Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Manhunter Redux

Sometimes publishers put out collections which, IMO, are a bit substandard or lacking. In a few cases these collections are republished in a more deserving format (like the new Great Darkness Saga or the Squadron Supreme Omnibus) . I'd like to suggest another candidate I think should be recollected.

Back in 1989 DC published a collection of many of the comics Walter Simonson worked on in the Bronze Age. It was a trade paperback that looked like this.

Now the good news is this collection contained some rare gems which many of you fans of the Bronze Age may not be familiar with. Among my favorites from Simonson from this era are his Metal Men stories.

Some issues of Hercules Unbound 

And Dr. Fate

What this 1989 Collection is missing is all of Simonson's Manhunter stories. (These were collected in thin standalone trade.)

I’ve often thought that the Simonson/Goodwin Manhunter as one of those defining moments in comics, much like Watchmen, only to a lesser degree. The ripples in the pond are harder to define and more spread out. Here are a few of the innovative things the series did during its limited run in 1973…
  • First character to have  a healing ability
  • Popularized the use of ancient Oriental weapons
  • First use of clones as adversaries in a comic
  • First Hero to die in a series
Just as Watchmen opened a dystopic door which would let in an entire dark age, Manhunter introduced readers to the elements of postmodernism. Starting in the first story with its metafictional homage to The Spirit, we meet a hero who spends much of his time literally killing himself until the final chapter wherein he destroys his foe with a sacrificial final thought. It’s a rather bleak denouement but we will see similar endings in comics from this point on. (like Starlin's Warlock).

In many ways, Manhunter with its definite beginning and end was sort of an embryonic graphic novel. So the fact that it is not collected in a hardcover edition of strikes me as a bit of an injustice So allow me to present my suggestion for a NEW Simonson collection.

A hardcover with all of the original stories from the 1989 collection PLUS the Manhunter run collected.

Get cracking on it DC! ;)


cash_gorman said...

Actually, there were a few recurring heroes killed off in the 1940s. The Comet and 711 were killed off, ending their series and used to launch the careers of new heroes.

There was also a golden-age pilot hero (whose name escapes me and I don't feel like scrounging through my site to look try to find it) but whose series and life came to an end when he used his plane to destroy an enemy ammo base.

Trey said...

I'm ashamed to say I've never read all of this run (I don't think). Your review reminds me I should check it out.

Jim Shelley said...

@Cash_Gorman - thank you for the info on The Comet and 711! In all honesty, I *thought* there might have been a Golden Age hero who died in their own series (because so many things happened in GA comics. That was a crazy, experimental time wasn't it?)

Jim Shelley said...

@Trey - Hold out for at least a year on the Manhunter because I'm betting I'll get my wish on this collection, and you'd benefit from a good reprinting of it. :)

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