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Sunday, August 31, 2008



Number 370


"Dragged to your death!"


I'm not a big Western fan, not of movies, books or comics, but I do enjoy the occasional story if it's well done. Robert Kanigher, editor, scripted this story for Alex Toth, artist, and Frank Giacoia, inker. It appeared in All-American Western #107, April-May 1949. I love Toth's dynamic, action-filled artwork. Giacoia inked it in DC's late-1940s house style, borrowed from Milton Caniff.

The Indian characters are treated the same way they were treated in movies, as stereotypes.

I like Johnny Thunder's rock 'n' roll hairstyle, anticipating the look of a decade hence. Something that bugs me is how a white horse can be called Black Lightning. And wasn't Johnny Thunder a name borrowed from another DC character of a couple years earlier? And wasn't Black Lightning the name of a superhero two or three decades later? I guess comic books were the original recyclers: plots, art, names, everything used again and again!












13 comments:

Chuck Wells said...

I agree with you Pappy, that this Johnny Thunder tale was very good and certainly worth featuring on your blog, you anti-western curmudgeon you.

Rudy Tenebre, esteemed secretary. said...

"Giacoia inked it in DC's late-1940s house style, borrowed from Milton Caniff."

Awreet, now we're beginning to identify tendencies in inking.

Seems I was invited to elaborate further on my musings on the subject of inking styles by yourself.

I'll admit, that invitation is beginning to look pretty disingenuous.

C'mon, paps, aren't these forums for dialogue (?), tell me my homespun theories are crap, but don't leave me hangin'!

Mr. Cavin said...

@ Rudy: Well, I can't speak for Pappy, but I really appreciated your eventual definition of "frond-line style" some weeks ago, and can even appreciate why you coined that term for it. I assume that's what you're referencing. I could be wrong; sometimes your sentences are unclear to me.

As is the tone of this comment, by the way.

Steve Pick said...

Man, that Robert Kanigher! What a guy. He never flinched, no matter how ridiculous a concept. Not only is the horse smart enough to know he could cut the other horse off at the pass, but he's capable of undoing knots.

Beautiful artwork, too.

Rudy Tenebre, esteemed secretary. said...

Mr. Cavin, Pappy,

I'm all apologies for the confrontative tone of my last comment here...

Being the final comment on the post to which you refer, Mr. Cavin, left me with the feeling none found my gibberish at all interesting. Least of all our host. I'm grateful to you for your mention of 'fronds', and grateful for having questioned my tone.
I stand a'righted.

Pappy said...

Rudy, I'm sorry to have left you hanging, buddy. I appreciated your analysis and wanted to get into the inking techniques a little deeper. The tool of choice is a Winsor-Newton Series 7, Number 3 watercolor brush. When it became widely used in comics the comment made decades later by Kurtzman was that it took on a life of its own. It enabled an inker to draw a very thin line and with a facile wrist action turn that line into a broader and bolder line. The best inkers could do about anything with a brush. It's said the style was from Milton Caniff's studio-mate, Noel Sickles, and Caniff, who had been a penman for years, switched to the brush in order to save time on his inking. If you compare his earlier work on Terry and the Pirates you can see the difference. Each style has a distinctive look all its own.

The style was the house style for a time at DC in the 1940s. The brush was also handy for socking in the black areas. Toth's art was especially good for a brush because of his use of spotted black areas and silhouettes. I'm sure inkers like Giacoia had fun working over Toth's pencils.

Chuck, I'm not anti-western (I am a curmudgeon, though...you guys don't know what a grouch I am in real life) but there are only so many things you can do with the genre. Cowboys and Indians, outlaws and badmen, gunfighters, brave sheriff. Within that framework a lot of classic stories have been told, but the same stories got told so many times I just stopped reading them, or watching the movies. Every once in a while a story like this Toth story jumps up in front of me and I like it, but as a genre, no.

Hey, Steve Pick, not only is Black Lightning a really smart horse (the Kanigher touch), but Johnny can drill those coins exactly in the center, all while they are in the air.

Karswell said...

As a fellow anti-western curmudgeon I have to admit this was a pretty rollicking cowboys 'n injuns tale. Am I gonna get in trouble for saying "injuns?"

Frank M. Young said...

It is odd that DC would simply recycle a character name that had been used from 1940 to 1949, when the original (and rather feeble) Johnny Thunder, of "Cei-U" fame, muddled through sub-par comedic adventures in Flash Comics, All-Star Comics and Comic Cavalcade.

The reinvention as an Alex Toth Western character was a good move. I'm surprised DC didn't reinvent more of their has-been "B" characters in this way.

Daniel Kian said...

Pappy—

Take a good look at the final panel of page 9, and you'll see why this (mostly) white horse is called “Black Lightning”.

Rudy Tenebre, esteemed secretary. said...

Thanks for some more concrete history on the subject of inking. Perhaps it compliments my previous flights of fancy, and coinage.

There are of course many variations of visual result from the use of this method...

Wasn't Sickles Caniff's forerunner, (by a couple years)?
I've always been amazed with both artist's landscape elements: very photographic, documentary in a sense, but also extremely impressionistic. Then you get a close-up of Connie!

Daniel Kian said...

Rudy—

Indeed Sickles came first. Further, he and Caniff were old friends who were sharing a studio at the time that Sickles developed that style. I'd be surprised if Caniff hadn't more than once acknowledged Sickles.

Pappy said...

Daniel Kian, thanks for pointing out that last panel on page 9. Well, knock me down with a black lightning bolt...I hadn't noticed it before, so I appreciate your sharp eye.

Joe said...

Why can't DC publish a book collecting all of Toth's great work for them?!? I've been waiting for years to see some of this stuff, and I fear I'll have to continue to wait...