The latest DC Comics character to be adapted into network prime time (for FOX) is the Human Target, Christopher Chance. A comic book being made into a TV show is a natural candidate for promotion at Comic-Con International in San Diego, thus Saturday afternoon's panel focusing on the show.
After a screening of the entire Human Target pilot, a brief Q&A followed with panelists including showrunner Jon Steinberg, producers Peter Johnson and Brad Kern, stars Mark Valley, Chi McBridge and Jackie Earle Haley, and Human Target comic book creator Len Wein.
(This is of course, not the first time the character has been made into a TV show. A mostly forgotten series starring '80s pop/soap opera star with Rick Springfield playing Chance ran briefly on ABC in 1992.)
Steinberg told the mostly full crowd that the property had been "kicking around for a while in feature and television," and that he opted for this adaptation to mix the action heroes he admired — naming Indiana Jones and John McClane — into a "bit of a cocktail."
Clearly not ignorant of online griping from fans displeased with the show's removal of the character's central gimmick (physically transforming into the targets that he replaces) and general lack of resemblance to writer Peter Milligan's work with the character in the last 10 years, Steinberg addressed such concerns almost immediately.
"The conceit that he becomes you works really well in print," Steinberg said, explaining his desire to adhere to at least a semblance of realism within the series. "It trips something in the back of your mind that messes with you. There's no world that I know of where you can do that."
Wein, who created the character and concepts in 1972, seemed to agree with this take.
"I think it works perfectly," he said. "I can't think of a better way to translate the character from the page to the screen."
Valley, McBride and Haley, who play the show's three leads and essentially the Human Target "team," explained how their dynamic works in driving the plot.
"If Christopher was an alcoholic, Winston (McBride's character) would be his sponsor," Haley said, "and Guerrero (Haley's character) would be his drug dealer."
McBride, who plays a much more cautious and grounded character than Valley's Chance, says he doesn't want their relationship to become a cliché (he mentioned Speed Racer), where McBride is constantly warning Valley not to do anything too terribly dangerous.
"Don't tell me the odds," Valley said, laughing.
McBride also said that his character has a "love-hate" relationship with Valley's, and it looking to "get to the bottom of Chance seemingly having a death wish."
Steinberg discussed at length how he was looking to revive action shows on network TV, noticing a recent lack of worthy efforts from the genre.
"The idea is we certainly never want to do bad action, we don't want to do boring action, punch, kick, car chase," Steinberg says. "Every week there will be some piece of an action move that you've never done that way before," along with an "underlying mythology that runs through the series."
This intent was on display in the pilot episode producers screened Saturday at Comic-Con, which took place mostly on a passenger train, meant to be on its initial run between San Francisco to Los Angeles. The episode includes a lengthy fight with a would-be assassin on that very same train.
Our first encounter with Chance in the pilot episode is the main character (played by the undeniably likable Mark Valley) defusing a hostage situation caused by actor Mark Moses, who was delightfully creepy as mysterious season one neighbor Paul Young. Within five minutes, there's a shot of Valley shirtless.
If the show develops as producers intend, Haley's Guerrero seems destined to become a fan favorite, especially given the actor's recent experience as Rorschach in Watchmen (and upcoming revival of Freddy Krueger in 2010's A Nightmare of Elm Street).
Guest starring in the first episode is Tricia Helfer, a nerdy icon for her years as Number Six on Battlestar Galactica (Valley say's she's "very athletic," and wanted to do her own stunts). Also in the pilot is Donnelly Rhodes, BSG's irascible Dr. Cottle. Neither were on the panel.
The episode ends with an unexpected cameo from Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover. Steinberg says that it's just a cameo, but should be indicative of how "there should be no face that you'll be surprised to see on the show."
Other topics of discussion was the difference between McBride's character in Pushing Daisies and Human Target, with the actor saying that his current character is a 'much more three-dimensional character."
The difference for Haley between this role and others? "He doesn't growl. No sock on his head. I don't have to do three-and-a-half hours of makeup. And I don't think he's hurt any kids".