Comic Review: Johnny Dynamite: Explosive Pre-Code Crime Comics—The Complete Adventures of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man of Chicago (IDW Publishing)

Before the Comics Code, in the 1950s, comic books could be rough and tumble. Rougher than rough. And Johnny Dynamite, from IDW / Yoe Books, is a collection that is […]

Before the Comics Code, in the 1950s, comic books could be rough and tumble. Rougher than rough. And Johnny Dynamite, from IDW / Yoe Books, is a collection that is tough to pass up.

Johnny Dynamite, a tough bruiser wearing an eyepatch, is modelled closely on the private eye characters created by Mickey Spillane. In Max Allan Collins’ lengthy intro, we learn about Spillane’s writing career, and how his work in the 50s influenced Pete Morisi and Ken Fitch. To summarize, the hard-boiled adventures of Johnny Dynamite are well planted in the genre but are unique in that they are a continuing series of comic books, mostly unfiltered by censorship.

The Complete Adventures of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man of Chicago consists of many full colour stories reprinted from the 50’s run of the Johnny Dynamite title, along with a black and white 1987 story by Max Collins and Terry Beatty. Morisi’s drawing style is solid but not flashy. The characters are burly and well proportioned, their movements sullen and sudden. There is a lot of reading between the drawings in this series; verbose is a word that comes to mind.

Expect the usual tropes in these stories: the beautiful girl, the burly bone-breakers, the fights, the wordy captions, and terse dialogue. The smell of desperation, the sweat of the barroom brawls, the knockdown, eye-gouging violence, and ill-temper of the times. Fabulous stuff, lovingly assembled here for the first time, unfiltered, harsh and nasty. This book is intended for adults, as were the comics that these stories were derived from.

IDW, Yoe Books, Johnny Dynamite Complete Adventures, $29.99 for 204 pages. Mature readers: brutal violence

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!