Friday, July 03, 2009

DC's Revolutionary War Character

For some reason, very few comics have been set back in the revolutionary days. Obviously there are some problems with stories of the past connecting with young readers, but that never stopped Westerns or WWII comics, which were hugely popular in the 1950s.

Tomahawk was a white man who had been raised by American Indians, so he had the woodsman abilities of the natives combined with an Anglo appearance. For most of his run, he was drawn by Fred Ray, a Revolutionary War buff who insured historical accuracy in his artwork. He first appeared in Star Spangled Comics #69, and within a few years had bumped Robin, the Boy Wonder, off the cover of that magazine. He was added as a feature in World's Finest, and later graduated to his own book in 1950.

The timing was pretty good, as with his coonskin cap and leather fringe, Tomahawk was also able to pass for a Western character, and he often found himself in scrapes with the natives as shown on the cover above. But he was also nimble enough to avoid cancellation in the early 1960s, as Westerns went out of style.

How did he do this? Well, like most DC characters, he began battling an assortment of monsters, dinosaurs and undergoing weird transformations.

And yes, for many of those years, the editor of Tomahawk was Jack Schiff, who was in the middle of inflicting similar nonsense on the readers of Batman. Speaking of costumed heroes, Tomahawk picked one up as well:

I believe that at that time, Miss Liberty was the second earliest DC costumed hero, beaten out for the top spot only by the one-shot Tiger Man from the caveman era.

He also accumulated a "family", known as the Rangers:

In the late 1960s the monsters and dinosaurs disappeared in favor of more traditional Western fare, but sales were still sinking, and in 1970 DC retooled the magazine to feature Tomahawk's son. But that stopgap only worked briefly and in 1972 the magazine was canceled altogether.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Update: Bill Jourdain did a podcast dedicated to Tomahawk a few years back. Listening to it now myself, but these are always a fun listen.