Manhunter socks it to a crook, while Thor chases another one out the window. Artist: Al Bryant.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Tex Blaisdell (writer) and Alex Kotzky (artist)
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It wasn't a coincidence to rival a British comic book publisher bringing out a character named Dennis the Menace on the same day that an American newspaper syndicate introduced its own Dennis the Menace. But when a comic book publisher launches a superhero named Manhunter just a month …

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… after another publisher did the same, it's worth noting — especially when eventually, both Manhunter properties wind up owned by the same company, DC Comics.

The first Manhunter debuted in Police Comics #8, published by Quality Comics (Blackhawk, The Jester) with a cover date of March, 1942. It wasn't an extremely auspicious beginning — he wasn't even mentioned on the cover, which featured Plastic Man and displayed head shots of Firebrand, Phantom Lady, The Human Bomb and a couple of others in insets. At least he got an inset on a half-dozen subsequent issues, but he never did get the main part of a cover devoted to him, nor was he ever featured in his own title.

This Manhunter was created by writer Tex Blaisdell (better known as an artist, who has worked for DC, Marvel etc.) and artist Alex Kotzky (whose most famous work is Apartment 3-G). He started out as rookie policeman Dan Richards (called "Donald" in the first story only), whose girlfriend's brother, Jim Kelly, a more experienced cop, had been framed for murder. Finding legal methods inadequate to clear his potential brother-in-law, Dan followed in the footsteps of Kip Burland, Dan Garret and Peggy Allen, and took the law into his own hands.

Dan found circumventing suspects' legal rights to his liking, and continued to fight crime as Manhunter even after he'd restored Jim's good name. He was assisted by a large dog named Thor, who was never around when Dan played his dull, ordinary role as a cop obeying the law, but always responded to a supersonic whistle when Manhunter went into action. The pair continued this way until Police Comics #101 (August, 1950), after which they disappeared without a trace.

DC acquired the Quality characters in 1956, but Manhunter wasn't used until they began seriously mining the past for exploitable superheroes. He made a few appearances with The All-Star Squadron, at least until he followed Uncle Sam into the alternate world of The Freedom Fighters. Apparently, he was among those killed by that world's Nazis by the time the group started appearing in comic books.

In a 1977 issue of Justice League of America, DC retconned the other '40s Manhunter into a connection with an interstellar organization of Manhunters, which was involved with Green Lantern's Guardians of the Universe. Despite the fact that the two Manhunters had nothing in common but the name, this one was retconned into a connection with them as well — it seems he'd been following instructions from the Manhunters' Grandmaster (who was responding to the appearance of the first Green Lantern) when he took on the Manhunter persona. The Grandmaster had even given him Thor, who, according to the retcon, was a robot.

Apparently, a guy can go through an entire career as a comic book character in total obscurity, then die, and have no commercial value whatsoever — and still not be safe from the revisions of later writers.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.