The man who would become Manhunter started out as the eldest son of a wealthy East Coast family. Ray Hamilton was set to take over Hamilton Industries when his father retired, but his jealous younger brother had their father killed and framed Ray for the murder. Because the murderer used a suit of power armor that once belonged to Enforcer, an enemy of Firestorm, the crime was treated as a metahuman one and Ray was sent to Belle Reve maximum security prison. Ray's cellmate was Mark Shaw, who had once fought the JLA as The Privateer and it was from Shaw that Ray would first learn of the cult of alien androids called the Manhunters (Shaw himself would later adopt the costumed identity of Manhunter).
If it hadn't been for Shaw, Ray would likely not have survived his stay in a prison where the majority of "guests" are hardened super-criminals. Shaw taught Ray numerous survival skills, from intensive martial arts to stealth and security techniques, all necessary to keep Ray alive. When Shaw was recruited into Task Force X, Ray learned to survive by pretending to befriend other inmates, notably former Flash villains Captain Boomerang and Captain Cold. Acting as an errand boy and occasional spy Ray learned some of the engineering skills the villains used to build their unique weapons.
Eventually, Ray came to the attention of Amanda Waller, the head of Task Force X. Based on Shaw's recommendations and her own observations, Waller was considering recruiting Ray into the Suicide Squad. However, before Waller could bring him into the Squad Ray, and several other prisoners, were broken out of Belle Reve by Nimba Cult assassins. The Cult had been hired by Kobra to recruit and train the ninja squads that he required for the Janus Directive. Since one of the targets of the directive was Task Force X, Ray was considered an ideal candidate. Ray was trained in ninjitsu and brainwashed into becoming a loyal assassin. He was in one of the ninja squads sent to kill the Checkmate Knight squads (Manhunter would later learn that one of the Checkmate Knights he tried to kill was his future teammate Galahad). When Kobra was defeated, Ray was among the ninjas that escaped and returned to the Nimba Cult.
Ray's next mission for the Cult was an assassination. The Cult had been hired by James Madison II to kill his father, allowing him to take control of his father's company, Pacific Industries. Ray was chosen because he bore a superficial resemblance to the younger Madison. With some cosmetic surgery, Ray looked enough like the elder Madison's son to get past the extensive security surrounding the reclusive Madison's estate. Ray was able to easily get past the estate security but when he tried to kill the old man he found he could not. His memories of how his brother had killed their father came back to him and he was able to break the Cult's conditioning. Ray explained the situation to the older Madison and the two confronted young James. When James tried to finish the assassination himself, his father killed him instead. At the older Madison's suggestion, Ray took his son's place. Ray Hamilton was dead, long live James Madison II. As Madison, Ray contacted the Cult and told them their assassin was dead and had failed his mission. He told them to keep the money he'd given them but that he would deal with his father another way. Ironically, the older Madison passed away from an illness a few months later leaving "James" as the heir to the Madison fortune. Confronted suddenly with freedom and a new identity, James (he now considers Ray Hamilton to be dead) moved into the vast Madison estate and became a recluse as his "father" had been.
Several months later, word came to James that his old cellmate, Mark Shaw (a.k.a. Manhunter) had been killed by the villain Eclipso (though in fact Shaw was working undercover for Sarge Steel at the time and the Manhunter killed was a ringer Steel had sent in Shaw's place). That night James had a vivid dream where an albino lion proclaimed him as the new Manhunter and charged him with finding and stopping evil wherever he should find it. When he awoke James watched in shock as the lion-head symbol of the Manhunter cult burned itself into his desk and Shaw's Manhunter Mask and Power Baton materialized in front of him. Using the engineering skills he had picked up in Belle Reve, James designed a costume and equipment for himself and set out into Pacific City to fight evil as the new Manhunter.
In one of his first missions, Manhunter was recruited into the Enforcers of Justice and remained with the team until near its end. It was during the first major mission Manhunter participated in with the Enforcers that he would learn who had contacted him in the dream. The Enforcers were fighting against the Annihilator, one of the few surviving Manhunter androids. Annihilator was trying to resurrect the Manhunters by turning the Earth into a mechanical world to replace the androids' homeworld of Orinda, which had been destroyed by Earth's heroes during the Millennium event. During the battle against Annihilator, Manhunter encountered the alien N'lassa. It had been N'lassa that had originally corrupted the Manhunters millions of years earlier and the androids had kept him alive as a figurehead. Now N'lassa sought redemption by restoring the Manhunters to their original purpose- to fight evil. He had originally selected Mark Shaw to be the first of the true Manhunters, but with Shaw believed dead, N'lassa had then selected Madison. With N'lassa's help the Enforcers stopped Annihilator.
Immediately after Annihilator's defeat the Enforcers became involved in the Zero Hour crisis. At one point during the crisis Manhunter found himself in World War II on the west coast. While there he learned of the important role James Madison I and Pacific Industries had played in the birth of Pacific City (in fact, though none of the Enforcers remember it, Pacific City did not exist until after Zero Hour. Before the timeline was realigned in that crisis the Enforcers had been based out of Los Angeles, not Pacific City). When the crisis was over James Madison decided to come out of seclusion and take an active role in running Pacific Industries. He started by cleaning house, firing a number of corrupt officials on the board of directors and appointing people who could do the job. Under Madison's guidance Pacific Industries has grown to become a leading company on the global stage, rivaling Wayne Enterprises.
Since the dissolution of the original Enforcers team Manhunter has concentrated his crimefighting efforts to Pacific City.
Powers and Abilities:
Manhunter is a ninja, a master martial artist who specializes in stealth and espionage. He also picked up some engineering skills from many of the criminals in Belle Reve which lets him build and modify much of the equipment he uses. Manhunter's main equipment includes his mask, which houses several different optical enhancements (including thermal, night-vision, and telescopic features), and his Power Rod. The Power Rod is built with alien Manhunter technology and allows the wearer to fly, fire powerful energy blasts, generate strong magnetic fields, and has a force field generator that protects the user and can also be used to cloak the user or reflect incoming attacks back on the attacker.