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Deadman

[ded-man, -muhn]

Deadman is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in DC Comics. He first appeared in Strange Adventures #205 (October 1967), and was created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino.

Publication history

The series is most associated with the innovative art of Neal Adams and the writing of Jack Miller, who took over from Drake and Infantino after the first story. The first story and all of the Adams stories were reprinted in 1985 as a 7 issue series. Although he appeared from time to time in the 1970s and 1980s as a supporting character in various comics, including Jack Kirby's Forever People, Deadman did not get his own series again until 1986, in a four issue limited series written by Andrew Helfer and drawn by José Luis García-López, which picked up the story where Adams left off. Deadman's next major storyline was in Action Comics Weekly, in 1988-89. This was followed by the limited series Deadman:Exorcism in 1992, written by Mike Baron and drawn by Kelley Jones. Jones' gaunt, zombie-like rendition of the character would later appear in the pages of Batman. There was another Deadman series in 2002, this time nine issues, as well as a couple of standalone issues. His cameo appearances also continued, including several issues of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, and Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic. He had a cameo in book two of Batman: Gotham County Line, which was released in November 2005. In 2006, a character who looks like Deadman appears in Volume 2, number 1 of Justice League of America.

The character and self-titled series have won several awards over the years, including the 1967 Alley Award for Best New Strip (by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino in Strange Adventures), and the 1968 Alley Award Hall of Fame (for Neal Adams).

DC Comics published a slipcased hardcover edition collecting the original Deadman stories in December 2001 which remains in print.

Fictional character biography

Deadman is a ghost, formerly a circus trapeze artist named Boston Brand who performed under the name Deadman, a stage persona including a red costume and white corpse makeup. When Brand is murdered during a trapeze performance by a mysterious assailant known only as the Hook (in fact his last words were "Gee, from up here it almost looks like that guy with the hook for a hand has a gun..."), his spirit is given the power to possess any living being by a Hindu goddess named Rama Kushna, in order to search for his murderer and obtain justice. It is established in Green Arrow Vol 4, #4, that Deadman believes Rama is the supreme being of the universe.

The origin story involved the hero fighting narcotics smugglers, in the first story to involve drugs since the introduction of the Comics Code Authority. The criminals used the traveling circus they worked for to smuggle "snow" -- either heroin or cocaine.

In the pages of Nightwing (issues #102 and #103, respectively) it is implied that Brand got the idea for his costume from "Johnny" Grayson, father of Dick Grayson.

At the end of the Neal Adams story line, Deadman seems to discover the truth behind his murder and we learn the ultimate fate of Hook. However, in 1972 writer/artist Jack Kirby was told by the DC editors to put a Deadman crossover into his book The Forever People. Kirby had never heard of Deadman, but he obligingly included the character in The Forever People 9 and 10. In reading the Neal Adams issues to understand the character, Kirby noticed something that had apparently slipped by everyone else. In the origin story, Hook has his hook on his right hand. Yet in the penultimate Neal Adams story, where his secret is revealed and he meets his fate, the man we think is Hook has his hook on his left hand. This was probably just an artist's error -- in the final Neal Adams Deadman, in the synopsis of the previous issue, the hook is back on the right hand again. Kirby, however, uses this clue to reopen the case of Deadman, with the real Hook one among many one-handed men who work for an organization known as "The Scavengers".

Various missions

Over the course of several years, Rama Kushna has Deadman confront the sorcerer Caldera multiple times over the fate of the souls of several deceased superheros. Two of them are Flash (Barry Allen) and Robin (Jason Todd). During the Robin incident, he tries to possess the Joker but was driven out by the man's insanity.

Rama also maintained a city for some time, called Nanda Parbat. The most evil people in the world came to live there, where Rama's power kept them sane and good. One of the worst was Darius Caldera, who almost destroyed the world when he left the city. Unfortunately, Nanda later fell due to a combined military and mystical force. All the evil people are now back in the real world, still a danger.

His twin brother Cleveland is killed while possessed by Boston, while doing Boston's circus act. The killer was out to kill Boston Brand. His 'benefactor' Rama Kushna also dies in order to defeat Jonah, a spirit similar to Deadman.

Around this time, Deadman assists the Spectre in defeating a newly formed demonic being (and werewolves). Formed from the skeletons of many souls in hell, this blue-eye, blonde-haired being comes to Earth to foment chaos and death. It manages to actually remove much of the Spectre's substance. Deadman is forced to merge with Spectre until things are stabilized.

Later, Deadman receives a birthday present from his diminutive friend, Max Loomis. Max places himself in a trance so he could 'meet' Deadman and the two take a pleasant journey down 'memory lane', mainly Deadman's more pleasant memories of Nanda Parbat. Soon after, Loomis meets with old circus friends and Deadman involves himself in a case of suspected murder. Deadman wants to go after the escapees of Nanda Parbat, but Max thinks pursuing the murder is a better course.

Youth and Hell

In the "Sins of Youth" incident, Deadman is one of the dozens of heroes reduced to a preteen age by Klarion the Witch Boy and an alien machine owned by Doiby Dickles. He is still a spirit, now with a small d on his chest. He assists Secret in confronting Teekl, Klarion's companion, in an effort to restore everyone. He also joins in the fight against mystically created and mystically altered villains.

During the Day of Judgment incident, Boston Brand travels with a group of heroes to the frozen wastelands of Hell. Their goal is to restart the demonic fires, thus recalling all the demons from the earthly plane. An accident strands Brand and the others under the frozen waters of the River Styx, forcing them to live out what would be to them, Hell. For Brand, it is that the sharpshooter hits him in the shoulder, thus he survives. Brand feels he needs to die in order to learn 'how to live'.

His battles against the demons would come back to haunt him. In the fourt part Black Baptism miniseries, Deadman and several other 'Sentinels of Magic', the magical group formed out of the Day of Judgement' incident, are hunted by the Diablos. Partly fueled by revenge, they subdue many of the Sentinels and drain their magic. The JLA eventually rescue them all and destroy all the Diablos.

Other versions

  • Deadman was in issue #6 of the comic book Batman: Gotham Adventures (based on Batman: The Animated Series) where his origin was very much alike to his mainstream comic except he was in the Haley Circus and Rama Kushna was male. He was friends with Dick Grayson, and he was in an issue before he gained his powers in The Batman and Robin Adventures #15.
  • Deadman appeared briefly in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Elseworlds story Kingdom Come, where he offered some words of encouragement to Norman McCay. His appearance is notable because somehow by the time of the story (set at a non-specific point in the future) he has either lost or foregone his normal appearance, and appears as a skeleton wearing his Deadman uniform. He is also never identified as "Deadman", and simply introduces himself as "Boston". He also appears in the sequel The Kingdom as a guide to time-lost, deceased versions of Superman.
  • In 2006, Vertigo a DC Comics imprint, announced that it would trade some of its trademark characters with others of DC's. Among the swaps was Vertigo's Jonah Hex in exchange for Deadman. The result was a continuing series published later that year (see: Deadman (Vertigo series)).
  • Deadman also had a brief comic in the DC published book Bizarro World where he was interested in meeting girls and dating while in Limbo.
  • Deadman appeared briefly in Jeph Loeb's Superman Batman: Absolute Power, where he attempted to possess Superman after he and Batman killed off all the monks of Nanda Parbat (under orders from their adoptive parents, who saw the monks as a threat to their plans in an alternate timeline). Deadman is prevented from using Superman's strength to kill Batman when Batman uses a spell from Zatanna to trap Deadman inside a crystal.
  • A parody of Deadman, titled "Deadman" and drawn by Neal Adams, appeared in National Lampoon.

Other media

  • Deadman appeared as the champion of the now Buddhist Goddess Rama Kushna in the third season of Justice League Unlimited in episode "Dead Reckoning". He resides in a temple in Nanda Parbat. When he saw Devil Ray aiming at Wonder Woman, he possessed Batman and shot him with a gun, accidentally killing him. For this mistake, Deadman is denied his sought after termination of his ghostly obligation and required to continue his duties. He was voiced by Raphael Sbarge. Deadman previously appeared as a "Haley Circus" performer in the Batman & Robin Adventures comic and meets Dick Grayson for the first time since taking over for The Flying Graysons.
  • A live action TV series for TNT was under development in 2000, but had been shelved. * The French musical duo Cassius did music videos for "1999" and "Feeling For You" that featured a character similar to Deadman.
  • In the Something Positive halloween comic for 2007, Davan is dressed as Deadman while taking Rory trick-or-treating.
  • Deadman will appear in the upcoming animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

References

Other sources

  • Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, The Deadman Collection, DC Comics, 2001, ISBN 1563898497 ISBN-13: 978-1563898495.
  • Jack Kirby, Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volume Three, DC Comics, 2007, ISBN 1401214851, ISBN-13 139781401214852.

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