Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Direct Currents: Johnny Thunder

One of National Comics early Western heroes Johnny Thunder, first appeared in All-American Comics #100 in 1948. His real name was John Stuart Mill Tane and he lived in a Mormon settlement of Mesa City, Arizona. The son of a sheriff and a schoolteacher, Johnny's mother makes him promise never to use violence to solve problems or pick up a gun and asks him to instead follow in her footsteps teaching. Johnny does become a mild mannered  schoolteacher, but he soon finds out that living in the wild west there are situations where violence is required to right a wrong. In order to keep his vow to his mother, Johnny created the identity of gunslinger Johnny Thunder by changing clothes and darkening his hair to coal  black. A superb athlete and swordsman, Johnny Thunder was also an expert sharpshooter and a superior horseman. He rode a white stallion whose odd dark marking on its forehead earned it the name Black Lightnin'. During an encounter with Johnny's arch-enemy Silk Black, Madame .44 accidentally learned Johnny Thunder's true identity, while Johnny learned that Madame .44 was actually his lady friend Jeanne Walker, a local photographer. Admitting their love for one another, John and Jeanne revealed their true identities to Sheriff Tane and were married soon after, promising to help the sheriff keep the peace in Mesa City. With twenty four issues ahead of there time in dealing with African and Native Americans, the art was equally impressive by Gil Kane and Alex Toth.

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