Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Tomahawk (1964 - 1967: The New Look)


By Deejay Dayton
December 21, 2019 - 09:14

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The period 1964 – 1967: the New Look was not kind to Tomahawk. While the series maintained its Colonial era/American Revolution façade, the stories ventured into truly bizarre territory. Miss Liberty made a few more appearances, though none were terribly rewarding, while Tomahawk gained a couple of new enemies, the Hood and Thunder Man. There was no longer any attempt to create the feeling of the period, nor was their much effort made to integrate historical figures.

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The exception to that basically proves the rule. In issue 103 Tomahawk and his Rangers have to deal with a Frankenstein monster-type creature, a mindless brute sent against them by the British. This is not a dead and re-animated person, though.  Created by a Prussian scientist working with the British, the monster is a chemically transformed prisoner, who changes into the creature at night. Towards the end of the story, the Rangers realize that the monster is actually one of their own, Big Anvil, although the man himself is completely unaware of the changes he undergoes.  All they have to do to cure him is to keep around until the effect of the chemicals wear off. The final panel of the story suggests that Mary Shelly might have been inspired by the events in this story to write her novel Frankenstein.  She wasn't. 

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The series did gain a back-up feature that put the spotlight onto various members of Tomhawk’s Rangers, beginning with Cannonball, in Tomahawk 106. We learn that Cannonball manned a cannon during a battle with the British, until they blew up the weapon.  Then he started throwing cannonballs at the enemy troops, and then boulders when he ran out of actual cannonballs.  And that's how he got his name. The others are about as insightful and rewarding as that one. These back-ups ended in issue 111 with a story that centred on Brass Buttons, giving him an origin that flat out contradicted the story in which the character was introduced.

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King Colosso, the giant ape who had caused problems for Tomahawk in the last period, made a return in Tomahawk 93. Tomahawk and his Rangers are on a mission to deliver information to George Washington when they come across a completely destroyed town.  A survivor tells them of how a giant gorilla tore the place apart.  Tomahawk and the other men are puzzled.  The description matches King Colosso, but they are sure the ape had died. Tomahawk follows the trail, and finds Colosso, as well as a young boy.  Colosso does not remember Tomahawk, but has befriended the kid, who explains how he found Colosso after the battle at Pin-Cushion Hill, and nursed him back to health. The British, meanwhile, find a dinosaur trapped in a glacier, and blast the ice open with cannonfire.  They intend to have the dinosaur attack the rebels.  But Colosso intervenes, and the story turns into King Kong vs Godzilla, more or less.  Tomahawk joins the fray to blind the dinosaur, and Colosso then hurls the beast over a cliff.

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The main recurring guest star during these years was Miss Liberty, but the character was woefully underused the few times she popped up. But let’s look at them anyway.

There are so many things wrong with the story from Tomahawk 101. Tomahawk, pursued by the British, falls and bangs his head, and claims amnesia when he wakes up.  This is completely unlike the story where Tomahawk pursued Lord Shilling, who fell and banged his head and claimed amnesia when he woke up.  The British then convince Tomahawk to spy on the Rangers for them.  This also bears no resemblance to the story with Lord Shilling, in which Tomahawk convinced him to spy on the British. Then there are the "flame demons," who I suppose are wearing asbestos robes. Tomahawk leads the Rangers into traps, with the "flame demons," as well as natives, which proves himself to the British.  Completely different than the story in which Shilling shot a native to prove himself to Tomahawk.

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Oh, and did you notice Miss Liberty on the cover?  She shows up for two panels on one page, whipping some guns out of British hands, and then bids farewell and rides off in the first panel of the following page.  Three panels.  That's her entire role in this issue. Need I even mention that Tomahawk was feigning amnesia, and really spying on the British?  So totally different than the story in which Shilling was feigning amnesia to spy on Tomahawk.

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Miss Liberty returned in Tomahawk 106. Tomahawk and the Rangers are under fire from British troops.  They get separated, and Tomahawk scales a cliff to get away.  He falls, and a landslide occurs.  Hunting for him after the British depart, the Rangers can find no sign of him, but believe that Tomahawk must be dead. That's when Tomahawk's ghost suddenly appears, along with Miss Liberty.  She insists that the ghost is not there to harm them, but to help them.  In the first instance, the ghost draws attention to a trapped native scout, who joins forces with the Ranger. The ghost pops up a few more times, alerting them to various British soldiers lying in ambush for the Rangers. Towards the end of the story, Miss Liberty reveals that the ghost was just a balloon, and the native scout is really Tomahawk in disguise.  He arranged to fake his death, and worked with Miss Liberty on the ghost thing, in order to free Cannonball, who was being held prisoner, and impersonated by a British spy. Yes, that makes no sense to me, either.

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Lord Shilling was sent packing, and a new major villain for the series was introduced in issue 96. The British put together a band of deadly villains, assembled from prisons in England, the Americas and Australia, as the Ranger Killers, operating under the leadership of a cloaked figure, the Hood.  They are a special unit designed solely to take out Tomahawk and his Rangers. Tomahawk and his men are riding elephants, explained as being from a circus, on a mission to blow up a dam.  You can tell this series is really reaching a low point when they strap the elephants to toboggans and slide down a snow covered hill.  The Ranger Killers prove pretty effective, at capturing the Rangers, if not at killing them. Tomahawk also gets caught, and the Hood unmasks before him, revealing herself to be Lady Shilling, the sister of Lord Shilling, who had been called back to England, after so many failures against Tomahawk.  The mask, which distorts her voice, and cloak are designed to hide the fact that she is a woman, so that her men will take orders from her. But when the command comes to have Tomahawk killed, Lady Shilling suddenly gets all upset.  She has fallen in love with Tomahawk.  Of course. Because that's so original. Thankfully, she does not actually let Tomahawk escape.  He gets free on his own, and releases his men.  They make it to the dam, and blow it up.  The Ranger Killers get captured, but the Hood gets away.  No word on the elephants.

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Tomahawk 110 may well be the low point of this series.  But I must confess, I find this story absurdly entertaining.  So I guess it can't really be a low point. The story begins as the Rangers wonder where Tomahawk has been, and then he shows up, accompanied by the Hood and native troops.  Tomahawk has switched teams, and is now leading the forces against the Rangers. A flashback explains that Tomahawk got a head injury and developed amnesia, for real this time.  He was found and tended to by Lady Shilling, who convinced him that he is a British officer, and her fiancee. Miss Liberty comes to help out the Rangers, informing them about the British "Operation Beaver," which the Hood's attack was just a diversion for.  She and the Rangers pry a native head out of a cave, and hurl it at the troops, who flee. But the war plot really never becomes the focus of the tale, which is far more interested in the romance story.  Miss Liberty sees Tomahawk and the Hood together, and breaks into tears.  She had really loved Tomahawk all along.  A few pages later, she notices a bandage on his head, and realizes that he must have suffered a head injury, and not be aware of his actions, and thus not truly in love with Lady Shilling, which cheers Miss Liberty up immensely.

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And that giant coin on the cover?  Well, that's a huge shilling that lady Shilling had made, planning to roll it into a dam and destroy it, the true goal of Operation Beaver.  But the shilling sparks Tomahawk's memory.  He pretends to still be under the Hood's spell, but she figures out that he is now feigning, and ties him to the giant coin. So we reach the big climactic/cover scene, which has Miss Liberty and the Hood duelling, while Tomahawk, still attached to the coin, is sent rolling down the hill towards the dam. Big Anvil stops the coin by kicking it over.  Once Tomahawk is freed, Big Anvil throws the coin at the British, presumably crushing them beneath it.  The Hood defeats Miss Liberty in their duel, but gets taken down by Stovepipe, who has a concealed gun in his hat. I haven't mentioned Stovepipe before.  He and Wildcat had joined the Rangers in the past couple of years.

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A new giant gorilla shows up the story in Tomahawk 107. I thought it was King Colosso back again, but nope, this is just a plain old North American giant gorilla, Mikora, who has been befriended by the natives and trained to be part of their tribe.  He even wears a quiver on his back, though we don't actually see him firing off arrows during the course of the story. Tomahawk and his Rangers are not bothering with the British in this story, either.  They have a far more important opponent, a world-conquering madman named Thunder-Man, due to his ability to generate electricity.  Lightning-Man might have been a more appropriate name. He is gathering up deserting British soldiers, building a secret army for global conquest, and decides that Mikora would make an excellent addition.  After electrocuting the beast, he has his minions drag the animal to his mountaintop castle. There he subjects the gorilla to more electricity.  He has no intention of killing the creature.  This is just his form of shock treatment, which will somehow have the effect of making the creature come to want to fight on Thunder-Man's side against Tomahawk, and his old tribe. It doesn't work.  Why on Earth would it?  Mikora helps Tomahawk and the Rangers, who sneak into the castle and free him, take down Thunder-Man and his men. 

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Thunder-Man returns, and joins forces with the Hood in Tomahawk 111. While Tomahawk and his Rangers are keeping a native tribe safe from evil British soldiers, the Hood sneaks into the prison where Thunder-Man is being held, and frees him.  She gives him back his old costume, and has added new and more powerful electric elements to it. The Hood wants Thunder-Man to help her destroy the Rangers, but makes it clear to him that she is in charge. She arranges for some British soldiers to be stationed at a valley near to her cave base, as a lure for the Rangers.  She has a pack of nasty looking devil-dogs she sends after the Rangers. Things go well, until Thunder-Man attempts to kill Tomahawk.  The Hood has a device, which Thunder-Man does not see, that controls the electrics in the suit, and turns them off to save the hero.  The dogs are nasty, but the Rangers overcome them, and the two villains are forced to flee. Back in the cave, the Hood unmasks, and reveals herself to be Lady Shilling.  She needed Thunder-Man to work her electronic devices, as anyone else would be killed by them.  But he also finds and destroys her controls.  From the things she says, Thunder-Man figures out that she both loves and hates Tomahawk, and is incapable of taking action against him.  He no longer has any use for her, and sets out to kill Tomahawk and the Rangers on his own. So the Hood winds up switching sides, and helping Tomahawk and his men defeat Thunder-Man.  She gives them all the information she has on the villain, and allows Tomahawk to put on her disguise, which allows him to get close enough to Thunder-Man to take him down.  Lady Shilling flees at the end of the tale. This is, I believe, the last appearance of both of these villains.

Tomahawk continues in the next era, 1967 – 1969: It’s a Happening!

Tomahawk: Tomahawk 92 – 111 (May/June 1964 – July/Aug 1967)

Next up – Black Canary!

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Last Updated: December 31, 2019 - 20:28

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