Who’s Who Presents – Who’s That? #3: Johnny Thunder

For the third thunderous episode of WHO’S THAT?, Robby the Kid and Rootin’-Tootin’ Shag lead the posse looking at the history of one of DC’s greatest western heroes, Johnny Thunder, focusing on two classic stories: “Johnny Thunder Day”, from ALL-STAR WESTERN #86, and “The Gauntlet of Thunder”, from ALL-STAR WESTERN #104, both by Robert Kanigher and Gil Kane!

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Opening music by The Who. Closing music by The Kinks.

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14 responses to “Who’s Who Presents – Who’s That? #3: Johnny Thunder

  1. Great show!

    That crazy taking over of past numbering systems happened with the 1950s Robin Hood comics from Magazine Enterprises. They are started with issue 52, then 53, and then 3 to 8. I think the title they took over the numbering from actually came back.

    I’ve always liked this Johnny Thunder since I read the DC Comics Presents “Whatever Happened to…” as a kid.

    It’s weird that this Johnny Thunder turned up only a couple after the bow-tie Johnny Thunder was replaced by Black Canary.

    Of course, in another timeline, there almost was a Johnny Thunder TV series.

    Producer Whitney Ellsworth was looking to follow-up The Adventures of Superman with a show that had a similar secret identity component and Johnny Thunder seemed the perfect marriage of that and the popular TV western format. Ellsworth approached up-and-coming TV actor Rick Dalton to play the part of Johnny, but Dalton passed. It turns out that Dalton had assumed this would be based off the bow-tie-wearing goofball that he’d read as a kid, and Dalton hated that version of Johnny Thunder. Instead Dalton starred in the cowboy series Bounty Law spun off from a guest appearance as bounty hunter Jake Cahill on the Restless Gun.

  2. Month or so after finding your site and now I’m hunting down Western comics, and I’d place them after romances in the list of comics I thought I would never read. Enjoyed the podcast, and can’t wait to listen to the past episodes.

  3. According to Mike’s Amazing World, it looks like Johnny’s creators were probably original writer Robert Kanigher and artist Alex Toth. Looks like Toth stayed on the strip for a long time, and when Kane took over the strip after it moved to All-Star Western in issue #84 (Aug/Sept. 1954), he took it over from MAD Magazine legend Mort Drucker! What an artistic legacy!

    And I think I read somewhere that one reason Johnny got a new outfit was because his fringed buckskin look was VERY similar to the Trigger Twins, who coexisted in the same book for years.

    When I was a kid, I assumed Gil Kane’s art had changed a LOT since his Silver Age work (which I saw in the DC digests) to his then-current Superman/Sword of the Atom look. But in art like these scans where he inked himself, I often see he was often heavily inked by “smooth” artists like Joe Giella, Sid Greene, etc. This looks closer to later day Kane than the middle Silver Age stuff often did.

    Great show!

    Chris

  4. I really enjoy these character spotlights (sorry for the Bwahaha reference) as it gets me interested in some characters I would have never read. I was never really into Western comics as a kid and when I first encountered Gil Kane in the Bronze Age, I found his stuff too “heavy” for my taste. The black inks just seemed too much for the characters, or so I thought. But after hearing this episode and seeing the image scans, it really makes me want to hunt down more Johnny Thunder comics and check out more of Gil Kane’s earlier work. It all sounded (and looked) fantastic! I don’t think I ever knew about Star Hawks either and that looks amazing! I guess I’m off to go long box diving.
    Thanks for the informative show and keep up the great work!

  5. This was a great exploration of an under-appreciated strip! Like Chris, it sent me right away to Mike’s Amazing World, Praise Be His Site. One of my petty annoyances is the shorthand fans use when talking about comics in the 50s and 60s. Where companies like Archie, and Harvey had very strong house styles, and Marvel, by whatever name, was all under the editorial hand of Stan Lee, DC (National) was different. DC had about half a dozen editors who were in charge of THEIR books. So, it’s not fair or accurate to state something like, “In the fifties, DC had Superman do such-and such, but in the sixties DC had Superman do so-and-so.” DC had little to do with those decisions. It was Mort Weisinger. So, I wanted to find out who the editor was for Johnny Thunder.
    It was Julius Schwartz.
    Using Mike’s amazing data-base, one can see that All-American Western was cancelled at about the same time that Julie got new books to edit. He took over Sensation Comics with the January/February ’52 issue and brought out Rex the Wonder Dog that same month. The last All-American Western is in June/July ’52 and the first Phantom Stranger debuts in August/September ’52. Three new books to edit, so something’s got to go!
    (I kept scrolling. Julie doesn’t edit his first super-hero story until Showcase #13, the Flash, March 1958!)
    Why was Johnny Thunder in Showcase #100?

  6. Update! Schwartz also gave up the title Jimmy Wakely with the July/August issue. So his workload only increased by one book.

  7. As a person from Ohio I have to point out Annie Oakley as a person who was famous for shooting coins. Enough that they shot film of her in189 doing it.

  8. Yeah, I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last episode. You guys seriously need to do these more frequently, they’re really fun.
    As for the western Johnny Thunder, at this point I can say that I’ve still only read the ‘Whatever Happened To…’ feature in DC Comic Presents – which is, as I recall, pretty damn good and beautifully drawn by Mr. Kane. I am interested in reading more stories with him, just because – if I’m being honest – I’m interested in seeing all of that earlier art by Mssrs. Toth, Kane and, yes, as Chris notes above, Drucker.
    By the way, DC ran a Johnny Thunder series in the early 1970s (1973 I think) that only lasted three issues and featured all reprints, so stories with art by not only Kane, but also Toth and Drucker. There’s also a few stories featuring another Western character called the Nighthawk. The only reason I know that is because once I found out about the existence of the series, I thought it might be a cheap way to get some of these stories – and was disappointed to find that back issues aren’t necessarily cheap, or when they are the postage to Europe prices them out of what I’m willing to spend for single issues.

    Also nice to hear a plug for Star Hawks by Goulart and Kane. I have the complete collection book published in the early ’00s by Hermes Press – the one that has this odd, oblong format that makes it hard to put on a shelf. I haven’t actually sat down to read it yet, but I have flipped through it a few times. The art is gorgeous.

  9. Cool pod cast. I have no idea who this guy was sorry. If I read his who thing. And I probly d. I my have just skimmed over it. Great art work. Sorry I guess cause I’m Southern I never got into Cow Boys much. Save Lone Ranger. Zorro. Two Gun Kid. Phantom Rider. Jonna Hex. And a couple of others. Just wasn’t my thing. Saw horses. Been to Texas with hats and guns. Still the art is good. Gil Kane and all. Did I mention I have a U tube channel? That’s Liz Anne Oswalt on U tube. The older costume looks better on him. Glad he got married.

    Other characters in Who’s Who caught my eye. Captain X. The coin guy. He fought Tomma Hawk can’t remember him now. Still cool pod cast.

  10. Brilliant episode, I echo the calls to produce these more often.

    I’ve not read much Johnny Thunder but boy, the art is gorgeous. Horses wish they were drawn by Gil Kane. I once sat with Gil Kane as he drew a horse, here’s the result. https://www.timemachinego.com/linkmachinego/the-ukcac-86-portfolio-page-3/

    That Back to the Future reference from Shagg was a tad random!

    Tarnation! I thought Hootowl was a well-known term – it’s almost like you’ve never heard of the famous actor Hoot Gibson!

    Well done to Rob on Two Degrees of the Love Boat. We should make Challenge Rob a regular feature ie annual.

    Wasn’t Star Hawks regularly reprinted in Amazing Heroes or somesuch?

    Edo, the 1973 reprint mag is mentioned on the show, by Rob, I think.

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