Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Whatever Happened To Johnny Thunder?" (12/1980)

Johnny Thunder was "DC's longest running and most durable western character." After John Tane made a deathbed promise to his mother to "become a school master and teach your pupils that books are more powerful than bullets," he couldn't follow in the footsteps of his sheriff father. However, the old man couldn't keep up with the lawless, so John assumed the identity of Thunder to help keep the peace. He'd color his blond hair black, disguise his voice... even ride a different horse!

This was all well and good, until John came to suspect blond Jeanne Walker to be the strawberry bandit Madame .44, and she was on to him as well. While .44 was a self-proclaimed "Robin Hood," Silk Black was pure outlaw, as his gang robbed the local bank. Tane and Walker ducked for cover separately, while their alter egos emerged to give chase.

Johnny Thunder was winged in the shoulder and briefly blacked out. Sheriff Tane drew on Madame .44. Silk Black made his getaway, followed by Madame .44, followed by the sheriff, and finally the recovered Thunder on his horse, Black Lightning.

As rain fell, Sheriff Tane lost the trail, but his son caught sight of Silk laying in wait for the madame, and offered cover fire. A rock slide ensued, sending Thunder, .44, and their horses over a cliffside leap into the river below. Madame .44 broke her arm in the fall, and would have drowned if not for Johnny.

Silk Black continued to fire on the pair from above, so while the madame offered left-handed cover fire, Johnny Thunder waited for a lightning flash to reveal the outlaw's position. "Silk Black's limp body falls where it can never be found..."

The storm had washed away Tane and Walker's disguises, and their injuries insured the sheriff would know who Johnny Thunder and Madame .44 really were. Though they had an amiable ride to the sheriff's office, John had to turn Jeanne in. However, John saw to it his father arranged for a full pardon from the governor, and the sheriff was proud to see his son had been his secret "deputy" all that time.

Johnny Thunder and Madame .44 continued to patrol Mesa City as a couple, while in their real lives they settled down with their two children, Becky and Chuck, to whom they were open about their adventures.

This back-up story from DC Comics Presents #28 was crafted by Mike Tiefenbacher and Gil Kane.

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