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ISSUE NO. 809
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Hard as it is to believe in today's superhero-only comic book environment, there was a time when WESTERNS sold incredibly well, even as DC's superhero line began to fade. Here's a perfect example: Almost all of DC's Golden Age superstars appeared together as part of the first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, headlining All-Star Comics.

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But when superheroes lost their popularity in the 1950s, sales declined. You've probably heard this before, but here it is in black and white: A sales chart (click to embiggen) revealing actual circulation figures. It show a steady decline from a 75 percent sell-through rate down to 57 percent. Cause for alarm!
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With superhero sales in decline and western sales on the upswing, DC decided to take All-Star in an entirely different direction -- they headed west.

With issue #58, All-Star Comics was unceremoneously retitled All-Star Western (causing countless fans, among them a young Roy Thomas, to have a bit of a nervous breakdown). The superheroes were replaced with western characters, as seen in the ad below.
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Over in another title, the original Green Lantern had been headlining All American Comics for years, but as his once-solid sales started to decline, DC tried featuring other genre heroes, with little success -- until they featured Johnny Thunder on the cover of the book's 100th smash issue (from August 1948, (pictured below).

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Johnny Thunder, drawn by Alex Toth and written by Robert Kanigher, was such a smash that DC immediately kicked GL off the cover, began promoting the book as a western.
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Sales skyrocketed, and so DC changed the book's title to All-American Western and began filling it with dozens of new western characters, most of them doomed to oblivion...
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Hey, if westerns were selling, why beat around the bush?
So DC put out a NEW title, issue #1 pictured below...
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The title, originally a bi-monthly, soon went monthly...
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Many comics fans may know Johnny Thunder as the green-suited sidekick who could summon a magial thunderbolt by pronouncing the phrase "Say you."

The western Johnny Thunder is a completely different character. In his secret identity, he was John Tane, hiding his identity because his mother didn't want him to be a crime-fighter, because it was too violent.

To fool his disapproving mother, he created the identity of Johnny Thunder, and even disguised his white horse, calling him Black Lightining, decades before the creation of DC's African-American Electro.

BELOW: Rip-roarin' Alex Toth splash page from All-Star Western #105...
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And here's Johnny by Gil Kane...
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All-Star Western #94 introduced the Trigger Twins, twin brothers who were gunfighters. The family that shoots together, stays together.
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You may recall the twins from their abortive relaunch, which reprinted the cover seen above with new coloring that gave the twins blonde hair. Both books below...
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All-Star Western ended its run with issue #119 (cover by Gil Kane, pictured below), in which Johnny Thunder met Madame .44.
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All-Star Western was the lynchpin of DC's Golden Age Western line, which included titles such as Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Jimmy Wakley, Hopalong Cassady, All-American Western, and Tomahawk, all seen below in a collection of vintage in-house ads designed and hand-lettered by the fastest gun in the west, the great Ira Schnapp.
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And now, here are some paid ads for two popular western products...

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BELOW: DC Silver Age House ad pairing DC's two surviving Golden Age guns, Tomahawk and Johnny Thunder.
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In time, the western craze, like every trend, faded -- and as it did, DC began searching about for the NEXT craze, trying out a series of new characters. Most of them failed, but if you throw enough spagetti against the wall, something is bound to stick. We'll be looking at those attempts, and at what finally stuck, in upcoming issues of Dial B for BLOG.

We conclude this issue with a page from DC Legends #3 featuring DC's Golden Age gunslingers as pencilled and inked by modern-day master Jose Garcia Lopez.

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DC Special #6 - The Wild Frontier!
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