A group of robotic peacekeepers turned villains published by DC Comics. The Manhunters first appeared in Justice League of America #140.

The history of the Manhunters started in the distant past on the planet Oa. The race that lived there channeled the natural green energy they emitted into a Central Power Battery. They did this after one of their race, Krona used an advanced piece of technology to view the beginning of the universe. This action caused creation to fragment, creating an infinite number of dimensions and loosing untold evil into the universe. The members of this race believed that they were ultimately responsible for Krona's actions and set about to try and keep peace in the universe. Using the Central Power Battery and their advanced scientific knowledge, this race created a group of android warriors to keep the peace in the universe. These robots were called the Manhunters, were programmed for self-repair, and were armed with guns that channeled the power of the Central Power Battery. They became known throughout the universe by the battle cry "No evil escapes the Manhunters!"

Over the centuries, the Manhunters began to change. They grew more independent, relying less on their creators on Oa for their directions. Eventually, this new independence grew into rebellion, with the Manhunters believing that the Oans wer not fit to be served and needed to be overthrown. The Manhunters began to plot the overthrow of Oa and the seizing of the Central Power Battery.

The Manhunters openly opposed their creators and the war between the two sides lasted many centuries, with untold civilizations and planets being ravaged and destroyed in the process. Eventually, the Manhunters were able to bring the battle to Oa itself and they beseiged the planet. They successfully took the Central Power Battery, but when the first Manhunter tried to charge his weapon from it, it overloaded and destroyed all of the weapons of the Manhunters.

The Oans believed that the threat of the Manhunters was over and exiled them to distant planets. They cut off all contact with their creations. These decisions caused a split in the Oan society. One group broke away from the rest and left Oa, eventually becoming known as the Controllers. The rest of the Oans stayed on their planet and became known as the Guardians of the Universe. This group decided that their error was not using living beings in their cosmic police force and, so created the Green Lantern Corps.

The Manhunters did not pass from the scene however. They spent many years hidden on different planets planning the destruction of the Oans and their new tool, the Green Lantern Corps. They even changed their battle cry to "No man escapes the Manhunters!"

The Manhunters eventually gained power by an alternate means and found other ways of travelling the galaxy. They settled on Earth and the leader of the Manhunters there became known as the Grandmaster. He altered his appearance to look more human and even adopted a cheesy fake moustache to help in his disguise.

Also come to Earth about the same time was an alien known as N'Lasa. N'Lasa was partly responsible for the rebellion of the Manhunters and sought to undo his mistake by opposing them where he could. He established a group of warriors in ancient Japan whom he trained to fight the Manhunters where they could.

The Manhunters hid on earth for many years, until the mid twentieth century when super-heroes began to crop up. The Manhunters began to oppose the first Green Lantern of that age Alan Scott though Scott had no connection to the Oans.

The Manhunters also created their own hero. They recruited a police officer named Dan Richards who sought to clear his friend of a murder charge. They gave him a costume and dubbed him Manhunter. They also provided him with a dog companion named Thor, the Thunder Dog. Uknown to Richards, the dog was actually a robot and was used to spy upon him by the Manhunters. Richards became a member of the All-Star Squadron for a time. He eventually retired from his costumed identity after taking a bullet and losing some of his ability.

Later, the Manhunters created a second costumed hero named after them. They arranged for the death of a police inspector named Donovan who was a friend of a young American named Paul Kirk. Again the Manhunters approached Kirk and supplied him with a costumed identity. He tracked down Donovan's killers and then continued to adventure as the Manhunter. He eventually hung up his costume and became a big game hunter. He was killed by a charging bull elephant, but his body was frozen by a group known as the council. They eventually revived Kirk and gave him an advanced ability to heal and brainwashed him into doing their will. They sent Kirk to kill an Interpol agent, which brought him into conflict with Gotham City's defender, the Batman. Kirk broke his conditioning and with Batman's help, tracked down the Council. During the ensuing battle, Kirk was hit with a massive dose of radiation that soon killed him.

Meanwhile, the Manhunters continued to plot against the Green Lantern Corps. They enlisted a young district attorney named Mark Shaw, training him and arming him as the third Manhunter. The Manhunters then set about to discredit the Corps and the Guardians by making it appear as if the Green Lantern Hal Jordan had destroyed an inhabited planet. Because Jordan believed that he was guilty, he went willingly with Shaw when he came to collect him. Jordan's teammates in the Justice League of America did not believe him guilty and eventually uncovered the Manhunters' plot.

Shaw broke ties with the Manhunters and took the identity of the Privateer, but had been conditioned so that he betrayed the Justice League in the guise of the Star-Tsar. He was eventually caught by the Red Tornado and sent to jail.

The Manhunters continued to plot against the Guardians and their agents and allies. They began to place agents in the lives of known Earth heroes to use as leverage should there ever be a conflict. They even went as far as taking over all of the people in Smallville, KS to gain leverage against one of Earth's greatest heroes, Superman.

Eventually, a Guardian and a Zamoran, a male and female from the same race, came to earth to help the human race achieve the next step in their evolution. The Manhunters greatly opposed this plan and brought in many of their agents to fight against the heroes that were supporting them.

The heroes of Earth aided the efforts to create this next step, battling the Manhunters at every step. They destroyed the Manhunters secret base on the planet Orinda and eventually destroyed the Manhunters themselves.

At the end of this, Mark Shaw returned to the masked identity as the Manhunter. He became a freelance bounty hunter using his skill to track down super-powered criminals. He was eventually killed when he went with a team into the nation of Parador to oppose the villain Eclipso.

Director Michael Mann's Manhunter is among my favorite movies; this 1986 release was the first film based on Thomas Harris' novel The Red Dragon.

Those of you who've seen the more recent Brett Ratner/Ted Tally adaptation Red Dragon know the basic plot. Serial killer Francis Dollarhyde is slaughtering entire families to create grisly fantasy tableaus to "do as God does" and become the godlike dragon from the William Blake painting "The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With The Sun" and overcome his powerless past. Retired detective Will Graham (who has the uncanny ability to put himself in the mindset of the killers he's tracked) is enlisted to find the killer, whom the police have nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy" because of the impressive bite marks he leaves on his victims. Graham retired because of the physical and mental damage he sustained in discovering and capturing the serial-killing, cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter, and as he sets out on his search for The Tooth Fairy, he seeks advice from his old nemesis in the mental hospital.

This movie is exceedingly watchable in part because of Mann's directorial style, but also because of the excellent performances by William L. Petersen as Will Graham, Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter and Tom Noonan as Dollarhyde. This is easily character actor Noonan's most memorable performace, and he is one of the creepiest, freakiest villains to come out of 1980s cinema. The scene where Dollarhyde confronts the tabloid reporter he's kidnapped and strapped into an antique wheelchair, forces him to read a letter of apology into a tape recorder, then bites the terrified man's tongue out is something to behold. But the scene right after it in which we see the reporter set on fire and rolling down a parking garage ramp is an image that will stay with you for a long time; they couldn't top this scene in Red Dragon, and they didn't really try.

Movie Information

Release Year: 1986
Rating: R
Running time: 119-124 minutes, depending on cut
Writing credits: Thomas Harris, Michael Mann
Cast:
William L. Petersen: FBI Agent Will Graham
Kim Greist: Molly Graham
Joan Allen: Reba McClane
Brian Cox: Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Dennis Farina: FBI Section Chief Jack Crawford
Tom Noonan: Francis Dollarhyde
Stephen Lang: Freddy Lounds
Benjamin Hendrickson: Dr. Frederick Chilton
Frankie Faison: Police Lieutenant Fisk (Faison played Barney Matthews in the other Hannibal Lecter movies; he's the only actor to be in all four films).

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