Quality's Crack Comics became Crack Western with #63. The new lead feature was "Arizona Ames", drawn by Paul Gustavson. In #66 the hero's surname was changed to Raines.

Arizona is a long-limbed adventurer who travels the West with his kid partner, Spurs, helping out people in trouble. Arizona is even-tempered and smart, and a skilled fighter and shooter. Spurs is his able and eager assistant, and the comic relief. Arizona's horse is named Thunder, and Spurs's is Calico.

The feature appeared through the whole of the title's run, from #63-#84 (1949-1953). Arizona also appeared in some of the text stories. From #69-#73 there were two "Arizona Raines" stories each issue.

The series is my favourite feature from the Western boom. Arizona is likeable and larger than life, he and Spurs are a fun double act, and the stories are well-written, with action, humour and interesting plots.

The GCD credits the writing of most of the instalments to Gustavson. I don't know if that's correct. According to Martin O'Hearn William Woolfolk's records indicate he wrote the comic and text stories in Crack Western #68, and both the comics stories in Crack Western #73.

Arizona lead the comic for the whole of its run, and appeared on the majority of the covers. The exceptions were #71's (the Whip), #83's (Bob Allen), and five covers with Hollywood publicity photos. The drawn covers were by Gustavson or Reed Crandall.

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Crack Western #63

"Arizona Ames": "War of the Renegade Rails!"

Arizona and Spurs encounter a crew building a railway who are racing another line to a narrow pass which only has room for one line. The effort is being run by a woman named Kathy Dale as her father has been put in hospital by a train wreck arranged by the head of the other line, Mike Bates. Arizona has heard other bad things of Bates, and gets drawn into the struggle on Kathy's side when his men attempt to blow up her engine and line with a wagonload of dynamite.

This is a lively episode which gets the series off to a good start. Spurs has never seen a train before and mistakes his first one for a monster buffalo. Arizona's plan to stop the arrival of a wagonload of gunslingers accidentally kills them and nearly kills him. Spurs's improvisation helps save the day at the climax.

At this point Arizona wouldn't let Spurs have a gun. Rather than fearing Arizona will marry Kathy, Spurs is smitten with her and hopes he will.

The splash panel doesn't show an event from the story. The cover shows Arizona saving the train from the wagonload of dynamite.

Image from Comic Book Plus.

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Crack Western #63

text story: "Gun Trouble"

Arizona and Spurs spot and catch some calf rustlers. Spurs disobeys Arizona's orders to stay out of it; Arizona says he knew he would.

Interesting.

My monther-in-law's maiden name was Raines, and she lives in Arizona.

I hadn't thought much about why the hero's name was changed. It turns out Arizona Ames was the title of a Zane Grey novel. My guess is Quality got a complaint.

Crack Western #64

"Arizona Ames"

Arizona stops a lynching at a town called Cactus Ridge. The near-victim flees town without telling Arizona his side of things, but Arizona's actions earn him the friendship of the man's sister, Lolita, who performs at the saloon. She tells him the town is run by a man called Denn. His henchman orchestrated the lynching because her brother was talking about writing to the governor about Denn's crooked gambling racket. Denn schemes to murder Arizona and Lolita and make it look like they killed each other.

This story is less lively than the first one. Spurs doesn't have as much to do, and there's less humour.

In the first story Thunder saved Arizona's life off-panel. In this one he again gets him out of a sticky situation.

Spurs calls Arizona his partner. In the first story Arizona called him his nephew. #63's text story called him his ward.

The GCD credits the pencils and inks of all the instalments of the series to Gustavson. They don't all look the same to me, so I think there was likely some variation in who inked. Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr's index cards attribute the inks of this and some other instalments to Bill Ward. This instalment has a particularly Ward-ish look, and I think he inked the cover, too.

The cover and splash panel both have images of Arizona lassoing the villains. This doesn't happen in the tale. On the cover he has Lolita with him.

Image from Comic Book Plus.

Crack Western #64

text story: "Red for Danger"

While working as a ranch hand Arizona exposes a stagecoach robber. Spurs doesn't appear in this story.

Crack Western #65

"Arizona Ames"

Arizona and Spurs take part in a land run in Concho Valley. As Arizona stakes out a claim Spurs spots two thugs attempting to bully a former military man and his daughter off their claim next door. Arizona and Spurs run the thugs off. Their neighbours head for the land office to file their claim, but Arizona and Spurs leave this to the next morning. When they arrive they find the land office on fire...

Arizona takes part in the rush because he wants to prevent any land theft shenanigans. The land office is fired by the villain, Loft. Before the claimants can refile he and his men file new claims to the best land. Since the villains' land theft has a veneer of legality Arizona has to expose them, not just outfight them.

The Concho Valley is in Texas. I can't say if there were any land runs down that way, but land runs were a thing, and I like stories grounded in history or which depict real world villainy. The movie The Lady from Cheyenne (1941) is another depiction of land run shenanigans.

Spurs now carries a gun, and provides Arizona with crucial help at a couple of points. He rushes Arizona off at the end because the colonel's daughter, Lou, is setting her cap at him. Spurs calls Arizona his partner, and Arizona calls him his young friend.

The cover shows Arizona tackling Loft's men when they attempt to steal the colonel's claim. (The woman is Lou.) In the story Arizona tackles the guy in buckskins while Spurs holds the other guy at gunpoint.

Image from Comic Book Plus.

Crack Western #65

text story: "The Other Gun"

Arizona confronts an Eastern gangster who has gone West and is on the verge of becoming a town boss.

Crack Western #66

"Arizona Raines": "El Banditto!"

The Mexican leader of a border gang has been romancing an innkeeper's daughter for information. She tells him the route the stage coach will take and that it will be carrying a fortune in gold.

For a change the woman is involved with the villain rather than someone Arizona aids. Her motive is love rather than cupidity. The gang murders the driver and guard when it robs the stage, and it's indicated she's destined for jail at the end.

The villain uses her as a human shield when he thinks she's betrayed him, but she still loves him afterwards. Spurs is represented as hostile to romance, whereas he was clearly taken with Kathy in the first story.


Image from Comic Book Plus.

Crack Western #66

text story: "Action Stored Away"

A man pretends to be Arizona to lure a shop-owner's daughter into running away with him. Fortunately, the real Arizona is on hand.

Crack Western #67

"Arizona Raines": "A Castle in the Air?"

Arizona and Spurs travel to a castle built by a mountain pass. Its master is Cedric Carnaby, a black sheep member of a prominent British family. He and his men have a cannon, and mean to extort money from users of the pass.

I suppose this could have been a story about a Western landowner or outlaw charging tolls. Carnaby's castle and Old World manner of life give it a fantastic aspect.

This time out the attractive female character is a bored British aristocrat who might be Carnaby's mistress. She switches sides when her own life is threatened.

Image from Comic Book Plus.

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Crack Western #67

text story: "Gamblers Off Guard"

A hellraising man's antics give Arizona an opening to expose two other men as crooked gamblers and stagecoach robbers.

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