"Taps" for Robert Kanigher (1915-2002), who listed his writing influences as Dostoyevsky, Gorki, Shakespeare, Freud, Joyce, and Sophocles.
RK won a NY TIMES short story contest in his teens, began writing half-hour radio plays in the late 30s, and broke into writing for comics at Fox comics in 1940 writing "Blue Beetle", "Samson", and "The Bouncer" at the rate of 100 pages a week.
a how-to book HOW TO MAKE MONEY WRITING in 1943
which had a section on comics. RK was a talented, driven speed-demon on the
typewriter keys and once, in a pinch, dictated a "Steel Sterling" tale over
the telephone to favored artist peer Irv Novick, who coolly beat the deadline
doom, lettering RK's dialogue straight onto his art paper, as told.
Kanigher at Fort Dix during WWII
Kanigher performed a similar astounding delivery when he created and scripted a superhero classic, "The Metal Men" for SHOWCASE # 37 (3-4/62). RK art-directed his artists Andru and Esposito on the layout, and they heroically rendered the story, completing the book in only ten days, cover to cover.
began his long association with DC, first as a scripter for Sheldon Mayer.
He was promoted to editor the very same evening of the day that Mayer had
jumped up and down in frustration on one of his"Wonder Woman" scripts.
RK scripted the Golden Age superheroic mainstays: "The Justice Society of America", "Hawkman", "Green Lantern", and was handed the demanding assignment of taking over editorship and scripting of "Wonder Woman" when creator and scripter William Moulton Marston died. Kanigher steered the direction of the character away from Marston's unique blend of bondage and matriarchal content to a more streamlined and romantic version with the aid of his artist Irwin Hasen. This caused some controvery among older fans which the feisty Kanigher enjoyed.
Kanigher's already impressive resume grew in stature when he edited and wrote the "Big 5" DC war books starting in 1952. Teaming with artist Joe Kubert, Kanigher produced the lengendary "Sgt. Rock" tale, "The Rock and the Wall" in OUR ARMY AT WAR # 83 (6/59) and the K-K (Kanigher-Kubert) team, as it was dubbed in the 1960s, produced many memorable stories and characters such as the "Viking Prince", "Enemy Ace", "Balloon Buster" and "Ragman".
An artist as well as a writer, Kanigher often laid out the cover designs for his artists, including the fandom-famous SHOWCASE # 4 (9-10/56) cover, in which he revamped the character and wrote the new tale of the Silver Age "Flash" for editor Julius Schwartz.
among the DC editors in one regard, RK preferred that an artist both pencil
and ink his own artwork and he hired the top talent; Jerry Grandentti, Irv
Novick, Joe Kubert, John Severin, Mort Drucker, Russ Heath, (one exception
was the Andru-Esposito team) and others, from whom he demanded their best
efforts. RK is one of a trio of the greatest of war comics writer-editors:
Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Kanigher and Archie Goodwin.
Detail from cover art to COMICS JOURNAL #85
Kanigher had a way of writing about animals and anthropomorphised machines and objects that was seldom matched by other authors. He wrote and edited the successful DC romance comics on and off for years, training many of his editor successors. In 1968, after editing the first 192 issues of OUR ARMY AT WAR, Kanigher resigned from editing and Joe Kubert took over the helm on the DC war books. However, Kanigher continued scripting "Sgt. Rock" to the very end of the regular run, SGT. ROCK # 422 (6/88). For 29 years he had scripted "Sgt. Rock" without missing a deadline. Over on a companion war title, G.I. COMBAT, featuring his creation, "The Haunted Tank", RK teamed with artist Sam Glanzman to produce an astounding 134 consecutive issues, from issues # 154 (6-7/72) to # 288 (3/87). In all, "The Haunted Tank" feature ran for 26 years!
up records like this, from a generation that has produced comic book work
matched by no others, Kanigher was one of the most productive comic book writers
ever. According to figures researched and compiled by his biographer and friend
Robin Snyder, RK is in the running for title "King of the Comic Book Writers"
alongside literary workhorses Paul S. Newman (the current leader at 4016 +
stories, or 36,000 pages), Joe Gill, Gaylord Dubois and a few select others.
The tallying is still continuing on these men's output and no definitive winner
has been absolutely declared. "Chads" are still hanging. (Ouch!). Even with
all of his work, Kanigher somehow found time to pursue other passions: fencing,
skiing, writing poetry and novels, traveling, and "action" painting!
His list of created characters for DC alone is staggering: "Black Canary", "Star Sapphire", the "Harlequin", the "Rose and the Thorn", Batman's "Poison Ivy", the Western version of "Johnny Thunder", The "Trigger Twins", the "Viking Prince", "Danger Trail's King Faraday", the "Silent Knight", "Sea Devils", "Sgt. Rock, and Easy Co.", "Capt. Storm", "Johnny Cloud", the "Haunted Tank", "Enemy Ace", "Metal Men" and so many others.
Truly, a major, irreplaceable creative force in comics has left us. We will never see his like again. RK was preceded in death by his wife Bernice and is survived by his daughter Jan, son Evan, and millions of saddened reader/fans.
information on Robert Kanigher, see Robin Snyder's excellent newsletter THE
COMICS! (email him at
and see also Robin's classic in-depth interview with RK"The
Golden Gladiator Robert Kanigher",
in THE COMICS JOURNAL # 84 and #
"Before I do a script, two things must happen. I must see the characters in the darkened theater of my mind. And I must feel their emotions as if I were inside their skins. Then--I just do it."
" I give artists emotion and characterization. If they're talented they can draw what I ask."
"I don't write comics. I use the medium"
"I never missed a deadline in my life"
"I am moved, shaken, and when it is all over, I look at wonder at what is
written or painted."
--Robert Kanigher RIP
Don Mangus Tribute: These are some of my favorite RK stories
ALL AMERICAN MEN OF WAR # 82, (11-12/60): "The Flying Chief", Irv Novick art
MEN OF WAR # 112, (11-12/65): "The Balloon Buster", Russ Heath art
CAPTAIN STORM # 1, (5-6/64): "Killer Hunt", Irv Novick art
COMBAT # 87, (4-5/61) :" Introducing the Haunted Tank", Russ Heath art
HOUSE OF MYSTERY # 187, (7/70): "Mask of the Red Fox", Alex Toth art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 83, (6/59): "The Rock and the Wall", Joe Kubert art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 113, (12/61): "Eyes of a Blind Gunner", Joe Kubert art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 151, (2/65): "Enemy Ace", Joe Kubert art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 160, (11/65): "What's the Color of Your Blood?", Joe Kubert art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 233, (6/71): "Head Count", Joe Kubert art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 235, (8/71): "Pressure Point", Russ Heath art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 235, (8/71): "The Glory Boys", Alex Toth art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 269, (6/74): "Horseless!", Ric Estrada art
OUR ARMY AT WAR # 272, (9/74): "A Sergeant Dies", Ric Estrada art
OUR FIGHTING FORCES # 49, (9/59): "Blind Gunner", Jerry Grandenetti art
OUR FIGHTING FORCES # 132, (7-8/71): "Pooch the Winner!", John Severin art
OUR FIGHTING FORCES # 134, (11-12 /71): "Soldiers Grave", Alex Toth art
SHOWCASE # 57, (7-8/65): "Killer of the Skies!", Joe Kubert art
STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES # 87, (11/59): "T.N.T Spotlight", Mort Drucker art
STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES # 116, (8-9/64): "The Suicide Squad", Andru-Esposito art
STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES # 164, (8/72): "White Devil...Yellow Devil", Alex Toth art
TOMAHAWK # 138, (1-2/72): "Christmas", Frank Thorne art
by Don Mangus
About the author:
returns with this stirring tribute to the recently deceased writing legend,
Robert Kanigher. Don's essay is the first installment on our Memorial Page
which will chronicle the passing of comic creators and serve as a remembrance
of their work.
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