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Who Called Off the Hunt?

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In April of 2007, I did a focus on Manhunter. Issue #30 was coming out that week and the series was about to go on a hiatus immediately afterward. I spoke about the title’s brushes with cancellation, having faced the ax twice before, only to be given a last minute reprieve. I expressed optimism about its chances when it returned from its break and I even suggested that Manhunter could be considered a “book that would not die.”

However, when issue #31 arrived on stands over a year later, it lost almost 700 copies from the orders for issue #30 and ranked a lowly 122 on the Diamond 300 chart. The sales plunged even more, dropping another 4,000 copies by issue #36. It was around this time when they announced that Manhunter was once again cancelled, and no reprieve was in sight. It looks like the book that would not die was in fact most certainly dead.

The top brass at DC are mum about the cancellation. In my cursory search of the internet, the only statement I can find from them was a terse confirmation of the cancellation. But I am sure if pressed, the powers that be at DC would say similar to what they always say when low-selling books with loyal fan bases are cancelled. They’d shrug their shoulders and say something along the lines of: “The sales just weren’t there, the readers weren’t picking up the series, and we can’t keep publishing books that don’t sell.”

Granted, they do have a point. Whether it would be the female lead character, the fact that it came back with a number 31 instead of a number one, or a general dislike of the concept, new readers didn’t jump on. Not that the fans of the series didn’t try. They did everything they could to not only save the book, but also get new readers in.

But it is a bit too simplistic to lay the cancellation of Manhunter exclusively at the feet of the readers. Some of the blame has to lie with DC as well.

You have to start with the hiatus, and the fact that DC didn’t restart the series with a new number one. Normally, I don’t like simply cancelling a series and restarting it just to improve sales. But there was over a full calendar year between Manhunter #30 and #31. There was enough time between issues where a new number one was almost called for. When 14 months pass between issues, you might as well consider the return a new series.

Then there comes the announcement of Manhunter in the Diamond Previews catalog. The DC Universe section of the catalog is set up so that books DC wants to bring to buyers attention are in the front of the section, then the Batman family of books, then the Superman family of books, and then the rest of the DC Universe books. To add extra emphasis, they give certain solicitations an attention-grabbing full page entry.

Manhunter’s return didn’t garner either. It got a half page entry, buried in the DC Universe area. You would think that more focus would be given to a title with a history of shaky sales that is returning to store shelves after one year and two months of being away. But DC made little attempt to draw any attention to the series’ return in Previews.

DC also didn’t support the project with house ads in its titles as well as it could have. When Manhunter returned, Batman was in the midst of the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline, a much talked about arc which made the title a top ten book for its duration. You’d think that a book that was consistently selling in the neighborhood of 100,000 would be a good place for an ad in support of the returning Manhunter.

But I looked from issue #675 to #680 and there wasn’t even a mention of Manhunter in the DC Nation column. Final Crisis and its assorted tie-in series’ got full page ads, as did Trinity—neither of which really were in want for publicity. But Manhunter got nothing.

Of course, Joe Kubert’s Tor also had a number of full-page ads in the arc, and did even worse in sales than Manhunter. But Manhunter is a non-powered vigilante who fights crime with her wits and weaponry alone, just like Batman. It is not an outlandish idea that fans of Batman would find interest in Manhunter as well.

When series’ like Manhunter are cancelled, its fans are quick to blame lack of promotion. This argument is often dismissed, but might have some merit. From what we see here, DC effectively let Manhunter out to dry. Yes, lack of sales was the reason Manhunter had to die, but DC didn’t make much of an effort to help improve the situation.    

Also out this week:

Action Comics #873:

The “New Krypton” crossover has developed just as we thought it would. Thousands of beings just as powerful as Superman have the world on edge. Certain Kryptonians believe their physical superiority means they don’t need to fall in line with the rest of puny humanity. Conflicts arise that bring the situation to a boiling point, leaving Superman and Supergirl caught in the middle.

But even though the event is predictable, doesn’t mean that the story isn’t good. Credit Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates with making the expected still seem interesting. “New Krypton” ends in this issue, but the event will affect the Superman titles for months to come. If you missed the arc, you’ve missed a great story. But you should still jump on just to see where it all goes from here.

Geoff Johns (W), Pete Woods (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #7:

One of my favorite writers from my youth as a comic reader has to be Louise Simonson. There’s no denying her place in the annals of comic history. Her being used as a model for the legendary cover of House of Secrets # 92 (which marked the first appearance of Swamp Thing—she is the woman at the dressing table) and her years as an editor on Uncanny X-Men guarantee that.

But her work as a writer seems a bit underappreciated. She had successful runs on the New Mutants, X-Factor   and  Superman: Man of Steel. But my favorite works of hers had to be Power Pack, a book she co-created with June Brigman. It was about a group of children (who were around my age at the time) who received superpowers. The characters really resonated with me, as Simonson knew how talk to her target audience, not down to them.

She returns to all-ages fare with this fill-in issue of this series. If Marvel knew what was good for them, I’d suggest they add her on permanently. That way, she’ll become a favorite for a brand new generation of readers.  

Louise Simonson (W), Rodney Buchemi  (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Zombie Cop:

If you were to make a list of things, real or imagined, that most people thought were scary, I’d bet both zombies and cops would be on the list. Zombies, of course, are on the list not only for their penchant to eat human brains, but also for the fact that humans might turn into them. Cops rank because they are the ultimate form of authority. Even people who have never broken a law sometimes fear cops.

So, add them together and you have surefire horror. But this graphic novel doesn’t just leave it at that. Joe Mundy is a cop infected with a virus that is slowly turning him into a zombie. However, he is following the “to serve and protect” motto to the very end, as he spends his last hours as a human trying to find the cause of the virus.

Jeff Mariotte (W), Symon Kudranski (A), Image/ Shadowline Comics, $14.99. Original Graphic Novel.

B.P.R.D.: Black Goddess #1:

It began over a century ago, as an evil man went in search of power and immortality. It continues today, as one of the B.P.R.D.—Liz Sherman—is kidnapped by a man who foretold of great destruction and chaos. Now, the rest of the B.P.R.D. have to find their missing colleague and stop the end of the world—and they might not be able to do both!

Long time Hellboy and B.P.R.D. fans must have this on the pull list already, since it’s the second part of a trilogy that ties into themes started with the very first B.P.R.D. miniseries. But that shouldn’t stop new readers from jumping on board. Who knows? You new readers could become a long time B.P.R.D. fan one day if you try this one out.

  Mike Mignola & John Arcudi (W), Guy Davis (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Faces of Evil: Prometheus #1:

Prometheus had the potential to be one of the best villains to come out of DC in the last 20 years. Created by Grant Morrison and Arnie Jorgensen for DC’s last villain themed series of one-shots, 1998’s “New Year’s Evil,” Morrison took the character over to the pages of JLA where he came within a hairsbreadth of defeating the powerful team all by his lonesome.

However, his appearances in other, non-Morrison written books afterwards, especially in Batman: Gotham Knights, tarnished the character quite a bit. Instead of a man who almost won versus the most powerful Justice League in history, we now had a character that needed help to escape getting his head handed to him by Green Arrow.

This one shot sets about to do a course correction on the character. Sterling Gates has stated that his mission with this special is to return the character to the status he was in his first few appearances. And I hope he succeeds.

Sterling Gates (W), Federico Dalbochio (A), DC Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

Battlestar Galactica: Cylon War #1:

The Sci-Fi Network’s version of Battlestar Galactica is entering its final season—10 episodes and then it’s all over—and the show’s fans are in a crazed frenzy. Who will the last Cylon be? Will all their favorite characters survive? And what will they ever do with their time once the show leaves air forever?

If you are one of those asking that last question, my suggestion is to look to comics. Dynamite Entertainment has the BSG license and has been putting out series’ which fill in the gaps of the TV show. This latest series predates the Sci-Fi series and tells the tale of the oft mentioned war between humans and what would eventually become the Cylons.

Joshua Ortega & Eric Nylund (W), Nigel Raynor (A), Dynamite Entertainment , $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

I Hate Galaxy Girl #3:

Renee Temptate is what you call a sore loser. Plain jane, yet superpowered Renee lost out on the right to call herself Galaxy Girl to a powerless, yet blonde and buxom contender. But what she finds out about the dark world of superheroes causes her to not regret losing so much. However, a final battle with Galaxy Girl threatens to expose the truth to the entire world and could place Renee’s life in jeopardy.

Renee’s creator, Kat Cahill, is anything but a sore loser. She was a runner-up to Shadowline’s “Who Wants to Create a Super-Heroine” contest, yet her entry was so good the powers that be couldn’t help but give her character a series as well. It’s nice to see that there was some reward for coming in second!

Jim Valentino & Kat Cahill (W), Seth Damoose (A), Image/ Shadowline Comics, $3.50. Final Issue.

Resistance #1:

I have to wonder if Marvel was inspired by the ads for the Resistance video game when it came to market its Secret Invasion series. Both sets of advertisements focused on humans photoshopped with the features of the bad guy aliens of each property. Both sets of ads were sufficiently spooky as well (although the aliens from Resistance were far uglier).

If that is the case, maybe the folks at Wildstorm could borrow the ads for their comic adaptation of the video game. Just in time for the release of the second installment of the franchise, the Playstation 3 game comes to comics. The comic is integral to the storyline of the game, and helps fill in the blanks of the franchise.

Mike Costa (W), Ramón Pérez (A), DC/ Wildstorm Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer (whose birthday is today! Happy Birthday, sweetie!). He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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