Johnny Dynamite

Created by Ken Fitch
Pseudonym of William Waugh
and Pete Morisi

“The Wild Man from Chicago! He’s rough! He’s Tough! He’s JOHNNY DYNAMITE!”

JOHNNY DYNAMITE was definitely the best of the pre-Comics Code comic book eyes of the fiftiies — and, it turned out, the one with the longest legs.

He made his debut in “I’ll Find That Killer!” in the third issue of Dynamite, a short-lived comic anthology devoted to hard-boiled crime stories, and soon became the main attraction.

With his best gal and faithful secretary Judy Kane, appropriately “tough but soft,” by his side, and his cop pal Lieutenant Hennessy (who even appeared in a few solo stories) dishing out info and occasional backup, this rock ’em/sock ’em private eye from the Windy City burned hot and bright for a few years.

Even the loss of an eye, as related in issue #4’s memorable “An Eye for an Eye” couldn’t slow Johnny down. He just slapped on an eye patch and continued slugging and shooting his way through a morass of pimps, thugs, gangsters, dope dealers and other assorted denizens of the Windy City. Suffice it to say there was more than a little Mike Hammer influence at work here. And when I said “pre-Comics Code” I wasn’t kidding — several issues promised “Exciting Adult Reading” right on the cover.

Dynamite was published  by Comic Media, starting in 1953, and right from the jump it was a blast. They were all pre-code, and fairly seething with testosterone and manly derring-do, full of two-fisted cops, soldiers and spies. Johnny made his debut in the third issue, taking his surname from the magazine itself,and added all kinds of  good stuff to the mix: prostitution, drugs, gangsters and lots  of violence; with great rough-and-tumble artwork by Pete Morisi.

The series was later picked up by Charlton for a few issues, but they just weren’t the same. Still, not bad, but a pale imitation of those pre-Code issues, which featured some truly hard-boiled stuff and a truly hard-boiled dick. After three issues, they revamped Johnny, transforming him into a globetrotting government agent, mostly so he could mix it up with East German commies and the like and so Charlton could change changed the name of the mag to Foreign Intrigues. But it also flopped after three issues, and it looked like the end of the road for the Chicago Wildman until…

Johnny was re-introduced to eighties readers when long-time fans Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, creators of Mike Mist and Ms. Tree, began using reprints of the old Dynamite stories as backup features in Ms. Tree #36, which also featured a brand new story, “When Dynamite Explodes…,” featuring Tree, Mist and Johnny himself, now retired and married to the former Miss Judy Kane.

Not quite done with Johnny, Collins and Beatty brought Johnny back in a psychotronic/occult/period piece zombie-filled Johnny Dynamite: Underworld, a four issue mini-series for Dark Horse in 1994, pitting him against a mob of gangsters risen from the grave. They prove to be almost as resilient as Johnny himself.


  • “He staggered back drooling blood from his lips as I followed through with one round-house after another.”
    — “Kidnap”
  • “I’d get them… somehow. I’d watch their faces blubber and drool as I shoved the .45 in their guts. Then I’d pull the trigger and blow out their insides!”



    (1953-54, Comic Media/Allen Hardy Publications)
    9 issues, pre-code
    Writers: William Waugh, Pete Morisi
    Art: Pete Morisi

    • “I’ll Find that Killer,” “Promise to a Corpse,” “Excuse for Murder” (September 1953, #3)
    • “An Eye for an Eye,” “Big Racket,” “Murder Hits Home” (November 1953; #4)
    • “Death is So Lonely,” “The Phoney Kill,” “Luke Hennessy… Homicide” (a Hennessy story), “The Killer Walked In” (prose story by Ken Fitch) (January 1954; #5)
    • “Kidnap,” “Vengeance” (March 1955; #6)
    • “Vendetta” (May 1955; #7)
    • “Dead End,” “The Wire Trap” (prose story by Fitch), “The Long Night” (July 1955; #8)
    • “Death Be My Judge” (September 1955, #9)
    (1955, Charlton)
    3 issues, #10-12, post-code continuation of above
    Artists: Nick Alascia, Pete Morisi

    • “Vengeance Be Mine,” “The King of Blackmail” (June 1955; #10)
    • “The Man of Many Faces,””Poison Jasmine” (August 1955; #11)
    • “The Maddened Teller,” “The Fixer’s Mob” and “The Hundred Cadillacs” (October 1955; #12)
    (1956, Charlton)
    3 issues, #13-15
    Artists: Charles Nicholas, Maurice Whitman
    Dropped Johnny Dynamite completely after #15, and became Battlefield Action with #16)

    • “Chump!” (March 1956; #14)
    • “Too Many Rembrandts” (August 1956; #15)
  • MS. TREE
    (1987, Renegade Press)
    Johnny Dynamite reprints appeared in issues #36-48

    • “When Dynamite Explodes” (February 1987; #36)
      Written by Max Allan Collins
      Artists: Terry Beatty and Gary Kato
    (1994, Dark Horse)
    4 issue mini-series
    Written by Max Allan Collins
    Art by Terry Beatty

    • “Revenge for a Black-Eyed Blonde” (September 1994; #1)
    • “King of the Underworld” (October 1994; #2)
    • “Don of the Dead” (November 1994; #3)
    • “Knight of the Living Dead” (December 1994; #4)


Reprints of the original Johnny Dynamite stories, as well as a few of Lt. Hennessy without Johnny, can be found in:


  • Johnny Dynamite (2020) | Buy this book | ComiXology/Kindle it!
    The run-on (and on) subtitle reads “Explosive Pre-Code Crime Comics—The Complete Adventures of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man of Chicago (Johnny Dynamite: Explosive Pre-Code Crime … of Pete Morisi’s Wild Man of Chicago)” but you don’t need all that. If you’re craving hard-boiled private eye action in a comic book, this is it. Collects all the stories, plus a new one by über-fans Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, who also  dish up one hell of an intro. 


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with special thanks to Craig Childs.

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