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JOHNNY DYNAMITE

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Full Name: Johnny Dynamite
Nationality: American
Organization: None
Occupation Private Investigator

Creator: Pete Morisi
Time Span: 1953 - 2020

ABOUT THE SERIES

Johnny Dynamite is a private investigator.

He is also, for a very short time, working for American Intelligence during the early years of the Cold War, hence his membership in this compendium.

Most of the time, though, he is a hard-boiled private eye with a (single) eye for the ladies and a tendency to blast away at his enemies, hitting most of them despite his ocular deficiency (he is blind in his right eye and wears a black eye patch to prove it).

When we first encounter him, he has the use of both of his eyes, though his depiction on the covers of two of the first three adventures, holding menancingly a broken, jagged whiskey bottle makes it easy to believe he would later lose one of them.

He is "the wild man from Chicago", claims a blurb from his first adventure, "the rough, tough private detective who's as explosive as his name". Thrilling Detectives.com says, "With his best gal and faithful secretary Judy Kane, appropriately 'tough but soft', by his side, and his cop pal Lieutenant Hennessy (who even appeared in a few solo stories) 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".

The first case of anything smacking of cloak and dagger comes well into the line-up of Dynamite adventures, in the case he titles Vengeance Be Mine. Dynamite is summoned to a crime scene by a homicide detective friend. The deceased is an old war buddy of Dynamite, Frank Cole. Dynamite recounts how the two had during the War given a special mission in the Marines to free a Polish scientist named Krugist from a Nazi prison fortress. Now the recent murder of Cole has attracted Jim Faraday, "a government man for the Washington sub-committee investigating Communist aggression".

When Dynamite recounted the horrific details of that mission and vowed to track down a Nazi torturer who had plagued them back in the day and now resurfaced to kill Cole, Faraday asked Dynamite to join them. Dynamite was immediately skeptical, claiming that "half the politicians in this town would condemn you for mentioning my name". Additionally, Dynamite argued, "I've got a detective agency to keep going" in addition to not being good at taking orders.

Faraday vowed, "Your agency will keep running, Dynamite, we'll see to that. And as for the orders, you'll be on your own once you receive your assignments. We don't exactly agree with the way you operate but you get results ... that's what counts."

BOOKS

Number of Books:1
First Appearance:2020
Last Appearance:2020

1 Johnny Dynamite Johnny Dynamite
Written by Max Allan Collins, Terry Beatty
Copyright: 2020

Subtitled "The Complete Adventures of Pete Morisi's Wild Man of Chicago".
A fascinating look at the 50's comicbook private eye that has become legendary for its quality and, unfortunately, its paucity.
Edited with introductions by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, this holds articles about the men who gave us these adventures as well as reprints of those stories.

COMIC BOOKS, GRAPHIC NOVELS, AND MANGA

Number of Stories:23
First Appearance:1953
Last Appearance:1994

       A very short-lived comic book publisher, Comic Media, which started in 1950, came out with the first of the Johnny Dynamite comics in its almost eponymous Dynamite Comics. This magazine was dedicated to detective fiction, mostly private but some police. Johnny would make his appearance in a promo in #2, July 1953, and then in the first of 14 graphic adventures in #3.
       Seven issues would be released concerning Johnny Dynamite with three of those having a trio of stories, two having two tales, and two having a single adventure.
       These were some pretty impressive and memorable tales, told in the Pre-Comic-Code era. As Thrilling Detectives put it, "they were all pre-code, and fairly seething with testosterone and manly derring-do, full of two-fisted cops, soldiers and spies".
       On or about 1955 the company shut down business and sold off its titles and characters to Charlton Comics. Under this new management, Johnny would three issued put out under his own name, having two adventures in the first two issues and three in the third. 


       Six months later in a continuation of the line but with the new name of Foreign Intrigues. There would be two issues under this name with a single adventure in each.
       Unfortunately in both iterations of Charlton's version, with the newly established Comics Code 'quieting' them down, the stories were not as impressive. That would seem the end of the impressive and very interesting Johnny Dynamite.


       Until!
       Rights to Johnny Dynamite were acquired by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty and these two veterans of detective and crime drama stories in books, newspaper strips and comicbooks decide to keep his memory alive.
       This would involve a new Dynamite story taking place in the Ms. Tree universe where Dynamite had retired years before.
       Then they would reproduce, in black and white format instead of the original color, the earlier pre-code tales from the Comic Media days.
       And then some years later, they would create a rather bizarre but still fascinating long adventure which would throw voodoo and Satan and returning from the dead into the same domain as gals and gats and gumshoes. Weird, but it kinda worked! I mean, I bought it, literally and figuratively. 

1 I'll Find That Killer I'll Find That Killer
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

1st of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #3, Sep. 1953, 8 pages.
A fellow named Charlie Harper won big time at the track but was shot in the back not long after and robbed. Descriptions from the track guards led the cops to Wells Chapman, a freelance script writer for comicbooks. Though he swore he was innocent, he was shot while trying to escape after being convicted. A few days later, a woman approached Johnny Dynamite to ask him to find the real culprit. She was certain Chapman was innocent because she was a professional astrologer and his birth chart 'proved' he was not guilty. Then she is found dead from a broken neck!
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #38, Apr, 1987.

2 Promise To A Corpse Promise To A Corpse
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

2nd of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #3, Sep. 1953, 10 pages.
An old girlfriend comes to Johnny Dynamite for help. She works at a nightclub owned by two men, one of whom she is seeing. Both desire her and she worries that one will kill the other. A lot of trouble follows.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #40, Jun, 1987.

3 Excuse For Murder Excuse For Murder
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

3rd of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #3, Sep. 1953, 8 pages.
Johnny Dynamite finds himself knee-deep in murder and drugs when he answers a call from an old friend and finds a dead man along with heroin and pot. Complicating matters is the fact that his now adult niece is involved.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #39, May, 1987.

4 An Eye For An Eye An Eye For An Eye
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

1st of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #4, Nov. 1953, 8 pages.
Dynamite is stopped at a red light when a gorgeous brunette approaches his car with a camera. The flash comes from a secreted gun, not a bulb, and Johnny is shot in the face. It will cost his his right eye. He figures it was related to a case he had handled involving insurance fraud and he is determined to track down his assailant.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #41, Oct. 1987.

5 Big Racket Big Racket
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

2nd of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #4, Nov. 1953, 8 pages.
A man who had run a call girl racket was put away a few years before by Johnny Dynamite and one of the girls. Now he is out and determined to get revenge.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #42, Nov. 1987.

6 Murder Hit Home Murder Hit Home
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1953

3rd of 3 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #4, Nov. 1953, 10 pages.
Dynamite's girl Friday, Judy Kane, starts suffering from the same severe headaches that killer her brother. She was forced to seek treatment at a sanitarium. Now six months later, he wants to visit her but there are people who are determined to stop him. Drugs and murder are behind it all.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #43, Dec. 1987.

7 Death Is So Lonely Death Is So Lonely
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1954

1st of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #5, Jan. 1954, 10 pages.
A city official is out to break up a major crime syndicate and needs Johnny Dynamite to learn who the top man in the organization is.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #44, Feb. 1988.

8 The Phony Kill The Phony Kill
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (artist), William Waugh (writer)
Copyright: 1954

2nd of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #5, Jan. 1954, 8 pages.
Without his being in on the deception, Johnny Dynamite's death is faked. This is to free him up to investigate a man who was out to really kill him. Connected to the matter is a guy who likes to sink cargo ships for insurance.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #45, Apr. 1988.

9 Kidnap Kidnap
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

1st of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #6, Mar. 1954, 6 pages.
Someone has kidnapped Johnny Dynamite's secretary and, in truth, girlfriend, Judy Kane. Dynamite is determined to get her back no matter how many people he has to pummel to do it, and he does pummel a lot.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #47, Aug. 1988.

10 Vengeance Vengeance
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

2nd of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #6, Mar. 1954, 7 pages.
With just a few hours before gangster boss Ed Martin goes to the electric chair, the man who captured Martin, Johnny Dynamite, is snatched by Martin's two former lieutenants. They plan to spend the final few hours beating on Dynamite, right up to the time their boss is fried, then kill Dynamite.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #48, Nov. 1988.

11 Vendetta Vendetta
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

Solo graphic adventure published in Dynamite Comics #7, May 1954, 13 pages.
Beaten and tied up, Johnny Dynamite can only watch as several goons carve up Kitty Craig before killing her, all to get hold of some pictures she had taken back when she worked the call girl racket. Dynamite is determined to get revenge.

12 Dead End Dead End
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

1st of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #8, Jul. 1954, 7 pages.
The murder of Tina Lay, an old girlfriend of Johnny Dynamite, makes him pledge the death of her murderer, his very best friend growing up, Dino.

13 The Long Night The Long Night
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

2nd of 2 graphic adventures published in Dynamite Comics #8, Jul. 1954, 6 pages.
When Johnny Dynamite learns that hoodlum George Kirby had broken out of jail, he knows that Kirby is going to do his best to make good his vow to kill Dynamite. The feeling becomes mutual when Kirby attacks Kirby's old girlfriend, Lily Leeds.

14 Death Be My Judge Death Be My Judge
Published by Comic Media
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1954

Solo graphic adventure published in Dynamite Comics #9, Sep. 1954, 13 pages.
Johnny Dynamite was enjoying a cup of coffee in a diner on a wet and chilly night when a gorgeous blonde enters and asks him to "treat a gal whose broke to some java". He obliges. Then hearing car tires screeching to a stop outside, she races away but not fast enough to avoid the bullets which cut her down. Though Dynamite had no idea who she had been, he was determined to find her killers.

15 Vengeance Be Mine Vengeance Be Mine
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1955

1st of 2 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #10, Jun. 1955, 12 pages.
This is the case that brings Johnny Dynamite into working with the government. An old army buddy has been murdered in Chicago by a former Nazi hitman and torturer, now working for the Communists. The government gets him to head to Berlin to track down the man and eliminate him.
Reprinted in Ms. Tree #36, Feb. 1987.

16 The King of Blackmail The King of Blackmail
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1955

2nd of 2 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #10, Jun. 1955, 10 pages.
This tale about a man named Blackie Wall and his girl friend, Dora Larkin, who were knee-deep in "the vicious game of blackmail" with versions of the badger game. It is narrated by Johnny Dynamite but that is his only participation.

17 The Man of Many Faces The Man of Many Faces
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1955

1st of 2 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #11, Aug. 1955, 10 pages.
Johnny Dynamite is "called to the Office of Internal Security" because the Chief has "absolute trust and confidence" in him and has a delicate job for him. A Professor Yugar is a highly ranked member of the nation's Atomic Energy Councils and is possession of the plans for the trigger mechanism for the new H-Bomb. Dynamite is to escort him via train to DC. Naturally, there are some who do not want the trip to go smoothly, including the Professor!

18 Poison Jasmine Poison Jasmine
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Pete Morisi (writer and artist)
Copyright: 1955

2nd of 2 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #11, Aug. 1955, 6 pages.
Johnny Dynamite is on temporary loan to the French government to head to Vietnam where one of their citizens, Francois Chapman, was said to have been attacked along with his adult daughter, their home burned by the Vietnamese communist rebels. She was missing and Dynamite's job was to rescue her. Dynamite is suspicious, however, as is his contact there, Joe Bang, an old colleague from the War in Indo-China.

19 The Fixer's Mob The Fixer's Mob
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Joe Gill (writer), Bill Molno (pencils), Vince Alascia (inks), Jon D'Agostino (letters)
Copyright: 1955

1st of 3 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #12, Oct. 1955, 6 pages.
When Johnny Dynamite read in the newspapers that an old friend, Danny Greene, a special prosecutor in the DA's office of another city, was arrested for taking a bribe, he knows that it is a frame job and he flies immediately to infiltrate the mob there to learn who is behind the frame.

20 The Maddened Teller The Maddened Teller
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Joe Gill (writer), Bill Molno (pencils), Vince Alascia (inks), Jon D'Agostino (letters)
Copyright: 1955

2nd of 3 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #12, Oct. 1955, 4 pages.
A bank teller that Johnny Dynamite knows is getting the detective worried as the teller is quickly going downhill. Dynamite follows him and learns the man is losing on average $400 a week on the ponies with a salary of no more than $70 a week. Dynamite knows something is going to give.

21 The Hundred Cadillacs The Hundred Cadillacs
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Joe Gill (writer), Bill Molno (pencils), Vince Alascia (inks), Jon D'Agostino (letters)
Copyright: 1955

3rd of 3 graphic adventures published in Johnny Dynamite #12, Oct. 1955, 6 pages.
Johnny Dynamite had just bought a brand new Cadillac convertible. Within an hour, the car is stolen, just one of many such vehicles recently snatched. When the insurance investigator offers $10k for stopping the theft ring, Dynamite is interested though he vows he would have done so just to get his car back.

22 Chump! Chump!
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Charles Nicholas (pencils), Vince Alascia (inks)
Copyright: 1956

Solo graphic adventures published in Foreign Intrigues #14, Mar. 1956, 8 pages.
Needing a vacation, Johnny Dynamite is taking a cruise when a "shriveled-up, owlish little runt" approaches him with the plea, "You must assist me...please!" Dynamite is handed a very small package and told to follow the instructions inside. The man then disappears and apparently falls overboard. The package contains plans for a new super-H-Bomb and he is supposed to hand the plans to a blonde at the Cafe Moulin in Paris. 

23 Too Many Rembrandts Too Many Rembrandts
Published by Charlton Comics
Contributors: Charles Nicholas (pencils), Maurice Whitman (inks)
Copyright: 1956

Solo graphic adventures published in Foreign Intrigues #15, Aug. 1956, 5 pages.
Johnny Dynamite admitted that he "didn't know a Rembrandt from Whistler's Mother" but he "did relish the though how beautiful the insurance company's check would look" when he cracked the case of a stolen canvas.

24 When Dynamite Explodes When Dynamite Explodes
Published by Renegade Press
Contributors: Max Allan Collins (writer), Terry Beatty (pencils and inks and colors), Gary Kato (art assist and letters)
Copyright: 1987

Solo graphic adventures published in Ms. Tree #36, Feb. 1987, 12 pages.
Private Eye Mike Mist is summoned by police homicide detective Luke Hennesey, in the hospital in critical condition. His assailant had beaten then shot him but Hennesey was still able to warn about someone called the Jackal and how that man was going after Johnny Dynamite. Mist bumps into his friend Ms. Tree and relates the situation to her. Dynamite had been Mist's partner years before. The tale then relates why Dynamite gave up the business and why the Jackal was so determined to find and eliminate him.

25 Johnny Dynamite: Underworld Johnny Dynamite: Underworld
Published by Dark Horse
Contributors: Max Allan Collins (writer), Terry Beatty (pencils and inks and colors), Gary Kato (letters)
Copyright: 1994

A 4-part graphic adventure mini-series, Sep.-Dec. 1994.
"A rock ‘em/sock ‘em private eye from the windy city, Johnny Dynamite’s back with his best gal and faithful secretary Judy Kane by his side! In this hard-boiled, psychotronic occult period piece, Johnny’s fighting zombies in Vegas with crime on their undead minds!"
An old girlfriend, Vicki Vickers, wants Johnny's help to get free of a gangster movie producer. That fellow, Tony Mal, has hitman Freddy Faust kill her. Dynamite tracks Faust down and kills him. Then the real trouble begins as Faust makes a deal with the Devil to return to Earth and cause no end of trouble which Dynamite will have to deal with before tracking Faust down and killing him again.
The stories in each issue, all 26 pages long, were:
Revenge for a Black-Eyed Blonde
King of the Underworld
Don of the Dead
Knight of the Living Dead

MY COMMENTS

In many cases I might not have opted to include a private eye like Dynamite into the compendium. Yes, he did get asked to go to work for the American government as a freelance operative, towards the end of his literary cycle. But out of the just over two dozen stories about Dynamite, there are only three that definitely fit in the cloak and dagger genre. That is not a lot.

Still, I have seen several inclusions of Johnny Dynamite in lists of comicbook spies so it seemed like I would be almost obligated to do the same.

That and the fact that, though most of the tales are not spy-related, they are darn good stories. Especially the pre-code ones where the topics and the talking are very much hard-boiled.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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