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.
Crack Western #63 (Quality, 1949)
Crack Comics was converted into a Western with this issue. My guess is Quality was imitating DC, which had converted All-American Comics into All-American Western the previous year. DC also converted All Star Comics into All Star Western, but not until 1951.
DC introduced Johnny Thunder in All-American Comics #100, a few issues before it changed the title and the rest of the line-up with #103. Crack Western #63's line-up was wholly new.
The cover features Arizona Ames, and was drawn by his feature's artist, Paul Gustavson. Some later issues had photographic covers, and Reed Crandall also did a number.
"Arizona Ames": "War of the Renegade Rails!"
Arizona and Spurs help out railroaders constructing a line. They're in a race to reach a pass first, and their rival is resorting to violent means to stop them.
The hero of this feature is a tricky gunslinger who roams the West with a boy called Spurs helping out deserving underdogs. He's cheerful, tall and broad-shouldered, and has ginger hair. He was usually costumed in a red shirt. Spurs is plucky and loyal, and wears a large hat and black vest. He's a handy sidekick, but was also used for comic relief.
Arizona started as Arizona Ames and was renamed Arizona Raines in #66. He held the lead slot throughout the title's run. Only a couple of the non-photographic covers featured other heroes. The feature was the title's liveliest and best. Apparently Quality thought so too, as Arizona appeared in two stories each issue from #69-#73 and also featured in the text stories up to #69. Spurs only appears in the first and last text ones.
I think Arizona was modelled after Red Ryder, who also wore a red shirt and was likewise tall and ginger-haired. Ryder had a kid sidekick too - an Indian boy named Little Beaver - and both heroes' horses were named Thunder. But the features were unlike each other otherwise. Ryder was a craggy-faced, realistic hero with a steady girlfriend. He ranched and worked as a guide. Arizona is handsome and larger than life, a gunslinger rather than a cowboy.(1) He often wins the admiration of an attractive woman through his exploits, but means to not settle down.
In this instalment Arizona calls Spurs his nephew. Later he was his partner. Arizona also won't let him carry a gun, whereas later he did.
Paul Gustavson drew the series throughout its run. The GCD also credits him with the writing of most instalments, but that might be a mistake. The exceptions are the two stories from #73, the scripts of which it attributes to William Woolfolk. These ascriptions are from entries in Woolfolk's record books which Martin O'Hearn has transcribed and annotated at his blog. The records indicate Woolfolk also wrote the Raines story and text story in #68. Presumably we may take it Woolfolk didn't do any more of the stories or they'd be listed too. But since Gustavson didn't write those instalments it may be he didn't write the feature normally. On the other hand, it could be he didn't have time to write scripts for those, or the editor wanted to try someone else.
This instalment is well-written. It has a similar plot to the "Frontier Marshal" story, but also interesting characterisation and humour, which the other story lacks. The cover scene happens in the story, but scene in the splash panel doesn't!
(1) In the first text story he tells Spurs they need to get riding (cowboy) jobs, and the second has him working on a ranch. The comics stories don't say he makes his living by his gun but he's not shown doing any other work. Possibly he lives off reward money.
Lil Peters is a sheriff's daughter who has been attending college in Boston. She receives a telegram from the deputy saying her father has been bushwacked, and returns home with the intention of catching her father's killer.
Lil's father taught her to shoot when she was still playing with dolls. She doesn't have much trouble figuring out who was behind his murder, as he gives himself away, or obtaining proof, as he and his men attempt to murderer her.
The GCD currently attributes the script to Joe Millard and the pencils to Charles Sultan.
Lil's origin shares some common ground with Corsair Queen's from Buccaneers #25, which the GCD says was also written by Joe Millard. Both heroines determine to avenge their murdered fathers. But the seafaring heroine was both more non-conformist and more driven. Corsair Queen was a Batman of the seas. In this story it's not obvious Lil means to continue fighting crime after she captures her father's killer's until the twist at the story's end.
At the end of the instalment the townspeople mean to elect her sheriff. I thought the subsequent instalments would be her adventures as a sheriff, but in the ones I've read so far she's instead a roving adventurer. The instalment in #72 says works on her own ranch between adventures.
"Dead Canyon Days": "The Battle of the Paper Bullets!"
At the end of the Civil War a Confederate cavalryman heads West to start a newspaper. He saves a rancher and his daughter from a gang that's trying to force them off their ranch and settles in the nearby town of Dead Canyon. He uses his paper to challenge the range bullies. But they mean to force a showdown, and he has no ability to fast draw...
This story was drawn by Reed Crandall. It lacks humour and isn't colourful until the climax, when the hero defeats the villains in an interesting way.
"Frontier Marshall": "The Golden Ghost!"
A band of miners send for a marshal when rival miners wreck their flume.
The GCD credits the pencils to Harry Anderson. This is another humourless story, but it's more colourfully plotted than the "Dead Canyon Days" one, albeit with a straight action finish.
The text story is an Arizona Ames tale titled "Gun Trouble". Arizona and Spurs catch some rustlers.
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Crack Western #64 (Quality, 1950)
Arizona helps take down a crooked town boss.
Thunder saves Arizona in this one. The fight sequence that follows reminds me of Rob's account here of the opening of Warlord #2 .
The GCD ascribes the pencils and inks of all the instalments to Gustavson. It look to me like the instalments weren't all inked by the same party, but I do believe Gustavson did all the pencils.
The cover is again an Arizona Ames cover by Gustavson matched to the story, but it doesn't show a scene from it like last issue's. The splash panel is a variation on the same idea without the babe.
"Two-Gun Lil": "The Forbidden Star!"
Lil arrives in a town which has a sign on the jail that says "Who dares wear this!" and has a star pinned to it. She asks what it means and is told the town card sharp kills anyone who tries to act as the town's law officer. He means to turn the town into an outlaw capital. Lil takes the challenge.
In this instalment Lil walks into a trap, but she has an ace in the hole. She seems to enjoy fighting bad-hats.
The GCD tentatively credits the art to Leo Morey on the basis of Jerry Bails's Who's Who. I'm not familiar with his style so I can't comment on this.
"Dead Canyon Days": "The Fighting Wreck!"
A frail tenderfoot arrives in Dead Canyon and is befriended by the sheriff.
I thought this series was going to recurringly feature the editor from the first instalment, but instead it's a series of independent tales set in Dead Canyon. This instalment is a familiar story, but likeably done.
The pencils were again by Reed Crandall, but the GCD leaves the inks open.
Allen is warned that a villainous rancher has offered a reward for his death.
Allen is a colourless hero, but this instalment is more fun than last issue's as it's more playfully written. Allen overcomes the odds using trickery.
The art has a distinctive naïve element. The GCD doesn't know the artist, but the more I look at it the more I'm convinced it was John Forte.
In the text story Arizona exposes a bandit who's been holding up stages. His method doesn't sound workable to me. (If he lavished on enough paint to show around the bullet holes, wouldn't the paint have fouled up the gun?)
Blazing Western #1 (Timor, 1954)
The GCD ascribes the cover to Bernard Baily. Some of his horror covers are striking, but I find this one plain and unexciting.
"Inheritance of Death!"
A young man's money is controlled by his uncle, but he is about to reach his 21st birthday. His uncle means to have him killed so he can keep it. Brad Payne and Pappy Day help the young man out.
Payne is a gunslinger hero with a quick mind who wears dark blue. (Probably blue-for-black, but the Utah Kid's costume in the next story is darker.) His partner Pappy is an older man who's useful in a fight and also the comic relief. They're an entertaining pair. The story is ordinary, but the storytelling is good. The GCD says the artist was Hy Fleishman. His art is like a cross between John Severin's and Dick Ayers's.
Payne and Pappy were evidently intended as series characters, but they didn't appear again in this title. The opening blurb refers to them as locking horns with crime "Once again", which could mean they'd appeared previously, but a GCD search didn't find another appearance. Several instances of Pappy's name show relettering, but I can't see signs of that in Payne's case.
(The Utah Kid): "Range War!"
The Utah Kid and Golden Eagle come upon a community with a poisoned water hole, and cattle herders and sheep men close to war.
The Utah Kid wears black and a red kerchief. The "Utah" part of the Kid's name has obviously been relettered, as the GCD notes. The site compares the hero to Marvel's Ringo Kid, but notes he had yet to appear. They are visually quite similar. The story recurringly calls the Kid a law man, but we're not told what position he holds.
The story's artist was Steve Ditko. His signature style was already present. His use of shadows makes a fair part of the story look like it's taking place at night. He hangs "I am evil" signs on the villain.
The Utah Kid also appeared in Blazing Western #2-#4, but this was the only instalment drawn by Ditko. In #2 and #3 the Kid appears alone, but in #4 he's partnered with Golden Eagle again. #2 also has a story called "Lawless Town" with characters called Dade McQueen and Running Bear who seem to be the Utah Kid and Golden Eagle under different names. But the "Utah" part of the Kid's name is relettered so clumsily in the present tale it's clear the "Kid" part and Golden Eagle's name haven't been, so "Dade McQueen" wasn't the name that was replaced. I'll have more to say about this in my next review.
The ending reads like the end of a Lee/Ditko short tale.
Silver isn't a magnetic ore.
This is an account of the Siege of the Alamo, done in an imitation EC style. It reads well, but everyone dies at the end.
The GCD lists the art as signed by Vince Fodera. (The box in the second panel has the lettering "Foderas".) It's a little sloppy, but has vigor.
At a potlatch some chieftains advocate war against the whites. A cavalry scout is sent on a mission to secure peace.
The GCD attributes the art to Bill Discount. It's simplified and slightly stiff, with an Alex Toth influence in the layouts. The writing style reminds me strongly of Joe Gill's.
The text story is a tale about Indians before white arrival. It has a sci-fi element that makes it worth a look.
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Did every state west of the Mississippi River have their own cowboy?
Only about half, as some states hogged them. Here's what I found at the GCD:
ARIZONA: Arizona Kid (Dell); Arizona (Ultem); Arizona the Flying Cowboy (Hawley); Arizona Annie (Marvel); Arizona Ames/Raines (Quality); the Arizona Kid (Marvel); Arizona Steve Coy (Story Comics)
COLORADO: Colorado Kid (UK: L. Miller & Son)
THE DAKOTAS: the Dakota Kid (Marvel)
IDAHO: Idaho (Dell)
KANSAS: Kansas Kid (UK: Amalgamated Press/IPC)
MISSOURI: the Missourian (AC)
MONTANA: Two Gun Montana (Dell); Kid Montana (Charlton); the Montana Kid (UK: Atlas Publishing)
NEVADA: Nevada Jones (Archie); Billy Nevada (Skywald; rename of Toby's Billy the Kid)
OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma Kid (Farrell)
TEXAS: Texas Kid (Dell): Texas Tyler (Brookwood); Texas Tim (ACG); Texas Kid (Marvel); Kid from Texas (Marvel); Texas John Slaughter (Dell; a Disney TV hero based on a historical figure); Texas Jack (UK: IPC)
UTAH: Utah Kid (Timor)
WYOMING: the Wyoming Kid (DC)
I've only included American and British characters. Italy has a long-running comic called Tex. I excluded purely comic features, including reprints of Texas Slim and Dirty Dalton. Hawaii got private eyes instead.
No cowboys for the West Coast, huh?
Oh well, at least California had Zorro!
And Seattle has Green Arrow!
Does seem weird there's no California Kid or Sacramento Kid or something.
I didn't check for cities or supporting characters. Sacramento would be a good name for a girlfriend or sidekick. ("Darned if I can tell, Sacramento! We'd best mosey on down...")
Blazing Western #2 (Timor, 1954)
This issue's cover was by Vince Fodera. The GCD's credit was a surprise to me: I thought it was by Bob Powell. But as the GCD points out it's signed, on the check of the tablecloth. It's a much more exciting cover than last issue's, with lots of detail.
(Kid Utah): "The White Redskin"
The Utah Kid convinces an Indian chief called Sashatu to agree to a truce. But evil whites scheme to restart the war.
Sashatu is noble, and he and the Utah Kid come to regard each other as brothers. But the title is racist: what's "white" about Sashatu is how noble he proves to be. There's a tragic element in the story's conclusion.
Once again the "Utah" in the Utah Kid's name has obviously been relettered. My theory is the name was changed because the one Timor first meant to use was already in use.
As in his other stories the Kid wears black, and his face here resembles Ditko's version's. But in the story he's not called a law man and doesn't act as one, and Golden Eagle doesn't appear. So perhaps when the story was scripted the protagonist wasn't supposed to be the Utah Kid, and the editor changed that because he saw it as a strong tale.
Like "Potlatch!" this story and "Redskin Justice" below might by Joe Gill. He had the same basic characterisation and plotting approach, and their moral outlook is like his.
The art is Charlton-ish. The GCD tentatively attributes it to Everett E. Hughes.
A criminal steals the warrant a sheriff needs to raid an outlaw town. He uses it to blackmail the outlaws in the town into sharing their takes with him and following his orders. He initiates a crime wave.
As I noted in my last review, the heroes of this story seem to be the Utah Kid and Golden Eagle under other names. The artist drew Dade McQueen as wearing all black, like the Kid, but the colourist coloured the highlights red instead of blue. The trope of a hero partnered with an Indian comes from The Lone Ranger, and is an indication this story was meant as an instalment of a feature rather than a one-off story.
However, McQueen's and Running Bear's names don't look relettered. What's more, the title appears twice, as a "Lawless Town" at the top of the splash page and "The Lawless Town!" in the opening caption. This is a mark of the replacement of a logo, as I noted in my review of Voodoo #1 on p.19. But the Utah Kid stories don't have logos.
My first theory was the editor changed the heroes' names in the script because he wanted "The White Redskin" to be the issue's Utah Kid story instead. But that doesn't explain the logo tell.
The title of "Range War!" in #1 is also placed at the top of the page. So it could be that story originally had one rather than a title. But the splash of "The White Redskin" doesn't have space for a logo, and the end of the story refers back to its title, so in its case the title can't have replaced one.
The explanation might lie with the art, which was by Jack Petrazzo. (The GCD notes it's signed. His signature is on the bottom left of the splash panel.) It's an odd mix, as it's simultaneously muddy-clumsy and stylish. I quite like it, but it's not art you'd want on a lead feature. We only get one clear look at the hero's face: p.1, panel 2.
So maybe the art came in, the editor decided he couldn't use the story as-was, and he had the names changed in the script before he sent the story to be lettered.(1) Or, if the Ditko story was done first, he may have felt the heroes were too off-model. Golden Eagle has a mohawk, while Running Bear has long hair. McQueen doesn't have the Utah Kid's long face p.1 (but you could argue he does p.5).
If this story was done first it could be the feature was originally going to be "The Something Kid", but the hero was going to be Dade McQueen in-story. (I can't imagine a 1950s feature called "Dade McQueen".) This story was thought not good enough, and the Ditko story was the second try. The second time the hero was called the Something Kid in-story, but then the name issue came up. Somewhere along the way a decision to not use a feature logo was taken. I don't like resorting to an elaborate theory, but this would explain everything.
Cavalrymen fighting an Indian war find a Cree man in the desert. One almost shoots him, but their lieutenant saves him, and brings him with them out of the desert. His men protest this, as they think Indians can't be trusted. Are they right?
This is another Charlton-ish story. The GCD again tentatively attributes the art to Eugene E. Hughes. The story has a sting at its end I didn't anticipate.
"The Mark of the Gunfighter"
This tale is a close imitation of Shane, with a framing story about a boy who wants to be a gunslinger. The movie was released in mid-1953.
This is another story I think may have been written by Joe Gill. The prose style remind me of his, and the anti-violence outlook of "The White Redskin" is again present.
The GCD doesn't know who drew the story, but it has the issue's best interior art. Not good enough for DC perhaps, but similar in approach (well-lit panels, clear pictures, detailed backgrounds). But the story is more violent than a DC tale.
In the text story a lawman catches up with an outlaw on the run who's just gotten married.
(1) At Marvel in the 1960s the stories were lettered before they were inked. I don't know what the normal practice was earlier. Pencillers were often expected to letter the script on the art, so penciller-inkers could have inked the balloon borders. Or it may be companies used the pencil-letter-ink system, and penciller-inkers would send their work off for lettering after pencilling and get it back and do the inking.
It's hard to imagine someone other than the penciller having inked this story's idiosyncratic art, but I suppose it could be the pencils were merely clumsy and the stylish element was added by the inker.
To my surprise Blazing West #3 has the key to the puzzles I talked about in my last post: it has another Dade McQueen story! It seems evident "The White Redskin" was originally going to be a Dade McQueen tale, and the editor switched the heroes' names in the McQueen and Utah Kid stories. McQueen is like the version of the Utah Kid in "The White Redskin" in that he has the same features, doesn't have a partner, and isn't a lawman. The McQueen story doesn't have a feature logo, so I wasn't wrong to think it unlikely "Dade McQueen" was a feature name.
In #3 McQueen wears a tassel jacket and neckerchief. "The White Redskin" dressed the Utah Kid in an open-necked black shirt and pendant. Possibly his costume was changed in the inking.
I made a mistake in my review of Blazing West #1, as in the "Utah Kid" story in #3 the hero's Indian partner does appear, only he's called Running Bear instead of Golden Eagle. That's not why I missed him. I just overlooked him.
My best explanation of "Outlaw Town"'s logo tell is the story was pencilled before a decision was taken to not use a logo on the feature, and space was left at the top of the page for it, as could also be the case with the Utah Kid story from #1.
Treasure Comics #1 (Prize, 1945)
This issue is unusual for its period in that it has no superhero features. Later issues included adventures of a Phantom Stranger-ish hero called Dr Styx.
What the publisher was going for is a bit mystifying. The above-title blurb calls the issue "action-packed", but it has comparatively little action. I thought perhaps the title was intended as a family comic, but Dr Styx's presence in later issues might disprove that.
The cover depicts characters from the various features. The GCD tentatively ascribes it to August Froehlich.
"Paul Bunyan": "The Frozen Mississippi!"
An elderly lumberman tells his compatriots a tale about how Bunyan assisted some Minnesota lumbermen when the Mississippi froze over.
This story is in the style of a wild tall tale. I can't tell if the author used an existing story or made up his own. The story is solidly-drawn, but doesn't have much to offer a reader who isn't a fan of tall tales. The GCD ascribes the art to August Froehlich.
"Carrot Topp": "A Wizard of High Finance"
Carrot tries to establish a business selling used airplanes.
This is a series about a teen, drawn in a bigfoot style. The artist's cartooning is OK, although his handling of Carrot's love-interest is a bit odd, but the writing lacks wit. The GCD identifies the artist as Lit-Win.
"Know Your America"
This is a short account of the career of Columbus. The art is signed and by Manny Stallman.
"The Highwayman": "Stand and Deliver!"
This is a historical story, set in England in the 17th century. Guy Blanding's property has been confiscated by the Roundheads. He raids his former house with some associates, but his identity is exposed. He befriends a highwayman and promises him a royal pardon in return for his assistance sending word to Charles II that his return has been prepared.
It's not clear that this story was intended as an instalment of the series: Blanding is the hero rather than the Highwayman, and this was the only instalment.
The artist was Henry Kiefer. I think I could enjoy a series by him set in this period, as the period costumes look right (not that I'd know), but this story isn't well thought-out: why does Blanding raid his former estate if Charles II's return has already been prepared? The action is also uninteresting.
Returning from the East Marco Polo is captured by Barbary pirates and enslaved in a galley. He entertains the other galley-slaves with stories of his travels.
Marco's story involves escape and magic at its climax, but we learn on the final page he mixed truth and falsehood. The sorceress's costume is surprisingly brief.
The GCD ascribes the art to John Giunta, pencils, and Frank Frazetta, inks. Giunta's art can be stylish, and this story has a particularly strong second page. Possibly the credit for its stylishness should go to Frazetta.
In the text story a journalist solves a murder.