It’s the Day of the Dead! Who better to talk about than the deadest comic book character of them all? (Urk-chive!)
No, I didn’t mean Uncle Ben. And it’s not like I could’ve meant Bucky or Jason Todd. Nope, I meant the one and not only Deadman, man of deadness!
It took brilliant creators Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino to conjure up the character of Deadman within the pages of Strange Adventures #205, a good 40 years ago. Deadman was once Boston Brand, a death-defying trapeze artist who ceased defying death when a mysterious man named “The Hook” murdered him. He didn’t quite die enough, however, and came back as a ghost, enabled by Hindu goddess Rama Kushna to float amongst the living and possess them, if need be, in order to find justice. Basically, it’s an undead take on the Fugitive.
The series really hit its peak, however, when creators Jack Miller and Neal Adams came on board. Adams’s style exploded on these pages; he used his excellent sense of visual design in terms of perspective and panel layout to bring a great sense of excitement to the book. It was, in fact, the work that brought Adams to the attention of the industry and propelled him onto bigger things. Right out of the starting gate, though, he was producing incredible work and stunning visual effects. There’s a hardcover out there collecting the run; it’s a hefty tome for a hefty price, but you can snag it on Amazon.
When Deadman’s run in Strange Adventures was up, he wandered around the DC Universe for a while. The King himself, Jack Kirby, must have taken a liking to Boston Brand, however, as the Deceased Daredevil (I just made that up, but I think it works for a fun appellation) popped up in Forever People. Can’t wait for the Omnibi to catch up to that story!
Deadman’s carried his own feature several times, be it in mini-series, ongoings, graphic novels, or recurring strips in Action Comics Weekly. Lots of great creators, such as Mike Baron, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and gruesome gothic great Kelley Jones have crafted his stories. So why can’t Deadman seem to hold his own title?
Okay, okay, Deadman is solidly B-List, or maybe even C-List, yes. One may also argue that his status as a relatively invisible and incorporeal spectre may have something to do with it, too. The concept, however, is quite good– “acrobat-turned-phantom wanders around, seeking to balance the scales of Good and Evil.” A writer could tackle any genre with Deadman, as Brand steps into new bodies and new situations. I’ll revise what I said earlier– it’s the Fugitive meets Quantum Leap! With ghosts! Awesome, right?
Apparently not. Deadman’s series under writer Steve Vance only lasted nine issues, and the concept has since been retooled for Vertigo, shoving Boston Brand out of the picture altogether. That book was just cancelled as well. C’mon, DC! Deadman’s useful for more than the occasional spooky or supernatural tale. He’s got a cool premise with nigh-infinite potential, and a nifty design (trust me, giant collars are coming back). Use him wisely! (Dead) Man cannot live on Batman guest appearances alone. Dead men can tell tales, dangit! Let Deadman live– up to his potential, that is! (No, my puns shall never die!)