Created as a back-up story in Action Comics in 1972 (a practice that kept many a second and third-tier character in print from Green Arrow to Hawkman), Len Wein (also creator of the Uncanny X-Men, Swamp Thing and many more), Carmine Infantino (incredible comic artist behind the Flash and the ‘new look Batman) and Dick Giordano (one the finest comic artists in the business and chief architect of the Batman’s success in the 1970′s) teamed up to produce something new. Their character seemed like your typical sleuth comic hero, but there was one chief difference. When people came to Christopher Chance for fear of their lives, he impersonated them to draw the danger to himself, making himself… all together… a human target.
The series was a moderate success and garnered a cult following of sorts. Chance found it difficult to find a home in the back pages of monthly comics and floundered about from Brave and the Bold to Detective to nothing at all in the end. His adventures were straight forward suspense dramas with a twist that the mystery would be solved in the most dangerous of ways. Rather than going after a killer through typical detective work, Chance charged headlong at the assassin’s bullet, stopping the villain at the last possible moment.
Years later DC Comics resurrected the character in a Vertigo-imprint mini-series by Peter Milligan. Milligan had just come off of Shade the Changing Man, a verbose and dense comic full of so much angst and throbbing emotion that many wondered what he would do next. His Human Target series was no disappointment. Delving into the psyche of Chance, Milligan hinted that the master of disguise not only took on his client’s identities, but their lives as well, leaving him an empty neurotic mess. Tapping into the madness of modern society and its dependence upon outside forces to justify one’s persona, Milligan’s series was both exciting and unsettling.
The mini was popular enough to earn an ongoing series and a graphic novel one-shot, all of which remain critically acclaimed golden books in the eyes of both discerned critics and comic book fans. In the end, the series could not compete with the ever-dwindling comic book readership and was canceled, but not before leaving an indelible mark.
Currently, a TV series in production to exhume the Human Target once more. The series is in development at CBS who no doubt sees $$ where comics are concerned.
The trade press would like you to think that this would be the first time that Christopher Chance starred in the small screen, but we of course know better. Back in 1992 pop idol Rick Springfield played the role of the Human Target in a short-lived TV drama.