Robert Kanigher

Robert Kanigher
Born (1915-06-18)June 18, 1915
New York
Died May 7, 2002(2002-05-07) (aged 86)
Fishkill, New York[1]
Nationality American
Area(s) Writer, Editor
Pseudonym(s) Bart Regan
Dion Anthony
Jan Laurie
Robert Starr[2]
Jed Corby[3]
Notable works
All-American Men of War
G.I. Combat
Metal Men
Our Army at War
Our Fighting Forces
Sgt. Rock
Star Spangled War Stories
Wonder Woman
Flash (Barry Allen)

Robert Kanigher (June 18, 1915 – May 7, 2002)[1] was an American comic book writer and editor whose career spanned five decades. He was involved with the Wonder Woman franchise for over twenty years, taking over the scripting from creator William Moulton Marston. In addition, Kanigher spent many years in charge of DC Comics' war titles, as well as creating the character Sgt. Rock. Kanigher scripted what is considered the first Silver Age comic book story, "Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt!" which introduced the Barry Allen version of the Flash in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956).


Early career

Kanigher was born in New York, the son of Rebecca and Ephraim Kanigher, who were Romanian Jewish immigrants.[4][5] Kanigher's literary influences included Dostoyevsky, Maxim Gorky, Seán O'Casey, Eugene O'Neill, François Villon, Freud, the Old Testament, James Joyce, Sophocles, and Shakespeare.[2]

Kanigher's career as a writer started early, with his short stories and poetry being published in magazines. He won The New York Times Collegiate Short Story Contest in 1932. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Kanigher also wrote for radio, film, and authored several plays.[2]


The Golden Age

Kanigher's earliest comics work was in such titles as Fox Feature Syndicate's Blue Beetle[6] (where he created the Bouncer), MLJ/Archie Comics's Steel Sterling and The Web, and Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel Adventures. In 1943 Kanigher wrote How to Make Money Writing, which included a section on comics, making it one of the earliest works on the subject.[7]

Kanigher joined All-American Comics, a precursor of the future DC Comics, as a scripter in 1945, and was quickly promoted to editor. He wrote the "Justice Society of America" feature in All Star Comics, the "Hawkman" feature in Flash Comics, and Green Lantern. Kanigher edited Wonder Woman from issue #17 (May–June 1946) to issue #176 (May–June 1968).[8][9] When Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston died in 1947, Kanigher became the title's writer as well, beginning with issue #22 (March–April 1947). Kanigher wrote "The Black Canary", a six-page Johnny Thunder story which introduced the Black Canary character in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947). This was also artist Carmine Infantino's first published work for DC.[10] Other new characters created by Kanigher during this time included Rose and Thorn and the Harlequin.

Starting in 1952, Kanigher began editing and writing the "big five" DC Comics' war titles: G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, All-American Men of War, and Star Spangled War Stories.[11][12] His creation of Sgt. Rock with Joe Kubert is considered one of his most memorable contributions to the medium.[7][13][14] Comics historian Bill Schelly noted that "Kanigher's scripts were built on well-orchestrated dramatic sequences, with the story's objects not war-time danger and violence, but the impact these events had on the men of Easy Company."[15]

The Silver Age

In 1956, DC editor Julius Schwartz assigned Kanigher and Infantino to the company's first attempt at reviving superheroes: an updated version of the Flash that would appear in issue #4 (Oct. 1956) of the try-out series Showcase. The eventual success of the new, science-fiction oriented Flash heralded the wholesale return of superheroes, and the beginning of what fans and historians call the Silver Age of comics.[16]

Artist Ross Andru began a nine-year run on Wonder Woman, starting with issue #98 (May 1958), where he and Kanigher reinvented the character, introducing the Silver Age version and her supporting cast.[17][18]

Kanigher and Andru had several other notable collaborations. The "Gunner and Sarge" feature introduced in All-American Men of War #67 (March 1959) was one of the first war comics to feature recurring characters.[19] Andru drew an early appearance of Kanigher's Sgt. Rock character in Our Army at War #81 (April 1959)[20] The creative team co-created the original version of the Suicide Squad in The Brave and the Bold #25 (September 1959).[21] Another innovation was the melding of war comics with science-fiction in "The War that Time Forgot", a feature created by Kanigher and Andru in Star Spangled War Stories #90 (May 1960).[22] The Kanigher-Andru pairing co-created the Metal Men in Showcase #37 (March–April 1962).[23][24]

Kanigher also created other popular action series features, such as "Enemy Ace",[25] "The Losers", and The Unknown Soldier. He and artist Russ Heath created the "Haunted Tank" feature,[26][27] and the Sea Devils series.[28] Several of Kanigher's characters were combined into a single feature titled "The Losers". Their first appearance as a group was with the Haunted Tank crew in G.I. Combat #138 (Oct.-Nov. 1969).[29]

Among fellow comic creators, Kanigher was as well known for his unstable personality and violent temper as he was for his brilliance as a writer, and collaborators such as Gene Colan and John Romita Sr. have commented on the difficulty of working with him.[30] Romita recounted:

I worked on a series with Kanigher - he wrote two series for me in the romance dept. One about an airline stewardess, and one about a nurse. He used to compliment me whenever he'd see me in the bullpen. "Like the stuff... like the stuff..." That was about the amount of conversation we had. Then one day we were in the elevator together, and he said, "Like the stuff." I, like an innocent fool... I used to do some adjustments to his pages. If he had a heavy-copy panel, I might take a balloon from one panel and put it in the next. Just because I was distributing space. I was so stupid and naive, I said to him, "It doesn't bother you, does it, that I sometimes switch some of the panels around and move some of the balloons from one panel to another?" He started to chew me out in the elevator! "Who the hell do you think you are, changing my stuff? Where do you come off changing my stuff? You don't know anything about this business!"[30]

In the late 1950s and 1960s, Kanigher had a hand in creating many other characters, including the Viking Prince, Balloon Buster, and the Batman villain Poison Ivy.[31] Reuniting with Andru, Kanigher co-created the "Rose & The Thorn" back up feature in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #105 (October 1970).[32][33] Kanigher wrote two stories for Marvel Comics: "Weep for a Lost Nightmare" in Iron Man #44 (Jan. 1972) and "Running for Love" in Our Love Story #19 (Oct. 1972).[34] Kanigher returned as writer-editor of the Wonder Woman title with issue #204 (January–February 1973)[8] and restored the character's powers and traditional costume.[35] In 1974, drawing on a classic novel, he introduced Rima the Jungle Girl to the DC Universe in her own title. Kanigher and Kubert created Ragman in the first issue (Aug.-Sept. 1976) of that character's short-lived ongoing series.[36] Around 1977, Kanigher taught for a year at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.[2] In 1985, DC Comics named Kanigher as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[37]

Tributes and awards

Streets and buildings have been named in his honor in several of DC Comics' fictional cities, including Central City[38] and Keystone City.[39]

The hometown of Nate Banks in the comic book themed kids' series of novels, The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks, is named Kanigher Falls.[40]

In 2014, Kanigher was posthumously recognized with the Bill Finger Award.[41]

See also


  1. 1 2 Social Security Death Index, social security #116-07-5117.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Bails, Jerry. "Kanigher, Bob". Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1929–1999. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  3. Cronin, Brian (October 25, 2006). "Test Your Comic Book Knowledge for 10/25". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  4. "Robert Kanigher United States Census, 1940". n.d.
  5. Kaplan, Arie (Winter 2003). "How Jews Transformed the Comic Book Industry Part II: The Silver Age (1956-1978)". New York, New York: Reform Judaism. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Jewish writer Bob Kanigher cranked out more complex stories...
  6. Askegren, Pierce (May 7, 2002). "Robert Kanigher (1915-2002)". Enfield, Connecticut: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Archived from the original on December 18, 2002.
  7. 1 2 Mangus, Don (2002). "In Memory of Robert Kanigher 1915-2002". ComicArtVille Library. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  8. 1 2 Robert Kanigher (editor) at the Grand Comics Database
  9. Greenberger, Robert (2010). Wonder Woman: Amazon. Hero. Icon. Milan, Italy: Rizzoli Universe Promotional Books. p. 30. ISBN 0789324164.
  10. Wallace, Daniel; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1940s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. Debuting as a supporting character in a six-page Johnny Thunder feature written by Robert Kanigher and penciled by Carmine Infantino, Dinah Drake [the Black Canary] was originally presented as a villain...The Black Canary's introduction in August [1947]'s Flash Comics #86 represented [Infantino's] first published work for DC.
  11. Pasko, Martin (2008). The DC Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles from the DC Universe. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press. p. 72. ISBN 0762432578. It was Bob Kanigher who led the company into the new genre...Kanigher originally worked on these books with many artists, including Jerry Grandenetti, Gene Colan, Russ Heath, and Irv Novick. but the Kanigher-[Joe] Kubert work would prove the most memorable.
  12. Schelly, Bill (2011). The Art of Joe Kubert. Seattle, Washington: Fantagraphics Books. p. 133. ISBN 978-1606994870. With the cancellation of EC's legendary war titles in the wake of the Comics Code, DC's war comics were the finest being published in the second half of the decade. And this was largely attributable to their editor and chief writer, Robert Kanigher.
  13. Markstein, Don (2008). "Sgt. Rock". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  14. Daniels, Les (1995). DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes. Bulfinch Press. p. 104. ISBN 0821220764. The most famous Kanigher-Kubert collaboration involved Sgt. Rock, who has gone on to become a part of our collective mythology as the archetype of the gruff, cynical, good-hearted noncommissioned officer.
  15. Schelly p. 153
  16. Irvine, Alex "1950s" in Dolan, p. 80 "The arrival of the second incarnation of the Flash in [Showcase] issue #4 is considered to be the official start of the Silver Age of comics."
  17. Irvine "1950s" in Dolan, p. 90 "Wonder Woman's origin story and character was given a Silver Age revamp, courtesy of writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru."
  18. Wonder Woman #98 (May 1958) at the Grand Comics Database
  19. Irvine "1950s" in Dolan, p. 93 "War comics had rarely featured recurring characters, but writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru changed that with the introduction of U.S. Marines Gunner MacKay and Sarge Clay in All-American Men of War #67."
  20. Irvine "1950s" in Dolan, p. 93 "In "The Rock of Easy Co.!" written by Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney, with art by Ross Andru, the reader was introduced to Sgt. Frank Rock of Easy Company."
  21. Irvine "1950s" in Dolan, p. 95 "In "The Three Waves of Doom", a story that filled The Brave and the Bold #25, writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru introduced the Suicide Squad, a band of World War II-era military misfits."
  22. McAvennie, Michael "1960s" in Dolan, p. 100 "What was most memorable about the initial installment of "The War that Time Forgot" by writer/editor Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru was that it was the first cross-genre story to blend war comics with science-fiction."
  23. McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 105 "Writer/editor Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru put a then-modern-day spin on robots with the exploits of comics' first "heavy metal" group, the Metal Men."
  24. Daniels, p. 136: "A comic book emergency gave birth to the Metal Men. Due to a slipup, nothing had been scheduled to fill issue 37 of Showcase (April 1962), and the fast-working Kanigher was recruited to create a new feature virtually overnight."
  25. Levitz, Paul (2010). "The Silver Age 1956-1970". 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Cologne, Germany: Taschen. p. 433. ISBN 9783836519816. Kanigher's Ace was a morally complex soldier who embraced chivalry and honor with such an unswerving inflexibility that he remained curiously sympathetic even as he warred against British forces in his Fokker triplane.
  26. McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 103: "G.I. Combat #87 saw Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart guide Lt. Jeb Stuart and the Haunted Tank on their first adventure by scribe Robert Kanigher and artist Russ Heath."
  27. Markstein, Don (2008). "The Haunted Tank". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  28. McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 101: "Showcase #27 in August [1960] saw Dane Dorrance, Biff Bailey, Judy Walton, and Nicky Walton dive into underwater adventures as the Sea Devils, by writer Robert Kanigher and illustrator Russ Heath."
  29. McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 135: "Scribe Robert Kanigher and artist Russ Heath turned these self-described Losers - including "Navajo Ace" Johnny Cloud of the U.S. Army Air Force, Marines Gunner Mackey and Sarge Clay, and Captain William Storm, a PT boat commander with a prosthetic leg - into a fighting force that meshed as one."
  30. 1 2 Field, Tom (2005). Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 36–37. ISBN 978-1893905450.
  31. McAvennie "1960s" in Dolan, p. 118: "Poison Ivy first cropped up to plague Gotham City in issue #181 of Batman. Scripter Robert Kanigher and artist Sheldon Moldoff came up with a villain who would blossom into one of Batman's greatest foes"
  32. McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 141 "The second feature uncovered the roots of Rose Forrest/Thorn's identity, as told by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru."
  33. Cassell, Dewey (May 2013). "A Rose By Any Other Name...Would Be Thorn". Back Issue!. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (64): 28–32.
  34. Robert Kanigher at the Grand Comics Database
  35. McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 154 "After nearly five years of Diana Prince's non-powered super-heroics, writer-editor Robert Kanigher and artist Don Heck restored Wonder Woman's. . .well, wonder."
  36. McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 171 "Writer Robert Kanigher's origin of the frayed hero was pieced together into moody, coarse segments by Joe Kubert and Nestor, Frank, and Quico Redondo."
  37. Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Robert Kanigher Tales of Love and War" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 30 (1985), DC Comics
  38. Bates, Cary (w), Infantino, Carmine (p), Jensen, Dennis (i). "Look Upon the Eradicator!" The Flash 314 (October 1982)
  39. Waid, Mark (w), Pacheco, Carlos (p), Faucher, Wayne; Marzan Jr., José (i). "Just Do It! (Reckless Youth chapter 3)" The Flash v2, 94 (September 1994)
  40. Bell, Jake (2010). The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks #1: Secret Identity Crisis. Scholastic Paperbacks. ISBN 0-545-15669-6.
  41. "Finger Award - Robert Kanigher, Bill Mantlo, Jack Mendelsohn to Receive 2014 Bill Finger Award". San Diego Comic-Con International. 2014. Archived from the original on April 1, 2014.

Further reading

Preceded by
William Moulton Marston
Wonder Woman writer
Succeeded by
Dennis O'Neil
Preceded by
The Brave and the Bold writer
Succeeded by
Bob Haney
Preceded by
Bob Haney
All-American Men of War writer
Succeeded by
Bob Haney
Preceded by
Cary Bates
Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane writer
Succeeded by
Cary Bates
Preceded by
Bob Haney
Teen Titans writer
Succeeded by
Steve Skeates
Preceded by
Dennis O'Neil
Justice League of America writer
Succeeded by
Mike Friedrich
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