Bounty hunters are the ultimate anti-heroes. They're tough as titanium and hard to kill, and they can find anyone, no matter how much you try and hide. Their only loyalty is to whoever can afford their services.
It's easy to see why bounty hunters are such a popular part of so many science fiction and fantasy universes — they're automatically bad-ass. They belong in noir as well as Western storytelling. And they usually have the coolest toys. Here are our ten favorite fantastical bounty hunters.
Top image: Happy hour at the Bounty Bar by Robert L Lynch at Deviant Art.
10) Brisco County, Jr. (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.)
He's a Harvard lawyer turned bounty hunter... played by Bruce Campbell! He beat out Lord Bowler to become the private bounty hunter for the Westerfield Club, but he lets Bowler keep the bounties, in exchange for Bowler's help tracking down his father's killer John Bly. Brisco is always ready with helpful advice like, "It's a real basic thing about being a good guy - you don't tell the bad guy the plan!"
9) Death's Head (The Incomplete Death's Head)
He's the robotic "freelance peacekeeping agent" who hunted sentient creatures with a relentless logic — and he was willing to travel to any time, or any alternate universe, to get his target. He went up against almost every Marvel Comics character — including Doctor Who's mercurial time traveler. (Who tried to bribe him with jelly babies.) At the time, Death's Head was giant-sized, and was on his way to execute a contract on Galvatron, from the Transformers universe. Later, Death's Head was hired to kill the Doctor, but wound up not fulfilling the contract. Tons more detail here.
8) Jubal Early (Firefly)
Finally, River Tam met someone who could out-crazy her. Not to mention taking down the whole Serenity crew. Jubal only appeared in one episode of Firefly, and appeared to be doomed to a horrible death in space — but you just know that in the alternate universe where Firefly is still on the air, he became a recurring character. In fact, he probably joined the crew of the Serenity in season six.
7) Johnny Alpha (Strontium Dog)
He can see through walls, read minds, and led a mutant revolution when he was only 17. Later, he joined the mutant bounty hunter task force known as the Strontium Dogs, after the Strontium 90 radiation that gave them their mutant powers. As the saying goes, "Time was when a man could commit various acts of evil and hide from justice forever in an expanding galaxy! Times have changed! Today is the day of the... Strontium Dog!" Alpha is possibly the only bounty hunter to have captured Adolf Hitler in the past, bringing him forward in time to stand trial for his crimes in the future.
6) Jonah Hex (Jonah Hex)
He's the cowboy bounty hunter, branded in the face with the Mark of the Demon, who discovered that a man can make a lot of money by bringing in wanted varmints. Legend has it that Jonah is single-handedly responsible for killing at least 336 people. And when Jonah traveled forward to the post-apocalyptic year 2050, he hardly batted an eye. (As far as anybody could tell, anyway.) Even when he comes face-to-face with his own stuffed corpse from the past, he mostly just takes it as welcome proof that eventually he'll get back to his own era. (Here's a great interview with Michael L. Fleischer, the writer who moved Jonah into the future.)
5) Samus Aran (Metroid)
Orphaned at a young age and trained as a warrior, Samus was infused with Chozo DNA to make her a nearly unstoppable killer. Inspired by Ripley from the Alien movies, Samus is a loner hero who takes on Space Pirates and the Metroid race alike, with her powerful arm-cannon and her agile power suit. A former Federation Police officer, Samus struck out on her own as a bounty hunter, although she still works with the Federation sometimes.
4) Lobo (DC Comics)
He's one bastitch who always gets his sentient. In fact, the only reason why Lobo isn't higher on this list is, we're not entirely sure whether he's "cool," exactly. He's definitely insane, and absolutely unstoppable, though. And anybody who loves space dolphins as much as the last Czarnian has to be cool, in his own way. (He killed his own entire species, just for kicks.) Lobo rides his motorcycle through space, and when he's not hanging out with his beloved dolphins, you'll find him in one of the galaxy's dirtiest dive bars. Where he's ready to bust some heads, drink up and get paid, maybe not in that order. And in the Amalgam universe, he's fused to Howard the Duck.
3) Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop)
He's a tough customer, a former member of the Red Dragon Syndicate who only ever made one mistake — trusting a guy named Vicious. After a metaphorical (and nearly real) death, this Bruce Lee devotee became partners with bounty hunter Jet Black, and joined the ship Bebop. With Jet Black and Faye, he travels across the galaxy looking for the highest-paid fugitives to bag and bring in.
2) Rick Deckard (Blade Runner)
As he says in Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, "I'm not a Peace Officer. I'm a bounty hunter." And he hunts the escaped Nexus-6 model andys, or Replicants, with his laser pistol at his side. Everybody says he's the best bounty hunter there's ever been, but he's starting to wonder if he's got the sheer ruthlessness and callousness a great bounty hunter needs. In the movie version, Blade Runner, he's the very model of a world-weary noirish detective — and as a bonus, he's played by Harrison Ford, the man who became famous for dodging bounty hunters. Including...
1) Boba Fett. (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)
Duh. We couldn't really put anybody else at the top of this list, could we? From a brief animated appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special to his small but crucial role in Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett captured the imagination of fans everywhere. His action figure is enough to spark all-out war among the Eltingville Fan Club. But if you don't believe that he's the coolest, just check out how Mandalorian expert Karen Traviss describes him at the start of her novel Boba Fett: A Practical Man:
Boba Fett leveled the blaster and sighted up.
"You can run," he said. "But you'll only die tired."
His voice rasped through an amplifier. He never needed to shout: he could always be heard. His target — a Rodian counterfeiter called Wac Bur, who was unusually overweight for his species — had obliged him by running in ever-more-desperate maze-like circles in the depths of the quarter and now found himself in a blind alley...
"Dead or alive," Fett reminded him. The thermal imager of his blaster optics picked out Wac helpfully radiating heat under a pile of discarded packing cases. "Dead's easier. Come on. I'm a busy man."
Additional reporting by Gordon M. Jackson.