With a Hall of Fame career that includes creating Wolverine and the Swamp Thing and editing "Watchmen," Len Wein knows a thing or two about mass market appeal.
So, as another one of his creations, "The Human Target," enjoys success as a hit TV series for FOX, Wein has returned to the scene of the crime to write a new six-issue miniseries for DC Comics starring everyone's favorite private detective/bodyguard: Christopher Chance.
In the series, featuring art by Bruno Redondo and Sergio Sandoval and a co-feature written Peter Johnson with art by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story, Chance is tasked with protecting a highly placed informant and collecting damaging evidence throughout Europe. That doesn't make the Human Target any friends and he finds out fairly quickly that every assassin and goon from Paris to Prague is gunning for him.
Wein told CBR News what he loves about the Human Target, why he feels the character has lasted nearly 40 years, and what he feels is the difference between Mark Valley and Rick Springfield's interpretations of Christopher Chance.
CBR News: Looking back, Christopher Chance only appeared 20 or so times throughout the 1970s and 1980s ,and yet he spawned a television series in the 1990s, two relaunches/reimagings by Peter Milligan for Vertigo, a new FOX television series and now, your new series for DC Comics. What is it about The Human Target that you think resonates with readers and Hollywood execs?
Len Wein: I wish I knew specifically so I could duplicate the process, but I'm guessing a major element in the Target's success is the almost infinite number of stories you're able to tell with the character. He could be a priest one week, a big-game hunter the next and an astronaut the week after that. It's an important element in franchising a character.
This might be the same question, but what do you love about Christopher Chance?
It is actually, and my answer remains the same; I could do almost anything with him.
What was the original inspiration for the character?
That's one of the hardest aspects of the character to discuss. I recall the original idea coming to me in a dream when I was still in my teens, but apparently DC had run a couple of stories about human target-type characters back when I was still a child that may have subconsciously influenced me.
In point of fact, when I first created the Human Target, his alter ego was Jonny Double. I was a kid. Subtlety wasn't my long suit. But when I originally pitched the idea to [DC's former managing editor] Dick Giordano, he wasn't interested in the Target concept, only the private eye aspect, so that's the way we went. When I got the opportunity to pitch the unused idea again to Julius Schwartz, I came up with a new name for the lead and the Human Target was born.
What were your original intentions for the character? Did you have a grander mythos plotted out for Chance that you would have explored if you had been given the issues to tell the story?
I think you see my original intentions in my original stories. Julie pretty much gave me my head, so the stories you saw were the stories I wanted to tell. I hadn't worked up a hugely involved backstory for Chance, since I was only going to have 6-to-8 pages to tell most of my stories. It was originally a back-up strip, remember.
Will people need to be familiar with his comic book continuity in order to understand and enjoy your new "Human Target" six-issue miniseries?
Absolutely not. We hit the ground running with this one. Anything you need to know, I promise you'll learn along the way.
Did you go back to any old notes or plot threads from his first appearances for this story?
Not one. It's a whole new take on the character, which requires a whole new kind of storytelling.
What can you tell us about the story you're telling with Bruno Redondo and Sergio Sandova in this miniseries? Is it a series of done-in-ones or is there a larger, overall story?
It's a six-issue story, one in a series of ones. You can read any chapter without reading any of the other ones and still enjoy it, but putting all six together tells an overarching tale.
Anything you'd like to share about Bruno and Sergio's depictions of the Human Target?
They're right on the money. This series looks good.
Are there appearances by any other DCU characters?
I'm hoping to cameo one or two, but to tell you about them would spoil the surprise.
Given the opportunity, would you like to write more "Human Target"? Are there any planned? Maybe even an ongoing?
Write Chris Chance again? Absolutely. Ongoing series? All depends on how well this one sells.
In the new TV series starring Mark Valley, Chance doesn't physically impersonate people like he did in your original series? Will you be using that plot device in the comic, and do you wish it was used on the television series?
No to both. What works effortlessly on the comic book page has consequences in the real world. The big problem with selling the comics version of the Target to TV would be having a series where your lead actor doesn't appear on screen for much of the time, and as the women in my life tell me, they like spending as much time as possible looking at Mark Valley.
What's your involvement in the TV series? Will you be writing any episodes?
If we're fortunate enough to go to a second season, there's talk of me dipping my word processor into the pool, so we'll just have to wait and see.
What else are you working on these days?
Well, right now I'm in the middle of writing the "Human Target" miniseries for DC, also I'm writing the DC Universe 75th anniversary series "Legacies," with some of the greatest artists in the history of the biz. I'm also writing more episodes of "Ben 10" the animated series, and I've just started writing for the "Marvel Super-Hero Squad" animated show.
"Human Target" #1, written by Len Wein with art by Bruno Redondo and Sergio Sandoval, is in stores now.