Johnny Dynamite

Created by Pete Morisi and Ken Fitch (pseud. of William Waugh)

"The Wild Man from Chicago! He's rough! He's Tough!
He's JOHNNY DYNAMITE!"

JOHNNY DYNAMITE was definitely the best of the pre-Comics Code comic book eyes of the fiftiies -- and, it turned out, the one with the longest legs.

With his best gal and faithful secretary Judy Kane by his side, and his cop pal Lieutenant Hennessy dishing out info and occasional backup, this rock 'em/sock 'em private eye from the Windy City burned hot and bright for a few years.

Even the loss of an eye, in issue #4's memorable "An Eye for an Eye" couldn't slow Johnny down. He just slapped on an eye patch and continued slugging and shooting his way through a morass of pimps, thugs, gangsters, dope dealers and other assorted denizens of the Windy City. Suffice it to say there was more than a little Mike Hammer influence at work here

The first nine Dynamite books, printed by Comic Media starting in 1953, were all pre-code, and thus full of all kinds of good stuff, like prostitution, drugs and good ol' graphic violence; with great rough-and-tumble artwork by Pete Morisi.

The series was later picked up by Charlton for a few issues, and were considerably watered down. Still, not bad, but a pale imitation of those pre-Code issues, which featured some truly hard-boiled stuff and a truly hard-boiled dick. Charlton tried, but it just wasn't the same. After three issues, they revamped Johnny, making him a government agent who travelled abroad, mostly to mix it up with East German spies and changed the name of the mag to Foreign Intrigue. But it also flopped after three issues, and it looked like the end of the road for the Chicago Wildman until...

Johnny was re-introduced to eighties readers when long-time fans Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, creators of Mike Mist and Ms. Tree, began using reprints of Dynamite's stories as backup features in Ms. Tree #36, which also featured a brand new story featuring Tree, Mist and Johnny himself, now retired and married to the former Miss Judy Kane.

Not quite done with Johnny, Collins and Beatty brought Johnny back in a psychotronic/occult/period piece zombie-filled four issue mini-series for Dark Horse in 1994 and pitted him against a mob of gangsters risen from the grave. They prove to be almost as resilient as Johnny himself.

THE EVIDENCE

  • "He staggered back drooling blood from his lips as I followed through with one round-house after another."

-- "Kidnap"

  • "I'd get them... somehow. I'd watch their faces blubber and drool as I shoved the .45 in their guts. Then I'd pull the trigger and blow out their insides!"

-- "Vengeance"

COMIC BOOKS

  • DYNAMITE
    (1953-54, Comic Media/Allen Hardy Publications)
    9 issues, pre-code
    Writers: William Waugh, Pete Morisi
    Art: Pete Morisi
  • "I'll Find that Killer" (September 1953, #3)
  • "Excuse for Murder"
  • "Promise to a Corpse"
  • "An Eye for an Eye" (#4)
  • "Big Racket"
  • "Murder Hits Home"
  • "Death is So Lonely"
  • "The Phony Kill"
  • "Kidnap" (#6)
  • "Vengeance" (#6)
  • "The Wire Trap" (#8)...Read it now!

A rare Dynamite prose story by Ken Fitch, with a spot illustration by Pete Morisi.

  • JOHNNY DYNAMITE
    (1955, Charlton)
    3 issues, #10-12, post-code continuation of above
    Artists: Nick Alascia, Pete Morisi..
  • "Vengeance Be Mine" (June 1955, #10)
  • "Poison Jasmine" (August 1955, #11)
  • "Johnny Dynamite and the Maddened Teller" (October 1955, #12)
  • "The Hundred Cadillacs" (October 1955, #12)
  • "The Fixer's Mob" (October 1955, #12)

  • FOREIGN INTRIGUE
    (1956, Charlton)
    3 issues, #13-15

Dropped Johnny Dynamite completely after #15, and became BATTLEFIELD ACTION with #16)..

  • (March 1956, #13)
  • (#14)
  • (August 1956, #15)

  • MS. TREE
    (1987, Renegade Press)
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Artists: Terry Beatty and Gary Kato..
  • "When Dynamite Explodes" (February 1987, #36)

  • JOHNNY DYNAMITE: UNDERWORLD.. Buy this book
    (1994, Dark Horse)
    4 issue mini-series
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Art by Terry Beatty

REPRINTS

Reprints of the original Johnny Dynamite stories, as well as a few of Lt. Hennessy without Johnny, can be found in:

  • MS. TREE
    Nos. 36-48

  • MS. TREE's 1950's THREE-DIMENSIONAL CRIME
    (July 1987, Renegade Press)

  • THE DETECTIVES
    (No. 1, April 1993, Alpha Productions)

  • NOIR
    (Vol. 2, No. 1, April 1995, CFD Publications)

RELATED LINKS

Max's Official Website!  Here you can find information on Max and his latest works, all done up in a most excellent fashion by his son, Nate. So, buy his dad's stuff!

The Ms. Tree co-creator's official site.

ALSO OF INTEREST

A beautifully produced book by comic book historian Dan Nadel, offering an interesting survey of forgotten comic book artists and writers, including two complete stories each of Harry Lucey's Sam Hill and Pete Morisi's Johnny Dynamite.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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