Sunday, August 17, 2008

Manhunters Around The World

"Manhunters Around The World" was a strip edited by Jack Schiff that began running in July 1949's "Star Spangled Comics #94," alongside Tomahawk, Captain Compass, and solo Robin features. "Manhunters" was just a banner used to cover unrelated police stories that ran for a couple of years. Most of the strips were drawn by Curt Swan, before he found fame as a definitive Superman artist. In those days, Swan was part of Schiff's crew, doing work on strips like "Boy Commandos," "Tommy Tomorrow" and "Gangbusters." Leonard Starr drew most of the "Manhunters" Swan missed, and he produced the art on the series that replaced it, Dr. 13, "The Ghost-Breaker." The "Manhunters" briefly moved to "World's Finest" before being dropped entirely.

Now, my interest kicks in when Jack Schiff edited his first Showcase edition. Just a year after the launch of the "Manhunter from Mars" feature in "Detective Comics," that series' editor, as well as chief writer Jack Miller, decided to attempt a revival of "Manhunters Around The World" in Showcase #5. Talk about a vote of no confidence! Admittedly, this was the issue directly following the debut of the new Flash and the start of the Silver Age of Super-Heroes, but couldn't they have come up with another title?

Schiff followed the "Manhunters" with such properties as the "Challengers of the Unknown," "Space Ranger" and "Time Master." Julius Schwartz returned to the Flash in "Showcase," then launched "Adam Strange," "Green Lantern," and "the Atom." Even Robert Kanigher hopped onto the super-hero bandwagon with his "Metal Men." At least Schiff finally offered up "Aquaman," but no love went to the "Manhunter from Mars." Even J'onn J'onzz's appearances in "The Brave and the Bold" were under other editors.

This wasn't just a problem I have with Schiff, but DC Comics in general. Despite the "Martian Manhunter" being a noteworthy hero for decades, the company insists on watering down his "brand" by handing the "Manhunter" moniker to every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes down the pike. Sure, J'onn J'onzz was hardly the first "Manhunter," but none have been more successful for DC Comics, and virtually all of them have been treated with more care and respect than the Alien Atlas.

To explore this vein, the Idol-Head will occasionally take a look at the adventure of all these other DC Manhunters, and since I had to call it something, why not "Manhunters Around The World?" Truth is, I could have just as easily gone with "Manhunters Around The Universe," as DC has been so disloyal to the Martian Manhunter as to have extended the name to the furthest reaches of space and time. Still, the title is there, Schiff edited it, and we'll roll with it in our continued look at why Martian Manhunter has pretty much always been treated as expendable.

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