Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Robert Kanigher's Other Wonder Women

Some of you might remember writer Robert Kanigher as Sgt. Rock and Easy Company co-creator (with Joe Kubert), or as an editor (and then writer) of Wonder Woman (being the first writer to take over Wonder Woman from creator William Moulton Marston).  You might even know he co-created the Suicide Squad, the Metal Men, the Haunted Tank and the Sea Devils, as well as writing the first Barry Allen Flash story in Showcase #4...but he also created a little more as well!

Black Canary

Along with artist Carmine Infantino, Robert Kanigher created the original Black Canary (Dinah Drake) in the Thunderbolt feature in Flash Comics #86 in August, 1947 (with a dinosaur on the cover, not Black Canary, but hey, Kanigher later co-created the "War That Time Forgot" series, where dinosaurs fought soldiers), missing only Flash Comics #89, and she took over the feature from poor Johnny Thunder with Flash Comics #92 (February, 1948, which also introduced her boyfriend, and later husband, Larry Lance...and father of the second Black Canary who was in the Justice League and Birds of Prey).   

Kanigher and Infantino did all her individual features up until the last issue of Flash Comics #104 (February, 1949) and two unpublished stories as well (that got published in DC Special #3 in April-June, 1969, and Adventure Comics #399 in November, 1970, and all these tales plus her two Brave & the Bold #61 and 62 by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, and two Adventure Comics back-ups from #418 and 419 by Denny O'Neil and Alex Toth are in the Black Canary Archives!). 


Black Canary also took over Johnny Thunder's spot in the Justice Society of America, and while there, she faced the Harlequin.  Not Batman's foe, but the foe of the original Green Lantern, a lady named Molly Mayne (still a little crazy, and in love with Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern!).  Harlequin first appeared in All-American Comics #89 (September, 1947 by Kanigher and artist Irwin Hasen).

Harlequin returned many times, in All-American Comics #91, 93, 94 and 95, as well as Green Lantern #29, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 36, and Comic Cavalcade #28, using hologram projecting glasses and a wooden mandolin as weapons, even working with the Injustice Society in All-Star Comics #41 (June-July, 1948) where she met Black Canary.  Molly still loved Alan, and finally did marry him later, during Roy Thomas' Infinity, Inc. run.  Sadly, most of her individual appearances have not been reprinted.

Mademoiselle Marie

Originally just a member of the French Resistance during World War II, Marie fought the Nazis starting with Star-Spangled War Stories #84 (August, 1959) by Kanigher and artist Jerry Grandenetti.  Mlle. Marie's appearances lasted through Star-Spangled War Stories #91 (wherein her feature was taken over by the dinosaurs of the War that Time Forgot), but Marie soldiered on, meeting Sgt. Rock, Johnny Cloud, the members of the Haunted Tank, the Hellcats and the Unknown Soldier (all World War II heroes, co-created by Kanigher).

Marie's final fate was hinted at in Detective Comics #501-502 in 1981, and her murder solved by Batman and Checkmate #21-22 made Mademoiselle Marie a "legacy" name, naming the World War II Marie...Anais Guillot.  DC Universe: Legacies #4 hints that Marie might have indeed survived World War II...and has a son that looks like Sgt. Rock!  Marie also had a World War II one-shot in November, 2010 by writer Billy Tucci and artists Justiniano and Tom Derenick, with a cover by Brian Bolland as well.

Rose and Thorn

There were two women with the Rose and Thorn name..and they were both created by Robert Kanigher!  The first as a foe of the Golden Age Flash in Flash Comics #89 (November, 1947 with art by Joe Kubert) who only had one other published golden age story in Flash Comics #96 (though parts of another unprinted story were reprinted in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #113, among other places....).  The Thorn was a split personality (the good girl being Rose Canton), faced the Flash with poison darts, and she returned to face Black Canary (and the JLA) in JLA: Year One #2, as well as the JSA in All-Star Comics #72-73....and then more of her history was revealed in Infinity Inc. and especially in Infinity Inc. Annual #1...with the Harlequin as well!

The second Rose and Thorn started in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #105 (October, 1970) in a story written by Kanigher, with art by Ross Andru (who had worked with Kanigher on Wonder Woman as well).  Rose Forrest was a police detective's daughter, traumatized by the death of her dad at the hands of the 100 (an evil crime syndicate based in Metropolis).  This caused Rose to develop the split personality of the Thorn (hiding her short blond hair with a brown wig)...and working to take the mobsters down, occasionally making a wild and wacky Lois Lane cover (and co-starring in the main feature).   

Kanigher wrote most of the back ups (with Cary Bates writing a few), and other artists on the series included Gray Morrow, Dick Giordano, Rich Buckler and Don Heck by the back-ups end in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #130.  Rose and Thorn came back in Superman #336 (June, 1979, by Len Wein and Curt Swan), and in two issues of Brave and the Bold (#188 and #189, written by Kanigher, and art by Jim Aparo) with Batman.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, in Dan Jurgens' Booster Gold fighting a new, expanded 100 (now the 1000, in Booster's earliest issues as he settled into Metropolis) and even helped in the Superman title crossover Panic in the Sky, as well as working with the new Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) for a short time as well as having a few tales in the Showcase revival of the mid-1990s, as well as appearing in the early issues of Joker's gal pal, Harley Quinn (no relation to the earlier Harlequin...though Thorn didn't make the covers of #3 and #14 of Harley Quinn), unlike the next Kanigher creation!

Poison Ivy 

The character that brings most of them together!  Kanigher and Shelly Moldoff (ghosting for Batman co-creator Bob Kane) introduced Poison Ivy in Batman #181 (June, 1966) basing her look off popular pin-up girl Bettie Page!  (You can see it in Carmine Infantino's cover for the issue, and she was used as Catwoman was considered "too sexy" to use in the comics of the time).  Pamela Isley was just a seductive thief to start (and was back pretty Batman #183) before disappearing again (though that first tale was reprinted in Batman #208, with cover art by noted good girl artist Nick Cardy).  Kanigher even brought her back to face the Thorn in  Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #116 (November, 1971, with art by Dick Giordano, who also drew Wonder Woman and Green Arrow/Black Canary back-ups for a time).   

Len Wein and Dick Dillin brought her back as a member of the Injustice Gang of the World (a team of villains including Scarecrow, Chronos, Mirror Master, Shadow-Thief and the Tattooed Man) to face the JLA in Justice League of America #111 (May-June, 1974) and Black Canary was there in the team's second appearance in Justice League of America #143. 

With DC Special Series #6 (November, 1977), Poison Ivy joined forces with Grodd, Sinestro, Bizarro and Kanigher created Wonder Woman foe, the Angle Man to fight the JLA with the Secret Society of Super-Villains!  Later still, she joined forces with all DC villains in the Crisis on Infinite Earths!

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths (where she faced Phantom Lady, a heroine who looked like a pin-up girl), Poison Ivy joined the Suicide Squad (another series originally co-created by Kanigher, though this version included DC villains (like Deadshot and Count Vertigo) thanks to an update by writer John Ostrander, and she was there on and off from issues #33 to #66), and that team faced Checkmate! (which later included a legacy of Mademoiselle Marie!).

Poison Ivy also grew...becoming a champion of the plant kingdom, and even getting a greener hue....and becoming friends with Joker's gal pal, Harley Quinn! 

In the Harley Quinn series, you can see more of the pin-up girl in the art of Terry and Rachel Dodson...and more so in her later appearances as well, like in Gotham City Sirens, and she was even part of the Birds of Prey with Black Canary to start of the New 52!

All of this shows us one thing...that if it wasn't for Robert Kanigher, there'd be a lot less complex female characters for women to cosplay at comic conventions or for writers and artists to explore in the pages of DC Comics!


  1. After Mike W. Barr, Robert Kanigher was my favorite DC writer, and to this day, The Brave & the Bold featuring the Batman/Rose&theThorn teamup is my favorite Brave and the Bold issue. Thank you so much for preparing this tribute to such an underrated writer.

  2. Kanigher's many, many accomplishments are undeniable, but his work on Wonder Woman as I understand is really not something to remember with fondness.

  3. Taking questions may not be your thing, but can you tell me the story and issue(presumably in Lois Lane) in which Thorn is turned into a gold statue?