Despite critical acclaim from critics, fans and mainstream media (such as "Entertainment Weekly") alike, DC Comics/Vertigo announced the cancellation of "Human Target" last week. The series focused on Christopher Chance, a master of disguise whose business was to protect those in need- and with sufficient payment- by assuming their identities and proactively ending the threat. CBR News caught up with series writer Peter Milligan, who hinted at the future of the titular hero and explained his reaction to the cancellation news.
"Well I don't like to dwell too much on this kind of thing," explains the upcoming "X-Men" scribe. "The positive is that we will have done about 21 episodes, which is a fair amount for this kind of book, and if I'd been told I'd write that many at the outset I'd probably have been a little surprised. Almost two years feel about right. That said, it has been strange, as there's been so much positive reaction to this title. I have heard that one of the things that's stopped it being more commercially successful is that Vertigo readers are more interested in seeing new characters and creations rather than what is, when all's said and done, a rehash (albeit a brilliant one!) of an old an old title, and one that might not have exactly set the world alight the first time around.
"I'm not sure how much longer we would have wanted to keep the series going. The major stories that I'd wanted to tell had been told so this would have been led by how many good and fresh new stories I could come up with. I would have hated to have limped along, keeping this title going for the sake of it, with stories that dropped in quality, or with story that I wasn't really compelled to write."
Don't count out further instalments of "Human Target," as Milligan says there's a possibility we'll see another graphic novel like "Final Cut," the recent "Human Target" original graphic novel. "I think this will be entirely story-led. The central character and conceit is a blank page, and if I come up with the right stories to fill up that page I'm sure Christopher Chance will apply the heavy make-up again!"
And there are still a few issues left, issues that Milligan says will address plotlines from his original "Human Target" mini-series. "I can say that the final story line, a three-parter, is a real scorcher, one that digs into the very heart of the Christopher Chance world, and harks back somewhat to the first mini-series I did with poor old Eddie."
"Human Target" has explored weighty topics, from child abuse to faith to purpose, which Milligan feels speaks to the layers of "Human Target" as a concept. "I think it goes back to what I was saying: that this character and conceit is such a blank page. Therefore you can explore some really large, topical subjects, but also examine the more intimate matters of identity."
With such layered and involved stories in Milligan's "Human Target" work, some might assume that the series would be emotionally taxing, but Milligan says that's not been the case. "I don't think they have been emotionally taxing. Exciting, involving, yes. I suppose all writers put some part of themselves into their characters. To write a character is to walk a mile, and sometimes a good deal longer, in another man's shoes. This is even more the case with a character who is himself a creator and copier of other persona. The Human Target is largely about identity. Who am I? Why am I this way? How easily could I be someone else? So that the book becomes a kind of mirror and examination of the writing and creative process itself."
Nothing has been too offbeat for a story in "Human Target," from Chance becoming a baseball player to addressing the notion of how America has changed in a post 9/11 world. Each topic has been explored very deeply and Milligan says he researched everything intensely to offer the maximum authenticity. "There was a fair bit of research, yes. As always a mixture of drawing on what experience you have, and then trawling from whatever resources you can lay your hands on. In the baseball storyline, though I knew little about the game, I am a keen follower of Cricket, a considerably more sophisticated game, and what can be seen as baseball's antecedent. Cultured Greece to brash Rome, if you will."
For those readers who stood by Milligan, the artists on the series (such as Javier Pulido and Cliff Chiang) and "Human Target" itself, the scribe has only kind words. "I'd like to thanks those readers who stuck with it. And those reviewers who were kind to it. Right now I'm working on creating a whole new character and series for Vertigo."