ACW #641 – Human Target

Action Comics Weekly #641 (Human Target)
“The Pow! Zap! Wham! Contract”
Writer – Mark Waid
Pencils – Curt Swan
Inks – Dick Giordano
Letters – Albert DeGuzman
Colors – Bob LeRose
Editor – Brian Augustyn

Ya know what?  I’ve been looking at this Human Target “trade dress” I made for eleven months now… just waiting for the time to use it.  This is another one of those “hitting home” moments for me.  Not exactly sure what I expected out of this project way back in January when I set it into motion… but, with today’s piece, it really feels like a substantial amount of time has passed us by.

Time’s a cruel S.O.B., ain’t it?

We open with Courageous Man and Minute Lad sliding recklessly toward the evil Pastafazool’s Pasta-Maker of Death.  With only a moment to spare, C.M. shoots the rotor blades of the machine, causing it to explode!  We then shift ahead a bit, to the same pair of heroes nearly drowning in a pool of yogurt?!  What in the world are we looking at?

Well, I’m so glad you asked… what we’re looking at is, a television show, not unlike that mid-60’s Batman series that everyone in the world but me seems to love!  Courageous Man and Minute Kid are a campy pair of superheroes, who find themselves regularly tossed into madcap deathtraps… only, these days, there seems to be a little bit more going on behind the scenes.  Ya see, Bill Anderson, who plays Courageous Man on television, feels like he might be a target… in the past little while, several of these fake deathtraps have malfunctioned on set, each time nearly costing him his life.  And so, he’s decided to call in a certain Private Investigator to check things out.

Christopher Chance asks Anderson why he doesn’t just quit… but, it ain’t that easy.  If he leaves the show, he’ll lose his syndication royalties… or something.  So, Chance takes the case… and takes over both roles in Bill’s life!

On set, we meet three of Anderson’s co-workers.  Perry Klein, a director who doesn’t seem to have any patience for “Bill’s” near-misses… Frazier White, a producer who kind of dotes on “Bill”, and seems very nervous about all of the recent accidents… and, Doug Duncan, the little jerk who plays Minute Lad… he’s a real piece of work, this one.

We jump into a montage of Chance portraying Courageous Man… and it looks like he’s taken to the role like a fish to water.  In fact, he’s actually performing a little too well.  He catches the attention of an electrician named Barney who had been hired on to check into all of the recent malfunctions.  Barney greets “Bill” and, realizing it’s a different dude under the mask, invites him to meet up that night so he can give him some information.  In his excitement, however, he might’ve spoken a bit too loudly… looks like li’l Dougie Duncan overheard the whole thing!

That night, at midnight, Chance-as-Bill goes to meet with Barney… only to find him dead!  Deceased!  Moidered, even!

Upon inspection of the body, Chris curiously finds a match clutched between the electrician’s fingers.  Hmm… that might be useful in solving the crime… ya know, in the most convenient way possible.

The following morning, Chase makes his big reveal.  He is, in fact, not Bill Anderson.  He explains everything that’s gone down… the deathtrap “malfunctions”, the murder of Barney the Electrician… and says that the person responsible for the whole magilla is in this room right now.  He then pops a cigarette in his mouth, and asks for a light.

Both Doug Duncan and Frazier White offer him a light… and A-Ha!  Mr. White uses matches instead of a lighter!  Bingo-Bango, there’s our killer!

Frazier attempts to beat a hasty retreat, but gets tied up in Courageous Man’s gimmick bolo-gun-projectile-thing.  Turns out, Mr. White was trying to kill Bill Anderson for the insurance money!  It’s always for the insurance money, ain’t it?  We wrap up with Chance being offered Bill’s role on the show… wonk, wonk, wonnnnnk.

Well, that was worth waiting forty-two weeks for, wasn’t it?

I kid, I kid… I actually quite enjoyed this little one-off.  A neat change of pace, and really… an indictment on the potential Action Comics Weekly had as a concept.  I feel like we should have had more things like this… not everything needed to be an overlong serial… one-and-done’s would’ve been just as good (better, even!).

Just thinking back to some of the ridiculously drawn-out arcs we’ve endured during this run… many of them would have been so much better if they were condensed… heck, some even cut in half.  That could’ve left room for little one-off’s like this one.  Just think of all of the under-appreciated characters and concepts in the DC Universe… they could’ve had a home here in ACW.

Even looking at folks like the Phantom Stranger… who, if you’re a seasoned reader of this here blog, you’ll know he ain’t one of my faves… even he worked (for me) in the short-bursts in which he was presented here.  He only stumbled in quality (to me) when we got him in that awful four-part arc.

I’m taking the scenic route here, but all’s I’m trying to say is… they should’ve been more “experimental” with this… experimental concept.

So, what about today’s story?  It was decent and fun.  Not likely to rock any socks, but solid storytelling that gives you most everything you’ll need to know about the lead character.  Granted, the “gotcha” was a bit contrived… I’m not quite sure “Your Honor, he lights his cigarettes with matches!” would hold up in court… but, whattayagonnado?

Overall… I was pleased with this one quite a bit, so much so that it really shone a light on the unmet potential of this entire endeavor!

Tomorrow: The final Superman two-pager we’ll (hopefully) ever read!

2 thoughts on “ACW #641 – Human Target

  • Chris U

    You are right. This is exactly the thing that ACW should have been from the beginning. Is is sad that it wasn't, and sadder that no one today has the balls to try this type of book again and do it the right way.

  • Matthew O'Hara

    Courageous Man and Minute Kid is actually a take off on COURAGEOUS CAT AND MINUTE MOUSE, a 1960 animated series "created by" Bob Kane. Not sure how many people would recognize this in 1989, but definitely more than in 2019.

    Oh, and Courageous Man's costume is the same one worn by Superman in 1968's WORLD'S FINEST #178 — an imaginary story where he loses his powers and takes on a new identity, Nova.

    The whole thing is very Mark Waid.


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