Manhunter (comics)


Secret Origins #22 featuring the first three Manhunters.
Publication information
Publisher (All)
DC Comics
Originally Quality Comics
First appearance (Richards)
Police Comics #8 (March 1942)
Adventure Comics #73 (April 1942)
1st Issue Special #5
Secret Society of Super Villains #1
Manhunter (vol. 2), #0
The Power Company: Manhunter #1
Created by (Kirk, Shaw)
Jack Kirby
Steven Grant (writer)
Vince Giarrano (penciler)
In-story information
Alter ego - Dan Richards
- Paul Kirk
- Mark Shaw
- Clone of Paul Kirk
- Chase Lawler
- Kirk DePaul
- Kate Spencer
Team affiliations (Richards)
Freedom Fighters
(Richards, Kirk)
All-Star Squadron
Suicide Squad
Power Company
Notable aliases (Shaw)
Abilities varies, see below

Manhunter is the name given to several different DC Comics superheroes/antiheroes, as well as the Manhunters, an entire race of androids created by the Guardians of the Universe as a forerunner to the Green Lantern Corps. None of these are to be confused with the better-known DC Comics superhero called the Martian Manhunter, who is sometimes addressed as "Manhunter".

Dan Richards

The original Manhunter's first appearance was in the Quality Comics title Police Comics #8 (cover-date March 1942) and his solo stories ended in issue #101 (Aug. 1950).[1] The Quality Comics characters were purchased by DC Comics when Quality went out of business in 1956. Dan Richards would eventually be featured in Young All-Stars and All-Star Squadron. His origin was retold in Secret Origins vol. 2, #22 (Jan. 1988).

Donald "Dan" Richards attended the police academy with his girlfriend's brother, Jim, who was at the top of the class, while Dan was at the very bottom. After Jim was framed for a crime he didn't commit, Dan took up the identity of Manhunter to track down the actual killer. He caught the perpetrator and cleared Jim's name. Afterwards, he continued to operate as Manhunter. His sidekick was a dog named Thor, who was later retconned to be a robotic sentry operating under the auspices of the Manhunter cult.[2] Dan's granddaughter, Marcie Cooper, became the third Harlequin after he convinced her to join the Manhunters.[2][3]

Dan Richards was later killed by Mark Shaw, who had fallen back into his Dumas persona.[4]

Paul Kirk

Paul Kirk in the 1940s
The cover of the second Paul Kirk Manhunter collection (1984). Art by Walt Simonson.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule (All)
Format (All)
Standard U.S., 4 color.
At the time of publication: Ongoing
Publication date vol. 1: July 1988 - April 1990
vol. 2: October 1994 - November 1995
vol. 3: October 2004 - January 2009
Number of issues vol. 1: 24
vol. 2: 13 (numbered 0-12)
vol. 3: 38
Main character(s) vol. 1: Mark Shaw
vol. 2: Chase Lawler
vol. 3: Kate Spencer

Golden Age

The first of DC's Manhunters was a non-costumed independent investigator, Paul Kirk, who helped police solve crimes during the early 1940s. Though the series was titled "Paul Kirk, Manhunter", Kirk didn't use the Manhunter name as an alias. He appeared in Adventure Comics #58-72 (Jan. 1941 - March 1942).[5][6]

Beginning with Adventure Comics #73, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby established a new Manhunter,[7] Rick Nelson, big game hunter turned crimefighter. Though he was obviously a different character than the first DC Manhunter, the name Rick Nelson was quickly changed to Paul Kirk in Adventure Comics #74 by an unknown editor.[8] The Simon/Kirby team left the feature after #80, November 1944, although Kirby wrote a few more scripts. The Paul Kirk Manhunter appeared in Adventure Comics until #92 in 1944, when wartime paper shortages caused DC to drop page counts and thus his strip. This version of the character reappeared as reprint in back-up stories of New Gods (v1), a series also penciled by Kirby.

Kirk decides to become a crimefighter when his friend, Empire City police inspector Donovan, was murdered by the supervillain known as the Buzzard. He wore a superhero-like red costume with a blue mask. While he had no superpowers, he was an above average athlete and possessed superior tracking skills.

Although Dan Richards and Paul Kirk never met in Golden Age stories, because they were published by different companies, they have been retconned in DC continuity as having met, and arguing over who should get the Manhunter name.[9] They resolved the dilemma by joining different teams: Dan Richards became a member of the Freedom Fighters, while Paul Kirk stayed as a member of the All-Star Squadron.

1970s revival

Many years later, in 1973, the names of Manhunter and Paul Kirk were resurrected in a story by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson in Detective Comics #437[10][11] Simonson noted that:

He [Archie Goodwin] had this idea for doing a back-up story for Detective Comics which he was editing. He was going to do a lead Batman story and then have an eight-page short story in the back. He thought he would try to invent a character and do him in a way that contrasted with Batman. While Batman was dark and grim and very urban, this would be a guy in brighter colors and the whole world would be his stage. Where Batman was more or less an empty hand combatant, this guy would carry weaponry.[12]

Contrary to popular belief, although the name was chosen as an acknowledgement of the 1940s character, it was not the original intent of the creators for this to be the same character. This link was later established within the series to quickly provide backstory within the limited eight-page structure.[12]

Kirk carried and used primarily three weapons: a Bolo Mauser, a Katar (कटार), and two shuriken "throwing stars". These are carried by Kirk as part of his costume, on the chest. Said Simonson of his costume design, "I did a bunch of preliminary designs and I think Archie thought my first costume was a little complex, but then I did a bunch of variations. They were just simpler and not as a good, so we went with the original design. The only difference was originally I’d given him nine throwing stars. Archie wanted to include martial arts in the strip and I came across something that said nine was a mystical number in some of the martial arts cultures. But somewhere along the way I realized that drawing nine throwing stars in every damn panel was going to be a big problem. So we fixed that!"[12]

Paul Kirk had been killed by an elephant on safari in the 1940s, but his body had been cryogenically preserved and eventually resurrected by the Council, a secret society dedicated to controlling the world. After his return from death, Kirk was given a healing factor devised by a geneticist-member of the Council (it was later retconned that the healing factor was due to nanobots injected into him[13]) and was trained extensively in the martial arts by Asano Nitobe. He was also the genetic source for many clones, which the Council intended to use as their paramilitary arm, with the original Paul Kirk as their leader.

The Council underestimated Kirk's morals, though, and when he was assigned to kill an Interpol official, he instead attempted to warn him. Unfortunately, this was but a test; the man was actually a Council agent, and Kirk barely escaped from a group of clones waiting there should he not perform according to expectations. Realizing Kirk couldn't be their assassin, the Council ordered him terminated.

Manhunter defeated the Council, deliberately sacrificing his life to do so. Interpol agent Christine St. Clair and Nitobe believed that all the clones were dead, but swore to kill any they found in the future. One such hunt is depicted in the 1999 trade paperback Manhunter: The Special Edition in the original story, "Manhunter: The Final Chapter" where Kirk's compatriots are apparently chasing a somehow still living Kirk. Batman attempts to intervene, but they kill this Manhunter before explaining he was merely one of Kirk's clones dressed in a copy of his final costume.[14]

The 1970s Paul Kirk/Manhunter stories appeared primarily as 8-page backups in Batman's Detective Comics, at the time going through an incarnation as a "100-Page Super Spectacular" featuring mostly reprints of non-Batman stories. Only with the last episode of the series did Manhunter move to the front of the book, in a full-length team-up with Batman.[15] The stories were all written by Goodwin, and were the breakout work for future fan favorite artist Simonson. Simonson later said that the distinctively dense layouts and breakdowns for many of the early Manhunter stories were done by Goodwin.[16] Goodwin's work on Manhunter, in which he both updated an obscure Golden Age hero, and, in the series' last episode, took the daring approach of killing him off (one of the few comic book deaths that has actually "taken" and not been reversed or retconned away in the decades since it occurred) is very well regarded by both fans and other comics professionals, winning a number of Shazam Awards. Goodwin himself has cited the series as one of the three "best things I've done in comics."[17] When the team was approached in the 1990s to create a one off story, the aforementioned "Final Chapter," with the Paul Kirk character, the project was terminated by the death of Goodwin while it was still in preliminary development before the dialogue was written. However, Walt Simonson acted on his wife Louise's suggestion that the story be completed without dialogue as a "silent" story so as to not minimize Goodwin's contribution to it.

Mark Shaw

Mark Shaw, as he appeared in his 1980s series

Mark Shaw was a public defender, unhappy about how easily criminals manipulated the system and got off without punishment. Shaw's uncle Desmond introduced him to an ancient sect of crime fighters called the Manhunters. Shaw contacted the Grand Master, the sect's leader, through a magical lion medallion. Shortly, he assumed the Manhunter name and costume from a previous Manhunter.[18][19]

The Manhunter sect was composed of androids, created billions of years before by the Guardians of Oa to police the galaxy. For millennia, they served the Guardians well. The Manhunters became obsessed with the act of "hunting" criminals. Their code, "No Man Escapes the Manhunters", became more important to them than seeing justice done. Eventually, the androids rebelled against the Guardians, but were swiftly defeated by their creators. Those that survived went into hiding.[20]

The latter-day Manhunters attempted to disgrace the Guardians with Mark Shaw at their side. They were opposed by the JLA, especially by League member Green Lantern. Shaw realized that he had been duped by the Manhunters and turned on them, killing the Grand Master, who was revealed to be a robot. Mark Shaw quickly returned as a new hero called the Privateer, but it was soon revealed that he was also working as a villain called the Star-Tsar, in league with the Key. The Red Tornado discovered this deception and Shaw went to prison.[21]

While in the midst of serving his sentence, Shaw was offered the chance to accompany the Suicide Squad on a mission as the Privateer, and was released when the mission was completed.[22] In the wake of the Millennium crisis, he donned a new costume to distance himself from the Manhunter cult, and had his own adventures. Shaw now hunted costumed criminals for the bounty. He kept insisting that he was just operating for the money, but he kept finding himself doing the right thing.

During this time, he and his family were threatened by two shape-shifters named Dumas. Shaw killed the first Dumas and his battle with the second led him to give up the Manhunter identity at the end of his series. It was later revealed that Mark Shaw was actually himself Dumas and much of his history was actually the result of mental programming by the US Government.[23] Shaw joined the Shadow Fighters in order to battle the supervillan Eclipso. It was assumed that Mark Shaw was killed opposing Eclipso alongside his other team members in the Shadow Fighters. This was soon revealed not to be the case.[24]

He was actually undercover at the time he was facing Eclipso, masquerading as his old enemy Dumas at the behest of Sarge Steel.[23] When the call went out for heroes to fight Eclipso, Sarge Steel believed that it would raise too many questions as to where Mark Shaw was if he did not answer the call, and Sarge Steel sent along a ringer in Mark's place. The ringer thus only appeared once and is not known to have done anything but attack Eclipso and die.

In the Manhunter comic featuring Kate Spencer in the title role, Mark Shaw was approached by the Order of Saint Dumas to take up the mantle of Azrael.[25] At some point, it seems he refused as Michael Lane has become the new Azrael.

In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Mark Shaw appears in the Forever Evil storyline as a U.S. Marshal who is assigned to find Barbara Minerva, the Cheetah. He is referred to as "one of the best manhunters" in the United States Marshals Service.[26]

Clone of Paul Kirk

One of Paul Kirk's remaining clones, claiming the Manhunter identity and wearing Paul Kirk's Council-created uniform, masterminded the creation of the Secret Society of Super Villains. However, he died trying to kill Darkseid.[27]

Chase Lawler

Chase Lawler as the Manhunter.

A new Manhunter title (by Steven Grant and Vince Giarrano), unrelated to any of the previous Manhunters, was created in the aftermath of the Zero Hour limited series in 1994. Chase Lawler was a musician who summoned the Wild Huntsman to save himself and his girlfriend from harm. He did not understand the commitment he was making to the Wild Huntsman and found himself compelled to hunt the lonely. He tried to resist the urge by hunting villains, with limited success.

Lawler suffered a heart attack and Mark Shaw attempted to resuscitate him.[28] This transferred the bond with the Wild Huntsman and the compulsion to hunt to Shaw. It was later revealed that Lawler had undergone the same mental programming as Mark Shaw and that the Wild Huntsman was actually an illusion created as a side effect.[23] Lawler was drugged and then murdered by Shaw, who had fallen back into his Dumas persona.[29]

Kirk DePaul

Kirk DePaul Power Company #9. Art by Tom Grummett

Created by Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett, the Kirk DePaul version of Manhunter was the last surviving Council-created clone of Paul Kirk and wore a variation of that Manhunter uniform. DePaul was roaming through Africa when his progenitor was killed. DePaul was a partner in the superhero-for-hire firm known as the Power Company. Fellow partner in the firm Skyrocket despised him for his miserly, materialistic attitude.

DePaul's role in the Power Company attracted the attention of Asano Nitobe and Christine St. Clair, who confronted him.[30] They established that he was not evil and, although St. Clair continued watching DePaul, decided not to kill him. DePaul was later murdered and decapitated by Mark Shaw who had suffered a breakdown and resumed his Dumas persona.[31]

Although never officially confirmed, it is strongly implied that DePaul was later resurrected by Morgaine le Fey as the character "Swashbuckler" in the comic book Trinity (20082009), a mercenary who shows all the skills of a Manhunter. Trinity writer Kurt Busiek (also the creator of Power Company and Kirk DePaul) confirmed that Swashbuckler is the only member of the Trinity series' villainous Dreambound that has been seen before in the DC Universe; "Swashbuckler is a pre-existing character, but not a Silver Age one. There are clues in the story that indicate who he is, though..."[32] Also, in Trinity #27, Swashbuckler reveals a scar visible all around his neck.[33] At the end of the Trinity series, the Dreambound including Swashbuckler switch to the side of the heroes, and are later pardoned in court. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Kate Spencer

The current Manhunter, Kate Spencer, in the cover art for Manhunter (vol. 3), #4; art by Jae Lee.

Kate Spencer, like Mark Shaw, is a lawyer, but instead works as a prosecutor. Outraged by the ability of supercriminals to escape justice, Spencer assembled a costume from a variety of devices left over from various heroes and villains. A Darkstar costume and Azrael's Batman gloves give Spencer enhanced strength, agility and resistance to injury while Mark Shaw's power staff allows her to fire bolts of energy. Spencer has taken on several minor league supervillains including Copperhead and the Shadow Thief.

Recently Spencer fought her father, a minor league supervillain who erroneously claimed to be the son of Al Pratt - the Golden Age Atom. Kate is in fact the granddaughter of Phantom Lady and Iron Munro. Al Pratt allowed Sandra Knight (the Phantom Lady) to use his contact information in order to enter a home for unwed mothers, which led to the mix-up.

Most recently Kate Spencer, in her heroic identity as Manhunter, began working with the US government's Department of Extranormal Operations, headed by the former criminal Mister Bones. The new Manhunter series in which she appears began in 2004. This current series has featured appearances by Dan Richards, Mark Shaw, Chase Lawler, and Kirk DePaul.

Manhunter was initially slated to be cancelled due to low sales. However, a massive and organized fan campaign, along with support from DC Comics' management, allowed for another five-issue arc to be commissioned. It was revealed at the 2007 New York Comic-Con by Dan DiDio that the series had been given a second reprieve from cancellation.[34][35] The series was meant to be restarted in July 2007, but has been put on hold until several issues have been written and drawn before the title resumes publication.[36] The series returned in June 2008 with issue #31, written by co-creator Marc Andreyko and pencilled by Michael Gaydos.[37] It ended again in January 2009 with issue #38.

Kate Spencer eventually joined Birds of Prey, and her teammates were subsequently featured in a number of issues of the Manhunter series.

Kate Spencer briefly relocated to Gotham City where she took up a position as the new District Attorney. Her first adventures in Gotham were chronicled in a back-up feature in Batman: Streets of Gotham. She later appeared in Justice Society of America, which saw Kate move to the city of Monument Point and join the JSA.

Ramsey Robinson

Ramsey Robinson is the son of Kate Spencer and her ex-husband, Peter Robinson. He is revealed to have super powers in Manhunter (Vol. 3) #33 when the seven-year-old smashed a semi-truck while rescuing his dog. Issue #38, penned as a "future story", details Ramsey's college graduation and introduces his super-powered boyfriend, Justin, as well as Jade, the super-powered daughter of Obsidian (who is named after Obsidian's twin sister, Jade). The story describes Ramsey, Justin, and Jade training to become the next generation of superheroes and ends with an older Kate presenting Ramsey with a man-made replica of her Darkstar exo-mantle as a graduation gift, hinting he's destined to be the next Manhunter.[38]

Manhunter 2070

Manhunter 2070, by Mike Sekowsky

Starker, a bounty hunter in the future, was the star of Manhunter 2070. The Manhunter 2070 series was created by writer and artist Mike Sekowsky. Starker first appeared in the pages of Showcase #91 - 93 (June–September 1970).

In 2053 Starker's father was murdered by space pirates, and young Starker was taken as a galley slave. Starker took control of the pirate vessel, captured the pirates, and collected a bounty on them. Starker then decided to become a bounty hunter. He was aided by a robot named Arky.

Manhunter 2070 is one of six DC heroes featured in Walter Simonson's 2012 graphic novel, "The Judas Coin".

Other versions

In other media

Collected editions

Paul Kirk

The 1973-74 Goodwin/Simonson Paul Kirk Manhunter stories from Detective Comics have been collected several times: first in 1979 in oversized, black-and-white format by Excalibur Enterprises; then in color by DC in 1984; they were reissued yet again by DC in 1999 with additional material, namely a silent story illustrated by Simonson from a plot breakdown by Goodwin and him; the new collection was dedicated to Goodwin's memory, who had died before he could write the captions and dialogue (as explained in the book's text piece). This collection, titled Manhunter: The Special Edition (ISBN 1563893746), won the Comics Buyer's Guide Fan Award for Favorite Reprint Graphic Album in 2000.

Kate Spencer

Title Material collected ISBN
Manhunter: Street Justice Manhunter #1-5 ISBN 1-4012-0728-6
Manhunter: Trial By Fire Manhunter #6-14 ISBN 1-4012-1198-4
Manhunter: Origins Manhunter #15-23 ISBN 1-4012-1340-5
Manhunter: Unleashed Manhunter #24-30 ISBN 1-4012-1632-3
Manhunter: Forgotten Manhunter #31-38 ISBN 1-4012-2158-0


  1. Manhunter (Quality Comics) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on February 12, 2016.
  2. 1 2 Secret Origins #22
  3. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley Limited. 2004. p. 194. ISBN 0-7566-0592-X.
  4. Manhunter (vol. 3) #7
  5. Manhunter (1942) at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on February 12, 2016.
  6. Adventure Comics #72 at the Grand Comics Database.
  7. Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. Hot properties Joe Simon and Jack Kirby joined DC...[and] after taking over the Sandman and Sandy, the Golden Boy feature in Adventure Comics #72, the writer and artist team turned their attentions to Manhunter with issue #73.
  8. "Everything Manhunter - Part One". Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  9. All-Star Squadron #31
  10. McAvennie, Michael "1970s" in Dolan, p. 157 "Together with exciting new artist Walt Simonson, [Archie] Goodwin executed seven flawless tales that chronicled Paul Kirk's hunt for the world's deadliest game...Manhunter's award-winning revival earned undying acclaim for its talented storytellers."
  11. Boney, Alex (May 2013). "Hunting the Hunters: Manhunter and the Most Dangerous Game". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (64): 44–50.
  12. 1 2 3 Nolen-Weathington, Eric; Roger Ash. Modern Masters Volume 8: Walt Simonson. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 126.
  13. detective comics 439
  14. Detective Comics #437-443 (#443's finale, co-opting the Batman lead strip, featured an appearance from the latter hero); Manhunter: The Special Edition 1999.
  15. { Manhunter (1973)] at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on February 12, 2016.
  16. Sanderson, Peter (October 1986). "Walt & Louise Simonson". Comics Interview (39). Fictioneer Books. p. 57.
  17. Zimmerman, Dwight Jon (July 1986). "Archie Goodwin". Comics Interview (36). Fictioneer Books. p. 35.
  18. 1st Issue Special #5
  19. The unnamed Manhunter was created by Jack Kirby and first appeared in 1st Issue Special #5. He reappeared in Justice League of America #140 and in a flashback in Secret Origins (vol. 2), #22. This Manhunter wore a costume similar to Paul Kirk's 1940's outfit.
  20. Justice League of America (vol. 1) #140
  21. Justice League of America (vol. 1) #143
  22. Suicide Squad (vol. 1) #8-10
  23. 1 2 3 Manhunter (vol. 3) #13
  24. Eclipso #11-13
  25. Manhunter (vol. 3) #28
  26. Wonder Woman #23.1 - The Cheetah #1 (Nov. 2013)
  27. Secrety Society of Super-Villains #s 1-5, 1976-1977
  28. Manhunter (vol. 2) #13
  29. Manhunter (vol. 3) #10
  30. Power Company #5
  31. Manhunter (vol. 3) #11
  32. Posted by Kurt Busiek on the Comic Bloc Forums, August 4th, 2010.
  33. Trinity #27, February 2009.
  37. Manhunter (Vol. 3) #31
  38. Ramsey Robinson - Gay League profile
  39. Everything Manhunter - Part Two
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