Action Comics #432: "The Million-Dollar Methuselah Contract"

Action Comics #432
"The Million-Dollar Methuselah Contract"
February, 1974

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

Multi-millionaire Henderson Repp is an oil man. 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, 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. 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

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. 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. 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
gun sight. 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. 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 confesses 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.

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.

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.

Steve Chung
"The Million-Dollar Methuselah Review"