Black Thunder Retrospective

It didn’t change the world. It wasn’t remembered. It did inspire me to want to know comics actively instead of just passively. Black Thunder #1!In all honesty, when I mention this comic I feel like the only person in the world that remembers it. This review is more labor of love to remember the first small press comic I ever read than to truly inspire you that it changed the world. Yet, for me it did. Sometimes, that is all that matters.

This comic was only ever big news in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding area. Only briefly at that.

Black Thunder 1Black Thunder 2Black Thunder was a creation by a writer/artist that was working at a shoe store here in Charlotte at the time. A newspaper article on the auteur attracted my mother, who thought it would be cool to buy me a comic made by a local. It was. She also thought that it would be cool to buy me a comic about a black superhero. I believe the newspaper article had called Black Thunder the first black superhero which was wildly inaccurate. However, my mother was disappointed when I pointed out that many other black superheroes existed. She was trying to buy me something special. Oh well. She tried.

I remember this book fondly because my mother made such an effort.

My wife later worked hard to find the 2nd issue.

I remember it fondly, but that has nothing to do with the comic itself. The story was a bit generic. Superhero fighting the bad guys. I remember hearing it was supposed to be more realistic and gritty…but I never figured out what that meant with this book.  Years later. I still don’t. This isn’t exactly Frank Miller or Eastman/Laird grittiness. By late 80s and early 90s standards this is practically an all ages book.

The story was not memorable.

The art was about the same. Although I do appreciate that the art on the cover was consistent with the quality displayed within. No surprises in quality drop here.

Over the years I’ve googled fruitlessly to find out what ever happened to Black Thunder. My copy is in mylar with my youthful collection. I believe we also clipped out the newspaper article but I have never found that again. Every once in a while I like to remind the internet that this comic existed. Apparently a Nigerian based comic is using the Black Thunder name. I’m betting it has no relation. I found a www.breezecomics.com but it seems to be a dead end on the internet super high way. So, for full disambiguation it is important that I point out this was something different.

Trust me, even in Charlotte, NC copies are hard to find. Ebay and other internet sources has these occasionally, but it is a collectible with little to no market.

Breeze Entertainment group? Breeze Comics? Don’t know ’em. Never have found anything they put out besides this comic. I cannot find any trace of the Rock Hill, SC publisher so it may have been something so independent that it did not survive the comics sales.

Dear Reader,
A new era has dawned in comics. It is the beginning of a fanciful journey through my imagination that I hope will never end. My name is Ernest Gibbs Jr. and I am a lover of comics. For many years, since I was a child, I have yearned to see a super-hero that I could relate to, that I could identify with. But no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find any, not even one. Now that’s changed. Let me introduce you to Black Thunder. I created Black Thunder to fill that emptiness. I’m sure there are people out there who felt the same. Maybe Black Thunder can fill that void within them also. Black Thunder is not meant solely for African-American audience. He is meant to entertain everyone who enjoys a good story. So come along on this fanciful journey. I hope you enjoy the ride…
Feel The Power,
Ernest Gibbs Jr.

The inside front cover of the first issue provides me with nearly all the information that I have on Ernest Gibbs Jr and Black Thunder.

The inside back cover advertised a second issue which was printed. The second comic advertised a third that was never produced. Reading through these again as an adult I’m not sure what the beginning was supposed to create. I don’t understand what void he was filling since he did little that was radically different upon review.

However, if I were to offer back a letter to Ernest Gibbs Jr and Black Thunder it might look like this.

Dear Creator,

I wonder if we are still in the dawn of your new day? Or has it passed? Sometimes it is nearly impossible to say. Still, despite quiveling over the new day’s timing, I am still glad that you were a lover of comics. For many years, it has been you that inspired me to yearn to understand comics deeper. Perhaps one day I’ll create a comic. Perhaps it will be met with similar success. Perhaps I will remember then that some comics are meant solely for one audience, or even an audience of one that might think of it fondly in time. Thank you for giving me a lift.
Thanks for the ride,

JWithers

Full No-nonsense ReviewBlackThunderIss1p7

Writer/Creator Ernest Gibbs Jr.
Artwork Robert Delisi and Jon Enci

The comic speaks for itself. Look at page 7 from the interior. This provides a good idea of how Delisi and Enci capture the action within the comic book. A thug on page six is shooting a little girl..and you can see how that works out. The bullet reflecting in his mask is an interesting panel. Yet, nothing that has not graced comic pages before or since.

Page 7 is easily the best page of the comic.

Throughout the entire comic the backgrounds are fairly unimportant in favor of trying to capture the mood and motion of the speedster hero Black Thunder.

1991/1992 was a time before easy access to pdf files and online preview links on ftp drop sites. So, here is a rare glimpse into Gibbs’ self published comic book, Black Thunder.

Black Thunder #2 holds consistent with art and story. The slow development is far from gritty or creating a new type of hero. At least in the 2nd issue a villain is really revealed and explored. He’s on the cover (see above) and no real surprise.

I will never rate this comic purely on its technical merits.

Where this comic wins massive bonus points in a rating is that a creator created. An individual did what they wanted to do and not what the 90s industry said that they must. I’ve always wondered if this comic could make it in the modern era. Indie books and web publishing has helped foster some great talent. I wonder if perhaps Black Thunder’s day finally has dawned?

Plea

One of my career goals as an comic book reviewer is to sit down with Gibbs.

The last time I reviewed this comic for a website someone claiming to be Gibbs son responded—trying to promote his own comic. I’d still like to have the opportunity to interview Gibbs and look back at this work with him.

I’d also love to talk to Robert Delisi and Jon Enci about the art for this book and any other project they attempted.

Introductions

I’ve ranted and reviewed these two particular comics before elsewhere in the world wide web. Yet, I still think it serves as a great introduction to me as a reviewer and comic culture creator. I’m happy to be on board with Needless and hope to provide rants and reviews through the years that mean as much to me as this one, over and over again.

I’m a long time comic reader. I have odd tastes that don’t always reflect market trends. I often prefer back issue bins to the shelf. And I’m happy to be on board.