Aaannd then you'd find out the real answer is: Hitman.
Hitman is a Cult Classic comic book series written by popular and controversial writer Garth Ennis of Preacher and The 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 '90s Anti-Heroes 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 book, 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, with a 2007 two-issue series, JLA/Hitman, which serves as a follow-up. 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, with a finale that will reduce you to tears. This is primarily because Hitman (like most Ennis series) is a victim of Cerebus Syndrome, but it never lost its sense of humour or fun, even past the turning point of the syndrome.
In 2015, a spin-off series called All-Star Section Eight, concerning Six-Pack trying to put together a new team after these years, debuted.
Do not confuse it with the comic series; Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman.
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 Nazi-Land: When Tiegel's grandpa dies, his old military comrades come "from South America" for his funeral.
- Artistic License Paleontology: A Stegosaurus coexisting with a Tyrannosaurus rex.
- 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, the Irish, 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.
- Bad Boss: Agent Truman, and several Mafia Dons.
- Bash Brothers: Tommy and Natt the Hat.
- Beard of Sorrow: After returning from Ireland (where some very-not-good things happened) Tommy doesn't go to Noonan's for about a month. When Natt goes to talk to him, he's grown a beard.
- 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 (except for Superman himself).
- 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.
- These are only implied, but they're pretty heavily implied.
- Black Dude Dies First: Inverted. Natt is the last of the main characters who dies.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: The "Ace of Killers" arc featured a silver-inlaid and diamond-studded rifle known as the Ace of Winchesters. Various parties tried to get their hands on it, some because of its monetary value, some because it was able to kill demons. So long as it's loaded, that is ...
- 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!
- Sixpack fights criminals, vampires, demons, dinosaurs, and elite paramilitary troops, using only broken bottles and booze breath.
- Bulungi: One arc has Tommy and friends working as mercenaries in the fictional African country 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.
- Car Fu: If there's something in the way, and Natt the Hat'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 but everything goes right back to normal once they're over.
- Tommy and the gang protect the Cauldron during Batman: 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.
- Tommy's involvement with DC One Million has him brought to the titular future by a bunch of misguided fanboys who view him as one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century. He proceeds to show them how this kind of rep is... quite overblown. No, it doesn't even skim the main story, but it's hilarious.
- 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.
- Cryptic Background Reference: 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.
- 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 Colonialist: The real villain in the Tynanda arc is Martindale, an American businessman who is propping up a violent dictatorship while selling them overpriced arms.
- Exactly What It Says on the 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 Irish (Irish-American in Tommy's case) men 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.
- Fantastic Noir: It's a series about a telepathic hitman with x-ray vision who kills vampires, dinosaurs and dorky superheroes. He even works out of a busted-up but well-loved bar.
- Forgot About His Powers: Tommy does this all the damn time. Using his Telepathy gives him migraines(if he overuses it, they last several days) so he only uses it when there's an active threat to his life. He has no such limit to his X-Ray Vision, but it takes a conscious effort to use it, so he often forgets about it save when he looks through women's clothes.
- From Camouflage to Criminal: Tommy served as marine sniper in the Gulf war before returning to Gotham to become a professional hitman.
- Future Imperfect: Tommy is dragged to the future, where he's become a legend for fighting the evil Batman, the Dredd-like cops with his beautiful assistant Natalie. The truth is... somewhat different.
- Give Chase with Angry Natives: In Hitman vs Lobo, Hitman uses this trick, shooting Lobo in the eyes (forcing him to follow by smell until they regenerate) and leading him in a merry chase through all the local gang meeting places, dispatching several of his personal foes in the ensuing chaos. Then he leads him into an actual ambush by Six-pac and his squad... The gods of plot are with him and the most incompetent band of super-misfits on the planet actually wins.
- Good Powers, Bad People: 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 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 (the demon) 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.
- Sixpack does this to Doomsday in a dream.
- Hitman with a Heart: Tommy, and pretty much everyone else who hangs out at Noonan's. They do cotton to the fact that they kill people, but they only intentionally kill assholes, rival hitmen, or other sorts of murdering abominations.
- 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.
- This is lampshaded by a mook who comments that giving a gun and a suit to a guy recruited from the street doesn't automatically make him a competent enforcer.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Tommy explains that this is why he trusts Superman.
- Informed Ability: The SAS soldiers are presented as more badass than anyone in the series, and when confronting them Tommy and Natt can only run away or get really, really lucky. But in the "blow away a whole bunch of guys at once" department, they're not discernibly better than Tommy, Natt, or several other characters.
- 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.
- Invincible Villain:
- Beautifully subverted in one of the last stories. Tommy has heard of a killer hitman out there, the son of the one gunman Tommy truly feared and who Tommy beat by pure luck. He sees videos of the guy blowing away targets with stunning accuracy, never missing a shot, often not even looking before firing. Thus, Tommy is worried about facing this freak of nature and being so outmatched. It comes down to the killer getting the drop right on Tommy, a gun to his face, no way he can possibly miss...*click* He's forgotten to remove the safety and it hits Tommy (and the reader) that we've only seen this guy shooting at targets and, in truth, he's never actually shot a real person in a real gun battle in his life. Tommy just grins as he dumps a mag into him.
- Hitman Annual has a guy pumped full of Psycho Serum who can out-draw anyone. Tommy knows this, and ends up facing the guy along with a bunch of other goons. So how do you beat a gunslinger who draws faster than you can blink? To quote Nat, have your buddy blow his head off from behind.
- 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.
- Knights Of Cerebus: 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.
- Louis Cypher: In "The Night the Lights went Out" - which takes place during Final Night - Tommy and the boys barricade themselves in Noonan's and tell each other stories about their closest brush with death. Ringo has a DOOZY.Ringo: The time I came face to face with Death, I think I actually met him. It's one of those curious half-memories that you always seem to be looking at through smoke. You know the events leading up to it were real, but after that...
It was my first hit. My uncle sent me to Hong Kong to settle a debt for him. Simple work. I shouldn't have lingered, but I'd used a silencer. None of them had gotten off a shot.
And the champagne was Dom Perignon...
And Hong Kong at night looks like Manhattan built up against a mountain.
Death: It is very beautiful.
Ringo: (spins and fires three times)
I know I hit him. That close, I couldn't have missed if I was blind. I saw the smoke rise from the barrel and heard the tinkle as the cases hit the floor. I was thinking: Kevlar?
Death: You are a killer. And yet you can appreciate the beauty in a skyline, or in the taste of good champagne. You bring death, you like life.
Ringo: ...I've found the two need not be mutually exclusive.
Death: Good. I agree. You can relax, by the way. I came for the men you murdered.
Ringo: You took the contract too?
Death: Oh no. No, without your involvement, mine would have not have been necessary. But I must go. It was nice to stand here and enjoy the view with you. I have something of yours. Goodbye. Until we meet again. (places three fired bullets on railing)
Ringo: (drops champagne)
- A MacGuffin Full of Money: The story in Hitman Annual #1 was titled "A Coffin Full of Dollars".
- Manchild: Just about every time someone gets legitimately angry at Hacken, they can't seem to because it's like yelling at a crying kid.
- 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.
- Mauve Shirt: A full team of them, Section Eight. Ultimately subverted. All but two die, Bueno Excellente and a sober Six Pack.
- Meaningful Name: Tommy's mother was the town whore, with her clients discreetly visiting her but showing nothing but contempt during the day. She got back at them by naming each child after the father, calling the kid by name every time the father (and his wife) were nearby. This gets her killed after a local psycho warns her not to do the same with him, but she does it anyway. The man's name? Thomas Dawson.
- Mercy Kill: Tommy gives one to Pat when he finds him tortured to the brink of death by Johnny Navarone.
- Merger of Souls: One arc featured the Mawzir, a ten-armed demonic minion created by merging the souls of an entire Nazi police battalion. When it is destroyed, the five Nazis are resurrected - only for Tommy and his friends to gun them down again.
- Moment Killer: Tommy manages to say that he thinks he's in love with Tiegel. She sits there stunned... and then a giraffe drops in to eat Tommy's ice cream.
- Mood Whiplash: If you're reading the collections. After the seriously dark Katie in volume 5 and the events of volume 6, volume 7 starts with parody stories featuring Lobo and Six-Pack before normal service is resumed in Closing Time.
- 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.
- '90s 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.
- How does he know it stopped working? He's looking at Wonder Woman as he's saying it.
- Precision F-Strike: Natt's mother made him give up swearing as her dying wish. The arrival of the SAS scares him badly enough that he does it anyway, figuring he won't live long enough to regret it.
- 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.Hacken: "KILL THE CHICKENS! AN' KILL THE CHICKENS! AN' KILL THE CHICKENS! AN' KILL THE CHICKENS! AN' KILL THE CHICKENS!
- 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. Superman's OK by him.
- Batman is never treated as anything save an unstoppable badass. Tommy manages to get his licks in from time to time, but they're usually of the embarrassing variety AKA puking on him.
- He eventually warms up to Green Lantern, but still thinks he's naive and fun to screw with.
- He meets the League proper in Grant Morrison's JLA, and they're treated... well, they're not bad people in his eyes, but it's revealed that he let Bueno Excellente rape GL while unconscious, so he probably still thinks GL's a sissy. Flash is shown as humorless(and useless without his powers) but still brave and professional. He's polite and respectful to Wonder Woman (though that might have something to do with Tommy's X-Ray vision) and they treat each other as fellow warriors.
- 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.
- The Hitman/Lobo special is one long Take That! against the Main Man.
- One newspaper has articles titled "A cretin kicked a ball today and was paid too much money - why?" and "Some idiot with a stick and stupid trousers got cash for pushing a ball into a hole - eh?"
- 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 of time-displaced Tyrannosaurs 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.
- Try and Follow: Subverted; Tommy and Natt are in an ultralight aircraft, being pursued by pterodactyls, when Tommy gets the idea to fly between two apartment buildings, reasoning that the pterodactyls won't be able to pursue. But then he crashes into one of the buildings.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Several times. One comic has a splash page of this, with the credits for the issue being written on Sixpack's puke.
- 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.
- Worthless Treasure Twist: An annual focuses on a good-old-fashioned treasure hunt; a million dollars stolen in the closing days of the Old West and buried in a coffin marked with a dollar sign - in a graveyard with over a thousand others. The local sheriff finds out where it's buried, leaves his own men to be killed by a crime boss while he digs it up... only to discover that it was a million paper dollars, which the robbers had planned to dig up within a month or two. After a century? The sheriff staged a New Old West-style massacre in order to claim a box full of dry, rotten paper. Which Tommy and Natt bury him in.
- 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.