One of the things that has attracted fans to DC Comics' superhero universe- affectionately called the DCU- is the plethora of second tier heroes; heroes whose exploits are never as widely read as Superman or Batman and who never seem to be able to carry their own series for whatever reason. The "Manhunter" character has been a staple in the DCU for some time, but come August, this won't be the Manhunter you know. As part of CBR's spotlight on fresh new DC superhero series, CBR News spoke with "Manhunter" writer Marc Andreyko and the scribe provided some background for the all-new, all-different series.
"'Manhunter' is the story of federal prosecutor Kate Spencer -- a famous lawyer who specializes in metahuman crime -- and her frustration at a system that constantly puts super-powered murderers in Arkham or Iron Heights, instead of using the death penalty to rid the world of these madmen," explains the "Torso" co-writer. "After the events of 'Identity Crisis' and the results of her most current case, Kate decides to take matters into her own hands (with the help of a costume consisting of confiscated supervillain tech from an evidence locker.)"
Manhunter has generally been a male character in the past and the announcement of a brand new female incarnation of the cult favorite character confused some. Andreyko says the character's new look and origin originated with the "man" at DC Comics. "Dan DiDio had mentioned to me that DC was looking to start a new 'Manhunter' book with a female protagonist. After thinking about it for a few days, I called him back and pitched him my take on that loose concept. So, I guess it was a little of both. And working with Dan, and then Joan Hilty, is a chance I will never pass up. They get the creative process and inspire/challenge me to fire on all cylinders."
Readers will also find that Kate Spencer will bear some similarities to some popular female protagonists from the big and small screens. "Well, Kate was inspired by a combination of Katherine Hepburn in the1930-40's, Helen Mirren in 'Prime Suspect' and a little Lara Flynn Boyle from 'The Practice.' As far as revealing anything about the supporting cast, well, you'll have to wait and see...."
One of the predominant themes in the series is a discussion of "real" justice, something not seen in most superhero comic books and Andreyko says the issues is one close to his heart. "It's important to me to explore the concepts of justice, punishment and retribution because we all feel the need for these things whether it is on the terrorists who felled the WTC, the bully from grade school, or someone like Jeffrey Dahmer or Manson.
"Why hasn't this issue been explored in more comics? Well, it's not a black and white issue. It is incredibly complex and, even within my own opinions, I find myself torn between being pro-capital punishment in theory, but against it in its actual... Ahem.... execution. So, exploring the moral ambiguities and nuances of justice, along with the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, is a challenging and, I think, exciting journey."
As is common in many of the "new" DC Comics superhero series, there's a conscious eschewing of the "decompressed" and "widescreen" comic book trends, with Andreyko using every panel in "Manhunter" for maximum effect. "The pacing of #1 is mostly my style. There has been an attempt to move away from the 'if I should tell it in 2 issues, let's do it in 11' type of storytelling at DC and, luckily, my style fits into that pretty seamlessly (that's not to say, though, that there won't be longer arcs)."
Female protagonists are generally hard sells for comic fans, unless there's an instant visual sex appeal or a long-standing history, but "Manhunter" is a series in which Andreyko hopes to buck the trend. Kate's costume is practical, not sexual; realistic not titillating and there's a good reason for that. "Not having Manhunter in some chain-mail, T&A costume was something that was agreed upon during the conception of the series. I wanted to write a complex female lead and was wholly supported, and advised/guided, by both Dan DiDio and Joan Hilty.
"That, and being a gay man, I tend not to ogle women in thongs and push-up spandex costumes [laughs]."
In the first issue, fans will see a visual candy shop for fanboy eyes: Kate selects her weapons from a storage locker full of… options… and this room, with all its toys, will play a large role in the series. "There won't be a checklist of where all the pieces of her costume came from or anything, but the suit and accessories will change," reveals Andreyko. "And sometimes a familiar weapon or two will show up. Possibly to be followed by the original owner seeking the return of their property."
As readers will see in issue #1, Andreyko is laying the seeds for Kate's exciting future and the writer says he has developed some extensive plans for the series. "The long term plan is to explore Manhunter's sense of justice and how it ripple-effects throughout the DCU. After the events of 'Identity Crisis' the status quo changes significantly and, with amazing serendipity, the core concepts of Manhunter dovetail into 'Identity Crisis' aftermath quite nicely."
Joining Andreyko on "Manhunter" is artist Jesus Saiz, last seen with writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray on "21 Down," and Andreyko says Saiz was brought on the series, "By the grace of god and my editor. I've been extremely fortunate in my comics career to work with great artists - Scott Morse, P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, Jay Geldhof, Richard Corben -- so, Jesus continues my lucky streak.
"The synergy is amazing. Jesus takes my plots/scripts and brings them to such vivid life that i am staggered every time I get the art. In addition to the nuance and acting and storytelling, Jesus is also fast! Clone him immediately!"
"Manhunter" is meant to represent a new feel for the DCU and like many creators at DC today, Andreyko says that VP Dan DiDio is instrumental in the project being so fun and liberating. "Dan's contribution is invaluable. Not only from the original 'how about a female Manhunter' concept, but his rock solid support of both myself as a creator and of the developing concept of the book. Dan is a rarity in comics - a smart editor with great creative instincts who inspires you to push yourself. I'm lucky to be working with both him and the entirely underrated editorial stylings of Joan Hilty."
If your comic book budget is tight or you're not sure if this series is for you, Andreyko has a few words of advice. "I would recommend 'Manhunter' because I would be buying this book even if I had nothing to do with it. The concepts are fascinating, the surprises are many, and, yes, the legacy of the Manhunter name will be explored....eventually.
"Law and the legal system will play a large part in the series, particularly in the second arc - which is titled 'the trial of the ***********'
"And you want a tease? Try and figure out whose trial it will be in arc #2 [laughs]."