The Whole Story: The Running Man

14th February 1976 – 12th June 1976
Written by Steve MacManus
Art by Horacio Lalia (with Mike White)

About The Running Man

The Running Man was written by Steve MacManus and excellently drawn by French artist Horacio Lalia, with the exception of a single episode on the 15th of May, which was handled by Mike White. It told the story of a British athlete set up by the mafia to take the rap for crimes which he did not commit. Unfortunately it never proved to be popular, except with committed readers, much to the annoyance of Pat Mills who thought the story deserved much better. Readers were put off by the fact that Carter was running away from his problems rather than facing them, although this overlooked the point that all the while he was heading towards a final and fatal confrontation.

Plot Summary

The Running Man is the unusual story of a British athlete, Mike Carter, who is framed by the mafia to take the fall for bed-ridden Don Scarlatti’s deranged cop-killer son, Vito. Thanks to a booby-trap which severely burns him, Carter is set up in a fake hospital where the surgeons alter his appearance to closely resemble Vito. Carter discovers that he has been surgically altered, escapes the hospital and tries to flag down the police, only for them to begin shooting at him. Confused, Carter runs and eventually finds out why he is targeted by the cops. His only chance to clear himself is to track down Vito and prove his innocence by bringing him in. This isn’t easy, the cops have a shoot-to-kill mentality where Vito is concerned. The mafia are also hunting Carter, because if the cops think Vito is dead, they won’t be looking for the real thing.

Carter finds himself running away from the mob and the cops, whilst running towards his nemesis. Along the way he is tailed, and very nearly killed on more than one occasion, by mad hitman Crazy Luigi, who uses a beloved axe as his weapon of choice. Carter gets involved in gambling, crime, accidents, American football, movies, devil worship and other adventures. He loses his memory, and on many occasions nearly loses his life, until eventually he reaches San Francisco, and Vito’s hideout. The climax is clever, with an enraged and drooling Luigi having to choose between killing Carter and Vito, unsure as to which man is really the Don’s son. Carter draws on Luigi’s obsession with the axe, which Carter previously smashed in a confrontation, to tip Luigi over the edge. Pointing to Vito, he tells him to look at his face, the face of Carter, the man who broke his axe. Luigi duly buries his axe in Vito’s head before cops arrive. Unfortunately Luigi then decides to settle an old score with the Don by killing ‘Vito’ as well. The cops burst in, and Luigi runs, but is killed by a street car. After explaining the whole story, Carter is cleared, and as he begins the flight home it in insinuated that either the Don will die on hearing the news of Vito’s death, or track Carter down to avenge him.

Main Characters

Mike Carter

Carter was a British athlete visiting New York to run in the 5000 metres event at Yankee Stadium. A mobster saw Carter’s resemblance to cop killer Vito Scarlatti and an ‘accident’ was arranged. Carter woke in a fake hospital, surgically altered to resemble Vito. From this point he was on the run, trying to escape from the police who were trying to kill him, and the mob, who had the same idea. Carter fled across America, knowing that Vito was hiding out in San Francisco, waiting until Carter’s head was presented to the police. After many incidents, he eventually faced Vito in a stand off with Crazy Luigi, knowing that one of them wasn’t going to come out of the whole thing alive.

Vito
Vito Scarlatti

Renegade son of mafia boss Don Scarlatti, Vito suffered ‘brainstorms’ that sent him into a homicidal rage. Vito was wanted for the murder of five cops, all of whom died whilst Vito was involved in petty crimes he need not have committed. The Don hid Vito, knowing that the only way his son would survive was if the cops thought he was already dead. Vito was eventually tracked down at the end of Carter’s chase, and met an end befitting his homicidal ways.

Don Scarlatti

The Don was an old, frail man who lived only as long as his son was there for him. Were Vito not the man he was, the Don would have had him executed for his crimes. Knowing Vito was public enemy number one, he arranged for a look-alike to take the fall for Vito, setting up Carter’s accident and organising the cross-country hunt for him. The Don sent Crazy Luigi to bring back Carter’s head, to be given as evidence to the police.

Crazy Luigi
Crazy Luigi

Top mafia hit man and homicidal axe wielding maniac, Crazy Luigi hunted Carter across America, coming face to face with him on many occasions but never fulfilling his mission. Carter struck at Luigi where it hurt, destroying his beloved axe. It was this deed that eventually saved Carter’s life as he faced off against Luigi and Vito. Luigi lashed out in fury at the face of the man who broke the axe, but as both Vito and Carter look the same, it isn’t the man who did the deed that took the fall.

Others

Chicago Joe is a smalltime mobster who cheated to avoid losing a pool game against Carter. Once Joe realised Carter had no money to bet, revenge was on the cards, but the intervention of Big Chuck saved Carter’s life.

Big Chuck, a slaughterhouse boss who saved Carter from a fatal beating at the hands of Chicago Joe. This prompted a later battle in Chuck’s slaughterhouse, where Carter risked capture by the police to save Chuck’s life in return.

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