Action Comics #423: "The Deadly Dancer Contract!"

Action Comics #423
"The Deadly Dancer Contract!"
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. Just as
their intended victim stands behind them in the cramped car, both pull
out their weapons of choice... a gun and a blade. This is Christopher
Chance's introduction to... "The Deadly Dancer Contract!"

The two young thugs had been shadowing him and Chris knew it.
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. 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. The punk 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. 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. Christopher 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 particular 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. 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. 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 Frank Cannon.

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 DC Showcase.

Steve Chung
"The Deadly Review Contract!"