MANHUNTERMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
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"Manhunter". The first of the latter made its debut in Adventure Comics #73 (April, 1942), where it displaced one titled "Paul Kirk, Manhunter".
Despite a confluence of names, leading some sources to conflate them, the Manhunter who started in that issue was a completely different character from the original Paul Kirk. The latter, who went back to #58 (January, 1941), was a private detective who wasn't even called "Manhunter" in the stories, only in the title. The new guy, whose name was originally Rick Nelson, started out as a big game hunter before switching quarry. Adding to the confusion, Rick's name was changed to Paul Kirk the following issue, possibly as an editorial decision or possibly because someone used the wrong issue as his reference. Rick/Paul was also unrelated to the Manhunter who started a month earlier in the back pages of another publisher's Police Comics, which he shared with Phantom Lady and The Human Bomb.
This Manhunter was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, whose earlier creations, for the company that eventually became Marvel, include The Vision and Captain America. This was their first new character for DC, tho their stint on the already-established Sandman had started one issue earlier. Simon later acknowledged inspiration for the new character had come from the 1941 film Man Hunt, which starred Walter Pidgeon.
The impetus for the big game hunter to decide to go after men instead came from his friend, Inspector Donovan of the Empire City Police, who claimed to get greater thrills from his job than could be had from hunting mere animals. Soon afterward, Donovan was murdered, leaving Rick (later Paul) to to bring in the killer. He joined the already swollen throng of superheroes, disguising himself in a red costume with a mask and calling himself Manhunter. After successfully concluding the case, he decided his friend had been correct and thenceforward hunted the "beasts of civilization".
Simon and Kirby stuck with Manhunter less than a year, and were replaced by less notable story and art men. The character himself lasted only 20 months. With its 93rd issue (August, 1944), Adventure Comics dropped from 56 to 48 pages, and Manhunter got the axe. Other than reprints in the back pages of The New Gods,, he wasn't seen again until 1973; and when he was, it was as virtually a brand-new character. But considering what a no-account he was (existing less than two years and featured on only two covers) the '40s version left a fairly large legacy in DC continuity, far beyond the usual handful of appearances with The All-Star Squadron.
The fifth issue (August, 1975) of First Issue Special, the Showcase successor that introduced The Warlord, showed someone wearing a Manhunter costume, who wasn't identified but was presumed to be Paul Kirk, passing the torch on to a new Manhunter. In Justice League of America #140 (March, 1977), the whole Manhunter schtick was retconned into an intergalactic organization with ties to Green Lantern's Guardians of the Universe.
Since then, Paul Kirk and the intergalactic guys have gone in separate directions, but both have been ongoing elements of the DC Universe.