Saturday, July 26, 2014

Johnny Thunder, Gunslinger, Bodyflinger

I found this All-Star Western #109 comic from 1959 in a box of $1 comics at a garage sale this morning.  The 10-cent cover price is what caught my eye.  When I took it up to buy it, the lady running the sale insisted it was a mistake and shouldn't have been in the box as it was worth at least $15 (it's not).    After being assured by her husband that it was okay, I bought it.

All-Star Western started out life as "All-Star Comics" and is notable for introducing Wonder Woman in issue #8.  It switched to All-Western with issue #58 and lasted only 10 issues beyond this one.

An atypical "Draw Me" for the Art Instruction School of Minneapolis (where Charles Schulz got his start and developed the Peanuts characters basing them on co-workers).  Usually, it's The Pirate, Tippy the Turtle or Cubby the Bear that you're challenged to draw.  Looking at it now, it looks like the cover artist may have used this "Draw Me" as a model for Johnny:

For some reason, we're treated to a synopsis of our hero's origin.  Johnny Thunder was already an established character so it would seem unnecessary.  Maybe they just needed to fill pages.  At any rate, we learn Johnny Thunder is really local school teacher John Tane, son of the local sheriff, who long ago promised his dying mother he would never raise a gun to another man.  Somehow, he justifies doing this anyway as long as he assumes another identity, that of Johnny Thunder.  John pulls a slightly modified "Clark Kent" by removing his glasses *and* dying his hair.  Not sure how he can dye it back and forth so quickly in the Old West.

Untrained in gunslinging and unable to hit the broad side of a barn, Johnny chooses instead to hurl himself bodily at all evil-doers.

In a moment of sheer luck, Johnny's bullet strikes a rope suspending a chandelier above the villain, taking him out as if he had planned it that way all along.

The Frontier Cabin appears to be similar to the all-cardboard Polaris Nuclear Submarine and Jet "Rocket" Space Ship.

This piece of educational fluff was probably included to appease the comics code in the afterglow of Fredric Wurtham and the Seduction of the Innocent hearings.

In case you've ever wondered how that mine in your back yard was named.

I've published this story in its entirety because it's so crazy.  When the circus performers promised to lift morale at Fort Desolation (well, what did they expect morale to be at a place named that?!) fail to appear, it's up to cavalryman Dan Foley to get to the bottom of the matter.

Of course, they've been captured by wild "injuns" and forced to perform.  Hey, maybe the Indians paid better!  Without learning more, Dan assumes the worst.

Dan confuses and dazzles the Indians with the old "juggle the pine cones" trick.  It's interesting he's able to imagine the word "Indian" when using it to describe clubs, but mentally still thinks "injuns" when referring to the tribesmen.

Next, he creates "colorful designs" with flaming arrows and *whoops*, aieeee! Tepee on fire!  Come to think of it, that expression could be used for getting out any undesirable situation -- family gatherings, business meetings, etc.  It could also be used to describe the symptoms of some venereal diseases.

Of course, as skilled as he is in pine cone juggling and flaming arrow design making, Dan slips in an unlikely pile of axle grease and is captured.  I also find it unlikely the Indians couldn't catch up to the circus wagons as they casually pull away.

His secret out, Dan is placed in a cage where he will be used for target practice (hardly seems sporting).  Of course, the Indians can't hit the broad side of a barn (they must have taken lessons from Johnny Thunder) and release him when an arrow nicks the rope suspending the cage (sound familiar?)

Back at Fort Desolation, Dan is the hit of the show.

Some inane questions about western terminology.  These can't be real, can they?

Indian Tribal Names! and Superman sneaks you into Palisades Amusement Park.

Charles Atlas can turn you from Half-a-Man to He-man.  You even get to choose what kind of body you want.

"It's Easy To Have Plenty Of EXTRA MONEY!" especially when you blackmail your parents that it would be cheaper just to give you the money rather than payoff the Midwest Card Company after you fail to sell a single box of their cards.

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