Friday, August 31, 2012


We end our week of Masked Western Heroes with the final tale of... he returns to where he began, the back of a book starring Tim Holt!
After runs in Tim Holt, Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders, his own title, and the anthology Best of the West, The Ghost Rider finally reached the end of the trail in #50 (1955) of Tim Holt's book, which had been retitled Red Mask!
This swan song was scripted by Carl Memling and illustrated by The Rider's co-creator Dick Ayers, both of whom would be working the very next issue on a strip about another masked hero who used tricks on villains...The Presto Kid, who took over Ghost Rider's slot until Red Mask was cancelled.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

MASKED RANGER "Valley of Dead Men"

Here's the first appearance of another Masked Western Hero... by no less than legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta!
The introduction story (not the origin) from Masked Ranger #1 (1954) was illustrated by workhorse Sid Check with several pages either inked or re-penciled by Frank Frazetta.
It was his only credited work for Premier Magazines, though he may have assisted fellow Fleagle Gang member George Woodbridge without credit on other Masked Ranger tales.
Be here tomorrow for another tale of a Masked Western Hero...the final story of the Original Ghost Rider!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MASKED MARSHAL "Introducing the Masked Marshal"

You've probably never heard of...
 ...or its' lead feature!
It's understandable for several reasons.
1) The 1950 one-shot, self-cover title from Metropolitan Printing is very fragile.
("Self-cover" means the cover is the same as the inside pages, cheap newsprint instead of the usual heavier "slick stock" almost all other comics used.)
2) It's an unusual format...5 1/2" wide and 8 1/2" tall, smaller than the usual 7 1/4 x 10 1/2!
3) It was part of a bagged set of five similarly-formatted comics for a dime which apparently had very limited distribution.
But enough about those mundane aspects!
Let's look at the tale itself and see the things that make this title unique among Western heroes...
Yeah, it was printed sideways!
But that's not the only unique attribute!
Read on...
The Masked Marshal was the only Western hero to wear a mask to cover a physical disfigurement!
Most of the other titles distributed with Boots & Saddles were reworkings of previous stories published by Spark Publications.
Green Jet featured a retitled Green Lama story and New World featured the first AtoMan story recolored and re-named AtoMaster!
But there was no previous Spark Comics Western material!
So, where did Masked Marshal come from, or was it new material done to expand the range of genres in the packaged comics?
Whatever happened to Steve Lawrence?
Did he catch Hooker and his gang?
And, what of poor Sylvia?
Sadly, we'll never know the answers...
Be here tomorrow for another tale of a Masked Western Hero!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PRESTO KID "Floating Renegade"

We presented the origin of the Presto Kid, the Western hero without a gun... now, we're going to show you his final adventure...and the costume he wore only once!
OK, it's not so much a new costume as a new color scheme for the old one.
Nitpick, nitpick...
From his first appearance in Red Mask #51 (1955) onward, Presto took over the cover slot, but only three issues later, the book was cancelled with #54 (1956) and both Red Mask and Presto Kid disappeared until the 1960s when some of their stories were reprinted by IW Publishing/Super Comics.
But this particular tale has never been reprinted!
Be here tomorrow for another tale of a Masked Western Hero!

Monday, August 27, 2012

BLACK BULL "Bullets at Salt Lick"

Zorro, what hath thou wrought?
See if you can spot the similarities between Johnston McCulley's character and Black Bull in his premiere appearance (but not an origin story)!
How many tropes did you spot in this never-reprinted tale from Prize Comics Western #71 (1948)?
Masked avenger who protects the innocent.
Dressed in black
Named after animal ("Zorro" is Spanish for "fox".)
Secret identity is wealthy layabout who lives at home with his father.
Uncertain relationship with authorities and law-enforcement.
And, with the next tale, a loyal servant who knows his dual identities.
The Black Bull had a fascinating pedigree...
He was created by Dick Briefer, best known for his amazing work on Prize Comics' Monster of Frankenstein series which ran the gamut from humor to horror during it's run.
You can see an interesting mixture of Briefer's humorous and dramatic styles in this tale, as if he's trying to figure out what approach to take as he's doing the story!
But, as of his second appearance, the character was taken over by a most unusual team...John Severin and Will Elder!
If those names are familiar, it's because they were the artists on last week's feature, American Eagle, who, ironically, debuted in Black Bull's final issue of Prize Comics Western!
Despite Severin & Elder producing all the remaining Black Bull tales from #71 to #85, the character never made the cover slot even once!
Be here tomorrow for another tale of a Masked Western Hero!

Monday, August 20, 2012


Prize Comics Western was looking for something to make them stand out...
...they found it in the adventures of the first Native American Western superhero...
American Eagle proved successful enough that he retained the cover slot for the entire run of Prize Comics Western from this never-reprinted premiere tale in #85 (1951) to the book's final issue, #119 in 1956, a healthy run by any standard!

The writer was Colin Dawkins, who wrote the series moonlighting from his full-time job as a copywriter at the J Walter Thompson ad agency.
The art on the story is by John Severin (pencils) and Will Elder (inks).
The team of Dawkins & Severin also did a number of stories (mostly Westerns) for EC Comics' Two-Fisted Tales.

Around the same time, PL Publishing began a title called Red Arrow, featuring another Indian character who fought for justice.
It only lasted four issues.
While both Tonto and Little Beaver had strips and even their own titles, they were spin-off characters from other series (Lone Ranger and Red Ryder, respectively.)
There had been another Native American superhero a decade earlier, The Bronze Terror aka Real American #1, in DareDevil Comics, but he was a contemporary character operating in New York City in 1941.

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