Thirst For Adventure
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its twenty-second choice, Manhunter by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson from DC, reviewed by Tripwire editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Walter Simonson
Today’s choice is Goodwin and Simonson’s short but influential run of Manhunter, which appeared in DC’s Detective Comics in 1973 and 1974. Manhunter was Paul Kirk, a very minor DC creation from Simon and Kirby, who appeared in the 1940s and then was forgotten. The story of how and why this happened is one that is well known to comic fans. DC’s flagship book Detective Comics was struggling and its editor Archie Goodwin was looking for a backup to increase interest in the book. So he teamed up with artist Walter Simonson, who was a young turk at the time, to create a seven part epic.
Forty-seven years after its debut, Manhunter still packs a dramatic punch. Kirk is a man after revenge against the Council, who brought him back from the dead with intentions that were anything but benevolent.
Simonson played with panel and page construction throughout, incorporating type within his art in a way that hadn’t been seen in mainstream modern comics before. Even though it is obviously primitive at times, it points to the exceptional storyteller and comics artist that he would become later in his career. The action sequences move with the kineticism of an experienced cinematographer and the inclusion of Batman for the final part lifts things up a notch. The original Manhunter story is only 68 pages long but Goodwin and Simonson manage to pack so much into its pages that it is still seen as the ultimate comics adventure story. He draws on the likes of James Bond and Modesty Blaise, sources from outside of comics, to create something really unique and distinctive here.
Another thing to note here is the inclusion of Eastern weaponry, popular on the big screen with Bruce Lee at the time, but this is a number of years before Frank Miller popularised this in the pages of Daredevil. So Goodwin and Simonson were ahead of the curve here.
The collection includes a touching silent postscript story, drawn by Simonson from Goodwin’s script, done after Goodwin’s ultimely passing. It is interesting to contrast his work on this later tale with the earlier Manhunter stories and displays an artist more confident and at ease with himself.
Nearly fifty years after it was first published, Manhunter still shows how you pull off compressed storytelling. Goodwin was a major talent as a writer and an editor and this series also showed that Simonson had arrived.
I have read this story countless times but this has never diminished its impact. Without Manhunter, arguably there would have been no Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s Daredevil. A high water mark in modern mainstream comic.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far