We're in the middle of a glorious era for reboots and comic heroes. Everyone and their mother is clamoring for this disenfranchised hero, that underrated villain or their favorite classic TV show to get their due face time on the silver or big screen. 'The Human Target' is just such a show, and one that may have flown below your radar as being comic inspired.
Based on the DC character created by Len Wein (creator of Wolverine) and Carmine Infantino, most are familiar with the 2010 action series that spent two years on FOX. However, you may not realize that our first glimpse of Christopher Chance on the boob tube was the pop-idol face of Rick Springfield. Yep, the guy that pined for 'Jessie's Girl' on 80s FM radio, took on the role of DC's Human Target in an ill-fated run on ABC in 1992. Now, Springfield was no stranger to TV; if you're a fan, you know his real claim to fame was actually the daytime drama 'General Hospital.' That incarnation had Chance doing what he did in the comics with an added team and, for a reason NO ONE can understand, all in a giant stealth bomber-like ship. It got dismal reviews and ratings and was quickly cancelled.
But 18 years later, DC reintroduced us to a gleaming, grinning and dapper Bond-like Christopher Chance. Rebooting on FOX with a solid cast, it starred Mark Valley, hot off 'Boston Legal,' as Christopher Chance. The show also gave Chi McBride another supporting role as a retired investigator-sort (remember 'Pushing Daisies'?) only known as Winston. Backing them up was the menacing Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Robocop, Bad News Bears [seriously, look it up]) as the super-deadly, deadpanning 'fixer' character, Guererro.
The character and show are perfect examples of a well-done adaptation of a minor comic 'hero' that can be brought back right where they left off, a la X-Files. Or, like John Constantine, he could be insertedinto the various DC TV properties. Now of course, we'd all like to see Valley reprise the role, but hey, we'll take what we can get. Chance would make a neat, pseudo bad guy for 'Arrow' or even 'Supergirl.' But, the show was on FOX, so it's possible THEY still own the rights to the character.
I remember reading The Human Target's exploits as back-up and secondary features in books like 'Action Comics' and 'Brave and Bold.' Christopher Chance was an un-costumed international Batman. As a master of disguise, he takes on jobs for anyone who meets his fee. The gig entails impersonating the client, who most certainly is in danger, exposing the assassin and neutralizing the would-be killer. Much like Bats, he has gadgets, a clever ingenuity, and fighting skills. The thrill is in the action panels and how Chance gets out of the situations he got himself into. DC gave him several attempts at solo runs: a one-shot in 1991 tied to the TV series, then, as a gritty Vertigo title, a four-issue mini in '99, revamped in 2003, then returned to the DC flag in 2010 for another TV tie-in.
The FOX version gave us a pretty good interpretation of the character and stories. However, instead of using disguises and impersonations (Been there done that says 'Mission Impossible's Martin Landau), Chance now embeds himself into the client's life and draws out the bad guys.
It's not quite a cop show, it's not quite a spy show, it's a unique mix of the two with just the right amount of semi-superheroics thrown in to keep you entertained and still stay true to the comic book genre. This show had everything you crave in an action series. Think the spectacular action and intrigue of 'ALIAS' crossed with the quick-witted snarky dialogue of 'The X-Files,' plus, stunts. Lots and lots of stunts. The fight choreography gets better with each episode; mid-air beatdowns while a passenger jet rolls, hand-to-hand combat in a bullet train air duct, and a sexy all-out tango with a supposed Russian assassin. Did I say tango? I meant tangle. And that's just in the first three episodes. Even the CG didn't look cheesy.
It's obvious executive producer McG, series creator Jonathan E. Steinberg and the studios sunk some change into the production values. In a nice touch, the show threw writing credits on every episode to Wein and Infantino. Pure class. Best of all, it even paid homage to its comic book roots in episode 4, Sanctuary. In this episode, the guy Chance has to protect is found in the library of a monastery explaining the 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' storyline to a monk. He concludes by equating The Flash's sacrifice to Jesus' sacrifice. They're even handling the actual mag. Pure fan-boygasm.
The show's guest stars and series regulars dug deep from the sci-fi casting data bank; from 'Battlestar Galactica' alum Trica Helfer (6), Allessandro Juliani (Felix) and Grace Park (Boomer), to 'X-Files' vets Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and William B. Davis (Cigarette-smoking man). 'The Walking Dead' star Lennie James came on midway through the first season as Baptiste, Chance's former partner and now archenemy. By the way, I'm thoroughly convinced that his TWD character actually is Baptiste. In the episode he's introduced ('Baptiste'), he's wearing the EXACT same military olive-drab overcoat that he wears as Morgan Jones in the AMC zombie hit. They also share the same martial arts fight style.
All this is exactly why it's so disheartening that it only lasted two seasons. Some say the downfall was adding to the cast for Season 2. Indira Varma (Game of Thrones, Luther), started as a client in Season 2, and became a major cast member. She played Ilsa Pucci, an heiress who sank her giant fortune into the 'business' becoming the de facto boss. They also dropped in tough-cookie baddie-turned-goodie Ames played by Janet Montgomery. Some say FOX execs messed around with the show, forcing the two female additions onto show producers in order to up the female viewership. The added twist of revealing Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man, The Fall Guy) as the ORIGINAL Christopher Chance just served to convolute the whole show, even if it was a cool cameo. More likely it was the replacement of show developer Steinberg with the lame-joke-loving Matt Miller, who was having inexplicable success with NBC's 'Chuck' at the time.
It's doubtful we'll see Christopher Chance cozying up and protecting the likes of Damien Darhk or Cat Grant anytime soon, so the best bet to get your fill of his comic-inspired adventures is grabbing it off Amazon. That's what I did. But be prepared to be disappointed again. Season 2 isn't available on DVD or legal download. Now where's Guerrero when we need him?