Hunting Devils in the City of Angels: Andreyko talks 'Manhunter'

In their song, "City of Angels" punk rock band The Distillers sing, "They say this is the City of Angels. All I see is dead wings." Federal Prosecutor Kate Spencer has grown tired of seeing dead wings and has decided to do something about it. Spencer is the star of "Manhunter," a monthly DC Comics book written by Marc Andreyko with art by Javier Pina and Jimmy Palmiotti. Spencer is not the first person to assume the identity of Manhunter; an upcoming story line in the book will force her to examine the identity's legacy. CBR news spoke to Andreyko via e-mail for the scoop on Manhunter and her deadly quarry.

"All you need to know is that Kate Spencer is a Federal prosecutor in LA," Andreyko explained to CBR News about the new-reader friendly series. "She's a divorced mom of one and trying to quit smoking. When she tires of super villains thwarting the justice system, she takes things into her own hands in the guise of Manhunter."

Spencer's two defining personality traits complicate her life and provide her with the motivation to pursue criminals as a costume vigilante. "Kate is a tough broad!" Andreyko told CBR News. "A tough person to get close to (as witnessed by her divorce and lack of a maternal bond with her son, Ramsey). Kate is also a strong believer in the system and justice. Only when the system fails or is abused does Manhunter go after the guilty."

The supporting cast of "Manhunter" is made up of a varied group of characters that play roles in Spencer's personal and both of her professional lives. "We have her ex-husband, novelist Peter Robinson, her co-counsel Damon Willoughby, tabloid reporter/photographer Ted Shoemaker, and her weapons master Dylan Battles (who she is blackmailing to work for her or she'll expose his identity in the witness protection plan)."

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A number of new supporting characters will be appearing in the pages of "Manhunter" including the star of a cancelled, fan favorite book. "We have a few new members planned," Andreyko said, " Including all of the heroes named Manhunter (although it will be very short visits for most of 'em), Kate's father, oh and a woman named Chase."

The reasons for the former Manhunters' short stays are a story arc called "Manhunted" which has been building in the background of the past few issues and officially begins with May's issue #10. "'Manhunted' chronicles the stalking and sometimes murdering of the DCU Manhunters by an unseen foe (well at least till #10 he's unseen.)," Andreyko said. "But, as in all good mysteries, the real who and why this is happening will become clear as the killer gets closer to the newest Manhunter."

The arcs after "Manhunted" will explore Kate's history and the tools she uses as Manhunter as well and help establish her in the DCU. "fter this arc, we are doing a one-off titled 'Costume Drama' that is basically the origin of Kate's costume and will end where #1 began with Kate swiping it from that evidence locker," Andreyko said. "Following that, God willing, we will delve deeply into Kate's past and have her meet up with some big names in the DCU."

With the huge events rocking the DCU right now, Manhunter's presence has gone for the most part unnoticed by the rest of the heroes in the DC Universe. "Manhunter is a relatively new addition to the DCU and with the events of 'Countdown' and 'Identity Crisis,' many of them are otherwise engaged," Andreyko explained. "But, Kate's presence can only go unnoticed for so long."

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Andreyko would not confirm exactly who would be guest starring in "Manhunter," but did state that some of the heroes that associated with past Manhunters are a possibility.

Manhunter's actions will also soon bring her to the attention of DC's villain community. "The word on this new Manhunter is just beginning to leak out to the Underworld and needless to say, they will be none too pleased by her activities," Andreyko said. "There will be some interesting revelations about Kate's ties to the villains and how this will begin to affect her job."

The DCU Underworld will have a special animosity directed towards Manhunter because, unlike many of her fellow heroes, Kate Spencer does not have a problem with using lethal force against certain types of criminals. "I really want to stay away from Kate being wracked by guilt over killing the occasional villain," Andreyko explained. "She only does this to villains who are killers and in her mind non-rehabilitative. She doesn't kill because she enjoys it, she does it because it is necessary."

"Manhunter" is a unique blend of superhero action, crime drama and because of Kate Spencer's day job as a Federal Prosecutor, courtroom drama. "There will definitely be more court room action in the book," Andreyko said. "In fact, I'm doing some extensive research right now into the intricacies of Federal trials (that should keep the lawyers who read 'Manhunter' happy. They are a tough lot to get anything by)."

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The real city of Los Angeles is the setting of "Manhunter," a city which has been relatively unexplored in other DC Comics. "LA in the DCU is similar to ours," Andreyko explained. "Folks there are more accustomed to seeing movie stars at the grocery store than they are seeing superfolk flying through the air, but Kate's new job will bring more of the metahuman element to the town. The use of a real city is fun and, I think, adds to the reality of the book. I am constantly citing real locations and sending photo references to the artists for authenticity's sake. And how can you do an LA based book and not have the movie industry play a part?"

The death of a Hollywood icon and some ideas on political philosophy influenced the creation of the new Manhunter. "We were developing the concept right around when Katherine Hepburn died and I was really inspired by her ability to do what she wanted as an actress," Andreyko said. "She was never a shrinking violet or the damsel in distress. She was so far ahead of her time and a pre-feminist feminist. Also, my own mixed feelings about the death penalty play a big part. Being able to play with the gray areas of the justice system against the backdrop of the DCU is incredibly exciting."

"Manhunter" is a book that's new reader friendly, but for people looking to catch up on the stories they missed there is a trade paperback collection in the works. "The 'Manhunter' TPB, collecting #1-5, is called 'Street Justice' and is scheduled, I believe, for late summer/early fall," Andreyko said. "Since all these issues are out of print and #5 sold out almost instantly, it will be nice to have them available for newcomers to the title."

"Manhunter" is a character driven book that Andreyko recommends to everybody. "Kate is a character who fills a void in the comics world, she is a flawed, intricate character who goes beyond the typical women in superhero comics," he said. "A lot of the things that people say make her 'unlikable' are traits that, if in a male character would be trumpeted. So, it has been fun to take the female archetype and toss it on its ear."

Andreyko backs up that recommendation with a guarantee. Any reader who tries "Manhunter" and hates it should contact Andreyko with a private message via the "Manhunter" message board at Geoff Johns.com or his own message board at Jinxworld.com. "I still have a standing offer to anyone who tries 'Manhunter': if you buy an issue and hate it, let me know and I'll buy it back from you. I'm having the time of my life on this book and hope as many people as possible try it out. I'm incredibly proud of the whole 'Manhunter' team and really believe in the book and the character and I think that excitement shines through. If not, hey what's $2.50 anyways? A coffee from Starbucks?"

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