:

Attention Fanboys and Fangirls:
If you do nothing else before 2006 winks into 2007, send DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio a note and urge him to let Mark Andreyko’s "Manhunter" live.
And then, when you're done, send Andreyko himself a note, and let him know how much you enjoy Kate Spencer's exploits as DC's most complex and interesting character.

If you are new to Manhunter, here’s the skinny: Federal prosecutor-by-day/vigilante-by-night, Kate Spencer, as the latest hero to assume the name “Manhunter,” remains one of DC's most three-dimensional and human characters.

Paging though Comic Book Resources the other day, I was reminded that Manhunter, one of my favorite DC titles, had been canceled with issue 25 because retailers were ordering so few copies. Luckily fan noise forced DC and DiDio to give the book a five-issue stay of execution. Issue 26 is scheduled to hit stores next week, but from there, it's up to you to buy the book, and to convince your local comics retailer to keep stocking it.

How nervous is Andreyko? Here's what he told CBR:

"What frustrates me now is that with the modicum of buzz 'Manhunter' has, and the combination of great reviews and more [trade paperback] support from DC, why is it sill so hard to get retailers to order a few copies?" he fumed.

Andreyko added that he's still continually amazed by the support he gets from fans -- whose ranks also include such industry leading lights as Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer, Brian Bendis and Mark Millar.

"I never hoped for such a reaction, and will always be grateful to the folks that wrote in and continue to try to make 'Manhunter' converts," he told CBR. "To have people who I've admired for years actually read my book is flattering enough, but the outpouring of support from these busy folks always brings a smile to my face."

So why should you care about Manhunter?

Sure, Manhunter is a revenge-driven lunatic ...just like Batman. And she has some nifty toys ... just like the Dark Knight, so one could argue that DCU doesn't need a female version of the Gotham Guardian, or, arguably, The Punisher.

But here's the difference. Kate Spencer may be a revenge-driven lunatic, but, unlike Bruce Wayne, she doesn’t have the billions to fall back on or a stately mansion on the edge of Gotham City.

Instead, she's a single mom who lives on a federal prosecutor's comparably paltry salary. And the only reason she has those toys at all is because she pilfered them from the evidence room to launch her one-woman war on crime.

Like Batman, however her motivations come from an honest place. Like many in law enforcement I've encountered as a journalist over the years, Spencer got tired of the seeming revolving door of the judicial system and chose to take the system into her own hands.

Now, I'm not condoning her methods. But she does provide a focus for the frustration of those folks who live in a universe where super-villains are back on the street with astonishing regularity.

In many ways, Spencer is an everywoman. She has to make the hard choices about supporting her son, Ramsey. And she also has to contend with an ex-husband who is, to put it bluntly, not exactly a prize-winner.

If you're a comic book reader of a certain age, the chances are pretty good that you probably know someone like her: a beautiful, headstrong woman who's headed into midlife at the peak of her powers, but faced with a potential pool for mates that diminishes by the day. Of course, Spencer's contending with all that while trying to stave-off super villains who are trying to kill her. But no matter.

In addition, Andreyko's created a convincing cast of supporting characters -- from her DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations)-employed best pal and her own answer to 007’s Q, Cameron, all of whom get their moment on the stage and an opportunity to live life outside the orbit of the main character. Most television shows don't have character development that thorough.

Both A New Hero AND a Legacy

Furthermore, Andreyko found a convincing way to slot Kate into the DC Universe without straining her credibility or beggaring the belief of readers already ticked off at DC's hitherto elastic definition of continuity.

After teasing us with the possibility that she might be the daughter of the Golden Age Atom Al Pratt, readers learned that Kate is the daughter of the original Phantom Lady, Sandra Knight, and Iron Munro.

[FBW’s Note: In the short lived mid-‘90s series Damage, it had been established that Munro and Phantom Lady had been in a relationship and had a lost child together. It was initially believed to be Damage until readers learned that Damage is actually the biological son of The Atom Al Pratt]

Kate Spencer’s recent reunion with Sandra Knight was one of the most touching I've read in a while. It was sentimental without being cloying, and rendered believably in the way that Andreyko had these two strong women dance around each other before arriving at a mutual understanding.

Added bonus: Spencer's lineage provides her with a heritage that connects her nicely into the Golden Age. And it opens the possibility of potential membership in the Justice Society later on. And if there's anyone who ever needed the leavening influence of a Jay Garrick or Alan Scott (the original Flash and Green Lantern), it's certainly our Manhunter.

[Another FBW Note: Manhunter has also jointed the Birds of Prey as one of Oracle’s agent’s sure sign that DC wants to keep Kate Spencer around, even if she proves unable to commercially justify her own comic book.]

And, if nothing else, Manhunter is an adult comic for adult readers.
With the comic market shrinking, and the industry competing for younger readers with video games, manga and the Web, it's no secret that us aging fanboys make up the backbone of the direct sales market. So leave the kids to Johnny DC, and let them move up to the mainstream DCU titles when they're ready.

But don't take away one of the few books that gives readers credit for intelligence and sophistication. So do the right thing. Read Manhunter and Save Manhunter. You'll be glad you did.

(Final FBW Note: A life-long fanboy, John Micek is also the writer and editor of Capitol Ideas (, a 'blog that covers Pennsylvania's political scene.)


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