Monday, November 30, 2009

The Human Target (In and Out of Comics)

The first appearance of Christopher Chance, The Human Target, was in a comic book. That debut was a backup story to the cover-featured Superman story in Action Comics #419, dated December 1972. Take a look here at the iconic cover of that issue as drawn by the unusual team of Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson (and as far as I know the only other page these two artists ever drew together was the cover of Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen #147 earlier that same year).

Please indulge me for one minute while I proudly reveal that for about twenty years
I was the proud owner of the original artwork to the cover drawing of Action #419. You can see right here what the original looked like (and, when I sold it on ebay, it was purchased by a nice chap who had been the writer of seven or eight episodes of Seinfeld).

Whoops, little digression there! No image of The Human Target (hereafter "H.T.", just like in Hollywood) appeared on that first Action Comics cover. The series debut was produced by the excellent team of Len Wein as writer and Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano as artists. H.T. didn't exactly set the world on fire but it was a nice enough trifle that I remember enjoying reading.

Let's fast-forward to 1992, many years after Christopher Chance had stopped appearing in comics. Fox TV broadcast a 6-episode series of H.T., produced by Danny Bilson and Paul DiMeo. Wikipedia informs me that I am recalling correctly that comics pros Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore were involved with writing for this TV series. I have no recollection of whether I watched any of the installments, but chances are that I did give it a try since I had been very fond of Bilson and DiMeo's Flash TV series one or two years prior.

A slight fast forward to 1993 and DC revived H.T. as a Vertigo Comics series that lasted twenty-one issues. I don't recall whether I read any of them.

One last fast forward to the present day of 2009,... I mean 2010. In spring of 2010 Fox TV took another stab at an H.T. series, with great success in my opinion. I enjoyed Mark Valley's lawyer character on Boston Legal but the actor always seemed like a fish out of water in that whacked-out law firm milieu; he takes the lead perfectly in H.T. as Christopher Chance. Chi McBride was excellent as the principal on Boston Public but he's even better here in his more subdued role as Chance's dispatcher. Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was the one good thing about the Watchmen movie and he does very well here also as Chance's psychopathic legman (and this role is an apt stepping stone to his taking the reins of the Freddy Krueger character on Elm Street). Twelve episodes aired this past spring and I'm hoping the Top Fox will grant the show a renewal for next season.

Here's a subtlety that might have slipped past you while you were watching the show. I think I heard in exactly one episode that Chance called his dog by name, and that name was... Carmine! Now honestly, how many dogs named Carmine have you ever encountered? Not many! It's almost certain that giving the dog that name was the TV series' tip of the hat to the original comics series' artist, Carmine Infantino, and that's a nice touch.

Anachronistor's Note: This article was actually written on 4/30/2010 and not on 11/30/2009.