I've started a thread on Golden Age comics before. My idea was to review runs or portions of runs, but that turned out to be difficult to do; Golden Age features sometimes changed direction in significant ways, so to get a full overview of a long-running feature one has to read a lot of stories. The result was I ended up only reviewing short-running series or one-shots.
So I thought I'd start a thread for reviews of individual issues instead. I mean to review comics from the 50s as well as the 30s and 40s. Please feel free to contribute your own reviews.
I've included the transition era in the scope of the thread so there need be no debate over when exactly the Golden Age ended. Any pre-Silver Age title is fair game. DC's Silver Age is usually regarded as starting with the Silver Age Flash's debut in Showcase #4, which went on sale in July 1956. The analogous event at Marvel was the appearance of Fantastic Four #1 in August 1961.
I think the Western genre was flourishing so there was more room for different kinds of heroes, some people find pre-modern Indian life attractive, and liberals wanted to counter racist attitudes.
Sympathetic depictions of American Indians go way back. Examples include The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Song of Hiawatha (1855).
There were a few features with Indian leads before the Western boom:
Jimmy Thompson drew American Indian stories for David McCay in the 1930s. Feature Book #16 from 1938 featured his long story "Red Eagle".
Dick Briefer did a series for Daredevil Comics in 1941-42 called "Real American #1". Its hero was a college-educated Indian of the present day who adopted a costumed identity, the Bronze Terror, to defend Indians and fight evil. Briefer's intention of combatting racism is very apparent in the stories.
"Firehair" debuted in Rangers Comics #21 in 1944 (on sale) and continued to #65, the last issue, in 1952. The heroine was cover-featured from #40 in 1948, and also starred in her own title.(1) She was a white woman of the 19th century who was taken in by Indians and regarded them as her people.
(1) For its first two issues it was a reprint title, Firehair Comics. Then it became Pioneer West Romances with Firehair starring, then Firehair.
Hawk, Son of Tomahawk is a favorite of mine and I spent a few years getting all ten issues.
I recall really liking the couple of "Matt Savage, Trail Boss" reprints from the two Action Comics 100 Pagers in the 70s. Imagine my shock when I found out that Scalphunter was his son!
DC's most successful Indian hero of the Golden Age and Transition Era was Pow-Wow Smith. His feature first appeared in Detective Comics #151-#202. Then it was transferred to Western Comics as the new lead feature from #43. It was cover-featured to #76, and appeared to #85, the last issue. Initially the feature was set in the present day, but in the boondocks. Later Pow-Wow was a hero of the Old West. Taking these phases together he appeared continually from 1949 to 1960, over 11 years.
Pow-Wow's period as the star of Western Comics is the reason I speak of the Transition Era. He appeared on the covers from 1953 (on sale) to 1959. Julie Schwartz was the editor, and the comics look like Silver Age ones to me.
"Strong Bow" appeared from All Star Western #58, the first issue, to #99. It was cover-featured four times early on. Three of those issues were consecutive, so it was briefly the lead feature. It ran from 1951-1958, not quite 7 years.
In the Silver Age Johnny Cloud's solo feature appeared in All-American Men of War #82-#111, #115, #117 in 1960-1966, and was often cover-featured. During this period he also appeared in crossovers. After the title ended with #117 he appeared in a final solo story in G.I. Combat #124 in 1967 and in other features before being made one of the Losers in 1969.
In the Bronze Age Scalphunter replaced Jonah Hex in Weird Western Tales when Jonah got his own title. He appeared from #39 (1976 [on sale]) to the final issue, #70 (1980). He was a white man raised as an Indian.
DC Indian heroes with shorter runs include Super-Chief, a pre-contact Indian superhero who appeared in the back pages of All Star Western #117-#119 in 1960-61; and Firehair, who appeared in Showcase and the back pages of Tomahawk, and was a white male raised as an Indian, like Scalphunter. Initially he was a teen protagonist, but on the page from his last feature story at the link he looks a grown man. His name was surely taken from the Fiction House heroine.
Tomahawk's son Hawk was half-Indian and the co-star of Tomahawk during its "Son of Tomahawk" era, with the elderly Tomahawk.
(The first version of this post preceded Philip's response above, but I reposted it while he was replying. Sorry, Philip.)
Just finished Adventures into the Unknown Vol. 11, and Forbidden Worlds Vol. 11, both from ACG and reprinted by PS Artbooks. They came out about the same time, although AITU reprints issues from 1954, and FW reprints issues from 1958. The comparison is what makes them interesting to me.
Unknown includes issues #58-64, and the Comics Code begins with issue #62. The earlier issues are definitely harsher, sometimes starring bad guys (who get their comeuppance) and many deaths. Heck, in one story, a mentally challenged person gets his revenge for abuse by destroying the world. You won't see that after the Code.
That being said, there are still some harsh moments post-Code. One story has a scientist rescuing a six-inch girl from another planet, but before she can acclimate to our climate the maid accidentally kills her. I have to wonder if stories like that were inventory, and ACG thought they were borderline enough to slip by the Code. That's a WAG, and prompted by what ACG was to become later.
One more point about Unknown: The first issue in this collection (and one story in the second) is done in "3D effect!". That amounts to the panels being placed on black pages instead of white, and having the occasional elbow or something break a panel border into the black space. Oh, and the titles were done to mimic 3D, like the Superman logo. Not very impressive, but early 1954 was part of the heyday of 3D experiments, which were initially boffo but fell off before other publishers could leap on the bandwagon.
In sharp comparison are Forbidden Worlds #65-70, where ACG had adopted the format it used for roughly the last 10 years of its existence. At this point, according to most sources, editor Richard Hughes was writing all or almost all of the stories, which tended to be somewhat formulaic. There would be a problem, and a man would be sent to investigate (often a reporter) and his gf/wife would insist on going. (Hughes women had moxie.) They would find and solve said problem by working together. If they weren't married at the beginning, they were engaged by the end.
Needless to say, no one would die, especially the innocent. It was harmless adventure/romance more than suspense, and the supernatural/SF elements (when they existed) weren't especially frightening. The formula wasn't used in every story, but it happened enough for the casual reader to notice a pattern.
The fluffiness was underscored by the adoption of a bland house style that seemed to me to aping Ogden Whitney, who did all the covers. There are elements of Pete Costanza, too, which makes me think both are lifting from a similar source.
Which is not to say that the stories aren't well crafted -- they are. And they're mildly entertaining. Just don't expect any real excitement.
Since the Code was created in response to the 1954 Senate hearings and the environment that followed them, it might be worth looking for changes in the content before its adoption. Wikipedia says the Senate hearings were in late April and early June. According to DC Indexes Adventures into the Unknown #58 went on sale in June.
A lot of horror titles, including EC's, ended in Aug./Sep./Oct., which might mean distributors started refusing to take them. Prize's Black Magic, produced by Simon and Kirby, was one of the casualties. Frankenstein ended the same month, but it had gore content. My guess is at that point just the Black Magic name was too much. At ACG Out of the Night ended and Forbidden Worlds went on hiatus in August. The sole issue of The Clutching Hand appeared before that, in May.
The companies that continued to publish horror titles through the Code's introduction were DC (in the form of House of Mystery), ACG (in the form of Adventures into the Unknown) and Marvel. DC had its own distributor, Independent News. ACG was distributed by Independent News. Martin Goodman had his own distributor.
The Code is dated as adopted Oct. 26, 1954. In on-sale terms the seal first appeared on some issues in Dec., and on many from Jan. 1955.
DC'S pre-Code horror wasn't very horrible. I've read they didn't have to make many changes.
The maid killing the six inch girl idea was parodied in Not Brand Echh! when Aunt May swatted the Wisp, who had just married Spidey-Man, thinking she was a bug.
Dell had three long-running titles with Indian stars in the 1950s. In the period Dell’s line was produced by Western, which also held the licenses the line used and apparently the copyright on the stories. Their arrangement ended in 1962.
Tonto starred in 33 Dell issues; first an issue of Four Color(1) in 1950, then in a series that ran from 1951 to 1958 that was titled Tonto for an issue and The Lone Ranger’s Companion Tonto thereafter.(2) When a Four Color feature got a series Dell usually counted its Four Color issues in its numbering, so the Tonto issue was #2. Tonto also appeared in solo stories in The Lone Ranger's Western Treasury #1-#2.
Dell’s Indian Chief told stories of Indians before white colonisation. The series first appeared in Four Color #290 in 1950 as The Chief. The Chief #2 followed in 1951, and the title then became Indian Chief, under which name the comic continued to 1959. For more on this series see below.
Turok, Son of Stone was published by Dell for 29 issues, first in issues of Four Color in 1954 and 1955, then in its own series from the start of 1956. After the split Western continued the title under its Gold Key imprint to #130 in 1982.
Dell also published many stories starring Little Beaver from the Red Ryder newspaper strip. These appeared in Red Ryder Comics/Red Ryder Ranch Comics, in 12 “Little Beaver” issues of Four Color, and 6 issues of Little Beaver.
Dell also published other comics licensed from TV shows with Indian heroes in Four Color, including Brave Eagle (for 5 issues), Broken Arrow (for 2 issues), and Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans (for 1). The hero of the show Cheyenne was a white man who had lived among the Cheyenne from ten to eighteen. After 3 Four Colors he graduated to his own title for a further 22 issues. Four Color also did an adaptation of the Disney movie Tonka, which was later reprinted with the title changed to Comanche to match the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color version.
Finally, Dell published a one-shot called Famous Indian Tribes in 1962. The issue was devoted to the Sioux, so I assume the plan was to cover other tribes in succeeding issues if sales were strong. Dell reprinted the issue in 1972, so apparently it was an early Dell-produced issue, rather than a late Western-produced one.
The GCD has synopses for the stories from the Four Color issue which show the series started as an anthology of stories linked by the character of the Chief War Eagle. It doesn't list him as having appeared again, except in the text story in The Lone Ranger #31 if that's the same character. War Eagle was a Pawnee, but the series quickly started telling stories about other nations also. A story about a cross-nation marriage between a man called White Wolf and a woman called Moon Maiden in #2 had a sequel in #3. From #3 the issues usually carried only two stories.
#12 introduced a series hero, a Sioux called Chief White Eagle. #15 introduced a series character for the second slot called Red Wing, who was a Navaho and son of a chief. In #15 they got equal pages, but from #16 “White Eagle” got over 20 and “Red Wing” 10. From #30 “Red Wing” was replaced by a series set in prehistoric America with a young protagonist. He was initially called U-Lan, but renamed Red Wing in-story in #31.
Alberto Giolitti and John Buscema both contributed art. Buscema was the artist of the U-Lan/Red Wing II series.
The GCD's Indexer Notes for three of the stories from The Chief #2 and five from later issues quote Gaylord Du Bois’s entries on them from his account books. These show he sent those ones in Feb.-May. 1950.(3) He refers to them as “For War Eagle”, which suggests that was the original planned title. So apparently Western had Du Bois write inventory scripts, and sometimes stored them for years.(4)
According to the GCD the series also appeared in Western's giveaway comic March of Comics. It's clear from the GCD the series often ran original stories. I don't know if it ever ran reprints.(5) Stories from several of the issues have Indexer Notes showing they were also part of the original "War Eagle" group. One, from #110 was the unused beginning of the White Wolf/Moon Maiden series.(6)
The GCD only lists Turok as appearing in March of Comics in the 1970s, but not every issue has been indexed. In the decade also Western reprinted two of the Dell Indian Chief stories alongside a number of Turok ones in Golden Comics Digest #31.
(1) To my surprise Four Color issues used their feature’s title in the indicia, so arguably they're the proper titles. The line “Four Color Comic” appeared on the covers below the price from #19 of Series I to #101 of Series II, skipping Series II #100. Dell must've had some way of referring to the series internally, but I don't know what it was. I've used Four Color as the series name because the GCD does.
(2) My theory is the title was the model for Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen and Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane. Dell also gave Silver a series, titled The Lone Ranger's Famous Horse Hi-Yo Silver.
(3) In some cases the record, as set down at the GCD, includes the note "(synopsis)". The quotes at the GCD are from transcriptions made by Randall W. Scott. My guess is these notes record the presence of a synopsis in the account book Mr Scott didn't transcribe.
(4) In two of the cases Du Bois sent extra pages in October saying "For The Chief". "White Wolf Trails the Pack" from #3 was written as 16 pages. 2 were added, but it appeared as 16, so either they weren't used or Du Buis listed rewritten pages this way. "White Owl--Black Fish" from #4 was written as 10. 6 were added, and it appeared as 16.
(5) Judging by the synopses "Rescue from the Sun King" from March of Comics #170 was a rewritten version of "The Captive of the Mountain Makers" from The Chief #2. In the March of Comics version the hero was changed to White Eagle and the heroine's name kept the same. Also compare the synopsis of "Sacrifice to the Morning Star" from Indian Chief #7.
(6) The Indexer notes the story was sent as 14 pages and appeared as 28 because March of Comics split standard pages in half. He also quotes a 1953 note which refers to adding "10/2" pages to the story "For Roy Rogers Comics, stock", which might be a mistake in the original listing or the transcription.
The Notes for "The Black Stone" in #127 quote the account books as saying "For War Eagle. Sent February 3, 1953." The "For War Eagle" might indicate that should be Feb. 3 1950.
This revised post displaced the thread THE BUTTON - BATMAN/FLASH CROSSOVER - - SPOILERS from the homepage.
Wikipedia's page on Gaylord Du Bois notes a feature I missed called "Young Hawk", which had a long run as the back-up feature in The Lone Ranger. According to the GCD it first appeared in New Funnies #65-#67 in 1942.(1) It also lists an appearance in Red Ryder Comics #33 in 1946. In The Lone Ranger it appeared from #11 (1949) to the last issue, #145 (1962), a run of 13 years. Western didn't start publishing The Lone Ranger until 1964, restarted the numbering, and didn't use the feature.
In its The Lone Ranger phase the feature was about the adventures of young braves named Young Eagle and Little Buck. Du Bois's Wikipedia page says they were the models for Turok and Andar from Turok, Son of Stone, and the other feature grew out of a planned Young Eagle "one-shot". Presumably that would have been an issue of Four Color. This ERBzine article compares the two features in passing.
(1) The Wikipedia page says it appeared in The Funnies first. The discrepancy seems to be due to a disagreement over whether #65 was the last issue of The Funnies or the first issue of New Funnies. The GCD's page on The Lone Ranger #11 calls it an issue of "The Funnies", but the database records it as an issue of New Funnies.
Indian Chief #33 (Dell, 1959)
Counting The Chief #2 the ongoing Indian Chief title ran for 32 issues on a quarterly schedule, or eight years.
For this issue only John Buscema drew both stories. The GCD credits him with both the pencils and inks, but that might not be correct. The art of the second story is tight and slick, very like Russ Manning. The opening story has a rougher look. Perhaps the stories weren’t done close together, or the first story had to be rushed.
“White Eagle”: “The Earth Trembles”
The story opens at an Indian trade fair. The Sioux chief assists a tribal outcast who is being bullied by a Cheyenne brave. Angered, the brave challenges White Eagle to a wrestling match. When White Eagle wins the brave attempts to stab him, but the outcast intervenes.
White Eagle asks the outcast about himself. He says his name is Kima, and his people are the Modocs, who live at the foot of a volcano. Their chief is Voka. Each year he chooses the bravest youth and sends him to do battle with the Fire God as a test of courage. None has ever returned, so when Kima was chosen he refused, and his tribe saw this as cowardice and drove him away.
White Eagle offers to help the Modoc rejoin his tribe, and Kima accepts. The journey is a long one, through hostile territory. They come to a place where the rivers flow west, which White Eagle has not seen before. Finally, they sight the smoke from the volcano.
The pair are spotted by Modoc and his men. They attack White Eagle and Kima and take them prisoner. Voka declares the recent activity of the volcano is due to the anger of the Fire God, and Kima must redeem himself by facing him in battle. White Eagle declares he will go with him…
White Eagle is a man in the prime of life rather than an elderly chief. He’s depicted as noble and a capable fighter. He wears two feathers rather than a war bonnet.
Buscema’s art lifts the story up, but the art is sloppy in places and on the last two pages not up to depicting the upheaval the captions describe. On the opening pages the drawing has more detail and lacks the sloppy element, so it may be Buscema (or his inker, if it wasn't him) really was rushed. The Indian costumes in the trade fair portion look authentic, but I don’t have the knowledge to say how accurate they are.
The story’s big twist is easy to see coming. At the end Voka is exiled. Given what he's done he gets off lightly.
“Red Wing Son of the Chief”: “Fangs of Fury”
The First People are hunting bison. Red Wing’s group has been assigned the job of scaring the bison towards the hunters, but before they can act the beasts catch the scent of a pack of wolves and stampede the wrong way. Red Wing manages to slow one down, and the tribe surrounds and kills it.
The smell of the dead bison attracts the wolves. The tribesmen manage to drive them off, but not before they’ve taken their fill of the meat. The humans decide the hunting grounds are not big enough for them and the pack. They track it to its lair. Red Wing suggests collapsing a ledge upon them, and the scheme succeeds. Some of the wolves get away. Red Wing spots a young one with an injured leg. He’s impressed by its courage, and asks his father to let him keep it…
In its caveman phase the back-up strip used the same feature title as before. Buscema dresses the First People in caveman costumes. The story follows a standard path - the Dell-Western vice, I suppose - but Buscema’s art is really classy.
Red Wing’s method of attacking a bison involves leaping upon it to spear it, which strikes me as bad technique. In the bison sequence Buscema depicts the grass and a tree, but otherwise the First People spend their time in rocky mountains. It occurred to me recently that the terrain is always barren in prehistoric stories. You’d think dawn men might’ve preferred to live where there was water, wood and game.
The inside back cover has a non-fiction one-pager about ancient walls in the Baboquivari mountains in Arizona.
The text story concerns rivalry between two plains Indians. White Horse is his tribe's greatest bison hunter, but a young brave called Red Dog has managed to best him...
According to DC Indexes the issue went on sale in Dec. 1958.
Indian Chief #4 (Dell, 1951)
This issue has two stories, both drawn by Alberto Giolitti. Giolitti was from Italy. He did a lot of stories for the Western-produced Dell titles, and further work for Western after he went back to Italy and founded a studio. Some reading this may be familiar with his work from the Gold Key Star Trek.
His work in this issue is in a realistic style and shows his skill as a draughtsman. The Indian costumes are particularly well-drawn.
The stories are tales of Indian life without recurring characters. They both follow interesting paths getting to their destinations.
"White Owl---Black Fish"
A deaf Indian called Nolmi is a good hunter and in love with the daughter of his chief, who has a crippled foot. His people are called the Micmacs. Due to his deafness he does not know his tribe considers white owls medicine birds, and shoots one he sees resting on the chief's tipi.(1) This makes the chief furious. After yelling at Nolmi he gives the owl a funeral to appease its spirit.
Out hunting, Nolmi shoots an arrow at a squirrel and misses. The arrow carries to the village, where it happens to hit a visiting Passamaquoddy chief on the head. His people are furious and say this will mean war.
Nolmi's people know it's his arrow from its markings, and seize him when he returns to the village. When he learns what he has done he wishes to atone. He offers to go the Passamaquoddy village and offer his life in exchange for the injury...
This story was written by Gaylord Du Bois. It's one of those for which the GCD quotes listings from his account books. It was originally written as 10 pages and sent in Apr. 1950 "for War Eagle, stock". In Oct. he expanded it by an extra 6 pages for "The Chief, stock".
I've been trying to figure out how Du Bois added pages. I can't see it could have been done without some rewriting of the original pages. For example, the sequence where Higon fetches Mah-Leet and she forces Nolmi to take them with him on his journey (pp.12-13) is paced differently to the rest of the story, and likely an addition. But if so, the later pages have been rewritten to add her. If existing parts of the story were rewritten it may be the story was partly expanded by the expansion of existing sequences.
I think we can be sure the missing hare panel and the porcupine sequence (p.5 panels 3-6-p.6) were additions, as the rest of the story doesn't build on them. If Nolmi originally left Higon behind as on p.11 I think there was probably a short sequence where the dog forced his way into the canoe. If Du Bois rewrote pp.14-16 to add Mah-Leet he may have dropped those panels and added others to replace them.
A young man named Silver Fox is the son of a Spokane chief. He insists on taking a meal to his cousin Strong Bow, who has been injured by a white bear. The shaman has ordered Strong Bow to fast, but Silver Fox believes he is out to make sure no-one else will acquire a white bear robe like the one the shaman has.
Due to the shaman's opposition Silver Fox has to take Strong Bow away from the camp so he can feed and get better. When he returns he finds his father has died. The shaman claims to receive a vision revealing Strong Bow killed the chief with witchcraft and the next chief will wear a white bear robe. By the law of the Spokane it is Silver Fox's duty to kill his cousin to avenge his father...
This story has more action and violence than the first one. The deception aspect of the plot is like a 1950s DC comic's, but how the story ends is definitely not!
The GCD doesn't have a guess as to the writer. If Du Bois's account books are complete for this period it presumably wasn't him.
The text story is called "The Cayman" and occupies the inside front and back covers. Atlantic islanders have been losing men to a cayman. Their chief has a risky plan to kill it.
The back cover has an image of An Old Time Plains Fight by Frederick Remington, with a caption that briefly explains the subject.
(1) The narration calls it a wigwam, but the net tells me that's a different type of structure.
(2) As the story stands p.6 panel 6 leads into p.7 panel 1. But the dialogue from p.6 panel 6 would fit a panel with different action placed after p.5 panel 2 if the "however" were absent.
If you'd rather read the issues, they can be found Comic Book Plus, along with some of the "Indian Chief" issues of March of Comics.
Indian Chief #33 story conclusions
“White Eagle”: “The Earth Trembles” (spoiler warning)
Voka, as you may have guessed, has been using the fire god story to get rid of potential rivals. He and his men accompany White Eagle and Kima up the mountain, seize and bind them at the top, and leave them to die. White Eagle burns through his bonds on one of the rocks, and he and Kima escape to expose Voka and warn the village a lava flow is coming. The upheavals destroy the mountain and Kima becomes the new chief.
The cover seems to depict White Eagle. It doesn't show a scene from the story, but has semi-parallels to it. The implication of the cover is the guy with the brand has fired the village. In the story (1) White Eagle wrestles the Cheyanne brave (2) Voka dresses somewhat like the cover villain (3) White Eagle fights him (but they don't wrestle; Voka is an older man) (4) the Modoc village is destroyed by lava.
“Red Wing Son of the Chief”: “Fangs of Fury” (spoiler warning)
Red Wing calls the wolf Fang, and domesticates him. Fang demonstrates his usefulness in hunting, and warns the First People when the wolf pack approaches their cave while they're sleeping. He has an opportunity to return to the wolf pack but elects to stay with the First People.
Indian Chief #4 story conclusions
"White Owl---Black Fish" (spoiler warning)
Nolmi sends the chief's daughter to fetch the peace-offering he intended for her father, and departs while she's doing this. His dog Higon fetches her, and she and the dog jump into the bay to force him to take them with him. As they cross the bay they spot a pod of blackfish (pilot whales) being pursued by killer whales. Nolmi gets the idea of chasing the blackfish onto the shore for the Passamaquoddy. The chief is grateful and rewards him.
"Vengeance" (spoiler warning)
Silver Fox can't bring himself to kill Strong Bow. But Strong Bow tries to talk him into it, so the shaman and his men seize Strong Bow and sell him to the Chinook as a slave. Silver Fox follows their traces, but the Chinook prove hostile. He tries to sneak into their village at night, but is captured and deposited in the slave lodge. He and Strong Bow get away, and escape their pursuers. (Strong Bow spears one. As I said, this is a more violent story than the other.) They decide to go after the white bear to get a white bear robe of their own, and kill it. The next day Silver Fox presents himself in the skin, wearing the bear's head as a cowl, while the Spokane are discussing making the shaman chief. They mistake him for the bear god, and he denounces the shaman and forces him to confess. Then he reveals himself, and he and the shaman fight with knives. Silver Fox stabs the shaman in the heart and is proclaimed the new chief.