Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Resurgence of Western Comic Books in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s Part Three

The Western genre had been part of American comic books nearly since the beginning of the medium. In 1948 there was a surge in popularity of Western comic books, with several publishers introducing their own Western titles. By the late Fifties the genre had faded in popularity, with several publishers cancelling their remaining Western comic books. While Marvel Comics and Charlton continued to publish a few Western titles, from the early to mid-Sixties there was a lull in Western comic books. This changed in the late Sixties when there was a resurgence in the genre in comic books, with such new titles as Marvel's Ghost Rider DC Comic's Bat Lash making their debuts. This resurgence may have reached its peak in 1970, but the resurgence would continue for several more years with yet more new titles and characters being introduced. Among the new characters introduced during the resurgence would be one who would not only be the most famous Western comic book character to emerge from the resurgence, but possibly the most famous Western comic book character of all time.

With the resurgence in Western comic books still going strong, a new comic book publisher would count Western titles among those they published. Skywald Publications entered the publishing field with the black and white comic magazine Nightmare in 1970. It was in 1971 that Skywald Publications made an attempt to enter the field of colour comic books under the imprint Skywald Comics. Of their first two titles one was a romance comic book (Tender Love Stories), while the other was a Western comic book titled Blazing Six Guns. Both were cover dated February 1971. Blazing Six Guns was an anthology title that included an original story featuring The Sundance Kid as well as reprints of Western stories from defunct publishers such as Magazine Enterprises and Avon. Blazing Six Guns only lasted two issues. It was followed by Wild Western Action, cover dated March 1971. Each issue of Wild Western Action included an original story featuring a team of Western heroes known collectively as The Bravados. as well as reprints from defunct publishers such as Toby, Magazine Enterprises, and Avon. Wild Western Action only lasted three issues.

Skywald Comics' first title devoted to a single character followed Wild Western Action. The first issue of Butch Cassidy was cover dated June 1971. Each issue featured an original story starring Butch Cassidy, and like Skywald's other titles each issue featured reprints from other publishers. Butch Cassidy proved about as successful as Wild Western Action. lasting only three issues. That same month saw The Sundance Kid get his own title. It followed the same format as Skywald's other Western titles, with an original story followed by several reprints. It also lasted only three issues. Skywald's last Western title was The Bravados, with the team of Western heroes getting its own title. It only lasted for one issue.

Skywald Comics did not prove particularly successful, a fact which editor Al Hewetson attributed to "a price war" between DC and Marvel "which hurt just about everybody." Skywald Comics published its last colour comic book with a cover date of October 1971, that book being Butch Cassidy no. 3. Skywald Publications continued publishing their black and white magazines until finally going out of business in 1975. Their last magazine published was Psycho no. 24 (March 1975).

While Skywald Comics' line of colour comic books failed, both Marvel and DC Comics continued publishing their own Western titles. It was in Avengers no. 80 (September 1970) that Marvel introduced a Native American superhero called Red Wolf. This Red Wolf lived in the Seventies, but Stan Lee decided he wanted the character to be set in the Old West. Red Wolf was then given a try-out starting out with Marvel Spotlight no. 1 (November 1971). Red Wolf was Johnny Wakely, a Cheyenne man who had been raised by white people. After stumbling upon the grave of a Cheyenne warrior known as Red Wolf, he was visited by a Native American spirit known as Owayodata and he became Red Wolf. Red Wolf was given his own title with Red Wolf no. 1 (May 1972). Unfortunately, Red Wolf would not prove to be successful. The title lasted for six issues before the setting was changed to modern times with someone else assuming the mantle of Red Wolf with issue no. 7 (May 1973). Red Wolf would only last two more issues. It would be decades before the Johnny Wakely version of Red Wolf would appear again. His first appearance in years would be in Rawhide Kid vol. 4 issue 2 (July 2010).

It was in late 1971 that Marvel would introduce another title that consisted solely of reprints. The Western Kid had been a character that Marvel had published in the Fifties, both in his own title and in the anthology title Gunsmoke Western. The Western Kid was was Tex Dawson, a gunfighter who wandered the Old West doing good. Unlike other Marvel characters, such as Kid Colt and The Rawhide Kid, he had never been accused of a crime and was not wanted by the law. A reprint title, The Western Kid, debuted with a cover date of December 1971. It would not prove to be as successful as some of Marvel's other Western reprint titles, only lasting five issues.

While Marvel would see little success with Red Wolf and its reprints of The Western Kid, DC Comics would see phenomenal success with their next Western character. In fact, it seems like that at this point Jonah Hex could well be the most famous Western character to debut in American comic books of all time. Jonah Hex is a bad tempered, cynical bounty hunter who, nonetheless, has a personal code of honour such that he will always protect the innocent. While many fictional Western comic book heroes could be matinee idols, one entire side of Jonah's face was scarred.

Jonah Hex made his first appearance in All-Star Western no. 10 (March 1972). After several issues of featuring the adventures of such historical figures as Billy the Kid and Buffalo Bill, All-Star Western shifted back to its original format with its 10th issue. Jonah Hex was the headliner, with El Diablo and Bat Lash stories filling out the issue. Jonah Hex proved to be successful, remaining the headliner when All-Star Western was retitled Weird Western Tales and remaining the headliner until he received his own title, Jonah Hex Vol. 1 No. 1 (March/April 1977). The title Jonah Hex proved to be successful, ultimately running for 92 issues until August 1985, easily outlasting the resurgence in Western comic books. Since then Jonah Hex appeared in the title Hex (in which Jonah is thrown forward in time to an apocalyptic future) and still later in several titles set in Old West. He also appeared in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, a 2010 live action feature film, and the TV series Legends of Tomorrow.

It would only be two issues following Jonah Hex's first appearance that All-Star Western  was retitled Weird Western Tales. DC Comics had been publishing the anthology series Weird War Tales, which blended war stories with elements of horror, science fiction, and mystery. The title had proved successful, hence DC Comics retitled All-Star Western. And while it might seem unusual for DC Comics to have changed the format of All-Star Western to that of the Weird West, in some ways it  should not have been surprising. The origin of El Diablo, who had appeared in All-Star Western Volume 2, touched upon the supernatural. With Jonah Hex's introduction in issue no. 10, the Weird West elements in All-Star Western became even more pronounced. It must be pointed out that the late Sixties had also seen a resurgence of horror comic books, many of which proved to be highly successful. Regardless, with the new title and the not-quite-so-new format, Weird Western Tales proved to be a success. It ended its run with issue no. 70 (August 1980).

It was only a few months after Jonah Hex's first appearance that Marvel published its last new Western title with entirely new material. Gunhawks no. 1 (October 1972) introduced gunfighters Reno Jones and Kid Cassidy. Kid Cassidy was the son of Southern planters, while Reno Jones had been one of the Cassidys' slaves. After the plantation was attacked by Union forces and Reno's lover Rachel was abducted, Reno Jones and Kid Cassidy enlisted in the Confederate Army. After the war they wandered the West, searching for Rachel. Kid Cassidy was killed off in Gunhawks no. 6 (August 1973). The series was then retitled Reno Jones, Gunhawk. This made Reno Jones the second African American character to have his own title after Luke Cage. Reno Jones, Gunhawk no. 7 (October 1973) would also be the final issue of the title. Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones disappeared from the pages of comic books until the mini-series Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes in 2000, which told a more historically accurate (and politically correct) version of their story. Among  other things, Reno Jones never served in the Confederate Army.

The same month that Gunhawks debuted, Marvel also re-introduced one of their titles from the Fifties as a reprint title. Wyatt Earp no. 30 (October 1972) resumed the numbering of the title, which had last been published in 1960. Despite having the name recognition of a historical figure, the reprint title Wyatt Earp did not prove particularly successful. It lasted for four issues, ending with no. 34 (June 1973).

Marvel introduced yet another reprint title with Gun-slinger no. 1 (January 1973). Despite the title, this was another attempt on Marvel's part at reprinting old Western Kid stories. It proved no more successful than their attempt in 1971, lasting only three issues.

The failure of Gunhawks, Wyatt Earp, and Gun-slinger signalled the end of the resurgence of Western comic books. Not counting Jonah Hex receiving his own title in 1977, no new Western titles would debut for the rest of the decade. Nevertheless, Marvel would continue publishing such titles as Kid Colt, Outlaw and The Rawhide Kid for the remainder of decade. DC Comic would continue publishing Weird Western Tales. What is more, DC would debut two new characters in the pages of Weird Western Tales. When Jonah Hex received his own title, his place in Weird Western Tales was taken by Scalphunter. Brian Savage was a young boy when he was abducted by Kiowa Indians, who raised him. When he left the tribe, he assumed the name "Scalphunter." Scalphunter first appeared in Weird Western Tales no. 39 (March/April 1977). Scalphunter would continue to appear for the rest of the run of Weird Western Tales and has occasionally appeared in DC comic books since then.

It was in Weird Western Tales no. 48 (September-October 1978) that DC Comics introduced another new Western character. Cinnamon was born Katherine "Kate" Masner. Her father was a sheriff in a Western town. When her father was killed, by bank robbers, Kate was sent to an orphanage. While there she secretly taught herself to be a gunfighter. Once she came of age, she became a bounty hunter. Cinnamon would only appear in two issues of Weird Western Tales, but would prove to have some success in the long run. She has appeared sporadically in comic books ever since. In more recent comic books she has been teamed with the old DC Comics character Nighthawk. She has also appeared in an episode of the TV show Legends of Tomorrow.

Marvel Comics would attempt to introduce a new Western character in 1980. Caleb Hammer was a Pinkerton detective in the Old West who appeared in Marvel Premiere no. 54 (June 1980).  That would remain his only appearance until he resurfaced in the 2000 mini-series Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes.

Even though DC Comics would introduce two new Western characters in the late Seventies, the resurgence in Western comic books more or less ended in 1982. The resurgence's end marked the start of a slow decline for the Western genre in comic books. Marvel cancelled Western Gunfighters in 1975 and The Mighty Marvel Western in 1976. They cancelled The Two-Gun Kid in 1977. It was in 1979 that Marvel cancelled its two remaining Western titles: Kid Colt, Outlaw ended its run after thirty one years, making him the longest continuously published Western comic book character of all time. That same year The Rawhide Kid ended its run as well. It was the following year that DC Comics cancelled Weird Western Tales. Only Jonah Hex would last into the Eighties, ending its run in 1985.

As to what brought the resurgence of Western comic books to an end, that can be attributed to the decline of the popularity of the Western genre as a whole in American society. While the Western was a popular film genre in the Thirties, Forties, Fifties, and even the Sixties, in the Seventies the Western was not nearly as popular as it once was. In the Seventies only Blazing Saddles (1974), which was notably a parody of the genre, ranked in the top ten highest grossing movies for its year. In the late Fifties  there was often at least one Western television show on every night. The Seventies saw the cancellation of the long running Westerns Bonanza and Gunsmoke. Even readership for Western fiction began declining in the mid-Seventies. With the Western genre declining in popularity in other media, in some respects it is remarkable that it persisted in comic books as long as it did.

While the resurgence in Western comic books only lasted from about 1967 to 1976, it would have a lasting impact. At Marvel, The Ghost Rider, rechristened The Phantom Rider, would continue to appear in Marvel comic books, even playing a role in titles devoted to the motorcyclist known as The Ghost Rider.  At DC Comics, Jonah Hex would prove so successful that his fame may well exceed characters who originated in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties, such as Kid Colt, Pow-Wow Smith, and The Rawhide Kid. Other characters, such as El Diablo, Scalphunter, and Cinnamon still appear from time to time. Strangely enough, while  historically Marvel had more success with Westerns than DC prior to the resurgence (after all, they continued to publish Western comic books from 1948 to 1980), DC Comics had more success than Marvel did during the resurgence. Weird Western Tales would be longest running Western title to emerge during the resurgence, while Jonah Hex, a title devoted to a character from the resurgence, would be the longest running Western title to debut in the Seventies.

Both Marvel and DC Comics have returned to the Western genre from time to time since the end of the resurgence in Western comic books in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 2000 Marvel published the mini-series Blaze of Glory, followed by its sequel Apache Skies in 2002. A controversial third volume of The Rawhide Kid was published in 2003 followed by a sequel mini-series, Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven, in 2010. DC Comics has perhaps made more use of their Western characters, with three mini-series featuring Jonah Hex alone, as well as two new titles starring the character. As part of the New 52, DC Comics even published a third volume of All-Star Western that continued the adventures of Jonah Hex and also featured such characters as Nighthawk, Cinnamon, Tomahawk, and Bat Lash. It lasted for 34 issues. While the heyday of the Western comic book may be long past, it is safe to say that some of the characters from the resurgence in Western comic books that lasted from 1967 to 1973 will be around for a long time.

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Resurgence of Western Comic Books in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s Part Two

In 1948 the big trend in the American comic book industry was the Western genre. Western comic books would remain popular until the late Fifties when the genre went into decline. While Marvel Comics and Charlton Comics would continue publishing Western titles, the genre was in a lull for much of the Sixties. In 1967 Marvel Comics published the first issue of Ghost Rider with a cover date of February. While Ghost Rider would only last seven issues, it was significant as the first title in what would be a resurgence of Western comic books that would last into the early Seventies.

Indeed, if one could not take Ghost Rider as a sign that Western comic books were due for a comeback, the fact that DC Comics re-entered the field could be. In 1961 DC Comics cancelled its two Western titles, Western Comics and All-Star Western. It was in the pages of Showcase no. 76 (August 1968) that DC Comics introduced its first new Western character in years. Bat Lash was a gambler and bit of a ladies man who detested violence. Denny O'Neil, who wrote dialogue for the character, described him as  "a charming rogue." Bat Lash's try out in Showcase proved successful enough that he received his own title, the first issue cover dated October/November 1968. This made it the first Western comic book published by DC Comics in years. Unfortunately, Bat Lash would last only seven issues, ceasing publication with its October/November 1969 issue. DC Comics editorial director Carmine Infantino claimed that while Bat Lash sold well in Europe, it did not sell well in the United States. Denny O'Neil tended to doubt this, stating that low sales were always given as the reason for cancelling titles at that time, and he didn't think Bat Lash suffered from low sales. Regardless, Bat Lash won the Alley Award for Best Western Title in both 1968 and 1969. And while Bat Lash's original title was cancelled after only seven issues, the character has persisted ever since, appearing in issues of Weird Western Tales, Jonah Hex, and yet other titles. In 2008 he even received his own self-titled mini-series written by creator Sergio Aragonés.

While DC Comics published its first issue of Bat Lash, Marvel Comics published the first issue of The Mighty Marvel Western, cover dated October 1968. While The Mighty Marvel Western was a new title, it exclusively published reprints stories of Marvel's Western heroes. Every issue featured a Rawhide Kid story and a Two-Gun Kid story, and most issue featured a Kid Colt story. In those issues where there wasn't a Kid Colt story, a reprint of a Matt Slade, Gunfighter story appeared. While The Mighty Marvel Western contained exclusively reprints, it did prove somewhat successful. It lasted for 46 issues until 1976.

With Showcase no. 85 (September 1969) DC Comics tried out another Western character. Firehair was the lone survivor of a wagon train massacred by the Blackfoot Indians in the early 19th Century. An infant at the time of the massacre, he was adopted by the Blackfoot Chief Grey Cloud. The try-out for Firehair would not prove successful enough to warrant his own title, but he would later appear as a recurring character in Tomahawk after that title had shifted its lead character to Tomahawk's son and the time frame to the early 19th Century (more on that later).

The resurgence of Western comic books may well have reached its peak in 1970, with new titles launched and one older title rebooted as a Western. The first new title to appear in 1970 was actually the revival of an old Marvel  title. The Ringo Kid had run from August 1954 to September 1957. It was with a cover date of January 1970 that a new volume of The Ringo Kid debuted. This new volume of The Ringo Kid consisted entirely of reprints and proved somewhat successful, running for thirty issues until November 1976.

The second Western title to debut in 1970 was Western Gunfighters, with a cover date of August 1970. Western Gunfighters shared its name with an earlier Western anthology published by Marvel from June 1956 to June 1957. Unlike The Mighty Marvel Western, this new version of Western Gunfighters did contain original material, at least for its first seven issues. News stories featuring Ghost Rider appeared in those first seven issues, as well as three new features. Gunhawk was a bounty hunter and gunfighter with no name who wandered throughout the Old West. "Tales of Fort Rango" centred on the adventures of the troopers of Fort Rango. "Renegades" centred on a team of adventurers led by a gunfighter known only as The Dude and also consisting of knife thrower Carlos Cortez, young gunfighter The Kid, and outdoorsman and trapper Little Flower. The first seven issues also featured reprints of stories featuring The Apache Kid, The Western Kid, Wyatt Earp, and Black Rider. It was with issue 8 that the new features were dropped from Western Gunfighters and it shifted to being entirely a reprint title. While Ghost Rider would appear from time to time in Marvel titles (renamed "Phantom Rider" to avoid confusion with the newer, motorcycle riding Ghost Rider), Gunhawk, the troopers of Fort Rango, and the Renegades would not appear again for literally years.

It was also with a cover date of August 1970 that another revival of an old Marvel title, The Outlaw Kid, was first published. Like The Ringo Kid, The Outlaw Kid was originally a reprint title. The title sold well enough that with issue 10 it started featuring brand new stories. Strangely enough, with the news stories sales for The Outlaw Kid dropped, so that after issue 16 it switched back to being a reprint title. Regardless, it proved highly successful, lasting for thirty issues until October 1975.

While Marvel Comics published most of the new Western titles in 1970, it would arguably be DC Comics that would publish what might well have been the most significant title of the year. All-Star Western was a revival of a title that had run from 1951 to 1961. That first issue, cover dated September 1970, included a new story featuring DC Comics' old Western character Pow-Wow Smith, as well as a reprint of a  Pow-Wow Smith story from Western Comics. It was with the second issue, cover dated October 1970) the all new features "El Diablo" and "Outlaw" were introduced. El Diablo was Lazarus Lane, a bank teller who was almost killed by outlaws and then struck by lightning. He was resurrected by his friend, the Native American medicine man Wise Owl. Afterwards he fought evil throughout the Old West as the masked avenger El Diablo. "Outlaw" centred on Rick Wilson, the young son of a Texas Ranger who wanted to become a Ranger himself. It was after his father objected to him becoming a Ranger that Rick Wilson fell in with the wrong crowd and found himself on the wrong side of the law. "Outlaw" featuring Rick Wilson would last appear in All-Star Western Volume 2 issue 5 (May 1971). With All-Star Western Volume 2 issue 6 (July 1971), the title's emphasis would be on such real life Western and frontier figures as Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Davy Crockett, and Buffalo Bill Cody, with the occasional El Diablo or Pow-Wow Smith story.

While both Marvel and DC debuted new titles in 1970 (although some of them were reprint titles), DC Comics also rebooted a title it had been publishing for twenty years. The character of Tomahawk had first appeared in Star Spangled Comics no. 69 (June 1947). The character proved popular enough to receive his own title, the first issue of which was cover-dated September 1950) Tomahawk was a frontiersman and soldier who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War, leading unit known as "Tomahawk's Rangers" While Tomahawk was a popular title for much of its run, its sale started to decline in the Sixties. With Western comic books enjoying new titles, Tomahawk was rebooted as a Western with Tomahawk no. 131 (December 1970). While its title was still technically Tomahawk, it now bore the legend Son of Tomahawk.

The son of Tomahawk as Hawk, the son of Tomahawk by a Native American woman named Moon Fawn. He was born around 1900 and would have adventures in the American West in the early 19th Century. Despite the son of a legendary adventurer and American Revolution veteran, Hawk despised violence, even though he was a skilled combatant himself. Sadly, the change in the format of Tomahawk would not save the title.  With the "Son of Tomahawk" as its star, Tomahawk only lasted ten more issues, ending with no. 140 (June 1972).

While 1970 was arguably the peak of the resurgence in Western comic books, it would continue for several more years. The year 1971 would see new titles from Marvel Comics and a new publisher entering the field, albeit unsuccessfully. It would be the year 1972 that would see the debut of the most famous character to emerge from the resurgence of Western comic books, possibly the most famous Western comic book character of all time.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Resurgence of Western Comic Books in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s Part One

After over a decade of popularity, Western comic books went into decline in the late Fifties and early Sixties. While Charlton Comics and Marvel Comics would continue publishing Western titles throughout the Sixties, after 1961 there would be a lull in the debut of any titles for a few years. As for National Periodical Publications (now known as DC Comics), they entirely stopped publishing their Western titles with the cancellations of Western Comics and All Star Western in 1961. It was in the mid to late Sixties and into the early Seventies that new Western titles began to appear. These Western comic books differed from earlier Western comic books in that they were often grittier, often cynical, and often more historically accurate. Women played a more prominent role and Native Americans were treated more sympathetically.

The Western genre had a long history in comic books nearly from the beginning of the medium. New Fun Comics no. 1 (January 1935), the first comic book ever published by the company that would become DC Comics, featured several Western stories (including one centred on cowboy star Tom Mix). Centaur Publications published the first comic books devoted entirely to the Western genre, Star Ranger (February 1937) and Western Picture Stories (February 1937). Dell Comics closely followed with their own Western comic book, Western Action Thrillers (April 1937). It was in 1941 that Dell began publishing Red Ryder Comics, which included reprints of the popular newspaper strip before starting to include original material with its 47th issue (June 1947).

While Western stories appeared in comic books nearly from the beginning, it would be after World War II that the genre truly became popular. With superheroes declining in popularity following the war, comic book publishers turned to other genres, among them the Western. In 1946 Dell Comics launched a Gene Autry title that would run for years. That same year Fawcett Comics began a successful run of Hopalong Cassidy that DC Comics took over once Fawcett shuttered its line of comic books add ultimately lasted until 1959. It was in the year 1948 that Western comic books proved to a bit trend in the comic book industry. DC Comics launched the simply titled Western Comics, the first issue cover dated January/February 1948. At the same time Dell Comics published the first issue of The Lone Ranger, which would ultimately run into the Seventies. Other publishers would soon follow suit with their own Western titles, among them what would become Marvel Comics. Their first Western comic book was Two-Gun Kid no. 1 (March 1948).

The heyday of the Western comic book would only last about ten years. Starting in the mid-Fifties many of the cowboy star comic books ended their runs. Given B-Western movies had been in decline for some time (Universal had ceased making them in 1946, while United Artists released their last one in 1950), this probably was not a surprise at the time. In the late Fifties other types of Western comic books would also be cancelled. Prize Western, Red Ryder, and Straight Arrow all ended in 1956. Dell Comics cancelled The Cisco Kid in 1958. DC Comics cancelled Western Comics with issue no. 85 (January/February 1961) and All-Star Western with issue no. 62 (July 1961), effectively getting out of the business of publishing Western comic books.

That many Western titles were cancelled in the late Fifties and early Sixties did not mean that there were no more Western comic books. Marvel continued to publish Western comic books and even debuted two new characters in the early Sixties. They introduced a new version of The Rawhide Kid with Rawhide Kid no. no. 17 (August 1960) and a new version of The Two-Gun Kid with Two-Gun Kid no. 60 (November 1961). Ultimately, Marvel would publish Western comic books until the cancellations of Kid Colt, Outlaw and Rawhide Kid in 1979. Charlton Comics also continued to publish Western titles as well, with Outlaws of the West lasting until 1980 and Billy the Kid until 1983.

While Marvel and Charlton continued to publish Westerns in the Sixties, after 1961 it would be a few years before new titles would emerge. These initial new Western titles could be considered harbingers of the resurgence in the Western comic book. It was Charlton that would publish the first of these new Western titles, although it featured a character who had existed for a few years. The Gunmaster first appeared in Six-Gun Heroes no. 57 (June 1960). It was in 1964 that the character received his own title, Gunmaster (September 1964). The title would only last four issues, ending with issue no. 4 (March-April 1965). Afterwards, The Gunmaster would go back to appear in Charlton's various other Western titles. As to The Gunmaster, he was Clay Boone, a travelling gunsmith who would don a mask to fight crime as The Gunmaster.

A more important title that would presage the resurgence in Western comic books in the late Sixties was published by Dell Comics, although it only lasted briefly. Lobo was historic as the first comic book in which an African American character headlined. Lobo centred on a wealthy, Black gunslinger who would be given the name "Lobo" by the villains in the first issue of the title. Lobo would leave a gold coin with the images of an "L" and a wolf on the foreheads of the villains he defeated. Lobo was created by writer Don "D. J." Arneson and artist Tony Tallarico, although the two men disagree on the character's creation.. Mr. Arneson has said that Mr. Tallarico only illustrated the comic book. He denies that Mr. Tallarico created the character, and has said that he plotted the stories and wrote the scripts. According to D. J. Arneson, he had read the book  The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones and used that as inspiration for the character.  Tony Tallarico claims that he approached D. J. Arneson with the idea.

Sadly, Lobo only lasted two issues, dated December 1965 and September 1966. It should come as no surprise that Tony Tallarico also disagreed on why Lobo ended. According to Tony Tallarico, distributors were returning bundles of the comic books unopened. He claims that after some investigating he discovered that many sellers opposed the idea of a Black Western hero. D. J. Arneson's explanation for the cancellation of Lobo is much simpler. It was simply discontinued because of sales. Regardless, Lobo was historic. He was the first Black character to have his own title and the first Black Western comic book hero. Lobo also indicated the direction the resurgence of Western titles would take. In the Western titles of late Sixties, African Americans would play a bigger role, having largely been absent from the Western comic books of the Fifties and Sixties.

It was in 1966 that Charlton introduced another new Western title, although technically it was the continuation of another title. Gunfighters had begun its life as Kid Montana. It was with issue no. 51 that it was retitled Gunfighters. Gunfighters was an anthology title and relied upon Western characters already published by Charlton. It introduced no new characters. Regardless, it proved to be a success for Charlton. It ran until July 1984.

If it there is a point where one can say the resurgence in Western comic books began, it might well be with Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider no. 1 (February 1967). Marvel's Ghost Rider was not the first comic book character to bear the name. Starting in 1950 Magazine Enterprises published a character named Ghost Rider.  Ghost Rider was  Rex Fury, a masked crimefighter who often found himself facing supernatural menaces. Magazine Enterprises went out of business in 1958 and eventually their trademark on the name "Ghost Rider" lapsed. Marvel then published their own title featuring a different character by that name. Marvel's Ghost Rider was Carter Slade, who donned a mask and a phosphorescent costume to fight crime.  Unlike Magazine Enterprise's "Ghost Rider," Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider was a straight forward Western and Carter Slade never faced supernatural opponents.

Ghost Rider only lasted for seven issues, and the character would later appear in issues of Marvel's anthology title Western Gunfighters. While Ghost Rider might not have been successful, it can be considered the first title in the resurgence of Western comic books in the late Sixties. It would be a little less than a year after Ghost Rider ended publication that a new Western character would be introduced. This time it would be DC Comics introducing a new Western character, their first foray into Westerns since 1961.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Kim Sisters Singing "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" on The Ed Sullivan Show

Decades before most Americans heard the word "K-Pop," The Kim Sisters were a Korean vocal group that saw a good deal of success in the United States in the late Fifties into the Sixties. They mostly preformed American songs, both traditional and more contemporary pop. If you want to read more on the Kim Sisters, you can do so here.

The Kim Sisters appeared on many of the American variety and talk shows of the era, including The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Dean Martin Show, The Joey Bishop Show, Della, The Barbara McNair Show, and The Merv Griffin Show. They made by far their most appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, on which they appeared nineteen times from 1958 to 1967.

This is one of their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Online sources claim it is from August 22 1965, but I have my doubts as the last new episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show usually aired in June and new episodes wouldn't air until September. Regardless, the Kim Sisters are performing the African American spiritual "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho." Its origin is somewhat obscure. There are claims that it originated among slaves in the early 19th Century. Other sources claim a copyright by Jay Roberts in 1865. The song first appeared in print in 1882 in A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies. The song has been recorded by artists from Paul Robeson to Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Maggie Peterson Passes On

Maggie Peterson, best known for playing hillbilly Charlene Darling on The Andy Griffith Show, died on May 15 2022 at the age of 81.

Maggie Peterson was born on January 10 1941 in Greeley, Colorado. She, her brother, and two of his friends formed an instrumental and vocal group called The Ja-Da Quartet. The Ja-Da Quartet met with enough success, and were eventually discovered by Andy Griffith's manager. It was through Andy Griffith's manager that they went to New York and later appeared on one episode of The Garry Moore Show and two episodes of The Perry Como Show. They recorded one album, It's the Most Happy Sound.

Maggie Peterson tried out for the part of Sheriff Andy Taylor's love interest during the first season of The Andy Griffith Show, but lost the part to Elinor Donahue. She was cast as Charlene Darling near the end of the third season of The Andy Griffith Show. Charlene was the daughter of hillbilly Briscoe Darling (Denver Pyle) and part of the Darling family. The Darlings first appeared in the episode "The Darlings Are Coming" and proved popular enough to appear in four more episodes. Maggie Peterson later played a date for Sam Jones (Ken Berry) in the 1968 episode "A Girl for Goober." In 1964 Maggie Peterson was cast in the recurring role of Suzie the Waitress on The Bill Dana Show. In the Sixties she also guest starred on the shows Gomer Pyle: USMC; The Queen and I; Love, American Style; Green Acres; and Mayberry R.F.D. She also appeared in the TV movie The Over-the-Hill Gang. Maggie Peterson only appeared in two movies in her career, both of which starred veterans of The Andy Griffith Show. The first was Angel in My Pocket (1969), which starred Andy Griffith. The second was The Love God? (1969), which starred Don Knotts.

In the Seventies she guest starred on The Odd Couple and Odd Man Out. She appeared in the TV movie Pleasure Palace. In the Eighties she appeared in the TV movie Stark and guest starred on The Disney Sunday Movie. She reprised her role as Charline Darling in the Andy Griffith Show reunion movie Return to Mayberry.

Maggie Peterson would later work  for the Nevada Film Commission. She worked in location management for the movies Casino (1995), Mars Attacks! (1996), Perdita Durango (1997), Go (1999), and Pay It Forward (2000). She also worked in location manager for the 1998 TV movie Money Play$.

Maggie Peterson was perfectly cast as Charlene Darling, the overly superstitious, overly flirtatious hillbilly who had a crush on Andy Taylor and was pursued by Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris). While Maggie Peterson will probably always be known best for Charlene Darling on The Andy Griffith Show, she could and did play other roles. On The Andy Griffith Show she also played the secretary Doris, who was a far from Charlene as one could get. In the Mayberry R.F.D. episode she played Edna, a new waitress at one of Mayberry's coffee shops. Edna is also a far cry from Charlene, preferring flowery descriptions when talking about the food served by the shop. Maggie Peterson was a fine actress who will always be remembered as Charlene on The Andy Griffith Show, but who did much more.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Godspeed Fred Ward

Fred Ward, who starred in such movies as The Right Stuff (1983), Tremors (1990), and Henry & June (1990), died on May 8 2022 at the age of 79.

Fred Ward was born on December 30 1942 in San Diego, California. He served in the United States Air Force, during which time he became interested in acting. He also worked a variety of other jobs, including fighting as a boxer and working as a lumberjack, janitor, and short order cook. He studied acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City. Afterwards he migrated to Italy where he dubbed Italian films into English.

Fred Ward made his television debut in the Italian mini-series L'età di Cosimo de Medici in 1973. In the late Seventies he guest starred on the shows Quincy, M.E. and The Incredible Hulk. He appeared in the TV movies Cartesius and Belle Starr. He made his movie debut in a small part in Ginger in the Morning in 1974. His first major role would be in Escape from Alcatraz in 1979. In the Seventies he also appeared in the movies Hearts of the West (1975), Tilt (1979), Cardiac Arrest (1979), and Carney (1980).

The Eighties saw Fred Ward's career take off. He played lead roles in the movies Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1983), The Right Stuff (1983), Remo Williams: The Adventures Begins (1985), UFOria (1985), The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988), Tremors (1990), and Henry & June (1990). He also appeared in the films Southern Comfort (1981), Silkwood (1983), Uncommon Valor (1983), Swing Shift (1984), Secret Admirer (1985), Off Limits (1988), Big Business (1988), Catchfire (1990), and Miami Blues (1990). He appeared on the television shows The Hitchhiker and American Playhouse, as well as the TV movie Florida Straits.

In the Nineties Mr. Ward appeared in the movies The Dark Wind (1991), Thunderheart (1992), The Player (1992), Equinox (1992), Bob Roberts (1992), Two Small Bodies (1993), Short Cuts (1993), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), Un bruit qui rend fou (1995), Chain Reaction (1996), Best Men (1997), Dangerous Beauty (1998), The Vivero Letter (1999), The Crow: Salvation (2000), The Chaos Factor (2000), Ropewalk (2000), Circus (2000), Road Trip (2000), and Red Team (2000). On television he appeared in the mini-series Invasion: Earth. He appeared in the movies Cast a Deadly Spell, Four Eyes and Six-Guns, ...First Do No Harm, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and Wild Iris. He guest starred on the TV shows American Playhouse and Gun.

In the Naughts Fred Ward appeared in the movies Joe Dirt (2001), Summer Catch (2001), Corky Romano (2001), Abandon (2002), Enough (2002), A.K.A. Birdseye (2002), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Masked and Anonymous (2003), Funky Monkey (2004), Feast of Love (2007), Exit Speed (2008), Management (2008), L'affaire Farewell (2009), The Wild Stallion (2009), and Armored (2009). He guest starred on the TV shows ER, Grey's Anatomy, United States of Tara, and In Plain Sight. He appeared in the TV movies Coast to Coast and The Last Ride. He appeared in the mini-series 10.5.

In the Teens he appeared in the movies 30 Minutes or Less (2011) and 2 Guns (2013). He guest starred on the shows Leverage and True Detective.

Fred Ward was a versatile actor, equally adept at playing lead roles and character parts. He played such diverse historical figures as Gus Grissom, Henry Miller, Wyatt Earp, and John Vernon Bouvier III, and was convincing as all of them. He was at home in dramas such as The Right Stuff and Silkwood as he was genre films such as Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Tremors. What is more, Fred Ward was not afraid to play the occasional unsympathetic character. In Southern Comfort he played Corporal Lonnie Reece, a stubborn, belligerent Louisiana National Guardsman who was in constant conflict with his fellow Guardsman. In Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult he played the villain, bomber Rocco Dillon. Fred Ward seemed capable of playing any role he set out to play, and he always gave a good performance.