Comicbook: Hitman

"Iím interested in Hitman as a character in the larger DCU, and 'the area of Gotham so bad that Batman doesnít go there,' because Batman is a dude that has paid multiple visits to a planet literally called Apokolips."
Comics Alliance on Hitman

Question: What would happen if you crossed over The DCU, Sam Peckinpah, The Boondock Saints, John Woo, and Sergio Leone?

The Answer: Hitman.

Hitman is a Cult Classic comic book series written by popular and controversial writer Garth Ennis of Preacher and Punisher fame and drawn by frequent Ennis collaborator John McCrea, starring Tommy Monaghan. It had its origins in the 1990s Dark Age-tastic Bloodlines Crisis Crossover, where aliens invaded Earth to murder human beings and drain their spinal fluids. Which somehow gave the few survivors superpowers in the process. It was easily forgettable, and the cast of Nineties Anti-Hero equally so. Bloodlines was meant to profit off the Dark Age phenomenon by creating a new batch of "heroes" for the era, because, after all, Darker and Edgier sells, doesn't it?

A former Marine and professional hitman, Tommy hangs out in the Cauldron, the poor Irish district of Gotham City. He frequents a bar with his buddies and father figure. During the Bloodlines crossover, in The Demon Annual vol. 3 #2 (1993), Tommy survived an encounter with one of the invading Alien knockoffs and gained two abilities: X-Ray Vision and Telepathy. Both powers prove to be rather handy to a man of his profession.

With these, a lot of guns, and a loyal band of friends, Tommy's contracts will always set him off on insane adventures one can expect in a colourful world like the DCU, but this being a Garth Ennis piece there's always a darkly humourous and satirical bent. What other comic can you read about hitmen fighting zombie baby seals, two headed mafiosos, Ricean vampire pansies, gun-demons, dinosaurs, Eldritch Abominations, the Justice League, Batman and Lobo?

The Hitman solo series lasted for 61 issues, running from April, 1996 to April, 2001. This series is chock full of Ennis' signature trademarks, yet it also emanates his signature subtle compassion. In a series that mostly exists to thrive on the Rule of Cool, it can be surprisingly humane, compassionate, tragic and heartwrenching. This is primarily because Hitman is a victim of Cerebus Syndrome, but it never lost its sense of humor or fun, even past the turning point of the syndrome.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Deborah Tiegel. Also McAllister, Catwoman, and Wonder Woman. Only two major female characters really aren't.
  • Action Girlfriend: Deborah again. She proves to be able to repeatedly floor Tommy every time he pisses her off.
    • Also McAllister again, in the final arc.
  • Always Someone Better: Johnny Navarone sees himself as this. So does Tommy, until Johnny pisses him off.
  • Anyone Can Die: At the end of the story, only three of the main cast reach old age. Hint: Tommy ain't one of 'em.
    • And one of the three characters who does survive goes on to be pretty brutally killed in Punisher: MAX
  • Argentina Is Naziland: When Tiegel's grandpa dies, his old military comrades come "from South America" for his funeral.
  • Ass Shove : Parodied / lampshaded along with Ass Pull with the unfortunate researcher from Injun Peak who develops the power to pull whatever he wants from a certain orifice...
  • The Atoner: Tommy has a bout of this in the "Tommy's Heroes" arc.
    • Tommy has a bout of this in the whole series, and it kills him.
  • Author Appeal: It's a Garth Ennis work. Guns, over the top violence, black comedy, Rape as Comedy, Action Girls, satire and parody.
  • Author Tract: It's a Garth Ennis work. Superheroes are dicks who can't empathize with regular Joes, corporations suck, immigration themes, there's more to people than you think, you shouldn't look down on the lower class, etc. But Ennis shows that Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Ax-Crazy: Most of the villains. And Hacken.
  • Background Joke: The old German tank Tommy and his friends commandeer in northern Africa has graffiti suggesting it was the one Teigel's grandfather served in during World War II.
  • Badass: Tommy himself. And any major character who frequents Noonan's, including the bartender Noonan himself. Catwoman. Deborah. Etrigan. Quite frankly, it's a World of Badass. Half the Badass Index can be integrated into this story.
    • The Badass Index put out a second volume recently. It was called "Ringo Chen."
  • Badass Grandpa: Sean Noonan. How else can you describe a man who casually mows down a Tyrannosaurus-Rex with a BFG and remarks to his chef-cum-co-bartender; "I think we just solved our sandwich shortage."
    • Benito Gallo is a villainous example.
  • Badass Normal: Almost everyone in the main cast. Tommy himself can even count since he rarely uses his two powers in combat, and he can barely hold his own in a fist fight against any remotely competent combatant. And yet, Tommy rakes a higher body count than most Horror Movie Villains.
  • Bad Boss: Agent Truman, and several Mafia Dons.
  • Bash Brothers: Tommy and Natt the Hat.
  • Berserk Button: Never mess with Tommy's home turf. Just ask those vampires. Or those dinosaurs. Or the mob. Or the CIA.
    • Also, for whatever reason, Tommy gets very offended when someone suggests he'd ever call a woman a bitch- even when he was just about to call a woman a bitch.
  • Beware the Superman: Subverted. Every superhero Ennis makes up is an incompetent buffoon.
  • Best Served Cold: The Father's Day arc.
  • Big Bad: Agent Truman.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Ennis loved mocking whatever was new at DC. His Crisis Crossover contributions center on the characters talking about how stupid the whole thing is, both Mullet Superman and Superman-Blue were treated as downright blasphemous, and whenever Ennis brought up other characters who debuted in Bloodlines, they were dismissed as pathetic losers ("OH MY GOD, I TURNED MY ASS INTO A HAND GRENADE—").
  • Black Comedy
  • Black Comedy Rape: Bueno Excellente has raped Green Lantern and Lobo.
    • These are only implied, but they're pretty heavily implied.
      • It's implied that Black Comedy Rape is basically Bueno Excellente's superpower.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Notably averted.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Depends on your point of view.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Oh, God.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Something of an inconsistent trope. It's either played straight, subverted, averted, lampshaded.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Hacken!
    • Nightfist. He will HIT you with his FIST!
  • Bulungi: The state of Tynanda.
  • Butt Monkey: Tommy. And Hacken.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The point of the Father's Day arc. Tommy has a score to settle with his father.
  • Captain Ersatz: Night-Fist. Take one good look at his costume. I wonder whom he's meant to parody.
    • More obscurely, Scarback, the T-Rex in the dinosaurs arc seems to be one for Satanus, a similar T-Rex that appeared in a spinoff series in 2000AD after turning up in a Judge Dredd storyline.
  • Car Fu: If there's something in the way, and Natt the Hatt's behind the wheel, you can bet this will happen.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Tommy, natch. Arguably the worst hand to hand fighter in the series, yet he makes up for it with Improbable Aiming Skills. To paraphrase what he said to Sean after killing a pot dealer in his youth, having used a gun for the first time and killed a man for the first time, "I ain't Going Toe-to-Toe with Bonko Finneran when I can take him from ten feet away."
    • What do you do if you're facing a genetically-engineered gunslinger who can draw shoot and holster, then grab the lighter he just had in his hand before it falls more than a few inches? Have your buddy shoot him from behind, of course.
  • The Comically Serious: Batman, whenever he shows up. The bit in the second issue where Tommy pukes on his shoes is a sight to behold.
  • Crisis Crossover: Lampshaded by the characters, who are often a bit perturbed how big, world-shattering events seems to occur like clockwork once a year.
  • Cross Over:
    • Tommy and the gang protect the Cauldron during No Man's Land, and wax nostalgic during Final Night.
    • Etrigan, Green Lantern, Catwoman, Superman, and Batman all show up at various times.
    • The leader of the vampire coven in the "Dead Man's Land" arc also appeared in Ennis's run on Hellblazer.
    • Kathryn McAllister from the final arc, "Closing Time," is the same woman as Kathryn O'Brien from Ennis's run on Punisher. (In her final appearance, she talks about her past relationships, including "that stupid bastard Tommy.") In ''The Punisher: Up is Down, Black is White" it's mentioned that one of O'brien's aliases is McAllister
  • The Dragon: Tommy has occasionally faced a few.
  • Dwindling Party: As the series continues, the gang of Noonan's Bar slowly deceases one by one, until the final arc "Closing Time" that starts with just Tommy, Natt and Hacken of the originals left. Two out of those three don't make it to the end.
  • Evil Albino: The evil albino African Flying Brick known as Skull.
  • Exactly What It Saysonthe Tin : Zombie Night At The Gotham Aquarium. It's about zombies. In Gotham. At the aquarium.
  • Expy: As is somewhat standard in Garth Ennis works, we get a few, most of them resembling characters from the concurrently running Preacher..
    • We get brief glimpses of an incarnation of death who looks very much like an East Asian version of the Saint of Killers.
    • Bueno Excellente bears some broad similarities to Freddy, one of the "sexual investigators."
    • Tommy is one, to some extent, for Cassidy. Both are young men of Irish ancestry who gain superpowers by being attacked by parasitic creatures, both wear sunglasses to disguise their unusual eyes, and (given Tommy's rocky relationship with Teigel and his past in Desert Storm) both are portrayed as sometimes weak and naive. Tommy is overall a much better, stronger person than Cassidy, however.
  • Eye Scream: Ringo in For Tomorrow
  • Good Powers, Bad People / Lethal Harmless Powers: Supervillain Scarlet Rose has the ability to make roses grow. Which she uses to hideously kill people by making them grow inside their bodies.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In Tommy's first appearance in another series, Etrigan, a Crazy Awesome rhyming demon, gets into a fight with an obese alien parasite. In the ensuing battle(which happens to take place at the funeral of a mob boss that the alien parasite had killed earlier), Etrigan initiates combat by bludgeoning the alien with the corpse. Yes, you read that correctly. On top of that, the corpse's head flies off when it hits the alien.
    Etrigan: Oh come, old pal! Don't have a tiff! Relax! Kick back! Be cool! Eat stiff!
  • Groin Attack: Teigel's reaction to one of Tommy's attempts to get back together after he cheated on her. He should count himself lucky — her reactions to two other attempts resulted in her punching him out and leaving him for an elephant to urinate on, and persuading him to strip naked before locking him in a small room with only a lion for company.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: While Tommy and his friends are crack shots who can routinely score head-shots from dozens of feet away, the Mooks they end up fighting can barely manage to scratch them with thousands of rounds of ammunition. Frequently, Tommy and the boys merely stand behind some cover (like a wooden bar or church) and easily fend off dozens of men charging at them with guns blazing.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Tommy explains that this is why he trusts Superman.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Tommy ends his relationship with Tiegel once and for all by pretty much telling her outright that he's a scumbag, and if they stay together he'd just keep letting her down and screwing up. He's saying it because it's true, but he's ALSO saying it because he's about to take on a pretty good sized chunk of the CIA and doesn't want her around for it. Whether or not a reader thinks he would have said/done it if not for the whole CIA thing varies.
  • Joker Immunity: Zigzagged in one early issue, where Tommy actually gets hired to break into Arkham Asylum to assassinate The Joker (and accepts a bunch of other lesser contracts to off random psychoes there, and to kneecap the Mad Hatter). A number of Gotham police are forced to stand guard, even as they protest they don't want to stop Tommy from doing it, and Batman shows up to interfere because, despite his own wishes, a hitman murdering someone in a prison is still illegal. Not to mention Tommy is basically being used by some demons who seek to recruit him as an agent, and so if he does kill the Joker, they get his soul.
  • KnightsOfCerebus: The arc "Who Dares Wins" involves Tommy and Natt being doggedly hunted by a squad of SAS soldiers for a past Gulf Storm "friendly fire" incident. Multiple issues following dealt with both the character's horror at feeling completely outclassed by the soldiers and the blowback/collateral damage from the fight.
  • Lawman Gone Bad: Sheriff Halliday in Hitman Annual #1.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: The story in Hitman Annual #1 was titled "A Coffin Full of Dollars".
  • Manly Tears: Chock full o' moments. The SAS funeral, with the saddest toast in the world. "Bob was a good soldier." "I'm glad we never found out." And, of course, the ending. We are such little men.
  • Merger of Souls: One arc featured the Mawzir, a demonic minion created by merging the souls of several Nazi S.S. officers.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Hacken, Hacken, Hacken, Hacken.
  • Nazi Grandpa: Teigel's (paternal) grandfather is a German Second World War veteran who likes to encourage Teigel and her mother to join him in singing Nazi songs. It's worth mentioning at this point that Teigel and her mother are black.
  • Nice Hat: Natt The Hat's hat. Over the course of the series it gets more and more damaged.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Parodied with Nightfist. A touch hypocritical, since Tommy himself can be seen as a less pretentious and more self-aware example of the breed. Still, Nightfist steals drugs from pushers and Tommy murders people for a living, is the point.
  • No Indoor Voice: "I AM BAYTOR!"
  • Oh, Crap: Natt when he realises the SAS are after him and Tommy. Bear in mind these guys take on gangs, The Mob, supervillains and supernatural enemies on a fairly regular basis.
  • Only Sane Man: Friendly Fire is the only member of Section Eight who realizes how ridiculous they all are.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Tommy is definitely not above using his X-Ray Vision when meeting women...even Catwoman.
  • Professional Killer: Kind of goes without saying.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Hacken is a type B. Big, strong, lethal, prone to rage fits but simple minded, clumsy, very loyal to his friends and very child like.
  • Raising the Steaks: "Zombie Night at Gotham Aquarium".
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The zombies in "Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium."
  • Right Behind Me: In JLA/Hitman, right when Batman starts ranting about how Tommy is scum and the lowest of the low, Superman walks in, shakes his hand, and greets him on a first-name basis.
  • The Rival: Tommy and Ringo. Whether it's played straight or subverted depends how far along in the story you are, what the stakes are, and what day of the week it is.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Every time a villain is dumb enough to kill off a main character, Tommy goes on one of these. The one in the epilogue of "The Old Dog" is particularly brutal/epic/terrible/justified.
  • Serial Escalation: How crazy can Tommy's adventures get?
  • Shout-Out: Many. To Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy, Blade Runner, many.
  • Sole Survivor: Hacken is the only one of the core Noonan's crew to survive, although Baytor, McAllister, and Tiegel also live. Bueno Excellente is the only confirmed survivor of Section Eight, though Six Pack is also strongly implied to still be alive.
  • Superhero Packing Heat
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Though Tommy's not villainous, he hates all superheroes... except Superman.
  • Take That: You can copy and paste the examples from Preacher and place them here.
    • There's a pretty specific one at the expense of obscure superhero Gunfire in the DC One Million issue.
  • Title Drop: The "For Tomorrow" arc has a piece of dialogue by Ringo stating that most Hitmen live ...for tomorrow, meaning they long for the day when they can quit the business. Most of them don't, however, and die horrible deaths.
  • Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: In one issue, a group time displaced T-Rex's are going around causing general havoc and destruction, and one of them eats Baytor...only to spit him back out a few moments later.
  • Torture Technician: The Waterman. And to make things worse he's a Psycho Electro as well.
    • Johnny Navarone as well, though we don't see the actual torture, just the results.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Tommy gets his powers by surviving an attack by an alien that sucked out his spinal fluid.
  • True Companions: Tommy and the rest of the regulars that hang out at Sean's pub.
  • Wham Episode: Hitman had been around a bit before getting his own series, and for the bulk of that time, his appearances were played as Black Comedy. Then came the story's second arc, which looks to be playing Tonight Someone Dies and Black Dude Dies First for all they're worth, with Tommy's best friend he's never mentioned before showing up just in time for a new killer to target Tommy. For three issues, it's played for laughs still, right down to a gratuitous attack of ninja. Then Nat goes to the bathroom... and finds Tommy's best friend, Pat, in the tub, mutilated and bleeding out. It's implied that while Tommy and Nat were engaged in Bloody Hilarious fun these past few issues, the Big Bad was working over Pat the whole time. Tommy tearfully gives a Mercy Kill. The series still has funny moments, but this sets up that Anyone Can Die.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Hacken, in "Zombie Night at Gotham Aquarium," thinks he's in a traditional zombie movie, not a DC Universe "Weird Science run amok" story. It's a subtle distinction, but a costly one for Hacken.
  • Your Vampires Suck: Tommy shoots a vampire. It laughs, and heals. He shoots it a whole lot more. It can't heal fast enough to dodge the sunrise.