Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tracking Manhunter

I was browsing through some 1970’s issues of Detective Comics recently, looking for something in particular – I don’t recall precisely what right now, probably something to do with Marshall Rogers – when I was distracted by the Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson Manhunter back-ups.

I was a latecomer to this series. I heard about it by reputation some time in the late-1980’s or early-1990’s, and didn’t really read it until a few years ago when I bought the 1999 Manhunter: The Special Edition on a whim.

Upon reading The Special Edition I recognised much of it in slabs and bits and pieces here and there, so much so that it was clear I’d read excerpts before, but much of it was also certainly for the first time. I reasoned this was simply because I must have read or browsed through the odd chapter in various issues before I had completed my 1970’s run of Detective Comics (which I finally managed to do last year – whoo hoo!)

And then it hit me – of course, I must have read much of this ages ago as a young kid in the K.G. Murray reprints. I certainly remembered the Gotterdammerung chapter in one of the last issues of either Tip Top Comic Monthly or Wonder Comic Monthly – I remembered the cover, and as it featured Batman I reasoned it must have been a Tip Top, yet the Wonder Comic logo seemed a more natural fit - so surely I also read the rest, assuming they were indeed all published by K.G. Murray.

So this led me on a bit of a hunt to track down the Manhunter chapters in the K.G. Murray reprints, and having done so I am no longer surprised that my memories of reading the series are patchy, nor that I did not recall which titles or issues it appeared in, for its publication in the Australian reprints was very haphazard.

Here’s the lowdown:

Chapter 1: The Himalayan Incident
Detective Comics 437, October-November 1973
Wonder Comic Monthly #114, November 1974

Chapter 2: The Manhunter File
Detective Comics 438, December 1973-January 1974
Wonder Comic Monthly #119, March 1975

Chapter 3: The Resurrection of Paul Kirk
Detective Comics 439, February-March 1974
Wonder Comic Monthly #126, October 1975

Chapter 4: Rebellion!
Detective Comics #440, April-May 1974
Wonder Woman #128, January 1976

Chapter 5: Cathedral Perilous
Detective Comics #441, June-July 1974
Wonder Woman #129, March 1976

Chapter 6: To Duel the Master
Detective Comics #442, August-September 1974
Wonder Woman #130, May 1976

Chapter 7: Gotterdammerung
Detective Comics 443, October-November 1974
Wonder Comic Monthly #125, September 1975

As you can see, it was hardly a neat and timely reprint program - gaps of 5 and 7 issues between chapters, chapters reprinted out of sequence, crossing over three different titles (although, to be a fair, this last point is qualified on the grounds that Wonder Comic Monthly was renamed Wonder Woman effective with #128, explaining further why I don’t recall reading half of Manhunter as Wonder Woman was a not a must-buy-at-all-costs title to me when I was 10-years-old.)

I expect that when the K.G. Murray editors published Wonder Comic Monthly #125 they treated it as just another Batman team-up cover story as per the Brave and the Bold instalments, but of course this was the climax of the Manhunter back-up serial taking on main feature cover duties. How else to explain the publication of Chapter 3 a month later in the following issue of Wonder Comic Monthly!

They appear to have woken up to the fact that Manhunter was a continuing series of chapters somewhat belatedly. By the time Manhunter was running in Wonder Woman, they noted that the story in Wonder Woman #130 continues in Wonder Comic Monthly #125, published eight months earlier – better late than never!

Note also that by this time the Wonder Woman title was in the middle of reprinting The Twelve Labors of Wonder Woman, a saga which also warrants a K.G. Murray tracking!

The Special Edition is the best format in which to read the Manhunter serial, but I also recommend checking out a chapter or two in black and white – there’s something about the combination of the intense compression of the shorter chapters and the black and white reproduction which together manage to invoke something of the classic serial adventure as well as a thoroughly ‘modern’ style.


Anonymous said...

In reference to ol' Paul Kirk, there was a bok done entirely in black and white reprinting the Manhunter material, and added some preliminary designs, too. It was published by Excalibur Enterprises in a larger format shot fromt he original black and white art.

mcannon said...

Gidday Spiros

Well tracked! I'd never realised until now that KGM had printed the chapters out of their proper sequence - but given their track record, I can't say that I'm surprised!

One of my more treasured comics is a copy of the original issue of Detective Comics featuring "Gotterdammerung" (no idea if I've spelt that correctly!), signed by both Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson when they attended conventions in Sydney some years apart. I don't know if those signatures have any effect on the value of the comic, and don't care; I treasure it because it's a work by two great creators at the top of their form, and both were genuinely nice, pleasant people with whom it was a pleasure to meet and chat. Archie Goodwin had died a couple of years before I got Simonson to sign the comic, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to be adding his name as he reminisced about his old collaborator.


Mark Cannon