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She Has No Head! – Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter

Some of you who have been paying very close attention to this column might remember that Marc Andreyko offered Manhunter TPB Coverin the comments section of one my posts to send me the trades of Manhunter so that I could check it out.  Well most of the time I’m not a fool, so I took him up on his generous offer, and I’ve been pretty much devouring them since their arrival.

This week seemed like a great week to talk about Andreyko’s Manhunter run as despite their obvious differences I see a lot of similarities between Fables and Madame Xanadu (my last two posts) and Manhunter.

For those not in the know, Manhunter is the story of Kate Spencer, a brilliant district attorney in Los Angeles tired of seeing a broken system unable to bring killers to justice who decides to take justice into her own hands by taking up the mantel of Manhunter.  Raiding a secure room full of confiscated superhero and villain gear, Kate arms herself with weapons so that she can kill the villains that have escaped justice in the courtroom.

I think right off the bat the biggest accomplishment of both Andreyko and co-creator artist Jesus Saiz is that Kate is a character, unlike many characters (especially female) created these days, is a perfect merging of character concept and character design.  Kate Spencer is a lawyer, a divorcee, and a single mother.  And that’s what she looks like.  Which is to say her physique is not that of a surgically enhanced 22 year old porn star, her costume involves no thongs or heels, or even cleavage run rampant.  Kate wears a costume that fully protects her, as much for the protection that that offers as for the fact that she wouldn’t be caught dead in something that wasn’t at least a little bit modest (it’s still head to toe red leather though, so it’s not like we’ve gone to the extreme of it being something she can attend church in).  And it fits.  The costume fits Kate and her personality, as much as her short easy to manage hair reflects a reality of Kate’s lifestyle rather than the fantasy of a comic book adventure.  And because of the story Andreyko is telling, one based very solidly in the real world, these are all good choices.  Reading Andreyko’s intro in the Manhunter volume 1 trade, it’s obvious to anyone his affection for the character, and his care and focus in creating her.  The results are fantastic.

This same attention to detail that we see in the actual building of Kate Spencer is present throughout the Manhunter run, due in no small part to Andreyko’s constant presence.  I’ve talked about that element before on She Has No Head!, the correlation between well done, fully fleshed out characters (and books) and having a consistent devoted writer, and Manhunter is yet another example of seeing that formula successfully at work.

Here’s Kate’s first superhero battle:

Manhunter Page 1Manhunte Page 2

Manhunter Page 3

Manhunter Page 4

Manhunter Page 5

It doesn’t hurt that Jesus Saiz solidly and beautifully pencils the first seven issues, with Jimmy Palmiotti on inks.  And even when Saiz is no longer the consistent penciller, the art is in good hands.  After the first seven issues Saiz is aided and spelled by Javier Pina with assistance from Brad Walker, Diego Olmos, Stephen Sadowski, Sean Phillips, Shawn Martinbrough, Rags Morales, and Fernardo Blanco, and Cafu up through issue #3o and with that many artists involved it really could have been a nightmare.  But for whatever reason it’s really not.  The art is very consistent throughout in style and tone.  I’m not that familiar with many of those artists, but my hat is off to them for keeping Manhunter very constant in the way it looked regardless of the art changing hands.  It’s always hard to get used to an artist’s style and look, and really their vision for the book, only to have the rug pulled out from under you and find that you suddenly don’t recognize characters you’ve been reading for nearly a year.  But that doesn’t happen here.  Even reading this in trade, I wasn’t thrown by any drastic change in style, until we get to issue #31, and when that happened, with Michael Gaydos coming on board as the primary artist and defining a whole new look for Kate and her crew,  I kind of loved it.  Gaydos’ photo realistic pencils don’t work for everyone, but I’m a big fan, especially when they so well capture the tone as they do here.  Gaydos’ style is actually a very natural fit for Manhunter – not unlike the way his style really helped define Alias, and though I liked and appreciated all of the artists who had come before, the last arc was one of my favorites, in part due to Gaydos.

Manhunter is set in Los Angeles, which I actually find incredibly refreshing.  We have so many superhero stories set in New York City (and NYC equivalents) that it’s nice to see another setting.  And Los Angeles here is unique to a superhero tale in the same way that I found Portland unique to Stumptown’s detective story.  It doesn’t hurt that I lived in Los Angeles for five years and love it despite the hype about how horrible it is, and so it’s fun for me to see it represented in the pages of a superhero story.  Los Angeles brings new issues (celebrity and paparazzi, bad movie puns, and not enough tall rooftops to jump from) but it also gives the book room to breathe.  Manhunter can be her own man…er, woman without constantly tripping over other supes – though there are definitely some heavy hitting guest stars – most notably Wonder Woman for an arc in which she hires Kate to defend her against charges on the Max Lord killing.

Which brings us to another thing Andreyko was doing well – light political commentary that doesn’t overrun the story but reminds us of the fairly realistic world these characters are operating within.  For example, there’s a thinly veiled reference in the Wonder Woman story arc that Wonder Woman’s trial was ridiculous and that a male superhero would not have been put on trial for doing the same thing.  Not unlike comments I often heard about Martha Stewart’s trial.  Agree or disagree with the sentiment I enjoy it when a writer can find a way to insert existing commentary and reality into fictional worlds – especially if it can be done without judgment as it is here.

Not unlike Madame Xanadu, Manhunter is tightly woven into the DC Universe, with solid guest stars ranging from Batman and Huntress to Superman and Doctor Mid-nite.  Like Madame Xanadu it’s a fun bit of weaving that really rewards DC aficionados, but unlike in Madame Xanadu, it’s a little less about the history of the DC tapestry, and more about the day to day goings on in the DC Universe.  While in Madame Xanadu it comes off as this great little bit of insider info that you now know about say, the creation of The Spectre, here it’s more about understanding Kate’s place in the hierarchy of superheroes and villains, and the exact universe she exists in.  Important and interesting stuff.  It also makes for some pretty fun guest stars, like Huntress and Lady Blackhawk in this scene by Michael Gaydos:

Manhunter Page 9

FYI – there are a couple pages missing here (Manhunter, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk talking with Suicide Squad)…which is why the dialogue doesn’t synch up correctly.

Manhunter Page 10

Manhunter Page 11

If you’re wondering why I just posted three pages of essentially supeheroine talking heads (well done talking heads, but talking heads nonetheless) let me tell you that it’s no accident.  I love these pages.  I love these pages because I can’t accurately articulate how rare it is to see three female superheroines standing around talking shop and not being the least bit objectified.  There are no silly costumes (well, I find Lady Blackhawk’s mini skirt to be ridiculous, but that’s more of a personal pet peeve), nobody is posing sexily or nearly falling over because their back is broken from double d’s drawn onto their otherwise small frames.  I wish these three pages weren’t revolutionary…but they really really are.  And I LOVE them.  So of course I wanted to share them.  Also the dialogue in the last panel makes me chuckle.

Certainly the diversity in Andreyko’s Manhunter is impressive even beyond his forward thinking female lead.  Personally I’d like a little more racial diversity, but the solid representation of LGBT characters is one of the best I’ve seen in comics, meaning simply that those characters actually exist and are allowed to be themselves on the page.  It’s wonderful to see and makes you realize how rare it really is, even today.  I’m sure there are a few other examples in mainstream comics of a gay male couple kissing (Rictor and Shatterstar’s much discussed “first kiss” comes to mind, but not much else, and that would have been well after Manhunter) but I found it quite unique in its handling – which is to say, no fanfare, not bright lights and cameras and a parade, just one half of a couple kissing the other half, as it should be.

Andreyko’s character development overall, independent of creating groundbreaking feminist superheroes, or a gay male couple that is allowed to be themselves on the page, is pretty on point.  He starts with characters that aren’t necessarily revolutionary in their template states – the bad guy turned good guy against his wishes, the young son that must be protected, etc., and really breathes new life into them.  Dylan Battles, solely through Andreyko’s handling of him, went from what could have easily been a throwaway role into a really well developed sidekick of sorts for Kate.  I think, next to Kate, Dylan Battles, borderline jerk, is probably my favorite character, which is no small feat!

And it’s the character development of Kate that actually drives the entire concept behind Manhunter, because Manhunter, as you might have gleaned from Kate’s first battle scene that I posted, is not above killing.  Kate strongly feels that the justice system has failed and that these criminals deserve their punishment, and if the court will not do it, she will take care of it.  Kate being completely at peace with killing her villains is a fascinating and rarely taken path that I have to say proves rather convincing and hypnotic.  Batman is arguably my favorite superhero of all time, but weighed against Kate’s more realistic approach I have to say Bruce starts to seem idealistic and almost naive.  Words I would not generally associate with Batman.  I’m certainly not arguing for one path over the other for superheroes but rather that seeing both paths presents a far more interesting tapestry than just seeing one.  Both characters should exist in comics as those ideas also exist in the real world and thus a more interesting narrative is achieve by showing both sides.

All that said, if I was Kate, I would pee my freaking pants upon realizing that Batman knows who I am and doesn’t approve of my methods:

Manhunter Batman

Reading and writing about Manhunter, not unlike reading and writing about Fables and Madame Xanadu left me with some questions – questions much larger than the book itself – like why doesn’t this book “make it” and where was the publicity?  And is comics just a crazy crapshoot no matter what? If a character doesn’t star Batman, Superman, Wolverine, or Spider-man is it nearly impossible to launch a new successful long running book?

I have no real solutions (hell, I barely have ideas), but it seems to me you have to be pretty deep inside comics in order to know about all the books you might potentially be interested in, the books that might be good.  You have to be looking at blogs and previews and solicits, and be active on boards – all of it – in order to know you’re not missing something.  Not being that deeply involved is how I missed Manhunter. It debuted at a time when I wasn’t really reading comics, and certainly wasn’t buying.  And though it got a lot of critical acclaim initially, it’s hard to stay in the public eye indefinitely and so by the time I came back to comics (as I always do) Manhunter was just one of a million other titles on the shelf (or perhaps it was busy being canceled for the second time) either way, I didn’t hear about it.  I didn’t hear about it until far too late.  And it’s such a solid book, so much better than a lot of the dreck out there, that I have to wonder if people, like me, just didn’t know about it.

I hesitant to blame DC for not promoting it enough, as there’s just not infinite money to get these titles out there promotion wise, and DC was already doing so much right by letting Andreyko even do this book that I have to give them kudos.  But one bit of blame I can assign to them is the canceling and renewing, canceling and renewing that they did with this book.  I know it was fan support that brought it back, but it just shouldn’t have been canceled in the first place.  If a show of fan support can bring a book back that easily, then it probably shouldn’t have been on the chopping block.  This is of course not a problem unique to DC, or to comics, as this often happens with TV shows.  But just like with TV, the show in question often gets a final hurrah of X number of episodes, and then dies again.  The support isn’t there to back it up, and without that support, it just can’t survive in this competitive market.  As wonderful as it is for a book to come back after cancellation, and in light of how quickly many books get canceled these days  (Marvel’s S.W.O.R.D. of course springs to mind), it’s hard to be upset about it.  But Manhunter ran for 38 issues – just slightly over three years, yet it debuted in October 2004 and the last issue came out in March 2009.  That’s nearly five years for 38 issues.  I don’t know that many books could hold up under that kind of gap (a 16 week gap between issue #25 and #26, and nearly a year gap between issues #30 and #31).  There is so much new stuff coming out every week that it’s hard to keep anything but die hard fans around after a long gap.  It seems to me that if you’re going to to produce a book, if you’re going to invest money and time and resources into it anyway, you might as well commit to it.  You really have to put the full force of your weight behind it, really believe in it, because anything half-hearted will only get you halfway and then you end up with 38 great issues of Manhunter and nothing more.

Maybe because I’ve been relating Manhunter to Madame Xanadu and Fables, I can’t help but wonder if Manhunter shouldn’t have been (or come back as!) a Vertigo title.  Vertigo seems to have lower sales expectations in order to be considered successful, expectations that a more niche book like Madame Xanadu or Manhunter can survive, and even thrive under.

Manhunter is available in full in trade paperback format in five issues, ranging in price from $12.99 for the first trade to $17.99 for the others.

You can also catch up with Kate Spencer as Manhunter, in Batman: Streets of Gotham, in the current Manhunter co-feature.  The co-feature is written by Marc Andreyko and I’ve heard nothing but good things.  The first four issues of Streets of Gotham (plus the necessary tie in issues) comes out in trade format in May 2010, and the series is currently on issue #9.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter rwe1138 for clarifying, it looks like the Streets of Gotham trade is not the book to buy if you want to catch up with the Manhunter co-feature currently running in Batman: Streets of Gotham, but this trade being offered by DC in November 2010:

MANHUNTER: FACE OFF TP
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Georges Jeanty, Jeremy Haun, Cliff Richards and others
Collects: Stories from BATMAN: THE STREETS OF GOTHAM #1-13
$17.99 US, 128 pg

48 Comments

Manhunter is one of my all-time favorite titles, and the only reason I’m buying Streets of Gotham.

Andrew Collins

March 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

Finally a column where I find myself in complete agreement with you about.

Your comments about the interaction between Kate and Batman makes me wonder how Bruce will react when he returns and learns about Kate’s new position as Gotham DA.

(Incidentally, as much as DC deserves criticism for their handling of the book, giving her a backup in Streets of Gotham was an incredibly good move that probably doubled her fanbase.)

I hope someday you get around to checking out the 10-issue late 90′s DC series Chase, whose lead was a supporting character in Manhunter. It’s not collected, but I’d say back issues aren’t hard to find if you want them.

I could cite a lot of different reasons why I think Manhunter didn’t make it sales-wise, but I will say that there was a small, but vocal, group that loved the comic and petitioned more than once when the book was being mentioned as a possible casuality…and even succeeded, I believe, in getting it renewed at least once. I remember many “Save Manhunter” campaigns on a number of blogs in recent years…

I think that Erik Larsen’s proposed model for building fan bases for new characters is a good one if all the companies adopted it. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=24545

Good article.

In fairness to DC, Manhunter was one of the characters featured in the Battle for the Cowl crossover. Granted, that may not exactly be something to be proud of, but they did put her out there.

Incidentally, I absolutely love the origin of her gear. Love. It.

The reason for the gaps was that it kept getting cancelled, then brought back with the same numbering instead of trying for the new #1.

It’s been a while a number of more low-profile DCU books deserved a “Max” or “Vertigo” label. I’d say Giffen’s 5-Year-Gap Legion and his and Colleen Doran’s Reign of the Zodiac were completely Vertigo and were too mature for teenage fare.

@ Johnny Bacardi & Dalarsco: Sorry if I was unclear guys. I definitely get that the gaps were due to cancellations and renewals rather than anything else, and that at least one of those was thanks to fan support (although it seems likely that both renewals were due to fan support). And I’m all for fan support…I think it’s great, it’s just pretty well documented in comics and beyond that vocal fan support leading to reversing a cancellation rarely leads to a lasting book.

@ Andrew Collins: Well now I can die happy. I kid, I kid. I’m glad you’re a fan of Manhunter and this post, if not of me in general.

@rwe1138: Do you like Streets of Gotham beyond the Manhunter co-feature? I’ve heard that the book overall is quite good, but that the Manhunter co-feature is the best part.

@E. Wilson: Definitely. It seems to me, between the Battle for the Cowl stuff and her appearance in Streets of Gotham that DC has not given up on Kate Spencer…perhaps there is more big stuff for her on the horizon?

@Thok: I can’t imagine Bruce being a fan of Kate as D.A. of Gotham given their differing ideologies. Although I wouldn’t think Dick would be either…?

Kelly, you have really shut me up as of late. Because…you keep introducing books I have not and should read…thanks.

I never warmed to Manhunter. Tried it twice but both times I just didn’t feel a connection.

Chase was a great series tho the last couple of issues were too one-off since they knew it was being canceled.

I always enjoyed Gotham Central with Montoya playing a large role.

As far as promotion of this title, let’s be blunt – if it didn’t feature the Bat or the Cape it wasn’t promoted at all. Now that DC Comics is DC Entertainment here’s HOPING that they will get the promotion machine cranking.

Danielle Leigh

March 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Yup, yet another series you made me want to read (along with Madame Xanadu and Detective w/ Batwoman)! I managed to track down the issues of Detective with Batwoman on ebay, now I just need to read them. :-)

As always, your column is an enjoyable and informative read!

I picked up Manhunter after the first return and quickly got caught up via the trades. It’s a great run. I do think DC gave it a decent amount of support for a title with marginal sales. The only thing I would fault them on is not restarting with #1 after the first cancellation. I think a new #1 would have sold better than #24 or 25 (whichever issue that was).

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Reading and writing about Manhunter, not unlike reading and writing about Fables and Madame Xanadu left me with some questions – questions much larger than the book itself – like why doesn’t this book “make it” and where was the publicity? And is comics just a crazy crapshoot no matter what? If a character doesn’t star Batman, Superman, Wolverine, or Spider-man is it nearly impossible to launch a new successful long running book?

Manhunter was pretty well publicised across the net – there were plenty of articles and interviews about it at the time of it’s launch, first trade, and then subsequent cancellation reprieves.
Everyone knew it was around.

I’d say it didn’t succeed, because it was a truly awful book – a throwback to the days just after Watchmen, when everyone was having their lead characters act ‘adult’, whilst still trapped within the confines of the superhero genre.
Obviously, most here will have a different opinion to that.
Personally, I found the opening arc enjoyable, if slightly flawed – no smoker would feel shame over lighting from a stove – but felt it went rapidly downhill from there.
Also, as someone without a knowledge of the Manhunter history or much interest in the crossovers of the day, it’s attempts to pull in new readers, made it all the easier for this reader to to tune out.

God I loved this book.
It’s the sole reaon I buy Streets of Gotham.
Marc got me hooked with his offer of a signed free issue. (#6)
I was hooked from then on. Bought all the back issues I missed and stuck with it to the end.
Hell, I was buying extra issues and giving them out to anyone who wanted them.

Marc is an amazing writer. Grab anything on the shelf with his name on it because you’re going to enjoy it.

Funky: Do we really call 2004 “days just after Watchmen”? I mean that’s like seven years later.

Obviously I don’t agree with you since I wrote the piece, I think this book is far better than most of the superhero stuff that’s out there (now and then) but I can understand why you didn’t like it, and I certainly don’t advocate that it’s for everyone. I do think “truly awful book” is overstating it regardless however. There are plenty of truly awful books out there…this is not one of them.

Also, I’m not trying to be nit picky and I know what you mean about adult characters acting adult…and I personally don’t like creators to make things extra gritty just because it’s ‘on trend’ or whatever. But most superhero characters are adult…shouldn’t they act like adults?

I read every issue, but something seemed fake about her to me. She was like a Jessica Jones rip off, a post-modern, hard living heroine by one of Jessica Jones’ creator’s friends. To try and write a realistic heroine, it felt like Andreyko just made her messed up. She smoked, she was a bad wife, she killed, she seemed to never even realize the ethical issues of being a lawyer and a murderer. By trying to make her human, he made her a cliche, a thoroughly damaged woman. Seriously, she had no redeeming qualities (even her jokes are corny).

“Do we really call 2004 “days just after Watchmen”? I mean that’s like seven years later.”

Um. And when I type seven I really mean seventeen.

But since posting incorrectly, I’ve re-read your statement and think you mean, this book is a throwback to those books that came after Watchmen…yes? Yeah, I think that’s what you mean. In which case I don’t necessarily agree…but my comment is no longer valid.

I think it’s time for me to step away from the computer for the day! :)

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 1, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I’m not totally surprised that you’re reviewing this book or even that you love this book to bits.

After all, I’m familiar with Marc Andreyko, as he co-wrote TORSO with Brian Michael Bendis (yes, that BENDIS, back in the day when he drew comics!). If you haven’t read this series, GO and get the tpb!!!!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get Manhunter, probably due to budget constrictions. Maybe I’ll try the tpbs one of these days.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I’ve re-read your statement and think you mean, this book is a throwback to those books that came after Watchmen…yes?

That’s exactly what I meant when I said it’s a throwback to the days just after Watchmen!

I do think “truly awful book” is overstating it regardless however. There are plenty of truly awful books out there…this is not one of them.

It’s not Tarot: The Black Witch, but I don’t think the book had any positives for it except that it was TRYING to do something (slightly) different.

But most superhero characters are adult…shouldn’t they act like adults?

The characters are adult, but the stories aren’t.

This is the DCU after all – characters truly acting like adults doesn’t really fit into the world of Superman and Batman.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm

The characters are adult, but the stories aren’t.

This was my reaction tot he book as well; the out-of-costume scenes are wonderful, human interaction. But the killer vigilante stuff never seems like goofy pop fun or as smart as the non-fighting-based character interactions.

I get that superhero battles are a juvenile thing, but Kate’s costumed antics needed to have more weight or to be just batshit crazy fun, and for me they were neither. In fact, I never felt much difference between the earlier issues — when a few villains died in gory ways — and the sort of out-of-pace gore that . I could buy that Kate the person would kill, but Kate the spandex slugger never seemed to connect with the rationale for that after the first issue.

In the first issue, she basically stalks and kills Copperhead, then tags the wall behind him; it was actually manhunting there, and as a reader I found myself asking interesting questions about the morality and sanity of what Kate had done. The moment she became a more standard-issue reactive supertype who happened to sometimes kill, the more the sometimes bloody violence — Monocle’s head coming clean off, for example, or Dr. Moon getting stabbed in the forehead — seemed weightless and inconsequential.

And the less said of the utterly weird story devoted to killing off other characters called Manhunter, the better; that’s where I dropped the book the first time, since it was a story of the exact sort I hated in the 1990s. I didn’t particularly love those other Manhunters, but it’s not as if the codename is so prestigious that they were confusing the matter. (It also did my least favorite trick, retconning a clever universe-spanning backstory into a cheesy government hoax/conspiracy, and did it in a way that didn’t make sense if you’d read the stories it insisted on referencing.)

Just as with Marvel’s efforts to have the Punisher shoot supervillains, the utter silliness of the Z-list baddies Kate actually got to take out didn’t help. At best, no one cares if you kill the Monocle or Dr. Moon; at worst, the villain is so goofy that killing them turns the serious premise into pointlessly gory slapstick in short order. (Indeed, Marvel has apparently decided to make the supervillain-killer Punisher series an absurdist comedy, since he’s currently been chopped to its and revived as “Frankencastle.”)

Assuming Kate Spenser is worried about the safety of her kids or about villains escaping justice, she has to be able to aim higher. Creating original, loathsome villains for her to destroy worked better when it happened for that reason. I’d have liked to see the book go that way; consolidating Kate with the DCU probably helps sales, but her encounters with the standard superhero stuff made her and the book’s premise look sillier than they needed to.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 1, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Kid, not kids, obviously. And the cutoff sentence was rip on Geoff Johns.

I haven’t read this, but have heard good things about it (FGJ aside). It appears that Andreyko is going to break-even on those free trades.

brilliant district attorney in Los Angeles tired of seeing a broken system unable to bring killers to justice who decides to take justice into her own hands by taking up the mantel of Manhunter

And that is why I did not read the series, because the premise simply does not work in a shared superhero universe like the one DC publishes.

Really, if Kate Spencer wanted to go after the absolutely most dangerous repeat offender who is has murdered literally hundreds of innocent people and who it has been continually demonstrated the criminal justice system is totally incapable of stopping, then who would be her target? Answer: the Joker.

Problem is, there is no way in hell Manhunter would ever be allowed to kill off the Joker, because he is Batman’s arch-enemy, practically every writer at DC seems to want to use him, and he makes DC a ton of money from licensing.

So, what do you have? Either Kate goes after some C-list disposable baddies, those who no one cares if they get bumped off or not, and manages to kill them (and they’ll probably get resurrected within five years, anyway) or she goes after A-list villains like the Joker or Lex Luthor, and she fails to stop them. Either way, she ends up looking completely and totally ineffectual.

I mean, it’s the exact same reason why the Punisher is so easily able to gun down hordes of nondescript mobsters and thugs, but when he goes after supervillains, either they just get badly wounded and heal up within a couple of weeks, or if they die some other guy adopts their costumed identity five minutes later.

The entire series just seems based around a totally dead-end premise, which is why I avoided it.

Kelly: Streets of Gotham is decent. At least the Dini issues have been. The fill-ins have been okay. But I wouldn’t be getting the book monthly if it wasn’t for Marc & Kate. They do fit well together stylistically. I’m just glad I don’t have to buy something I really don’t care about (Green Arrow, for example) in order to get my Kate fix. (That’s not a knock on GA; it’s just not my cup of tea.)

And I second, or third, or whatever, the notion of you picking up Chase. It ran nine regular issues and a #1,000,000 special. I was thrilled when Marc added her to the cast. Hopefully we’ll get to find out what happened between her and Dylan…

I agree with what Johnny Bacardi said about checking out Chase. It was an amazing series that unfortunately didn’t stand a chance. I was SO HAPPY to see her in Manhunter.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 1, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Omar said what I meant much better than I did!

It’s interesting, because by these standards, Hitman shouldn’t have worked in the DCU, but it was great.
I think the tone of Manhunter is trying to reach for more than it can in the genre/universe it is in, whereas Hitman shrugged off any reality of being a killer with a laugh and a knowing smile.

the utter silliness of the Z-list baddies Kate actually got to take out didn’t help.

What made that more annoying, in the second and third trades – I enjoyed the first issue or so, didn’t like the end, but then as it approached cancellation decided to give it another shot, and brought both at once – the z-list baddies would pop up for a full page cliffhanger… not even facing off against Kate, but planning too… with nothing to say who they were!
I believe one cliffhanger was someone arriving at an airport!

I agree with what Johnny Bacardi said about checking out Chase. It was an amazing series that unfortunately didn’t stand a chance.

Chase is awesome.

So surprised there hasn’t been a collection.

Finally you’re back to writing about something I’ve read! I loved this series, and while it’s not flawless (there are some good points raised here about the problems with the premise, especially in the context of the “DCU proper”), it is…dare I say it…important. An unapologetically gay man in a mature sexual relationship. A woman who looks like she might really be a mother in her 30s. Despite some of the problems raised by being a DC book, it also took advantage of being one in interesting ways (Kate feeling pushed to take the law in her own hands, the stories behind her tech/costume). And I for one really appreciated the depiction of Kate’s attempts at becoming a former smoker (scrambling for fire always reminded this former pack-and-a-half a day smoker that he was an addict).

As to why it didn’t last – well, for one thing, Manhunter is the book that taught me that I couldn’t have an impact on sales. I got all of comic book reading friends to read it, bought trades and multiple copies of singles, talked it up in the shop, etc, etc. The online buzz and promotion of the book was pretty pervasive, which also made me realize the importance of the direct market retailer. Most readers aren’t as in the loop as the internet cognoscenti, and unless there is street level promotion of a new title, it’s most likely going to fail. The publication gaps and their effects on the storytelling definitely didn’t help, but Andreyko did his best to make several “jumping-on points” without too much impact on the overall run.

Streets of Gotham is okay. The second feature is the best part. The Batman-centric stuff in the lead story is decent when Dini is writing (not as good as his best stuff on Detective though) and pretty dreadful when he’s not, but it always looks good. Dustin Nguyen’s work is great as always throughout, though.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm

It’s interesting, because by these standards, Hitman shouldn’t have worked in the DCU, but it was great.

Hitman really pulled away from even a parody version of the DCU by the last half of the run: there were super-people, but all of them were original to the series.

IIRC, you had Batman in the first three issues, four issues with Green Lantern as a vicious parody of himself, and then (quite a bit later) an arc tying up a dangling plitline from Tommy’s Demon appearances that featured “played-straight” versions of Etrigan and Catwoman. And after that, nothing came from outside the Hitman book except the One Million issue’s one-page Gunfire joke. The final arc mentioned the Bloodlines aliens, but in a way that was paying lip service to Tommy’s origin.

Plus the awesome Superman appearance.

It looks like a good series. Does anybody know what DC is planning on doing with collecting their back-ups in trade form? Will ‘Manhunter’ be a) in ‘Streets of Gotham’ trade, b) eventually get its own trade, or c) not be collected? I get the impression from Amazon that it won’t be in the Streets of Gotham trade.

I have been thinking about getting a super-hero title with a female lead, but nothing was jumping out at me (the premise of Batwoman and Spider-woman don’t interest me for some reason). This looks like it might be a good choice.

“I have no real solutions (hell, I barely have ideas), but it seems to me you have to be pretty deep inside comics in order to know about all the books you might potentially be interested in, the books that might be good. You have to be looking at blogs and previews and solicits, and be active on boards – all of it – in order to know you’re not missing something. Not being that deeply involved is how I missed Manhunter. It debuted at a time when I wasn’t really reading comics, and certainly wasn’t buying. And though it got a lot of critical acclaim initially, it’s hard to stay in the public eye indefinitely and so by the time I came back to comics (as I always do) Manhunter was just one of a million other titles on the shelf (or perhaps it was busy being canceled for the second time) either way, I didn’t hear about it. I didn’t hear about it until far too late. And it’s such a solid book, so much better than a lot of the dreck out there, that I have to wonder if people, like me, just didn’t know about it.”

Agreed 100%. That goes for most comics from the big two. On top of that though, any marketing push is only for the single issues, so people who might try out the trade are even less likely to hear about it.

I came into this run kind of late (about issue 14 or so) but really enjoyed what I read. I was with it through both cancellations. It struck me as sort of a comment on Daredevil a bit, taking the lawyer/vigilante to the extreme conclusion (although, it also strikes me that Kate was a prosecutor and Matt Murdock is a Defense attorney). I also enjoyed the fact that, if you knew your Manhunter lore, you knew Thor was a robot immediately. Little touches likes that made the series for me.

Rolacka:

Coming from DC in November:

MANHUNTER: FACE OFF TP
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Georges Jeanty, Jeremy Haun, Cliff Richards and others
Collects: Stories from BATMAN: THE STREETS OF GOTHAM #1-13
$17.99 US, 128 pg

Winterteeth:

While Marc was writing Manhunter, Bendis was on Daredevil. You have no idea how much I wanted a crossover written by the two friends, with art by Alex Maleev and Jesus Saiz.

Thanks rwe1138.

I will have to seriously think about getting the series, it looks really good and the kind of thing I’d like. I think it is going to the top of my super-hero list of maybes.

Thanks to Kelly for the column, and to Marc Andreyko for sending the trades.

kelly-

thanks for the article! i’m glad you dug Manhunter:)

and, here’s an offer for the first 7 people to respond:

send me your address and i’ll send you a “care-package” of random Manhunter back issues as a sampler! for FREE! and signed even (if you so desire)!

regards,
marc andreyko
writer/ co-creator, “Manhunter/Kate Spencer”

Read and enjoyed the series a lot.

But I think it would have done better as a Vertigo title. In regular DC…. you can’t really have a newbie take out the Joker… which is exactly the sort of thing Kate should have done.

In my mind the series is split into before year 1 and after. I greatly preferred the “before” when Kate was an edgier and less pleasant character.

First comic after Year 1 saw big changes…e.g. Kate was more pleasant, Dylan and Chase were lovers (having not particularly liked each other before.) Not saying theses changes were impossible… but it was frustrating (especially in a brand new character) not seeing how they occurred over time. It felt to me like they were made to try to make a few more sales. All in all I don’t think Year 1 helped at all.

Another thing that limited the comic for me was the failure to realistically explore effects of her choice (to kill when necessary) on Kate. I just don’t “buy” that a fundamentally decent person can do that with as little impact on her as it seemed to have on Kate.

But enough moaning. Its a darn good comic, I’d encourage anybody to seek out the trades or back issues.

jackdaw53: Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of the “Slap Slap Kiss” trope, but I saw the Dylan/Chase hook-up coming for awhile.

Hey Marc, do you want us to respond here, or is your email address somewhere I’m missing? This has always looked like a great series, I just haven’t found enough in the back issue bins to make me commit to it yet.

Marc:
Thanks for stopping by – and for the generous offer to readers – I’m sure they’ll take you up on it!

Thanks again for the opportunity to get to know Kate.

Kelly

send me a private message on CBR with your info, gang!

reagrds,
marc

p.s. and kelly, send me your address (again!) and i’ll get you the Streets of Gotham issues!

Andrew Collins

March 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

@ Andrew Collins: Well now I can die happy. I kid, I kid. I’m glad you’re a fan of Manhunter and this post, if not of me in general.

That’s fair enough, I deserve that. I have said some very harsh things in the response section of your columns before, and while I stand by my criticism of your criticism (or at least how you went about your criticism), I do apologize if I wrote anything that came across as a personal attack. I don’t want you to think there’s some raging fanboy out there who hates you, because that would be silly on my part if I did. I obviously still read the column from time to time, when the subject line catches my attention. :)

And to Marc Andreyko, thanks for several years of a great comic in Manhunter. I’m glad to see Kate continue on in the DCU even after cancellation.

Hey, thanks for the heads up on something that looks to be an interesting read. I’m definitely going to check it out. But I wanted to respond real quick on something you said.

“If a character doesn’t star Batman, Superman, Wolverine, or Spider-man is it nearly impossible to launch a new successful long running book?”

I think this is what we are seeing with the Kate Cane Batwoman. An example of new character in the DCU proper that actually seems to be taking off. I mean, she’s a pretty bold concept (gay woman upstart of a hero with no ties to any other DCU character other than the Bat in her name) that by all rights doesn’t have to be successful but is already showing signs that it is or will be.

Now, she hasn’t had her own solo title outside of Detective Comics but I think when she does it’ll be a solid book sales wise. And I think it has a lot to do with the way DC has embraced the character. They put her on their flagship book, let her guest star in other books like Batman and Robin and have been marketing the hell out of her.

Which, now that I think about it, is quite telling.

Manhunter never would have gotten this level company wide of support and its ability to survive outside something like Vertigo is pretty much zil. I don’t think she ever stood a chance…

So I know that the comics industry is a niche medium with a somewhat limited audience (perhaps event a declining audience, at least in its current industry manifestation).

But I think Kelly hit it on the head when she mentions the marketing of books.

Manhunter, Madame Xanadu, Batwoman (a la Detective Comics) Wonder Woman are all titles that aren’t big sellers per se. So why not take a chance and market in a more creative manner? Table at a women’s conference, let’s say. Send the first 4 issues or a complete cycle of a storyline to bloggers, P.R. firms, mainstream media, and announce an initiative to promote “Women in Literature.” Propose collaboration on multi-city (country?) events with women foundations (e.g. Ms. Foundation, Third Wave, Astraea Foundation etc.). Not all of these will cost significant money, and will at the very least create a conversation with an audience that is very open to literature in all it manifestations. Event if the reception is critical (i.e. Why do these super-heroines have to wear such tight attire?), it’s engaging, interactive and can challenge publishers AND readers to try new things.

The same thing can be done with LGBTI themed books. Or the revival of Milestone. Or how about the resurgence of comics strictly geared at the ‘tween sets. Engage, provoke, create dialogue.

@Ray: Yes.

Um… Am I allowed to agree?

Marc’s comic writing is not only excellent, his ability to honestly and spectacularly write comic book characters- especially gay characters – is top notch.

This has been long overdue.

One favor: PLEASE do something about that ridiculous outfit Obsidian wears. No gay man would wear something like that. Todd is hot! give him a costume that shows it!

Keep writing! Maybe someday you can give us a REAL Star Sapphire??? :)

-Michael Fantus
Washington DC

Great article. I’ve been loving Williams’ run on Batwoman which exposed me to the DEO. I became very interested in this org. and after bouncing around comic wikis I heard they make an appearance in Manhunter. I bought the first 3 issues half off during my shop’s labor day sale. I gotta say, issue #1 holds up. I’m also definitely interested in picking up Chase collected.

Great article.

I also find the dynamic between Kate Kane and her cousin Bette as a sidekick to be highly interesting. “Plebe”.

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