TNT and Dan. Artist: Louis Cazeneuve.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Unknown writer and Paul Norris (artist)
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By 1942, American comic books' superhero fad had started to fade. Even at DC Comics, whose Superman had kicked it off, at least one super guy, Lando Man of Magic, was gone, …

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… never to be seen again; and MLJ Comics was already in full-scale retreat from the genre. But DC was still giving them a few new slots. In fact, April of that year is when they gave Star Spangled Comics, which had existed mostly as a vehicle for The Star-Spangled Kid & Stripesy, a complete makeover. That's when they introduced Robotman, The Guardian and TNT & Dan the Dyna-Mite.

The April, 1942 issue of Star Spangled, where TNT, Dan and those others debuted, was #7. In that issue, Thomas "Tex" Thomas (no relation), a high school chemistry teacher, made an amazing discovery. He and Dan Dunbar, a student he'd been working with, had absorbed some of the volatile chemicals from experiments they'd performed together, and that had given them super powers.

But the powers worked only when they got together. When they made physical contact, there was a small explosion, leaving them temporarilly powered up with strength and invulnerability. They used these powers to become a team like The Black Terror & Tim, Magno & Davey, Captain Flash & Ricky, and any number of other adult costumed heroes with kid sidekicks who didn't even bother to conceal their names when superheroing.

Their opening adventure was written by an unknown scripter, like that of Roy Raymond, The Jester and many other (perhaps a majority) 1940s comic book characters. The artist was Paul Norris, co-creator of Aquaman. Louis Cazeneuve (Red Raven, The Dart) was most closely associated with the character.

Their impact on the world was about the equivalent of Johnny Quick's, The Whip's or The Gay Ghost's. They didn't join any teams, such as The Justice Society of America or The Seven Soldiers of Victory. They didn't get any extra venues, like Batman did in World's Finest Comics or The Flash did in Comic Cavalcade. They had no media spin-offs, such as movie serials, as Vigilante, Blackhawk and even Congo Bill, got. They just hung around in the back pages of Star Spangled Comics, having an adventure each month, until they stopped.

This happened right after the 23rd issue. As of #24 (September, 1943) they were replaced by Jitters Jeep, a humorous filler. Jitters, too, was quickly gone. A few months later, the title was slimmed down to 52 pages. TNT and Dan weren't seen again for decades, and even then, underwent only a slight revival.

The fact that they got included in the '80s All-Star Squadron scarcely counts, since practically every DC-owned 1940s costumed character did that. Of slightly more significance is that Dan subsequently allied himself with Merry, the Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks, and several other former young superheroes, to form Old Justice — an activist group, devoted to keeping children from being endangered by superhero work, as Dan had allowed himself to be endangered during his own youth.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.