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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #143

Today’s Bob is just as crazy, and just as brilliant, as yesterday’s. Known primarily to his stunning contributions to the war genre, this Bob also gave us some wonderfully insane superhero books.

5/23/07

143. Robert Kanigher

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“Because Bob Kanigher” is a phrase bandied about the internet these days. What does it mean? Well, it’s used as the explanation to why something in a Kanigher-written comic book is completely insane. Because Bob Kanigher. The man was quite possibly mad, but he was a genius.

Also? Beefcake:

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Yeah, that’s the guy that wrote a book called How to Make Money Writing for Comics. Heh.

Bob Kanigher wrote (and edited) a gazillion comics. I’d be afraid to even try to count how many stories he composed over the course of his life, because the number would be staggering.

First up: the war books. This was Kanigher’s forte. He wrote and created Sgt. Rock, the greatest fictional war hero of them all, with Joe Kubert. He was the man responsible for the brilliance of the Haunted Tank, Enemy Ace, the War that Time Forgot (dinosaurs!!!), the Unknown Soldier, Captain Storm, the Losers, G.I. Robot, the original Suicide Squad, and more. These war comics were easily his best work. He produced a tremendous amount of quality material for DC’s numerous war books– it’d easily kill any of today’s writers. Also, he wrote a story about a gorilla who fought Nazis (Yes, Chris Sims is also the world’s biggest Kanigher fan. Who can blame him?).

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That’s not to say he didn’t write good superhero material. By God, he did. Some of it was completely insane, like his work on Wonder Woman (two words: Egg Fu. Two more: Dr. Domino. Another two: Wonder Tot) or World’s Finest, but that wasn’t all. I only just discovered in researching this column that he created Black Canary! And Poison Ivy! And Lady Cop! He also scripted the first appearance of Barry Allen. Here’s some more: Star Sapphire, Rose & Thorn, the Sea Devils, King Faraday, the Trigger Twins, Ragman, and Rex the Wonder Dog.

His greatest super-work, however, is definitely the Metal Men. It was a bizarre, surreal, sublime work that was crazier than anything else out there. Well, anything else not written by Bob Kanigher.

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Sometimes, I simply can’t convey the sheer greatness of a Reason to Love Comics in one tiny column. This is one of those days. Mr. Kanigher is simply too awesome for me. This is where you come in, dear readers (and where Greg Hatcher came in the other day– like I said, Greg, you read my mind). Share with us your memories and opinions of the man.

Mr. Kanigher and yesterday’s Mr. Haney were both completely mad geniuses who produced some of DC’s best comics in the Silver Age. They will have my eternal thanks. Please, purchase some of DC’s Showcase editions, many of which collect the fantastic works by the deliciously deranged duo.

When the fantastically kooky Mr. Kanigher passed away in 2002, comics lost one of the greats.

Why should we love comics?

Bob Kanigher. That’s why.

Have a link to this fantastic Robert Kanigher tribute site.

18 Comments

“Because Bob Kanigher?” Man, I wish we knew who came up with that one!

Yeah, this is THE greatest Bob comics ever had, bar none. Sorry Haney, but you are just the second best.

Gerard Jones wrote on his book “Comic Book Heroes” that writers on the Silver Age were divided among those who wrote mundane fare, those who wrote batshit insane stuff and those who wrote really innovative comics (not exact quote). Some, like Stan Lee, could could write comics on more than one of those categories, but only Kanigher did work on all three!

Enemy Ace, for example, is a brilliant war comic, still impressive after all the time that has passed since its original publication, while, say, the War that Time Forgot is quite mad. Kanigher was able to do both things with ease! That’s why he rules!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I had no idea Kanigher was that prolific. What an astonishing oeuvre!

Well after Haney and Kanigher, we can all agree that Bob week is greater than any non-ape week this series has ever had.

“Because Bob Kanigher?” Man, I wish we knew who came up with that one!

Eh, probably some loser blogger.

Cheers, mate.

I’ve only read one issue by Bob Kanigher. It was his one issue on JLA between Denny O’Neil and Mike Friedrich’s runs. It was truly one of the weirdest things ever. To date I believe it is the only time Black Canary has ever used her canary’s cry to read minds. How? I don’t know. But it was awesome.

I’m always fond of Mark Waid’s take on Kanigher’s Wonder Woman run and its total lack of continuity. He mentions how you could have an issue devoted to the secret origin of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet and then, eight months later, you’d have the secret origin of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. And the two stories would be nothing alike.

Yeah, Kanigher’s work really stands the test of time.

Very strong writer.

Three words DC: Showcase – Metal Men – Can I get a shout out?!

The Kirbydotter

May 24, 2007 at 6:39 am

Robert Kanigher belongs to this column.
Mostly for his contribution in coming up with innovative, weird and/or brilliant concepts and ideas for new characters and new themes.

He came up with really great plot ideas but had trouble developping them. His style, especially on SGT. ROCK and his war stories, would be to repeat and repeat, hammering down the main idea/theme of the story as if the reader was too stupid to get the first couple of pages. War stories that could have fitted nicely in a 4 or 5 pages story were sometimes spreaded pretty thin into 14 pages (or longer) tales.

But most of the times, I didn’t mind at all reading Kanigher’s redundant storytelling style because of the great artists that worked on those stories. Who would mind looking at more gorgeous pages from the brush of Joe Kubert or Russ Heath?

Three words DC: Showcase – Metal Men – Can I get a shout out?!

**********

DC heard our prayers:
http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=113816

Bob Kanigher AND Bob Haney!

And there is a Showcase for Atomic Knights and Hercules Unbound! That is BEYOND cool!

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I just got the best Heroclix ever!

MR. MIND!

A reason to love comics! A caterpillar with designs on ruling the universe!

Incredible detail on the ‘clix, too.

I grew up on Kanigher’s war books. The Haunted Tank was a favorite and Enemy Ace was the comic book that made me realize what comics could be. His Wonder Woman and Metal Men kind of left me cold, though. Go figger.

If only they had let Kanigher and Kubert do Wonder Woman as a war comic, with frequent guest shots by Sgt. Rock, Cpt. Storm and Cpl. Punishment.

I wonder how close Dinosaur Island is to Themiscyra?

Because Bob Kanigher. Heh. That’s good– so fitting too. I just read Flash 200, where the plot is that the Flash is brainwashed to kill the president and the evil geniuses have him stage a full-on rehearsal of that act, which he successfully commits…which left me wondering why they didn’t just send him to kill the President the first time. Well now I know: Because Bob Kanigher!

Kanigher was certainly prolific and had some stunning moments but while he certainly produced some of comics greatest highs (The Metal Men, Enemy Ace, practically the entirety of his war comics) he also came up with some of the greatest lows as well. Lest we forget, it was Kanigher who gave us the infamous story where Lois Lane turns herself black. (And…titles it–”I am curious…black”–after a famous porn film of the era!) And his Wonder Woman stories had moments of sheer lunacy like Egg Fu and Wonder Tot, but it was also spectacularly mediocre for the most part.

And this was the guy whose idea for the world’s first black superhero was for him to be actually a white Archie Bunker type who Jeckyll and Hyde-like becomes a black superhero. As you do. It’s batshit crazy, like the aforementioned other aspects of Kanigher, only bad batshit crazy here.

I was fascinated to watch him completely dismantle Mike Sekowsky’s “Diana Prince Wonder Woman”– over four years worth of comics– IN LESS THAN 8 PAGES. If he hadn’t had a small touching moment with I-Ching (who seemed to dodge every single bullet and small ordanance hurled at him except the one that killed him) I would have accused him of being downright cold. And of course, he immediately gave Wonder Woman a black sister. I get the impression Kanigher was working out some issues…

Still, I love Enemy Ace and he also came up with Ragman, who is certainly one of my favourite characters of the 1970s.

Yes!

I remember pitching Frontier to a couple stratospheric DC execs and trying to explain to them that it was Kanigher, NOT Schwartz that was the soul of DC’s greatness.

They looked at me like I was the craziest man they’d ever met.

God bless Bob Kanigher.

Darwyn

I haven’t seen it, Graeme, but it’s come up before, and I thought I’d mention it: “I am Curious … Yellow” isn’t a porn film, it’s just Swedish. You know those crazy Swedes!

My own completely insane mini-tribute to Bob Kanigher appears here:

http://www.tgcomics.com/modified/modcomics/jetdream04.php

Dare you read… “The Haunted Copter?”

I haven’t seen it, Graeme, but it’s come up before, and I thought I’d mention it: “I am Curious … Yellow” isn’t a porn film, it’s just Swedish. You know those crazy Swedes!

I’ve misremembered.(I haven’t seen it either but was relying on my memory of Kanigher’s own description of it) It’s not a porn film, but it’s certainly not “just Swedish”– it’s a (for the 1960s) a racy movie with explicit sex and full frontal nudity for both genders. It’s still an odd choice to base the title of a comic book story on. (But then they also based the title of a Get Smart episode on it as well!)

Batshit crazy. It’s what’s for dinner.

Comics need to stop being preoccupied with being “cool” or “serious” or whatever, and start being fun again.

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