The Whip. Artist: Homer Fleming


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: John Wentworth (writer) and George Storm (artist)
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The superheroes of the early 1940s tended to be very pro-Establishment. They generally cooperated with police (except, of course, when there was a misunderstanding about which side of the law they were on); and while crooked politicians were occasionally used as villains, the majority of office holders were …

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… as straightforward and honest as their campaign rhetoric depicted them. A rare exception was The Whip, published by All-American Publications, who fought for the poor and downtrodden against landlords, bosses, and the well-connected bad guys who supplied muscle for their depredations.

The Whip was also the only one (unless you count an occasional sidekick such as Wing or Ebony) depicted as non-Caucasian. Mexican ethnicity fit right in with championing the cause of the oppressed laborers of the American Southwest, where he got into the superhero business. But it was a sham. Rodney Gaynor, his alter ego, was pure whitebread — one of those wealthy idlers who turn to superheroing out of boredom, in fact, just like Miss Fury or Firebrand. He maintained his secret identity by using not just a flashy costume and a mask, but also make-up and a phoney accent.

Tired of his championship polo career, Rod took to the road in Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940), the same issue that introduced The Flash and Hawkman to the comics-reading public. So disaffected he made his decisions by flipping a coin, he wound up in the town of Seguro, where he became interested in the plight of an unemployed farm hand named Carlos, who was about to be lynched. Through Marissa Dillon (whose father published The Seguro Sentinel) and a concerned local padre, he learned of El Castigo, a Zorro type who had righted wrongs in the area a century earlier. That evening, El Castigo — or, as we say in English, The Whip — returned, just in time to use his skill as a horseman and with a bullwhip (picked up in South America) to disperse the crowd and save the prisoner. While he was at it, he put a well-deserved end to the career of the corrupt sheriff who had engineered the outrage. Marissa (whose name was later spelled with only one S) suspected Rod had something to do with it, but couldn't prove anything.

The story was written by John Wentworth (Johnny Thunder, Sargon the Sorcerer). The artist was George Storm, whose highly varied career included Phil Hardy, The Hangman and Buzzy. Wentworth stuck with the character for a while, but Storm stayed with him only three months. The Whip's most prominent artist was Homer Fleming, who also worked on even more minor characters such as Chuck Dawson and Buck Marshall, Range Detective.

El Castigo/The Whip continued to befriend the oppressed workers of Seguro for the next year and a half or so. Then a case brought him and his entourage to New York City. Starting in the 20th issue (August, 1941), that was their location — just like Vigilante, another who would seem more at home out West. Even Marisa, with her strong local ties, relocated with him. As one of many New York crime fighters, The Whip (no longer called El Castigo very often) continued several more years. He did, however, retain at least some of his negative attitude toward official authority, such as the police.

The Whip appeared almost exclusively in the back pages of Flash Comics, emerging onto the cover only once (#4, April 1940), not counting mere insets. He was also in The Big All-American Comic Book, a 1944 oneshot, where the cover depicted him in a crowd scene, right between The Ghost Patrol and Wildcat. His series ended in Flash Comics #55 (July, 1944), but one last adventure turned up a year later, in Sensation Comics #43.

Shortly afterward, All-American Publications was merged into DC Comics so thoroughly, it's easy to look on its stars, such as Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, as having been DC characters all along. It's unusual for a DC-owned hero to have gone all the way through the 1970s without turning up in a single new story, but an exception was made for this white man who impersonated a Mexican. He did make a couple of minor appearances in the early '80s with The All-Star Squadron, which included the vast majority of the company's '40s superheroes, but was very much de-emphasized.

When he finally did star in a new story (Secret Origins #13, April 1986), writer Roy Thomas (The Invaders, Infinity Inc.) retconned him into something less embarrassing. His first name was changed to "Rodrigo" — turned out he'd spent most of his wastrel life "passing" — and the rest of the alterations followed suit. Even his horse's name was changed from King to the more Hispanic-sounding Diablo (no relation) (him too).

Even with his newly-acquired ethnic correctitude, The Whip hasn't become a major player. In fact, he's scarcely been seen at all. But at least he's been rehabilitated, so if a DC writer ever has a use for a Mexican-American superhero set in the time of World War II, there he is.


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