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Action Comics 432
"The Million-Dollar Methuselah Contract"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND February, 1974

Len Wein: Writer Dick Giordano: Artist Julius Schwartz: Editor

Multi-millionaire Henderson Repp is an oil man -- and whereas other oil magnates leave the day-to-day operations to others -- he still takes personal charge! Everyday, he can be seen riding his big 1200 C.C. motorcycle -- overseeing production (Holy Rozakis, Batman!) -- speaking with his people -- This would not be out of the ordinary, unless you take into consideration the age of Henderson Repp -- as well as being one of the ten richest men in the nation, he is also one of the oldest -- and as his motorcycle is rocked by a sudden explosion -- it's obvious that someone doesn't want him to get any older! On the other hand, someone wants to make sure that he did! That's why the multi-millionaire has hired... Christopher Chance... The Human Target

Having heard the sound of the approaching bazooka shell seconds before it struck -- Chance had already hurled himself from the cycle when the ground moved under him... He manages to roll with the fall -- and absorbs the impact --! With the exception of an aching shoulder, he was safe! The motorcycle had taken the brunt of the explosion -- but still he played possum on the dirt as one dead -- for if the sniper had seen him move, his simulated death would become a reality... With the dirt playing against his face, it was nothing like the sensation he had felt when he had been sky-diving, practicing free-fall dexterity when he saw the second diver... Upon closer inspection, the other diver turned out to be a she -- quite a comely messenger from the heavens! Repp had stirred his curiousity... On the ground, Chance found the oil magnate waiting for him... Seeing that The Human Target is everyone he had heard about, Henderson Repp wishes to contract his services -- to save his life!

As Repp's "secretary" changes from her skydiving gear, Christopher listens as the elderly multi-millionaire speaks of the danger from his great-great-great-grand-nephew, who would be the only one to benefit if the oil magnate kicked the bucket! (Holy Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Batman!) Not that he has anything against dying, but better that it's a natural death, and Nephew Lester isn't playing according to Hoyle! The nephew has hired a military man to do the task for him! Repp figures that he needs someone to give him a fighting chance at staying alive! Chance agrees to taking the contract, but it will cost the oil magnate a pretty penny! Money is no matter to Henderson Repp! He plans to take a pleasure trip, while "Chris-Boy" handles the business -- and his "secretary," Deedee will be by his side to fill him in on anything he'll need to know. As the multi-millionaire pats his "girl friday" and says his goodbyes, Christopher Chance sees that this job will be a pleasurable one. It was a new experience to become this particular customer -- using special latex make-up to age his face, neck, and hands -- a multi-strap harness beneath his clothing to simulate the stooped posture of an elderly man -- but when he was finished, The Human Target was Henderson Repp! He remained in position for as long as possible, then slowly staggered to his feet... the sniper had left -- but he was not alone! A motorcycle heads towards him, and it's not the sniper -- or else he'd be dead now! The rider is...

Deedee, who had just followed the smoke, and figured it to be Christopher! She tells him to hop on, because they have places to go! A little later, one of "his" wells has just come in, and Henderson usually stops by to congratulate the men! "Repp" thanks the men for their efforts and promises them a bonus! The workers figure that they were just doing their jobs, and are admiring the sight of the gusher! A temporary cap has been placed until it can be properly set tomorrow! There is much pressure, but it should hold until tomorrow! That evening, inside of Repp's ranch-house, "Repp" decides to review things with his secretary -- but -- there is no answer to his knock -- and he had just seen her enter the room less than an hour past! Feeling uncomfortable, "Repp" kicks in the bedroom door, and sees that the room shows signs of a struggle -- and Deedee is gone!

Searching the room for clues, "Repp" notices the tape-recorder! With the machine still on, he knows that it must have recorded what had happened! "Repp" listens as Deedee was transcribing a few reports -- then an intruder arrived! (Holy Knutson, Batman!) Tired of chasing the elderly oil magnate, the sniper plans to take the secretary to the oil fields, where they'll wait for the old man to find her gone, then come running -- right into his gunsight! The sniper was correct. "Repp" would come running! Knowing that the assassin has the edge when it came to firepower -- the Human Target knows that the darkness would balance things -- and a little deception would be in order! At the latest of Repp's oil wells... the sniper watches from the tower, telling a bound Deedee that if her "boyfriend" doesn't arrive in time, he'll take out his frustrations on her! Tied to the oil well tower, she hears the approach of a motorcycle! The sniper sees through his binoculars that it's Henderson Repp, and finds it strange how an old man can ride so well! BRAT-AT-AT-AT... The military mercenary figures that it's going to be his final ride!

To the mercenary's disbelief, his shots have struck down a straw-stuffed decoy! Figuring this to be a diversionary tactic, the merc knows that Repp will be coming in from another direction -- he sees him -- but it's not the old man! No, it's Christopher Chance, the Human Target! His disguise had served its purpose -- giving the decoy its own identity while strapped to the cycle! Outside, it would be his survival skill which mattered, not his mastery of disguise... (Holy Carvey, Batman!) The rifle-bursts were getting closer, and Chance has only time for one shot on the move -- but he always hits what he shoots for! SPANGG! Before the merc's gun can strike the ground, Chris begins climbing! He was dealing with a insane killer -- and he had no intent of allowing him any chance to regain his senses -- At the command to surrender, the military assassin pulls the pin on a hand-grenade, and threatens to release his grip -- blowing them to kingdom come! There's just one second for the Human Target to drop his gun or -- BOOM!

Chance seemingly has no other choice... as he slowly lowers his .357 magnum to his side... then pulls the trigger! BLAM! The Human Target knows that the gun can blow a hole the size of a basketball in a human being! One can well imagine what it can do to the seal of a well-cap! The oil driller had told "Repp" that there had been lots of pressure on the temporary cap. Christopher Chance had hoped he was right! WHAROOOOOSHHHHH! The well-cap shudders once -- then twice -- and just like "Old Faithful," unknown gallons of oil -- and a hired sniper are sent into the night sky... Chris has just enough time to cover Deedee's body with his own before the hand-grenade explodes... sending the would-be assassin into the oily Earth... THWOOM! Unbelievably, the assassin survived -- and confessed his role in the nephew's plan to kill his rich relative. Christopher Chance is confident that Henderson Repp will be able to live the rest of his remaining years in peace! The oil magnate tells "Chris-Boy" that's just what he's gonna do! His "secretary has just talked him into trying for the world's record for Longevity! The Human Target can only hope that he would be able to live long enough to see if Repp succeeds!

The Human Target was created by Len Wein, Carmine Infantino, and Dick Giordano.

Len and Marv Wolfman had also created the character of Jonny Double for Showcase, and had intended the character to take the place of his endangered clients in times of peril, hence the name "Double."

In the '70s, the Action Lettercol had readers wondering if Len had patterned the character after the George Peppard TV show, "Banacek." It turns out that the character of Christopher Chance had long since been created before Wein had ever seen an episode of the television program.

Motorcycles were big in the '70s, with advertisements for toys based on Evel Knievel, Daredevil Stunt Cyclist, as well as the character of The Ghost Rider, who appeared in the pages of Marvel Spotlight during 1972.

Having met Dick Giordano in San Diego a couple of years ago, I learned that he enjoyed drawing beautiful women, such as Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Hawkgirl, and Black Canary. Seeing the artist do the illustrations "live" was the nearest thing to magic I've ever seen when it came to transforming a piece of blank paper into art.

Deedee is quite a looker, with long red hair, resembling Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. The Black Widow in appearance. She is also adept at riding a motorcycle, ala The Black Canary.

Henderson Repp reminds me of what an elderly Jonathan Harris would look like if he had played the role of the rich oil magnate. Indeed, it is the late actor's voice I hear while re-reading the story.

Hoy Murphy should appreciate this story in particular. On page 3, panel 4, Henderson Repp appears to be "goosing" his "secretary, and her facial expression would bear this out.

The sight of a reel-to-reel recorder dates this story somewhat, but doesn't detract from it. Those of us who have kids and grandkids would probably get a kick of showing them that at one time, a comic book cost no more than twenty cents, not to mention that a story told in a mere seven pages satisfies the reader than other books which take four issues to tell the same thing. (Holy Bendis, Batman!)

Thankfully oil's well that ends well, as Christopher Chance shields the lingerie-clad Deedee from the grenade explosion, and proves to be quite the gentleman, especially when compared to his client.

Len Wein's latest work includes Batman: Nevermore, The Victorian, and an upcoming Swamp Thing movie.

The Human Target is to receive the Vertigo treatment and a new series from D.C.

An interview with Len Wein, as well as news on his projects, and the Human Target book were reported on by Jen Contino at http://www.comicon/pulse

This Review Is Dedicated To Bob Rozakis

Happy Birthday, Answer Man!

Steve Chung
"The Million-Dollar Methuselah Review"