Secret Origins #13: Nightwing, The Whip, and Johnny Thunder

Ryan Daly and guest Tom Panarese review the origin of Dick Grayson and his journey from Robin to Nightwing from Secret Origins #13. Then, Paul Scavitto joins Ryan to cover the origin of The Whip. Then, Nathaniel Wayne helps Ryan review the origin of Johnny Thunder and his amazing Thunderbolt.

Listen to Episode 13!

Subscribe to Secret Origins Podcast on iTunes!

Sample pages from Secret Origins #13, written Dan Mishkin with art by Erik Larsen and Mike DeCarlo (Nightwing), Roy & Dann Thomas with art by Mike Gustovich (The Whip), and Roy Thomas with art by Mike Clark and Dave Hunt (Johnny Thunder), and a cover by Pat Broderick.

#13cover #13page2 #13page9 #13page13 #13page16 #13Bpage1 #13Bpage7 #13Cpage1 #13Cpage7

Plus, sample pages from Detective Comics #38 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, New Teen Titans #44 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and Flash Comics #1 by John Wentworth and George Storm (The Whip), and Wentworth and Stan Ashmeier (Johnny Thunder).

Det#38 NTT#44 Whip1 JTpage1 JTpage7

Listen to Tom Panarese at Pop Culture Affidavit at: http://twotruefreaks.com/shows.php?show=40

And check out his podcast devoted Marvel Comics’ The Nam, In Country at: http://twotruefreaks.com/shows.php?show=39

Check out Paul’s web comic Armadillo Justice at Rising Sun Comics: http://www.risingsuncomics.com/#!armadillo-justice-issue-1-sneak-preview/c1j4w

And visit Nathaniel Wayne at Council of Geeks Podcast blog: http://councilofgeeks.blogspot.com

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “Love Sick” by Mariachi El Bronx; “Say I Am (What I Am)” by Tommy James & The Shondells; “Because the Night” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

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43 thoughts on “Secret Origins #13: Nightwing, The Whip, and Johnny Thunder

  1. Whew! Three stories in one issue is crazy! As a result, I think I’ll keep my comments brief.

    Nightwing – I really would have been quite happy without this framework story. One, it really cements the moment in time this is being told. It ends up feeling dated as a result. Plus Jericho! That’s like a turd in the punch bowl.

    While this is a Larsen penciled issue, the DeCarlo effect on inks is obvious. I think that may be why this at times feels like Perez. DeCarlo inked Perez and brought his aesthetics to those pages too.

    I clearly think that Diana was in that Titans panel. You can almost see the outline of her in the pane of glass with a different crosshatch added without matching to the lines around it.

    I have never been a Bat-heavy collector so this did add some details to even a veteran reader like me. I didn’t realize there was such a fall out between Dick and Bruce over college grades. Bruce looks absolutely enraged in that panel.

    The Whip – I definitely got the Zorro vibe off of this guy. At first I thought Gustovich was channeling Gene Colan but I think in the end it is only the use of shadow so effectively that reminded me of Colan. This guy seems like a fun hero and I wouldn’t mind reading more of his adventures (I especially like Paul’s thoughts of a modern comic). I thought he was in something more recently but I was confusing him with Mr. America. Didn’t he also use a whip?

    Johnny Thunder – He is such a goof ball. I did like all the more arcane iconography seen in this story though. Not much more to say.

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  2. Dropping some comments here, even though I’m just through the Nightwing segment yet.

    I agree on the cover. I like Broderick, but sometimes his stuffed look rush, and proportions were off. Not only is Dick’s face way wonky (his eyes are too far apart for one), his bent knee is just strange. Johnny Thunder never looked better…and he of course doesn’t deserve this honor.

    I really enjoyed Tom’s insights on Dick/Robin/Nightwing. And Ryan’s too. Interesting how you both came into the character at roughly the same time. You’re both young whipper-snappers. I of course knew Dick/Robin through Batman ’66, Filmation toons, and Super Friends, but also his back-ups in the Dollar version of Detective Comics. Dick has always been one of my favorite comic characters, with him and Batman himself volleying for that position over the decades. When Dick quit the Robin role Pre-Crisis it was a bit deal, and rocked my little 9-year old world. I immediately took to his Nightwing personae and costume. People pick on it, but it works in both his circus roots (with it’s Deadman-like collar), Batman’s colors, and Dick’s own more swashbuckly attitude.

    This is Dick two seconds before Max Allan Collins god-awful handling of the Bat-books makes him a lame duck in those titles for years to come. I can’t stand that storyline, especially Batman firing Dick, and then taking in an inexperienced juvie to replace him. I preferred the amicable split that Doug Moench, Don Newton and Wolfman & Perez gave us. As Tom said, Dick and Bruce had already had their slow-burn fall-out, which resolved itself right before Dick retired as Robin, in that NTT/BATO crossover, and then at Donna’s wedding.

    I don’t really understand the hang-up on the circus angle of his origin. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus is still a big deal, hitting major cities several times year after year. There are still small circuses that come and set up in our town at least once a year as well. While certainly not as relevant as it once was, there are plenty of young Dick Grayson-types out there performing today. Our family usually takes in Ringling Bros. every year. I’ve seen tons of them.

    The original Titans world was rocked by the death of a peacenik philosopher named Swanson, I believe. The Titans mishandled a situation that ended in the man being shot in the middle of a demonstration. That’s when most of the Titans briefly abandoned their super powers and costumes and came under the tutelage of Mr. Jupiter. Most of this was forgotten, even before the Crisis, until Dan Jurgens made it a part of his 90s Teen Titans run.

    Wolfman has gone on record saying having Kory marry Karras was a mistake the fans never forgave him for. I think much of this Titans era is a mistake, and Tom pointed out Wolfman was in his infamous writer’s block phase here. I think the origin story is handled well, although it’s set during a particularly weak time in the Titans title. It’s hard to detect any of the later Erik Larsen here, but then Mike DeCarlo inked with a jackhammer, and chiseled out his own style in every book he inked in the 80s, including the Titans famous “Judas Contract” storyline.
    “The Gauntlet” is a great story! Dixon makes it work within his later Robin:Year One mini, which I highly recommend.

    Great job, fellas!

    Chris

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  3. Having a clam to my first Robin/Dick Grayson: The 60s TV show, Casey Kasum’s Super-Friends Robin, and the MEGO doll. By the time I caught up with him in the comics, he was already too old to still wear the suit and name. And while I accepted him as Nightwing in the Titans, I always thought the disco costume was largely ridiculous. It was with his own series (and a simplification of the costume) that really made him one of my favorite characters (on and off), loved him as Batman while Bruce was dead/lost in time (it made me love Damian, but the character didn’t work well with the original Batman), and I think he was one of the better treated characters in the New52. My favorite Robin was Tim Drake, no question. It’s really about when I started to get into Batman comics. But one Robin I’m slowly but surely getting into is the Golden Age version as represented in his solo adventures in Star-Spangled Comics (Tim was the first to get a series called Robin, but Dick had his own solo strip long before). Obviously, my preferred Teen Titans are the Bob Haney originals (and it seems I may be alone in this), but it doesn’t really have anything to do with Robin. Another Robin I really like is the one in the Teen Titans cartoon, a real badass.

    As far as this Secret Origins story goes, I would never have recognized Erik Larsen here. His art has been entirely absorbed by Mike DeCarlo’s inks. Wow.

    Hey, circuses still exist, but they’ve evolved. Why can’t Robin work for the Cirque du Soleil? Then again, there’s a retro feel to Gotham – Arkham is more Bedlam than mental hospital, lots of fairgrounds and funhouses, Gothic architecture, gangsters with tommyguns, pulp heroes running around… I don’t question it when a circus comes to town. I think that’s part of the value of DC’s imaginary cities. An old-timey circus in New York calls attention to itself, but Gotham is its own world, with its own rules.

    Does Batman need a Robin? Once you’ve set up your Dark Knight, then Robin provides the contrast you need to keep developing the character in interesting ways. The REAL question is: Does Batman need some Outsiders? 😉

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  4. Good points on the circus angle, Chris and Siskoid.

    And Siskoid, I too like the classic Bob Haney Teen Titans better than NTT, but it’s still one of those things that I like the idea of more than the book itself.

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  5. When I started listening to this episode, it struck me after thirteen issues there had been only a single origin featuring a Teen Titans character. A little odd since New Teen Titans was one of DC’s more popular titles. Thinking more about it, I realized there had not been an abundance of origins featuring Batman characters. Then during a particularly boring Monday morning meeting, I began to wonder about the breakdown of stories in the first thirteen issues.

    During my lunch break, I decided to take a look. In the first 13 issues, there have been 24 origins:

    • To the surprise of no one, Roy Thomas wrote the most: 12 origins; however, Dan Miskin, Mike W Barr and Paul Levitz each wrote two origins.

    • Ernie Colon, George Tuska and Tom Grindberg each penciled two origins

    • Most popular inker? Mike Gustovich with three origins. Pablo Marco and Tony DeZuniga each did two.

    • Most used inker? Carl Gafford with 15 origins

    • Most used letterer? David Cody Weiss with 8 origins

    •One female penciller (Mary Wilshire); one female writer (Dann Thomas); one female inker (Mary Wilshire); two female colorists (Mary DeZuniga and Carrie Spiegle)

    • Three stories involving Batman characters (Golden Age Batman, Halo, Nightwing)

    • Four stories featuring female characters (Halo, Power Girl, Fury, Shadow Lass)

    • Two origins featured new characters to the DCU (Fury and Blue Beetle)

    • Three Infinity Inc. tie-ins

    • For New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes and maybe the Outsiders being the more popular books, they each have one character featured in an origin (Nightwing, Shadow Lass and Halo)

    • Twelve stories involve Golden Age characters (although Fury is a bit of stretch)

    I needed to stop or else I would have found myself in a deeper rabbit hole of Secret Origins minutiae.

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  6. I covered the Whip’s first appearance and origin in Who’s The Whip?
    http://siskoid.blogspot.ca/2015/02/whos-whip.html

    I’ve read a few more stories, looking at scans for the one I would actually cover in that feature, and almost went for the one where he makes his horse jump from one building to another. But I liked the art best in Flash Comics #1.

    I love the Whip, but seeing as he appeared VERY LITTLE even in All-Star Squadron (basically a cameo towards the end, I seem to remember), this one stands out as one of those “why him?” decisions Secret Origins frequently made.

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  7. Hilarious lead-in, Ryan. But all kidding aside, I would have loved to do Johnny Thunder. I love Golden Age characters and I love goofy characters. Thankfully, Nathaniel GETS it.

    (Are there more characters with magic words he can collaborate on later?)

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  8. Well, like Chris, I go way back to Filmation, for Robin. The 60’s Batman cartoons are some of my first cartoon memories (along with Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry). Heck, I still remember Batman and Robin, in cartoon form, turning up in the original broadcast of Sesame Street. Yep, I’m one of the original SS kids. Man, I’m old! I got to see Robin grow into a more mature teen version, through the 70s, especially in Batman Family. I got bits and pieces of the original Teen Titans (mostly after it was revived, pre-Wolfman & Perez). When new Teen Titans hit, I had been growing ambivalent with most comics. That book hooked me immediately and I loved the development of Dick Grayson in its pages. he was finally becoming an adult and was completely his own man. The Robin of that era was a confident swashbuckler and a sharp detective; what you would expect from batman’s protege.

    This origin is okay, though it feels a bit too brief. Also not keen on Jericho’s presence or the setting; but, it’s tolerable. Quite frankly, Dick Grayson deserved his own issue for the origin, or a dual issue of Earth-1 and Earth-2 Robin, though this is post-Crisis. The Earth-2 Robin had a slightly different career, which is why a dual issue would have been more satisfying. But, we can’t have that in this time period (grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter!)

    I kind of prefer the Batman Year 3 take on the Flying Graysons, with their performing costumes bearing a resemblance to the later Robin costume. It gave a a motivation for why Batman chose that design for Robin. There was a previous story about it being a costume that young Bruce Wayne wore; but, that retcon made more sense.

    I’ve always felt that Dick Grayson should have stayed Robin and went on to use the Neal Adams costume; but, I prefer the Perez Nigthwing costume over the later designs.

    Next, the Whip. You know, I liked this character better in The Mark of Zorro. El Diablo, in either version, was a more effective Zorro pastiche. One point though, that often gets lost in discussions of the people of Mexico, there were families who are directly descended from the Spanish conquerors. They make up about 10% (or slightly less) of the population of Mexico, though that percentage has fluctuated, over generations. The bulk of the population are descended from the Mestizos, who were of mixed European and native heritage. There are also those directly descended from the native peoples of Mexico. So, it isn’t impossible for The Whip to be a Mexican of Eurpean direct descent; but, it is statistically unlikely. The Europeans often had greater family fortunes, so, it kind of fits the wealthy playboy/polo player characterization, especially in the 1930s/40s. It’s not as interesting as in this modern retelling, though.

    Mike Gustovich was, primarily, an inker in mainstream comics. He did pencil his own work in the Justice Machine. His anatomy could get a bit screwy, from time to time; but, he was very good with using shadows and with actions scenes. The Comico version of the Justice Machine is well worth picking up (and relatively cheap). Tony Isabella was the writer on a lot of it and the characters were well developed. They are a group of special agents from a Fascist alternate dimension, who, after encountering the Elementals, find themselves branded as traitors and end up on the run, teaming with a former opponent of theirs. It was an interesting and fairly unique (for the time) book. It started out at Noble Comics, as a magazine format (5 issues), with people like William Messner-Loebs helping out. Next, an annual was published by Texas Comics, with a back-up story that launched the Elementals and a story with the Justice Machine meeting up with the THUNDER Agents. Then, a mini-series, featuring the Justice Machine and Elementals was published by Comico, followed by a regular series (29 issues and an annual). Gustovich took it next to Innovation Comics, who did 7 issues (and 3 issues of The hew Justice Machine), plus a crossover with the Hero Alliance. Then, Millenium Comics published 2 issues and Gustovich sold the property to the people at Millenium. The Comico series is the best of the lot, with the Isabella issues the cream of that crop.

    Johnny Thunder? Meh………….Never warmed to the character, at all. This does nothing to change that. I’m not much of a fan of magical characters, since there are usually few rules involved and the Thunderbolt was lousy with that problem. It was a character that really only worked in the early Golden Age, when expectations were low and he was shoved aside by better characters rather quickly.

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  9. So I giggle in the background and get no thanks. Plus, Frank wants my wife to leave me. Sheesh.

    El Castigo’s coverage was a lot of fun, (love the sound effect) and I’d put Paul’s Whip comic in my pull file for sure. I’m a big mark for Zorro (as opposed to Mark OF Zorro) so there has always been a bit of an appeal to this character for me. My only other real memory of the character outside of this story and his Who’s Who entry (also drawn by Gustovitch, I believe) was in one panel in All-Star Squadron. Someone, I actually believe it’s Johnny Thunder (!) asks the Whip why he doesn’t have a Spanish accent like he did in the newsreel footage about him. The Whip answers that was an early part of his disguise he had dropped. This is another example of Rascally Roy “fixing” a problem no one else ever had…why the Whip’s dialog changed at some point.

    Although my better half wanted her money back, plus some, I have to say I kinda agree with Nathaniel (bet you didn’t see that coming) in that this story, as presented, works better than Captain Marvel’s origin. This take establishes the bat-crap craziness right off the bat, so one can just roll with it. It’s still completely ludicrous, but as it’s own animal, it works. I never thought of Johnny as the JSA’s Jar-Jar, but it’s an apt comparison. Gardner Fox just liked torturing his readers with “point of view” characters no one wanted to relate to. See also Snapper Carr…who didn’t even HAVE a magic Thunderbolt. Just a bag of lime.

    Great show, and I’m glad you put The Boss in at the end to cover up your girly taste in music, Ryan.

    (that’s for not giving me giggle credit)

    Chris

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  10. ps. I think this was a chance for Roy to do something to make Johnny Thunder more interesting. There’s a lot you could do to improve things, then run with the character in future stories; but, that isn’t Roy. He was too slavish to the originals. Yeah, he treats it as goofy and just runs with it; but, I think that would have been more effective with the Ma Hunkel Red Tornado. I don’t mind goofy characters like Johnny Thunder or Ma Hunkel (the Sheldon Mayer Red Tornado stories are great); heck, I cut my teeth on Disney’s Super Goof. I just think you have to let them live in their own little world. I also think that if you are going to go goofy, go for broke. That’s what made things like Plastic Man so great.

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  11. I’ve only listened to the Nightwing portion at this point (stupid commute to work) but had the same thought it looks like a few others have had. Of course circuses are still a thing! True story…I almost ran away to join one in college! Not only do I blog, but I also juggle, and have taken both clowning and magic classes! Sadly the communal lifestyle offered by the travelling circus that visited my college campus just wasn’t for me. But yes, Ringling, Clyde Beatty, Cole Brothers, Big Apple and Universoul circuses are all still active as far as I know, and there may be more.

    BUT if you really want to update it, make it more current, then Cirque du Soleil is the way to go! Still a travelling show, with an international group of performers, and a more modern feel! The Graysons can still be acrobats…but now maybe the Russian Mob, or the Triad, or some other international criminal organization is responsible for Graysons deaths? Maybe the Graysons themselves are foreign…weren’t they portrayed like that in the Elseworlds “Thrillkiller” story?

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    1. Devin Grayson (ugh) tried to emphasize the Grayson family’s Russian roots a bit. I don’t mind that, just most of Devin’s run, including having Dick raped by the female Tarantula. P-U. I SOOOO missed Chuck Dixon on that title. It never recovered.

      Chris

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    2. For some reason I thought Cirque du Soleil was a stationary fixture of Las Vegas or something, but I do like your idea for an update of playing with the Russian Mob angle.

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      1. Seeing as it originate in my neck of the woods (even know at least one person who’s worked, maybe still works) for the show, it does move around. They have different shows, some in venues like Vegas or Broadway, and others that tour hundreds of cities all over the world. Under a Big Top and everything.

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      2. They tour. They came to my neck of the woods, and did a promotional appearance in the bookstore, where I used to work. Quite frankly, I prefer traditional service over those guys. The Cirque du Soleil guys make the scary clowns of traditional circus seem like Mr Rodgers.

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  12. Oh, it was real, all right, Ryan. Imagine some painted up guy walking around on stilts, inside a bookstore! It made the worst nightmarish image from a Terry Gilliam or Jeunet & Caro film look like a Bob Ross painting.

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  13. Did the story give any kind of new origin for the name ‘Nightwing’? Because originally it came from Kandor, which can’t have worked in the DC universe at the time of this story…

    On the subject of Joe Chill, I may be in a very small minority, but I really like the idea of a third act in that story, that sometime well after catching Chill after years of Batmaning, he finds out that it wasn’t a random mugging but a mob hit against one or the other of the Waynes, and then solves that much bigger case. It’s a story that they’ve hinted at frequently, but have never really done in a definitive manner. (Loeb/Sale hinted strongly in this direction in the Holiday maxiserieses, and probably would have done it if they’d done a third. The New 52 version doesn’t really have enough history to make it work properly and sort of has it closed off by Morrision’s work in a sort of adjacent area.

    Missed Musical Cue: Lionel Richie’s Say You, Say Me for the Johnny Thunder segment.

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    1. If I had thought of it, I probably would have gone with “Say You, Say Me”. That’s a great choice! As it is, I like the Tommy James song because it feels very silly, very simple, and very old fashioned and it felt right for the character in that short burst.

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  14. So many thoughts on this fantastic episode I’ve listened to in chunks over the past 2 days home with a sick kid. Unfortunately most of those have escaped me at this point as I sit down to write this.

    -Nightwing, eh this one is alright, never been a fan of Larsen’s Art, I’m with you Ryan, the best thing he ever did was try to draw Spider-Man like MacFarland, and in doing so pulled it off better than Todd did most of the time, at least Todd while he was doing that horrendous Torment story. DeCarlo’s inks here are a plus in my book, it’s too bad DeCarlo couldn’t have been the inked on Doom Patrol. Larsen’s pencils with Gary Martin’s inks on that title may have been some of the all around ugliest art DC ever published, at least in my opinion.

    -The Whip! I absolutely love this story and I love the concept Paul had to bring him back, that would be so freaking hilarious!

    I could have sworn that some of The Whip’s Golden Age stories had been reprinted by AC Comics in their Golden Age reprints. I was thinking that since he’s been unused for so long that the copyright expired and he fell into the Public Domain and was fair game for reprints. I could have sworn I have an AC book featuring a Golden Age Whip story or two, I’m going to have to try to locate that (unfortunately I’m in the process of getting stuff packed up for moving, so I can’t locate it). Let me dig into that further and get back to you.

    -Johnny Thunder- this story serves as the single greatest Johnny Thunder story of all time, Roy did what bo other writer could and made this dipshit dumbass half way interesting. I totally agree with both of your thoughts on the story and why it works. I was dreading reading this story and was very pleasantly surprised. I think had they made Johnny more innocent and a little younger (like Billy Batson) than ignorant dumbass in his 20’s like Johnny was typically portrayed, then the character could have been much more well regarded, instead of being looked at like a more annoying Snapper Carr. The genie premise is cool, it’s just too bad the person wielding that awesome power has to have the same IQ as Honey Boo-Boo. You guys are totally right, Johnny as portrayed has no business being in a team book, unless it’s a team consisting Ma Hunkle, Snapper Carr, Johnny Thunder, and Mr. Bean.

    Great episode, 3 great guests!

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    1. Golden Age Greats Vol 5 TPB on the below link, it lists the Whip and some Quality heroes having stories reprinted in that collection. That was one instance I was able to find, perhaps there are others. Anyone out there pick up these AC Books consistently that can shed more light on if the Whip appears in any more? I just pick these AC Reprint books up when I find them cheap, so my issues are pretty random.

      https://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=600181

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      1. If you are referring to Golden Age Greats Spotlight #5, with a focus on Reed Crandall, that is Quality Comics Whip, aka Johnny Lash. That’s a different character. AC usually stayed away from anything published by DC/National/All-American, for fear of lawsuits. With the Quality stories, the stories are in the public domain; but, the characters are trademarked by DC. They mostly avoided using the names on the cover, unless the character and name was in the public domain.

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    2. I just want to make a point of Ma Hunkel vs Johnny Thunder. Both were comedic characters; but, were used rather differently. Johnny Thunder had comedic solo stories; but, was used primarily as an adventure character, and stayed on the team for several years. As such, he is treated as a member of the team in serious stories, which became more problematic as time progressed. In the 40s, you had more humor in the adventure stories, following on the traditions of comic strips like Wash Tubbs and Little Orphan Annie. Johnny was comic relief for the team, while the Thunderbolt added power. Ma Hunkel was a supporting character in Sheldon Mayer’s wonderful Scribbly stories, which were pure comedy, about a boy cartoonist (which was autobiographical, for Mayer). It was a straightforward comedy. She became the Red Tornado as a parody of superhero stories and appears, in a quick joke cameo, in the first JSA story. That’s it. She never appeared again in a JSA story, until she was made a supporting character in the modern JSA book (and a cameo in a JSA flashback story, where she is working in a factory, and lends a hand on the scene). Sheldon Mayer kept her in her own little world, which is where Johnny Thunder should have been left, in the Silver Age and beyond.

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  15. Thanks for another epic episode. As regards the Nightwing story, my first question was: Who is Artie Bear? I suspect I’m hearing the correct pronunciation of ‘Art Thibert’.

    All that tiresome Titans tosh in the framing sequence, kill me now. Or better still, kill Jericho and all those Tamararanadingdongs, I cannot bear those smug gits. Why on Earth waste pages shilling a story in another mag, Secret Origins should be its own thing, with stories that stand the test of time (in excess of two months).

    Regarding Greg A’s point about the lack of Teen Titans material in SO, I suppose that’s because DC had Teen Titans Spotlight for anyone who really cared about Red Star and Mal.

    Like everybody else in the world, I have no problem at all with the circus as part of Dick’s origin today – as has been pointed out, there are plenty around. Plus, these are comic books so there are bound to be more circuses than in real life. I expect Ma Kent once had a girlish crush on a strongman.

    Apropos of Batman’s attitude towards Robins, I hate it when Batman refers to them as ‘good soldier’, it makes him sound like a tinpot despot.

    My favourite Teen Titans tales are the spooky ones towards the end of the original run, with back-ups of Lilith looking for her parents (apparently the DCU was home to lots of red-headed psychics with lost babies and a liking for green plaid) and Donna worrying about going bald.

    I had no problem with the original origin of Jason Todd. Sure it was a copy of Dick’s, but again, comics. We already knew, courtesy of the Phantom Stranger, that a parallel world birthed a Batman every 20 years, who’s to say the universe didn’t occasionally throw up spare heroes on individual worlds? As regards the realism of two Robins with the same origin, if we’re going to invoke Realism we’d not have any Robins at all – there is no way in the world Batman could be justified taking a young boy into situations with guns and gangsters. As it is, we are basking in Robins.

    The extended sequence detailing the origin of Jason across Batman and Detective Comics by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and friends is one of my favourite Batman stories, excellent stuff. And it gave us Killer Croc. All wiped out in favour of a cack Dick Tracy knock-off. I did like Jason’s original costume, when he wanted to go by Bluejay, too, and the ginger hair. Dying the hair wasn’t to make him more like Dick, it was to prevent villains just wishing to shoot him in the bonce.

    The idea that DC already knew they wanted to kill Robin, and that’s why they brought in a new beginning for Jason, doesn’t ring true. I CAN believe that, later, that’s why he suddenly became a dickish (as opposed to Dick-ish) diplomat-son killer.

    For the first few years, Tim was an amazing character in a fantastic costume – and DC threw it all away. Damian should have been strictly temporary. Instead Tim gets the stupid Kingdom Come Dr Midnite-alike look, then the even worse hippy-ish glider wings schtick. And a rubbish new personality.

    I never really got the motivation for Dick changing his hero name as an adult. I’ve been known to go from shorts to long trousers without altering my monicker. It’s not like he’d originally stepped into a legacy role – I’m not counting that old story in which boy Bruce was a Robin – Robin WAS Dick. Jason could have been Bluejay and Tim, I dunno, dark Drake.

    Just to mildly disagree with Tom, to get all the New Teen Titans stories, would the easiest way not be to stick with the newsstand edition until it stops, then switch to the Baxter? Otherwise you’re faffing around with newsstand and Baxter during the first year of the latter, when you could just carry on with NTT/TotTT until it stops at #91, then join the Baxter book with #31.

    Wow, the world was really waiting for the secret origin of the Whip, well done to you lads for keeping my interest. But no Doris Day?

    If I were running an Earth Two team I’d recruit Johnny Thunder because he has so much power in his hands. Just assign him a wrangler. And what a fun story, I’ve always liked the character. He even has a legacy in that chap from Primal Force, Will Power, although his origins paints Johnny as a heel.

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    1. I don’t think O’Neil and Collins created the new Jason to set him up for death. O’Neil has stated the character got out of hand and soon they were more or less “forced” to kill him..or take him offstage, depending on the call-in outcome. I’m not real sure on ALL of that, because Collins seemed to get reckless Jason out of the way in his Two-Face two-parter. Starlin took that ball and ran, but he has stated (even to me in an article in Back Issue #48) he hated the concept of Robin, so he went out of his way to make Jason a character no one would like, so he wouldn’t have to use him. He half-jokingly proposed killing him, but figured O’Neil would never bite. And then he did.

      On the flip side of this, he portrayed a very competent Jason in Batman: The Cult. He even saves Batman!

      Chris

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      1. I’ve never read Batman: The Cult, I was put off by Starlin. But if you’re recommending it…

        And going back to something that came up on the show, it’s sooooooo sad there was never a Donna Troy Secret Origins entry, because we all know one Cindy Franklin, aka Logic Lass, is MADE for that one…

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  16. Cindy would straighten Donna’s messed up continuity out…but she could never forgive her adopted mom for giving up her baby…but keeping that house!!!

    I haven’t read The Cult in years, but it’s worth it for the Wrightson arc if nothing else. Deacon Blackfire shows up in the Batman: Arkham Knight game.

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  17. Dick Grayson is a lifelong favorite. Not only did I have a capeless Super Powers Robin, but I also had the capeless Mego Pocket Hero that preceded it. Rocked ’60s Burt Ward & ’70s cartoons (including Scooby-Doo.) In the ’80s, I wasn’t too big on the Robin concept, but Dick as the leader of the Titans suited me fine. I was only a casual Batman:TAS fan, so I didn’t see a lot of Nightwing, and anyway I disliked their design. The ’90s were a trial, between the armpit wings & mullet through to Chuck Dixon & Scott McDaniel turning Nightwing into a second rate Daredevil AND a lesser Robin in comparison to Tim Drake, who traded teh sexah for being a badly drawn Christian pop fan who fought crime with drumsticks. I came back for the latter portion of Devin Grayson’s run and most/all of Marv Wolfman’s, but Tomasi shook me off and I haven’t had much to do with the character since. As with most of the New 52, it seemed like they kept too much of the stuff that doesn’t work (the circus) and discarded too many essentials (Grayson as the first, longest lasting & greatest sidekick; the existence of most of the Titans.) Now he’s a gun-toting secret agent. Whatever.

    Truth to tell, the powers that be should have taken Nightwing away from Wolfman when he refused to let an immensely popular character with a half century of continuous publishing have a solo series. I guess Marv was too much of a golden boy and DC was still holding onto Marvel expatriates through their writer/editor deals, but Wolfman ran the Titans aground across five years of mediocrity at a time when the Baxter upgrade was already eroding the readership at an alarming rate. Nightwing was the most unforgivable casualty though, since his misuse from nearly the inception of the rebranding allowed the character to be reclaimed and sidelined by the Batman family to this day. Dick Grayson was one of the most popular and important heroes in comic book history who has now regressed to a peripheral player.

    Pat Broderick’s cover was so “off” that I only recognized his work when it was brought to my attention. I do not like bifurcated covers, since no one can break out with only half the usual art space, and this one had The Whip eating up even more real estate. I tend not to focus on any one image– it’s just a blur of blues, purples and yellows, though my brain registers Nightwing as the reason I own the thing. I’m really glad the art was by Mike DeCarlo, since I recall buying a Spotlight issue with Erik Larsen drawing Aqualad off the newsstand that made me hate everyone involved. DeCarlo was also inking Tales if I recall correctly, so there’s visual consistency with the franchise. I feel bad for Jericho, who looked like he was all set to hit a Tamarranean swingers club when Nightwing went and dumped origin all over him unbidden. We all know someone like that, right? I have an ongoing thought experiment where I try to figure out how to make the circus origin work in a modern context, but even when I halfway plot that out, I smash right into the inherent child endangerment that comes with the transition to Robin. I hate up-aging Dick, but the alternative is to sideline him 99.5% of the time or move Gotham City to a third world country with an entirely different standard of adulthood. You know, everybody talks about how the Crisis ruined the history of Donna Troy, but Wonder Woman herself was royally screwed over by Perez taking the same hard road as Hawkworld by having her story start “now” instead of “five years ago.” I feel like Perez has fairy glamour that makes people forget stuff like that and Nightwing’s “Disco Elvis” look (as Art Thibert called it. ) This story was okay, but cheesy throughout, which is punctuated by the dang monkey-bird at the end.

    Mike Gustovich was clearly trying to channel Gene Colan for the best parts of the Whip’s story. I like how cavalier Rodrigo Gaynor was about becoming a masked vigilante, and how loose the Thomases were with his race retcon and old west predecessor. It’s loads easier to forgive lapses in logic and motivation for a breezy continuity light nine-pager than their usual slogs. It reflects the Golden Age far more than captions telling me where FDR was taking a dump at 7:34 a.m. on March 7, 1939.

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  18. I’m a huge fan of that Batman Chronicles: The Gauntlet story. I’ve curated a lot of books out of my collection over the years, but that one has a prized place next to Robin Year One.

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    1. The Thunderbolt actually appeared in the very first Justice League of America figure series, produced by Ideal in 1966 during Batmania. They were “army men” type figures with no articulation, but figures nonetheless. The Thunderbolt is treated as a villain, no doubt due to his appearance in a then-recent JLA/JSA crossover under the control of the evil Johnny Thunder of Earth-One. Yes, there were TWO Johnny Thunders kids…and not the western guy!

      Chris

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  19. I never considered splitting the difference between Golden and Silver Age Hawks by having Shayera Thal take ownership of the Thanagarian lore while Carter Hall (who say gets his purely honorary Thanagarian name Katar Hol during his courtship of Shayera) would be solely the earthling reincarnation of Khufu (with maybe some Stargate Egyptian Gods to tie it all together.) There. Hawk fixed now.

    Clarifying my logic on Fury in the Wonder Woman Family: there is no Wonder Woman Family. Oddly for a character as seemingly loving and inclusive as Princess Diana, she hardly has any close friendships of note outside Etta Candy and the Kapetalissisconstantinolpes. The original Wonder Girl was Diana as a teenager, so once the concept was altered to create Donna Troy, that character was developed in Teen Titans far removed from Wonder Woman. Post-Crisis, the tenuous connection between Diana and Donna was further strained, and then Byrne retconned Donna into an errant, sometimes evil magical on Diana. Four years into the New 52, and Donna is barely back in existence, acting as an antagonist. Then there’s Cassie Sandsmark, who was briefly Diana’s occasional sidekick before she too was taken over nigh exclusively by the creators of Young Justice/Teen Titans, and in the New 52 is completely disassociated with Wonder Woman. That leaves longtime frienemy Artemis, who is the Jean Paul Valley of the non-Wonder Woman Family that I’d like to see come into existence through the restoration of characters like Fury, but won’t because Wonder Woman is just a Superman supporting character now anyway.

    Johnny Thunder has a weird, convoluted origin, but it isn’t half bad. It’s like if you took Life of Pi as a literal narrative. Lord knows what the state of education was in 1920s Bahdnisia, and he was kidnapped by a religious cult after all, so it seems cruel to mock Johnny for his developmental issues. Mike Clark’s art is no-frills, but it suits the material and is appealing to my eye. Roy seemed to be getting a kick out of Thunderbolt’s sarcastic narrative, and I did too. The 1940s origin sounds like even more fun, and I wonder if Johnny would have fared better without a visual manifestation of the genie, or if the lack of that memorable visual would have cast him further off as more of a Kid Eternity type.

    Mention was made in this issue that comic book readers want to be Batman, but Robin was meant to be their representative character in the comics. There’s certainly a vocal contingent that hate Robin, seeing him as a burden on their Dark Knight stories. I personally never wanted to be Batman, with his endless brooding, legions of homicidal maniac foes, and miserable love life. Dick Grayson was young, smart, handsome, and pulled the birds like he was made of seed. I was reasonably clever, came up from adversity, like to hang out in my underwear, and had lean well muscled legs when I was younger that looked a lot like Dick’s, so I saw him as the more desirable aspirational character. That said, even with the dropping out of college and various tragedies and awful sartorial leanings, Dick Grayson is still an unattainable ideal. You know who truly represents comic book readers? Johnny Thunder.

    Most of us come the closest to heroism when we open a four color pamphlet and live vicariously through characters like Batman & Robin, which isn’t so far removed from saying a magic word and letting Thunderbolt do all the actual work while bumbling around in the margins trying not to get killed. Johnny loves super-heroes and tries to mingle with them, but clearly doesn’t fit and is a total dork in shabby clothes. The JSA has endless love and patience with this nerd, not unlike our relationship with such characters, because they ultimately serve at our pleasure. Roy Thomas co-created comic book fandom as we know it, and seems to love all things Golden Age, yet he gives Johnny Thunder only half the usual origin space in favor of the extremely obscure and non-notable Whip. In said story, Thomas uses Thunderbolt as a proxy to mock Johnny. In the editorial back matter, Thomas wonders aloud why Johnny was allowed into the JSA, and calls him a dimwit who never fit in with their kind of comics. I think Roy Thomas was contemptuous of Johnny Thunder for the same reason as many other fanboys that followed him: because Johnny holds a mirror up to fanboys, reminding them that even in the comic world they escape into, their true selves wouldn’t be acceptable according to their self-imposed standards of the medium. This is a cutesy comedy adventurer in lightweight but entertaining stories, but he dared to integrate into the precious super-hero universe, and the reaction of fans is so disproportionate that I have to think there’s something to it. Johnny Thunder is to super-hero fans as Barack Obama is to rabid conservatives, and even where I don’t think there’s a pathology at play, writers poisoned by Scott Summers Syndrome continue to offer up Johnny Thunder as fandom’s collective whipping boy. Johnny Thunder, taken on his own, is just not interesting, important, or yes even annoying enough to warrant his seeming universal loathing, with all the comments about what he does or doesn’t “deserve.” Johnny Thunder is us, and we hate ourselves when we think about it too much.

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  20. The exclusion of Wonder Woman really made me scratch my head the first time I read this issue. Also, the Whip and Johnny Thunder? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Noghtwing to share the bill with Batman rather than Halo?

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