THE HUMAN TARGETMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1972
Creators: Len Wein (writer) and Dick Giordano (artist)
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In some ways, Christopher Chance, a minor but durable DC Comics character, functions the way a lot of freelance law enforcers, such as Slam Bradley, Star Hawkins or Dover & Clover (to cite only a
few examples, all DC-owned), do. He maintains a place of business where he deals with clients, and takes a fee to rid them of the problems they're having with criminals. But his method is far different — if someone's life is threatened, he'll put on a disguise and impersonate the endangered party, drawing fire to himself, and bet his own life he can catch the bad guy before the bad guy catches him. That's why he's called "The Human Target".
Apparently deemed not gaudy enough to fly on his own in a superhero-dominated comic book market, The Human Target (no relation) was strictly a back-pages character (when he was being published at all) for many years. He started in Action Comics #419 (December, 1972), where Superman himself was on the cover to sell the magazine. His main creator was writer Len Wein, whose other creations include Swamp Thing and Brother Voodoo. The first story was pencilled by Carmine Infantino (The Flash, Adam Strange) and inked by Dick Giordano (formerly editor of Charlton Comics). The Giordano look dominated, and he handled the subsequent art in the Action Comics series, so he's generally thought of as the Target's other creator.
Needless to say, enormous ability is needed for this sort of work. Aside from the usual skills at deduction, hand-to-hand combat, weapons, etc., he needed to be a master of disguise rivaling Chameleon Boy of The Legion of Super Heroes, who could look like whatever he pleased, and acting ability beyond that of any toon "alive". He acquired these skills through single-minded devotion, starting at an early age, to the development of what he'd need for the unique career he'd decided on.
He chose that career in a reprise of Batman's origin, i.e., watching a parent gunned down before his eyes. His had the added fillip of presaging the career when he offered himself to the killer as an alternate target. But the thug was under orders to make the elder Mr. Chance an example to all who owed large sums to mobsters, and wasn't interested in switching.
The Human Target continued in Action Comics for less than a dozen issues (the last dated February, 1974), then was dropped for years. He had a couple of small stories in the back pages of The Brave & the Bold in the late 1970s, then got a new series in the rear of Detective Comics, where Batman is the star. He had about half as many adventures there, published sporadically from May 1979 through August 1980. It was in Detective Comics that he made his first crossover with the DC Universe, tho not what you'd call a mainstream part of it — a couple of members of the old Sea Devils outfit, turning up for the first time in a decade and a half, hired him in #486 (November, 1979).
The Detective Comics series qualified him for another crossover with obscuros. In "The 'Too Many Crooks' Caper" (which should have been titled "Too Many Detectives"), he, Mysto the Magician Detective, Roy Raymond, Captain Compass and a couple of other former residents of that title's back pages, all teamed up to celebrate the 500th issue (March, 1981).
Surprisingly, for such a minor character, The Human Target next turned up on TV. Mirroring his back-page status in comic books, he was merely a summer replacement — seven episodes, which aired on ABC starting July 20, 1992. Christopher Chance was played by Rick Springfield. The TV version differed from the comic book in several ways. The character was fleshed out a little by making him a Vietnam vet, he was given a team of assistants, and he operated out of a large airplane, where clients would hole up during the operation. Also, to make his services more accessible to common folks, the TV series set his fee at 10% of the client's annual income.
To tie in with it, DC published a oneshot special with him as the star, written by Mark Verheiden (The American) and pencilled by Rick Burchett (Batman Beyond). Giordano again did the inks. It jumped the gun by almost a year, coming out with a November, 1991 cover date. Still, it was the first time the character ever appeared on a comic book cover.
But not quite the last. Vertigo, the DC imprint aimed at adult readers, gave him a four-issue mini-series in 1999, written by Peter Milligan (Johnny Nemo) and drawn by Edvin Biukovic (Grendel). Also from Vertigo, with a cover date of October, 2003, he finally, after more than 30 years in comics, got an ongoing title of his own. It's defunct now (as of #21, April 2005), but at least he's no longer strictly a back-pages guy.
In fact, he was soon back on TV. The Human Target's second TV show, starring Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, began on Fox TV (The Tick) on January 17, 2010.