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Action Comics 423
"The Deadly Dancer Contract!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND April, 1973

Action- Plus From: Len Wein Writer

Dick Giordano Artist

Julius Schwartz Editor

The key was found easily enough -- taped within the shower-head -- just as Hyram Walsh had told him! After locking his apartment door, there was the wait for the elevator... The next job was to empty the safe-deposit box -- and turn over the documents to the authorities -- but first, there's something he had to attend to! The spent door parted noisily and... before he can step inside, he is asked to hold the elevator for two more! The two men are grateful for the save... and as their intended victim stands behind them in the cramped car, both pull out their weapon of choice... a gun and a blade! (Holy Wolfman, Batman!) This is Christopher Chance's introduction to... "The Deadly Dancer Contract!"

The two young thugs had been shadowing him -- and Chris knew it -- so he feigned surprise when the elevator car went past the lobby and... the three of them had an appointment in the basement! The basement was just like any other -- complete with dust, cobwebs, rubbish, and two rats... the duo who slam "Hyram Walsh" against a dank brick wall... The two hoods know that the fat accountant is wanted for a lot of money! They want to know why anyone would consider him worth that kind of bread. As the "accountant" begs for mercy and claims to know nothing, the long-haired punk with the shades and the blade steps forward... The blade doesn't go very far, as it is suddenly kicked out of the suprised hood's hand...

Chance had figured that he had three seconds before the other punk would use his gun... he was off by a split-second... BLAM! "Hyram" executes a roll, reaches for the knife, then hurls it at his assailant... pinning the other hood's suit-sleeve to the wall! Now no longer resembling a frightened fat accountant, "Hyram" demands some answers from the young punk, or else he'll wind up with a second grin! The two had heard that someone would pay a lot to the man who spotted Walsh -- and told him of the accountant's whereabouts! The two young punks were overly ambitious, that's all. When asked about the "Dude," the frightened punk describes him as a crazy guy who wears a hearing aid! He also gave them a phone number where he could be reached! Once he had memorized the number -- and dropped the knife as he said he would -- The Human Target uses his forearm against the hood's neck-- until he slumped to the floor unconscious! Christopher Chance had a long-awaited meeting to go to -- and he didn't want the surprise to be spoiled!

He had been out for a drive -- when the bullet passed through his car's windshield and put an end to his reverie... The intended target had been a stowaway in his car... an accountant named Hyram Walsh -- who was trying to expose the syndicate -- and he was being chased by a killer with a hearing aid -- a man named Dancer... Chris knew Dancer pretty well... Two decades ago, as a boy, he watched in horror as Dancer murdered his father... The Human Target had many reasons to take up the contract... but he also had promises to keep -- and a reputation to maintain... Tossing a coin, he determined the fee -- and he became Hyram Walsh -- The documents which were needed to damage the mob were in a safe-deposit box -- and the key was in the accountant's apartment! Once he had gotten there -- and found it, Chris had his first firm lead... With Dancer's phone number, all he needed was an address...

Eager to make his appointment, "Walsh" rushed into the dark alleyway -- where brightness was cast upon him by the fast-approaching car being driven by another punk covering the alley -- and who was no doubt wondering what had happened to his two friends! From the way the car was weaving, "Hyram" knew that the driver was on something... and seeing the two glazed eyes behind the wheel -- there was no doubt what his next move would be... With the door locking behind him -- and the grim possibility of being squashed to a pulp on the wall... "Walsh" leaps for the fire-escape, which while old and rusty, the ladder-latch gives way to his weight, and breaks through the windshield of the oncoming car -- The punk was out cold before the car hit the wall -- but Chance had not time to see what was left... he had a promise to keep...

After calling a friend at the phone company, "Hyram Walsh" finds himself outside of the Wilmer Theater, which would be the site of another show... this one played out in real time... After making his way backstage, Chance can sense the ghosts of actors who had played there ... and someone else... This particular contract would be too important for the Human Target to lose! He sensed the motion behind him a fraction of a second too late! BLAM! PTWANG! Dancer stepped out from the darkness -- and "Walsh" could see his face. The clothes were different -- the result of more blood money -- a bit of gray was present in the hair -- there were more wrinkles around the face -- but two constants remained -- the insanity still lurked in the eyes -- the humorless grin -- had not changed in twenty years... The killer is surprised that "Walsh" recognizes him! He is also grateful that the fat accountant had saved him time and trouble in tracking him down! In this quiet theatre, no audience will witness his death!

Dancer begins to pull on the trigger, just as "Walsh" pulls on the ropes supporting the sandbag, which falls, and knocks the gun out of his hand! After two decades, Dancer still moved swiftly! Running on instinct, he went for his fallen gun, but "Walsh" was faster! The two men fall towards the waiting gun, with Dancer seeking to plow through his fat friend... but he is "out-danced" by the "accountant," and thrown to the floor on his chin! THWAAM!

The gun was covering Dancer before he can get to his feet... He listens as "Hyram Walsh" speaks about having waited more than half his own lifetime for this day! Dancer can only wonder why the accountant would take a personal interest in him! He sees more clearly when "Hyram" unmasks and the boy whose father he killed now stands before him as a man! As anger roared within him, Christopher Chance watches as his father's killer -- the man he sought for twenty years -- comes apart! In the years since the murder of the elder Chance, Dancer knew that someday he would face the same fate... and to him, it had arrived! It is now the killer who is as a small boy, begging for his life to be spared! The anger -- the will -- simply seeps out of Chance -- as he watches Dancer find his way to insanity... Kneeling beside him, Chance tells him that no one will hurt him anymore... and when the police arrive to take Dancer away, the two are still there, the contract completed.

I enjoy the story titles, as they remind me of the ones from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Hyram Walsh resembles William Conrad, who would be playing the '70s detective... Cannon.

As Tom Orzechowski points out, Len Wein, Dick Giordano, and Julius Schwartz play a large role in having The Human Target provide excellent back-up to the man of steel in Action Comics.

Both young punks are wearing suits. I don't know if they'd be considered leisure suits, but those hairstyles are certainly indicative of the decade.

Like a certain darknight detective, Christopher Chance is well-versed in the art of disguise, as well as interrogation.

Like a certain millionaire, Chance has his resources working for him. Although he doesn't wear a cape, he does wear his share of masks in his profession.

While Christopher Chance had Dancer (a grinning killer with a torn heart tattooed on his right cheek), Bruce Wayne had Joe Chill, and in both cases, each devoted his life to protecting others from what happened to him. Although Christopher Chance charges a fee for his services, I don't think he'd hesitate if there was a life in danger.

Chance's acrobatics and agility, plus his knowledge of hand-to-hand makes him a formidable adversary. Unlike the caped crusader, he has no qualms about using a gun.

Thankfully, Christopher Chance doesn't kill Dancer (and become like his father's killer) and interestingly, the assassin becomes like a frightened child when the Human Target catches up with him!

One of Christopher Chance's most interesting contracts occurred in Detective Comics #518, where he assumed the role of Bruce Wayne, who was threatened by the criminal sharpshooter known as Deadshot!

In the early '90s, Rick Springfield played the role of The Human Target on ABC. Among the guests were David Carradine (Kung-Fu) as one of Chance's mentors, R. Lee Ermy (Willard) as one of his clients, and John Wesley Shipp (The Flash) as an actor who is impersonated by Chance in another episode. Scott Paulin (The Italian Red Skull to Matt Sallinger's Captain America) was another client for Chance.

The character and his back-up stories are certainly among those I'd love to see collected into a trade paperback.

Steve Chung
"The Deadly Dancer Review!"