Monday, January 28, 2013

GUNMASTER "Introducing the GunMaster"

Around 1960, comic book superheroes were making a comeback...
...and both Zorro and The Lone Ranger were two of the hottest shows on TV!
So, it was only logical that comics publishers would, once more, combine genres and unleash a number of new (and revived) Masked Western Heroes™!
The idea that a supposedly-non-violent guy would have a basement full of customized weaponry would trigger alarms today, but back in the early '60s, it seemed perfectly natural...if a tad hypocritical.
And why can't Clay tell Nan and her grandfather that he's GunMaster...beyond the fact that it would make his stance about non-violence look foolish?
His premiere story in Charlton's Six-Gun Heroes #57 (1960) was scripted by Joe Gill illustrated by Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, and Sal Trapani.

This was Charlton's second contribution to the sub-genre.
The first one was a more traditional type known as the Masked Raider, whose gimmick was that he had an eagle as his sidekick!

Monday, January 21, 2013

SUNDANCE KID "Death Rides the Thunder Wagon"

After seeing the 1969 Robert Redford/Paul Newman movie... picking up Skywald's Blazing Six Guns #1 in 1971 were probably quite confused, because this Sundance Kid was nothing like the movie version (or like the Real-Life Westerner, for that matter)!
The box-office success of the 1969 Western movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, inspired Skywald Comics to make the duo the title protagonists of three of the five Western titles they launched in 1971.
Oddly, instead of Butch and Sundance headlining a book together, they were each given their own titles, along with new sidekicks/partners, although there was a guest appearance by the Kid in the final issue of Cassidy's book!
(Besides their self-titled books, the Kid also headed the anthology Blazing Six Guns, from the first issue of which this story by writer Len Wein and artists Dick Ayers & John Tartaglione was taken.)
It's not a bad story by any stretch, but it really feels like a reworked Kid Colt or Rawhide Kid tale with no real characterization to differentiate Sundance from almost every other cowpoke.

Monday, January 14, 2013

JOHN WAYNE "Mystery of Rhyming Range"

The most famous Western movie star of all time... a tale from Toby Publishing's John Wayne Adventure Comics #3 (1950), illustrated by a pair of legendary artists; Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta!

In the 40s and 50s, a number of Western movie, radio, and tv stars (not characters, stars) had comics based on them, including Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Charles Starrett, Tim Holt, and Lash Larue. Even co-stars and sidekicks like Dale Evans and Gabby Hayes had titles!
Stars like Buster Crabbe and John Wayne also had comics which primarily ran Western tales, but also did stories based on the other genres they appeared in.
In the case of The Duke, his title also had WWII and high adventure stories.
Interestingly, all the stories featured John Wayne as John Wayne, not as a character like Rooster Cogburn or Ethan Edwards!

Monday, January 7, 2013

TEX GRANGER "...Rides into Arizona City"

Tex Granger lasted only four years (1947-50) and about two dozen appearances...

...but, unlike most characters who don't receive spin-offs unless they've been around for years. he achieved multi-media star status just one year after his debut!
Granger's never-reprinted debut tale from Parents Magazine Institute's Calling All Boys #10 (1947) was written by Charles Spain Verral and illustrated by Lorence Bjorklund, both long-time pulp magazine creators who were making the transition to comics as pulps died out.
Eight issues after Granger's premiere, Calling All Boys became Tex Granger, dropping most of the text features to make room for more Granger stories in each issue.
The title only lasted seven issues.
Two inventory stories were published in the back of the final two issues of Parents' longest-running comic, True Comics, then Tex Granger disappeared into the mists of history...but not before leaving behind a cinematic we shall see next week!

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