Christopher Chance (The Human Target)

Created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino

CHRISTOPHER CHANCE, better known as “The Human Target,” made his actual debut way back in 1958 in the DC comic Gang Busters #61, and would have been nothing more than a slightly interesting if mostly forgotten one-shot, had he not been reincarnated in the back pages of Action Comics in the early seventies.

From that point on, he began to show up every now and then, usually as a back-up feature, in several other DC publications, and has appeared on a semi-regular basis ever since.

It’s an intriguing hook–Chance is a a bodyguard and master of disguise who offers a unique service: for a fee, he will impersonate people who feel their lives are threatened, as a way of drawing out the killer. In his very first case, he assumed the identity of a businessman aboard a train in order to intercept a murder attempt. Of course, most of his assignments required a substantial amount of detective work, as the motive, if not the would-be killer, is a mystery, making Chance a private detective of sorts.

Evidently, fellow DC Comics eye Jonny Double (also created by Wein and Marv Wolfman), was originally conceived as the “Disguise Expert/Bodyguard,” but that fell through, and Jonny became a pretty standard-issue tough PI. The concept was later dusted off, though, and The Human Target made his debut in the early seventies in the back pages of Action Comics. Both Chance and Double occasionally appeared in back-up stories in other character’s magazines, as well as making occasional appearance in stories featuring various other members of the DC universe.

And sure enough, there was Chance, along with a slew of other DC gumshoes, including Slam Bradley and Roy Raymond, in a special story, “The ‘Too Many Crooks…’ Caper”, in the 500th issue of Detective Comics (March 1981). Heady company, indeed.

Chance returned  in 1991, this time in a special one-shot  TV tie-in around the time a new TV show starring former pop star Rick Springfield as Chance, was “supposed” to have aired, written by Mark Verheiden, and drawn by (P.I. fan and NOIR contributor) Rick Burchett, with inks by Dick Giordano, the artist of many of Chance’s original adventures. The story incorporated the supporting cast and elements from the TV show (including the plane) and Chance was now a Vietnam vet,  but he still looked like Chance–grey temples and all–rather than like Rick Springfield (“Thank God!” according to contributor Chris Mills). In this version, for ten percent of a client’s annual income (“whether you’re a busboy or the king of England”), he would take the client’s place and protect his or her life. Philo Marsden was the eccentric computer genius who helped Chance by designing high-tech masks, and Jeff Carlyle was the chauffeur, cook and pilot for Chance’s mobile base of operations, the Blackwing (designed by Mike “The Shadow” Kaluta). Lilly Page was an ex-CIA agent who helped coordinate Chance’s missions.

Unfortunately, only seven episodes ever aired, and that was in the summer of 1992, over a year after the book was published. and to rub salt in the wound, the show was put up against the Olympics. Andy Mangels, in his Hollywood Heroes column, which ran in Wizard and Amazing Heroes, wrote “Fans are urged to watch the enjoyable espionage show now, because it will likely never be back on the air!”

But DC wasn’t through with Chance yet. A newer, darker Chance was brought back under the Vertigo imprint, in a sly and angsty 1999 miniseries, scripted by Peter Milligan (of Johnny Nemo fame). It asked the obvious question: if you’ve spent you’re life being other people, how much claim do you have on your own identity? One of the nice touches in the mini-series was that Chance–whoever he was–had an office in The Bradbury Building in Los Angeles, a long-running favorite of private eye films and TV shows.

The mini-series proved successfull enough that it spawned an original graphic novel, Human Target: Final Cut (2002) and a new monthly series, both written by Milligan. The series ran for a couple of years, and garnered a fair share of acclaim, with each successive story arc having Chance burrow a little deeper into the existential darkness as the cost of always being someone else continues to take its emotional and psychological toll. Until the final, head-spinning three-part arc, “The Stealer,” which features the return of a former protegée, Tom McFadden, a washed-up cop and second-rate private eye he took under his wing for a time, who has decided only one identity will keep him sane –that of Christopher Chance. The only problem is that the real Chance is in the way…

But it turns out you can’t keep a good man down, even if Chance isn’t quite sure who he is.

And sure enough, in 2010, Fox-TV launched another short-lived new TV series, this time starring Mark Valley as Chance. The character later popped up in a couple of episodes of the CW series Arrowplayed by Wil Traval. In these, Chance was “an old friend” of the Green Arrow.

Even better, though, was that in 2021, DC launched yet another mini-series featuring Chance, this time following Chance as he tries to solve a murder… his own! It’s a neat twist on the old noir flick DOA, and it’ll be interesting to see where it leads.

COMICS

  • GANGBUSTERS
    (DC Comics)

    • “The Human Target” (January 1958, #61)
      The Human Target first began appearing regularly in the early 70’s as a back up in Action Comics, and later in The Brave and the Bold and Detective Comics as well, but his first appearance was way back in Showcase #61 in 1958.
  • ACTION COMICS
    (1938–, DC Comics)
    Writer: Len Wein
    Artists: Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano

    • “The Assassin-Express Contract” (December 1972, #419)
    • “The King of the Jungle Contract” (January 1973, #420)
    • “The Shadows-of-Yesterday Contract” (March 1973, #422)
    • “The Deadly Dancer Contract” (April 1973, #423)
    • “The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract — Clause 1: I Have a Cousin in the Business” (July 1973, #425)
    • “The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract — Clause 2: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points” (August 1973, #426)
    • “The Rodeo Riddle Contract” (November 1972, #429)
    • “The Million Dollar Methuselah Contract” (February 1973, #432)
    • “The Pow! Wap! Zam! Contract” (March 1989, #641)
  • DETECTIVE COMICS
    (DC Comics)
    Writer: Len Wein
    Artists: Howard Chaykin, Dick Giordano, Steve Mitchell

    • “The Lights!  Camera!  Murder! Contract” (April-May 1979, #483)
    • “The Who Is Floyd Fenderman Anyway? Contract” (June-July 1979, #484)
    • “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea Contract” (October-November 1979, #486)
    • “The 18-Wheel War Contract” (August 1980, #493)
    • “The ‘Too Many Crooks…’ Caper” (March 1981,  #500)
    • “The Academy of Crime, Part I: College for Killers (Part One)” (June 1982, #515)
      First of a six-parter. Chance poses as Bruce Wayne, in a cross-over arc that includes Batman issues #349 and 351, Detective Comics #518, Batman #352 and Crisis on Infinite Earths #11.
  • THE HUMAN TARGET: THE MACK ATTACK CONTRACT
    (November 1991, DC)
    One-shot TV tie-in
    Written by Mark Verheiden
    Drawn by Rick Burchett
    Inks by Dick Giordano
    A TV tie-in with the Rick Springfield show that jumped the gun. The show only aired the next year.
  • HUMAN TARGET
    (1999, DC/Vertigo)
    4 issue mini-series
    Written by Peter Milligan
    Art by Edvin Biukovic

    • “Human Target, Part 1” (April 1999)
    • “Human Target, Part 2” (May 1999)
    • “Human Target, Part 3” (June 1999)
    • “Human Target, Part 4” (July 1999)
  • HUMAN TARGET
    (2003-05, DC Comics)
    Monthly
    32 pages, mature readers
    Writers: Peter Milligan
    Artists: Cliff Chiang, Javier Pulido

    • “To Be Frank” (October 2003, #1)
    • “The Unshredded Man, Part One: Ground Zero” (November 2003, #2)
    • “The Unshredded Man, Part Two: Ready to Die” (December 2003, #3)
    • “Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Part One: The Set-Up Man”(January 2004, #4)
    • “Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Part Two: The Strike Zone”(February 2004, #5)
    • “For I Have Sinned” (March 2004, #6)
    • “Which Way the Wind Blows, Part One: Living In Amerika” (April 2004, #7)
    • “Which Way the Wind Blows, Part Two: American Terrorists” (May 2004, #8)
    • “Which Way the Wind Blows, Part Three: Bringing It All Back Home” (June 2004, #9)
    • “Crossing the Border, Part One: Suffer the Children” (November 2004, #12)
    • “Crossing the Border, Part Two: Hey, Jude” (October 2004, #13)
    • “The Second Coming, Part One: In the Name of the Father” (November 2004, #14)
    • “The Second Coming, Part Two: The Temptation of Christopher Chance” (December 2004, #15)
    • “The Second Coming, Part Three: Pieces of Lead” (January 2005, #16)
    • “You Made Me Love You” (February 2005, #17)
    • “Letters from the Front Line” (March 2005, #18)
    • “The Stealer, Part One” (April 2005, #19)
    • “The Stealer, Part One” (May 2005, #20)
    • “The Stealer, Part One” (June 2005, #21)
  • THE HUMAN TARGET
    (2021-22, DC Comics)
    Monthly
    Written by Tom King
    Art by Greg Smallwood

GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMIC COLLECTIONS

  • Human Target (Vertigo, 2000)Buy this book
    Trade paperback collects mini-series issues 1-4
  • Human Target: Final Cut (Vertigo, 2002) Buy this book
    Original graphic novel
  • Human Target: Liars and Ghosts (Vertigo, 2004) Buy this book
    Trade paperback collecting issues #1-5
  • Human Target: Strike Zones (Vertigo, 2004) Buy this book
  • Human Target: Living in Amerika (Vertigo, 2004) Buy this book
  • The Human Target: Chance Meetings (Vertigo, 2010) Buy this book
    Written by Peter Milligan, with art by Edvin Biukovic and Javier Pulido and a new cover by Tim Bradstreet, this re-issue collects the original four-issue Vertigo title and the follow-up standalone Final Cut that inspired the new Fox TV series. Private eye and security specialist Christopher Chance will do almost anything to protect a client — up to and including impersoning them.
  • The Human Target (2022, DC Comics)  Buy the graphic novel | Kindle/ComiXology it!
    Collects issues 1-6 of the 12-part miniseries by Tom King and Greg Smallwood.

TELEVISION

  • THE HUMAN TARGET
    (1992, ABC)
    Premiered July 20, 1992
    7 60-minute episodes
    Developed for television by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo
    Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo
    Directors: Mario Azzopardi, Bruce Bilson, Danny Bilson, Bill Corcoran, Max Tash
    Executive producers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo
    A Warner Bros. Production
    Starring Rick Springfield as CHRISTOPHER CHANCE
    Also starring Kirk Balt7z as Philo Marsden
    Sami Chester as Jeff Carlyle
    Signy Coleman as Libby Page
    Guest starring James T. Morris, Richard Belzer, Scott Paulin

    • “Human Target” (July 20, 1992; pilot)
    • “Second Chance” (July 25, 1992)
    • “Designed by Chance” (August 1, 1992)
    • “Mirror Image” (August 8, 1992)
    • “Going Home” (August 15, 1992)
    • “Cool Hand Chance” (August 22, 1992)
    • “Chances Are” (August 29, 1992)
  • HUMAN TARGET
    (2010, Fox-TV)
    Premiered January 17, 2010
    60-minute episodes
    Writers: Jonathan E. Steinberg, Matthew Federman, Stephen Scaia
    Directors: Simon West, Sanford Bookstaver, Steve Boyum, Jon Cassar, Kevin Hooks
    Executive producers: McG
    Starring Mark Valley as CHRISTOPHER CHANCE
    Guest starring Chi McBride as Winston
    and Jackie Earle Haley as Guerrero

    • SEASON ONE
    • “Human Target” (January 17, 2010; pilot)
    • “Embassy Row” (January 20, 2010)
    • “Rewind” (January 20, 2010)
    • “Company Town” (January 27, 2010)
    • “Sanctuary” (February 3, 2010)
    • “Run” (February 10, 2010)
    • “Lockdown” (February 17, 2010)
    • “Salvage & Reclamation” (March 10, 2010)
    • “Baptiste” (March 17, 2010)
    • “Corner Man” (March 24, 2010)
    • “Tanarak” (March 31, 2010)
    • “Victoria” (April 7, 2010)
    • “Christopher Chance(April 14, 2010)
    • SEASON TWO
    • Season Two
    • “Ilsa Pucci” (November 17, 2010)
    • “The Wife’s Tale” (November 24, 2010)
    • “Taking Ames” (December 1, 2010)
    • “The Return of Baptiste” (December 8, 2010)
    • “Dead Head” (December 15, 2010)
    • “The Other Side of the Mall” (December 22, 2010)
    • “A Problem Like Maria” (January 5, 2011)
    • “Communication Breakdown” (January 5, 2011)
    • “Imbroglio” (January 14, 2011)
    • “Cool Hand Guerrero” (January 14, 2011)
    • “Kill Bob” (January 31, 2011)
    • “The Trouble with Harry” (February 2, 2011)
    • “Marshall Pucci” (February 9, 2011)
  • ARROW
    (2012-20, The CW)
    170 episodes
    Starring Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow)
    Also featuring Wil Traval as Christopher Chance (The Human Target) (2 episodes)

    • “Human Target” (November 2, 2016)
    • “Docket No. 11-19-41-73” (May 3, 2018)

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • December 2, 2021
    THE BOTTOM LINE: DC Comics’ bodyguard/master of disguise, The Human Target, is back in a brand new series. This time out to solve a murder: his own! It’s a neat twist of the old DOA noir, and a welcome return to form.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to John McDonagh , Chris Mills and Kit Chance (no, really!) for their valuable help on this one.

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