September 30, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case Files #75: Manhunter

DC Comics has had a number of heroes go by the name "Manhunter," but to date only one has been a woman.

Look at the title of this article.  Which Manhunter am I talking about?  DC has had several.  There’s the robots the Guardians built that remind people that no man escapes the Manhunters.  There’s one from Mars.  There’s a bunch of guys wearing mostly red with a blue mask.  One really embarrassing one popped up after Zero Hour.

No, we’re looking at Kate Spenser, the only woman to go by the name “Manhunter” when it wasn’t some sad, sexist joke.

She sure has good staff control.

Federal prosecutor Kate Spenser really believes in justice.  There’s a bit of a problem when she has to deal with supervillains, though.  Those guys keep getting off due to technicalities.  When longtime Hawkman foe Copperhead manages to escape the death penalty, that was really the last straw.  Kate did what any reasonable person with a mad on and access to a police evidence room would do–she sneaks into said room, swipes a bunch of stuff, and then goes out and puts Copperhead down herself.  Knowing she can’t quite keep doing this alone, she recruits a sleazy super-tech weapons specialist from Witness Protection to keep her stuff working and build her better stuff.

As it is, being the new Manhunter may be something Kate has long wanted to do but never got around to.  Much of her life rather stinks.  Though her co-counsil Damon is more than willing to cover for her, she still has other issues.  She’s divorced with a six year old son named Ramsey, and her ex-husband isn’t very helpful there.  Her father is in prison for murdering her mother.  And she’s got a bit of a temper, rightfully, as a result of that and the revolving door penal system than is superhuman crimes in any superhero universe.  Quite frankly, becoming a masked crime fighter was probably the sanest thing she could have done.

And unlike a number of DC heroes, Kate wasn’t afraid to use lethal force.  That put her on a few hit lists, but she could handle it.

And while Kate didn’t know where the suit she cobbled together came from, they explained a lot.  The bodysuit portion came from a dead Darkstar, an intergalactic police force of sorts set up as competition to the Green Lantern Corps.  Those suits came with a few tech-based powers, and Kate’s damaged suit still had a few of them.  The gauntlets once belonged to Azrael, a vigilante who temporarily took the place of Batman to make all the fans asking for a more violent Batman to shut up and appreciate Bruce Wayne.  The staff, her signature weapon, actually belonged to a previous Manhunter, Mark Shaw, perhaps the best known and most popular of her multiple predecessors.  She also seemed to have some superpowers of her own in the form of enhanced strength and resistance to injury…though it turned out her son had those abilities too, which can be dangerous for a kid that age.

Over time, as Kate became more accustomed to the superhero world, she actually developed some friendships there.  Her pal Damon started dating a man who turned out to be the superhero Obsidian.  When she went from prosecutor to private lawyer, Wonder Woman was a client.  Black Canary recruited her for the Birds of Prey team.  For someone who started off as an angry loner with a taste for lethal force, she found herself making friends and teammates rather easily.

Slow night on rooftop patrol.
Slow night on rooftop patrol.

And it turned out, heroing was in her blood.  She’d been led to believe that her grandfather was Al Pratt, the Golden Age Atom, AKA the one that didn’t shrink but was just a short man with a powerful punch.  She later found out she was wrong about that.  Her grandmother was the original Phantom Lady, and that made the Golden Age Starman a cousin, and that Starman’s son Jack (a later Starman) another cousin.  No, it turned out Al Pratt wasn’t her grandfather.  Her grandfather was Phantom Lady’s old boyfriend Iron Monro, who had knocked up Phantom Lady and then ran off because he was a no-good cad.  Pratt had merely taken the poor gal to a home for unwed mothers where it was assumed (incorrectly) he was the father.  But since Monro had super superstrength and resistance to injury, that would explain where Kate got it from…along with her dad and her son.

Actually, that whole set-up is the opposite of what happened to another hero named Damage, who assumed Iron Monro was his real dad but it turned out to be Al Pratt.  Sort of.  Damage is more complicated than that.

Last seen as the District Attorney in Gotham City, Kate is presumably still fighting crime.  Hopefully she’ll do better than the Kate Spenser character that appeared on the TV series Arrow did.  That one got killed off, but that show liked to use various lesser-known DC hero secret identity names for various minor characters, so we can assume she wasn’t quite the same character.

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