Retrospective: DC Comics’ Hitman

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Posted on: August 22nd, 2013
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We all have our favourite Marvel and DC characters (The Punisher and Batman respectively), most of us  even have a favourite X-man (Bishop, hands down), but what about the smaller heroes and villains, the ones who have a short run before fading into the background as reboots, “World” changing events and the passage of time lead to us forgetting them? One such character is Tommy Monaghan (“Hitman”) and here is why you should take the time to either discover or re-discover this classic comic.

 

“Hitman” was written by Garth Ennis and brought to life by artist John McCrea. Whilst Garth Ennis is more widely known for his work on Preacher, The Punisher and The Boys, it’s easy to overlook one of his earlier (and in my opinion best) series. I am, of course, referring to the above mentioned title “Hitman”. The main character, Tommy Monaghan, started life in the DC universe’s Bloodline storyline, in which Alien’s attacked Earth to fed on our delicious human spinal fluid (and in a cheap and nasty marketing twist to bring “New Blood” to the universe, left some of their survivor’s with Superhuman abilities).

He then went on to appear regularly in the, then Ennis penned, “Demon” comics before he finally got his own series which ran for 60 issues, not including one-off stories and guest appearances in other comics. (Most of which I own because I am nothing if not an obsessive man who likes my collections to be complete).

Though it is easy to forget about this character, (as it appears DC itself has done with no issues beyond #30 ever being released in collected trade paperbacks), there are so many reasons why this was one of the best things to come out of the DC universe. For fans who already know about the adventures Tommy and the gang got up to, this should be a pleasant trip down memory lane. For everyone else, these are the reasons you should search out this forgotten gem.

Tommy smokes. Whilst not an achievement in anyones’s books, it is a nice change of pace to today’s clean living Heroes.

 

Tommy Monaghan:

Firstly, we have Tommy, a wise cracking American/Irish killer for hire. He gets more than he bargained for when one of his hits ends with him being feasted upon by an Alien, waking up to find that he now has X-Ray vision and the new-found ability to read minds. He then decides the only thing to do with these powers is take contracts on Super-humans…. as you would.

(On a side note, I sometimes suspect the whole inclusion of his superpowers was an excuse to get the character published to begin with, as by the end, he barely references or uses his powers). He has all the qualities you could want in a main protagonist, he’s funny, charming and best of all, he’ll kill at the drop of a hit. He’s the kind of guy who will pray that the spirit of Chow Yun-Fat is with him as he dives headlong into battle with a gun blazing in each hand and then come out the other side with a grin on his face and a quip on his lips.

It’s not all just quipping and blowing holes in people though, from the start to the end of the series Tommy goes through all kinds of emotional ordeals, we see him at his best and we see him at his worst. Ennis isn’t afraid to convey the differences between the giddy highs of the former before showcasing the despair that the latter brings (especially in a storyline that brings Tommy to our Emerald Isle).

All this leads to Tommy being a well rounded character rather than the one note pony he could easily have become. Though when that note is a death-dealing quip-machine, we’d probably not have minded too much.

 

 The characters:

Poker Night at Noonans.

Surrounding Tommy are an array of eclectic and sometimes downright insane characters. The stories mainly deal with Tommy and his core group of friends who drink regularly down at their local, Noonans (which is located in the hitherto un-mentioned Irish quarter of Gotham, The Cauldron). The bar is run by ex-hitman Sean Noonan, a father figure to Tommy, his best pals Natt the hat, a pudgy ex-marine who served with Tommy in Iraq and Pat, Sean’s nephew.

Local idiot and Hanger-on, Hacken and finally Ringo, a character based on Chow Yun-Fat during his “Heroic Bloodshed” days (though whilst Ringo and Tommy are friends, there is a competitive and self destructive drive between to the two to one day find out just who is the better killer).

It’s a tribute to the quality of the writing that issues set within the Bar, watching these friends shoot the shit over a few pints, can be just as entertaining as the explosive action set pieces that usually follow them. Really, it’s hard to do the characters justice in such a short space but like Tommy, they all have stories to be told and arcs that drastically flesh them out from the archetypes they could have been. Less well written is ex-cop Tiegal, Tommy’s on/off girlfriend. She is there as eye candy and whilst they sometimes try to squeeze out some story-lines for her, using the Cop dating a hitman angle, she will usually end up siding with Tommy as he is always the lesser of two evils.

 

 

The bad guys on the other hand are a crazy bunch. Most are as extreme as they come, and usually are weird for the sake of humour rather than it making a damn lick of sense. There’s Men’s Room Louie, a mafia kingpin who conducts his business dealings from atop a toilet bowl. Knightfist, a Batman clone who actually sells the drugs he takes off the streets. Mawzir, a Demon from Hell who tricks Tommy into taking a contract on none other than the Joker and even the SAS (in one of the best story lines of the series, as Natt and Tommy must face up to not only their past crimes but the lives they lead).

That’s not even counting the fact that within the 60 issues he also battles Zombie seals, Dinosaurs, vampires and kills literally hundreds of men who seem to have attended the same school of weapons training as the bad guys in Arnie movies.

Men’s room Louie (Exactly what it says on the tin)

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Author Info

Dan is just a guy who worked in a video store and took the compliment/insult that he was like “Randal” from “Clerks” a little too literally. Thankfully Bad Haven has given him the chance to blurt out his internal monologues on nerd culture. Proclaiming his love for the things he likes (which include books, movies, games, comics) and utterly destroying the things he doesn’t (pretty much everything else). Dan is an editor, reviewer and feature writer for Bad Haven.

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Comments
  • Said

    The whole series is available as TPBs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitman_(DC_Comics)#Trades

  • Matt C

    OK, fine, I loved the series, but… Tommy is a big tough ex-marine killer with short black hair and a trench coat. His powers are have monochrome eyes which he uses to look through walls and read minds to a limited extent to kill people for money.

    Oh look, he came between Johnny Alpha and Billy Butcher

  • http://www.personified.net Seth

    Hi,

    This is a great review. Your comments are spot on and amazing. I’ve read the entirety of the series and have the second half of the run (around issue 31 or 32), but am collecting the first issues and rereading them. I love this comic. The characters are the best and, as you said, the reader sure does get emotionally invested.

    Do you have a checklist of all of Tommy’s appearances?

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.mentaldef.com Alex Kazam

    An amazing retrospective – this has inspired me to dig out all 60 issues and start from the beginning!