Sunday, February 15, 2015
The Dynamite Trail!
One of the most visually interesting characters of the Atom Age was Johnny Dynamite, designed and for the most drawn by Pete Morisi. The hard boiled original adventures date from the early 50's and they follow a mighty curious route as did the very comic book which contained them.
The trail of the comic book Dynamite begins in 1953 when a publisher called Comic Media (great name by the way) published the debut issue early that year. it featured a Don Heck cover and focused on rousing adventures across the globe.
The second issue showcased the artist who would become most associated with the title, the great Pete Morisi. His cover like the Heck one before showing men in relatively real life dangerous situations.
But the third issue changed the focus of the comic with the introduction of Johnny Dynamite, written by Walter (Ken Fitch) Waugh and drawn by Morisi. In the comic above you get a rare glimpse of Johnny's right eye before injury causes him to adopt his signature patch.
Johnny (in his one-eyed mode) went on to headline the comic for the next year or so until Comic Media itself went under. During that run Morisi produced some exceedingly vital cover images. See below.
But then it ended in 1954, sort of.
Enter Charlton Comics in 1955, a tiny company, but a one situated to survive the tough times which did in many of its competitors. These competitors then coughed up many prize characters which Charlton tried to put to efficient use. Johnny Dynamite was such a character and Charlton's debut issue changed the title a bit to reflect his dominant role.
Morisi stayed with the character and so began his long association with the Derby publisher.
But at Charlton other talents besides Morisi worked on the character as evidence by the cover above.
Then a mystery. The title changes its name again in 1956, this time to Foreign Intrigue, though Johnny stays on as a regular character. Some sources say the number of the series remains intact with three issues of Foreign Intrigue beginning with number thirteen but I can only find hard evidence for issue fourteen and fifteen.
Anyway after this short-lived change the title adapts again. (Love Charlton baby!) The new name is Battlefield Action and Johnny Dynamite is himself alas out of gumshoe action.
Issue sixteen appears in 1957 and the title goes on to a relatively long-lived and healthy run.
Battlefield Action goes through issue sixty-six in the year 1966 and then ceases to be for nearly a generation.
Until in 1980 Charlton, by this time a company looking as ever to hang on to its dwindling comics market share revives the name for a run as a reprint title.
The series lasts several more years finally ending for good in late 1984. The Dynamite trail at long last comes to an official end.
But in the late 80's many of Johnny Dynamite's vintage 50's adventures were reprinted in the pages of Ms.Tree produced by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, who purchased the rights to the character. Dynamite has had a brief career of sorts in more recent times at Dark Horse where the character was mingled with some supernatural elements in the capable hands of Collins and Beatty.
Those genre-bending 90's adventures were collected in 2003, making for a very handsome and highly readable comic package.
Since then no sign of Johnny Dynamite has been reported, at least none I've been able to detect. The trail is well and properly cold.
But if you're interested in sampling some of the vintage goodness concocted with Johnny Dynamite check this out.