‘Johnny Dynamite: Explosive Pre-Code Crime Comics And The Complete Adventures Of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man Of Chicago’ Reviewed

by Benjamin Hall
Johnny Dynamite: Explosive Pre-Code Crime Comics-The Complete Adventures Of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man Of Chicago (2020) Art by Pete Morisi

The opening introduction by writer Max Allan Collins is more a biographical essay about writer Frank Morrison Spillane (alias Micky Spillane) and writer/artist Pete Morisi. Not to mention it is excessively long. (Then again the title of this collection is also excessively long.) Though Collins’s introduction should please those wanting more knowledge about the subjects’ lives and/or the early comic book industry. While the introduction by artist Terry Beatty is of reasonable length it has one or two sentences that are a little clunky.

The Johnny Dynamite stories by Pete Morisi and writer Ken Fitch are definitely predecessors to more adult American comics such as Preacher (1995-2000) by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon. Specifically in how violent and dark the subject matter is for its time period. However, the love/sex scenes are sometimes reminiscent of early romance comics due to the speed of the connections. Also while the stories are mostly strong some do end abruptly and most have leaps in logic. Not to mention that the term “roundhouse” is in the narration so much that it makes the character look rather basic as a fighter. The prose stories feel a bit too much like they get to be in this collection to give major fans (and some scholars) enjoyment. Overall the writing is mostly good, especially since the period typical stereotyping is not too bad (in the form of sexist and racist elements).

When it comes to the design work of Pete Morisi one can see his influence on certain creators beyond just Terry Beatty and Max Collins. One key example is writer/artist Darwyn Cooke. The basis for this assumption is how similar the line work and focus on draftsmanship is between Morisi and Cooke. Specifically with Cooke’s adaptations of writer Donald E.Westlake‘s (alias Richard Stark) Parker novels (Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter [2009]). It is also worth mentioning that there is a Johnny Dyanmite tribute story by Collins, Beatty and artist Gary Kato that provides a touching and suitable end to the original version of Johnny Dynamite (Ms. Tree #36 [1987]). In conclusion this collection is not for everyone, but those who it is for should find at least one or two things to appreciate.

Johnny Dynamite: Explosive Pre-Code Crime Comics-The Complete Adventures Of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man Of Chicago is out now 

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