D-Y-N-A-M-I-T-E!


By Shawn Robare

Since I shared an issue of the 80s kid’s magazine Hot Dog! last week I thought it would be fun to take a look at an issue of one of its much more popular sister publications, Dynamite.  Also published by Scholastic throughout the 70s & 80s (and actually up until ’91 or ’92), Dynamite was aimed at a slightly older audience in the middle school range.  Dynamite was the brainchild of Jenette Kahn, a follow up to her first popular magazine Kids (which was written for kids, by kids and reminds me kind of a forefather of kids media movements like Nick News with Linda Ellerbee and the like), and it probably provided the framework for her eventual appointment as the publisher of DC comics in 1976 (at the astonishing Doogie Howser-esque age of 28.)  The magazine was the blueprint for the other Scholastic publications that would follow (including Hot Dog! and Bananas), featuring pop culture spotlights, games, puzzles and activities for kids 8-12.

Again, like Hot Dog!, I was pretty much completely ignorant of its existence growing up which I kind of regret.   Today I thought I’d share a portion of a 1984 issue that featured a National Lampoon style article on Mr. T (which imagined what it would be like if Mr. T changed his famous look…)

 

Personally I’m all for New Wave T, as it looks surprisingly natural (“I pitty the fool who don’t dig on Wham!”)   The cover of the issue, a caricature of Mr. T as a bookworm nerd, was provided by Dynamite regular Sam Viviano who would later go on to work at MAD magazine.   The image reminds me a lot of the episode of Silver Spoons (Me & Mr. T) where Rickey’s dad hires Mr. T as a personal bodyguard because a school thug keeps stealing his milk money.  I wonder if it was, and if that’s the case, then this is why I regret missing out on Dynamite as a kid because it sort of fills in the gap between the parody on shows like Sesame Street and magazines like MAD, which I always felt was slightly over my head in terms of a lot of the chosen parodies (which included a lot of movies and TV shows that were more adult than my taste at the time.)  You can see more of that kid-centric parody in the below comic spoof of the Alan Alda Atari commercials, also drawn by the awesome Viviano…

Alda was chosen as the spokesman for Atari computing back in 1983 and starred in a series of commercials aimed at getting young kids more excited about leaning though the wonder of home computing.

Dynamite had few regular features, the most iconic of which is probably the two-page Count Morbida games and activities spread in each issue. Drawn by Arthur Friedman and written by Suzanne Lord, Count Morbida exisited in a garishly colored world of monsters and maniacs that remind me a whole heck of a lot like the weird combination of the work of Edward Gorey and the Count from Sesame Street…

 

Why is it that kids of the 70s and early 80s seemed to get a daily dose of Universal inspired monsters and mayhem?  Don’t get me wrong, I love that I got a chance to grow up on all of the action syndicated and Saturday morning cartoons, but I always felt like I sort of missed out on a lot of the monster fun that I’m really into as an adult.  Anyway, here’s a quick story from a flexi-record that was inserted into an issue of Dynamite in 1975 featuring Count Morbida.

Another regular feature of the magazine was a spotlight on a popular celbrity, in this case Kate Jackson of Charlie’s Angels and Scarecrow and Mrs. King fame…

 

Also appearing in a number of issues were bits by comic legend Joe Kubert…

In addition to these art lessons, Kubert had some of the faculty and students of the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art providing illustration for a comic strip called the Dynamic Duo that ran in a bunch of issues.

I wonder if kids have anything that resembles these kinds of magazines anymore.  I know there are Nickelodeon Magazine and Disney Adventures, though I think they’ve both folded.  Is it just Highlights now?

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  • Paxton Holley

    I love the artwork on the cover. I was a HUGE Mad Magazine fan in the \’80s so I totally thought the T cover looked familiar. I had to blow up the cover image to remind myself it was Viviano. Then you mentioned it. Great article. Dynamite was a pretty cool magazine. I used to read it in my dentist\’s office as a kid.

  • Keith M. Sedor

    EXCELLENT WEBSITE! Keep up the phenomenal work! Actually in Dynamite! magazine, it was ‘The Dynamite Duo’ (which was my absolute favorite part of the magazine that I looked forward to each month! I’m 42 now.) The \’Dynamic Duo\’ was what Batman & Robin were called, completely different. LOL! ; )