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(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
 
(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
Above, Gabby comic #1


(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
 
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Cowboy Comic Books - an Overview

Many of our western film heroes and personalities had comic book series associated with them.  While much of the following material is included in the section on these heroes, several folks have asked if there could be a special 'comic book' section on the Old Corral ... and here 'tis.

Special thanks to Lansing and Andrea Sexton and Boyd Magers for researching and assembling this info.



COMIC BOOKS - REPRINTS, HISTORY, AUCTIONS

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has lots of info and cover images of cowboy comic books: http://www.westernclippings.com/comics/rodcameron_comicbookcowboys.shtml

Read about the new Lone Ranger comic book from Dynamite Entertainment and issue #1 came out in late 2006: http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?CAT=DF-The_Lone_Ranger

Want to view a bunch of comic book covers in fairly large size? Go to GCD, the Grand Comic Book Database: http://www.comics.org/

The Comic Book Plus website has many public domain comic books and comic strips: http://comicbookplus.com/

There's a history of Charlton Comics at: http://www.twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/09empire.html

Bill Black's Golden Age Comics/AC Comics offers comic reprints featuring our favorite serial heroes as well as Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Lash, Durango, Johnny Mack Brown, Tim Holt, more.  The homepage is at: http://www.accomics.com/, and their list of western comics is at: http://www.accomics.com/category/shop-best-of-the-west/

Ken Pierce also has comic book reprints, and you can find info at: http://www.kenpiercebooks.com/

The King Features website is at: http://www.kingfeatures.com/

The DC Comics website is at: http://www.dccomics.com/

The Comics Research Bibliography site has many links to comics related websites: http://www.rpi.edu/~bulloj/comxbib.html

The Overstreet Comics Price Guides (and more) are published by Gemstone: http://www.gemstonepub.com

The following link should get you to the general comic book index on the eBay auction site.  On the left of your screen, there's a Search box where you can enter 'Gene Autry', 'Hopalong Cassidy', 'Roy Rogers', etc.: http://listings.ebay.com/aw/listings/list/category63/index.html




(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above, Issue #6 (#2)


Above, issue #3


(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)


HOOT GIBSON


Boyd Magers provides the following info:

By the time comic books based on movie and TV cowboys were extremely popular in the late '40s and '50s, Hoot Gibson's star had long faded at the box office so the big two of western-movie/TV related comic publishers, Dell and Fawcett, were simply not interested in old Hooter who wound up at Fox Features Syndicate in 1950. By that time, Hoot hadn't starred in a western since 1944. No wonder his comics didn't sell well up against Roy, Tex, Gene and Durango.

The British born Victor Fox had spent 20 years on Wall St. With a less than spotless reputation when he spotted the success of Superman and started his own company, Fox Features Syndicate, in 1939. His earliest success was with The Blue Beetle. In the late '40s when the three hottest trends were crime, love and cowboys, never one to miss an exploitable trend, the ever enterprising Victor Fox (whose comics would be equivalent to the movies of Harry Fraser or Robert Tansey) jumped on all three, publishing lurid crime (Inside Crime, Murder Inc. etc.) and sexy romance (My Desire, Romantic Thrills etc.) comics.

However, by the time he got around to licensing a cowboy, he had to settle for Hoot Gibson. For postal regulation reasons, Hoot Gibson picked up its numbering with #5 (May '50), continuing the numbering from the discontinued My Love Story. Number 6 (actually #2) followed in July '50, then the confusing numbering reverted to #3 (Sept. '50). #5 and 6 featured very poor front and back cover photos and an artist's rendition of Hoot that looked nothing like the cowboy star, except for the second story in #6, Hunchback of the Double-X, which managed to get Hoot's looks correct. #3 had a painted cover and interior art that, in two out of four stories, managed a reasonable resemblance to Hoot.

Never one to overlook a secondary sale, Fox often repackaged four remaindered (unsold) comics into a 25 Giant with a new cover, hence Hoot Gibson's Western Roundup, 132 pages dated 1950. However, since Fox always started their stories on the inside front cover (where other publishers ran an ad), these repackaged comics are always missing the first page of story content. Also, since Fox used remaindered issues, contents will vary from copy to copy of Hoot Gibson's Western Roundup. The copy I have contains Hoot Gibson #3 along with issues of Fox's Spectacular Features, Blue Beetle and My Intimate Affair.





(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Above, issue #7


(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Above, issue #17
TEX RITTER


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Tex Ritter's comic career began when Fawcett published Tex Ritter #1, dated October 1950. The last Fawcett issue was #20, dated January 1954. As with many other Fawcett titles, Tex's comic was continued by Charlton Comics beginning with issue #21, dated March 1954. It lasted through issue #46, dated May 1959.

All the Fawcett issues have photo covers, sometimes with black and white photo inserts of Tex on White Flash, or color inserts of interior comic panels. The featured stories include such titles as 'The Vanishing Varmints' (#25), 'The Jaws of Terror' (#4) and 'Stagecoach to Danger' (#20).  Issue #20 shows Tex loading his pistol and wearing an untypical and astonishingly bright red shirt with small white polka pots. Issue #21, the first Charlton issue, also has a photo cover, but it's the last one.

Starting with issue #22, the covers are drawn, but issues 22 through 32 have black and white photo back covers. Just after his own comic debuted, Tex began appearing in Fawcett's Western Hero , starting with issue #96, dated November 1950. Tex appeared in photo covers on issues 96, 99, 101, 108 and 111. The last issue was #112, dated March 1952.

Tex also appeared in Fawcett's Six-Gun Heroes, joining a cast of characters that included Lash LaRue and Allan 'Rocky' Lane. He's mentioned on the cover of issue 22 but he may have been added earlier. As with Tex's own comic, Six-Gun Heroes switched to Charlton beginning with issue #24, dated January 1954.

I'm not sure how long Tex's strip appeared in Six-Gun Heroes, but it may have lasted through issue #37, dated May 1956. With issue #38, the format changed to Jingles and Wild Bill Hickok, the early TV Western starring Guy Madison and Andy Devine.

It's hard to know how great Tex's popularity might have been if he had been lucky enough to star in bigger budget pictures. His singing was among the best and most authentic of any movie cowboy. As it is, he has a special place as an outstanding co-star of three series besides his own.






(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
Above, Wakely comic #7

JIMMY WAKELY


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

1949 was a big year for Jimmy Wakely. He released six pictures, starting with GUN RUNNER. He had a big hit duet with Margaret Whiting -- "Slippin' Around" and after more than five years as a western star, he finally began a comics career.

Jimmy began by appearing as a backup feature in issue #20 of Tim McCoy Western Movie Stories, published by Charlton Comics, dated June 1949. The very next month, Jimmy graced the photo cover of Romance Trail #1, published by National Periodical Publications (DC) dated July-August 1949.

Then, with issue #1 dated September-October 1949, DC began publication of Jimmy Wakely Comics. Each issue referred to him as Hollywood's sensational cowboy star. The first seven issues have photo covers. Issue #2 shows Jimmy and a small boy sitting on a saddle atop a fence, accompanied by the following copy: "Is a Western Movie Star a Real-Life Hero to His Own Son? You'll find the Exciting Answer in 'The Prize Pony." By contrast, the drawn covers, beginning with issue #8, stress pure action.

After 1949, Jimmy's movie series ended, but his comic continued until issue #18 dated July-August 1952.

You can see all 18 of the Jimmy Wakely comic book covers at GCD, the Grand Comic Book Database website: http://www.comics.org/series/609/covers/



KEN MAYNARD


(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Above, front and back covers of Ken Maynard comic #6


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Ken Maynard made his first comics appearance in Wow - What A Magazine! #2 published by David McKay Publication/Henle Publications and dated August 1936. This was a magazine-sized anthology series that lasted only four issues.

Ken never appeared in a comic again during his filmmaking career. However, some years after his last picture was released, Fawcett began publishing Ken Maynard Western with issue #1 dated September 1950. There were eight issues in all; the last dated February 1952. All had photo front and back covers. In a period when most comics contained several short pieces in each issue, Fawcett Comics occasionally ran longer stories. Ken's comic sometimes features what are called 'complete western novelettes', or, in the case of issue #7, 'a complete western serial'; this one, with the intriguing title 'The Seven Wonders of the West'. The covers always have a big picture of Ken in those huge thirties-style hats, usually accompanied by a smaller insert picture. #8 has a great insert of Ken, reins in his left hand, hat held high in his right, standing on Tarzan.




Monte strummin' his guitar and riding trusty steed Partner in the lower comic book cover.

MONTE HALE


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Monte Hale's first comic appearance was in an unusual comic named Picture News, billed as the first news comic and published by an obscure company called the Lafayette Street Corporation or possibly the 299 Lafayette Street Corporation. Monte appeared along with eleven other true-life features in issue #8 dated September-October 1946.

Monte's own comic Monte Hale Western began publication with #29, dated October 1948. It was one of the stable of western titles published by Fawcett Publications and had a healthy run through issue #82 dated June 1953.

As with many of the other Fawcett titles, Monte's comic switched to the Charlton Comics Company beginning with #83 dated February 1955. The last issue was #88 dated January 1956. All of the Fawcett issues had photo covers. The Charlton issues had black and white photo back covers instead, although issue 83, at least, features a black and white medallion photo of Monte on the otherwise drawn cover. There were a number of other features in Monte's comic, including Gabby Hayes in issues 34 through 80 and 83 through 86. Slim Pickens was in issue #53.

On the cover of issue #1, the low-key laid-back Monte is pictured leaning against a fence next to Pardner, but in a horseshoe insert, he's described as 6'5" of solid muscle. This horseshoe and description were repeated on the cover of the first Charlton issue.

Besides the long run of his own comic, Monte also appeared in Fawcett's Real Western Hero along with Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and others beginning with the first issue #70 dated September, 1948, one month before the start of Monte's own book. With issue 76, dated March 1949, the title changed to Western Hero but the contents remained pretty much the same. Monte appeared on photo covers in issues #88, 91, 93, 95, 98, 100, 104, 107 and 110. Issue 112, dated March 1952 was the final number. In this Western Hero phase the cowboys not featured on the cover appear in black and white rectangular block photos across the cover under the title.

As if all this wasn't enough, Monte was added to the cast of Fawcett's Six-Gun Heroes starting with issue #18, the only issue to feature him on the cover. However, he appeared in a black and white headshot along with the other non-featured stars in at least two other issues, #'s 20 and 22. Although I can't verify it, I believe he appeared in and on all the issues from 18 through 23, dated November 1953. With issue 24 Charlton once again took over (Fawcett stopped publishing comics at this time) and Monte was deleted from the title.

Aside from all these regular comics Monte Hale also appeared in Fawcett Movie Comics. Issue #4 published in 1950 but not dated is devoted to Monte's last 1949 release PIONEER MARSHAL. Paul Hurst is featured with Monte on the cover. Issue #9 is dated February 1950, but should say February 1951. This issue features THE OLD FRONTIER. Issue 10, dated April 1951 is devoted to the last of Monte's Republic series, THE MISSOURIANS.

The very first issue #101 of Fawcett's related series Motion Picture Comics published in 1950 featured Monte's fine film THE VANISHING WESTERNER. Finally in an oddity as strange as his initial appearance, a Monte Hale reprint showed up in Charlton/Capitol Stories Cowboy Western Comics #51, probably dated September/October 1954. The odd thing is that this time the hero's name had been changed to Rusty Hall! I've no idea why, although it must have been a copyright problem of some kind. Bob Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide says that there may also be a Hale reprint in issue #55, but he's not certain.

Monte also appeared in Fawcett's Xmas Comics issues 4 through 7 dated December of each year from 1949 through 1952. These comics were giant 196 page comics selling for 50 cents each. They contained reprints of stories from many Fawcett titles of all kinds.

All the above represents a spectacular success in comics. In part, this is simply because Monte was still making movies through 1950, but that doesn't altogether explain a comics career which seems more substantial than his film career would seem to warrant.

Sometimes Monte Hale is treated by the Western movie aficionado as at least a partial failure, and I suppose that's true to the degree that he failed to become Republic's new Gene Autry. As for me, I've always liked Monte. His good-natured persona is more like Joel McCrea's than Gene Autry's. That's not a bad comparison in the Western field.



BOB STEELE


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Bob Steele's comic career, as with most cowboy stars from the silent and early sound days, was shorter than his film career warranted.

Bob Steele Western #1 was published by Fawcett Publications with a cover date of December, 1950. The last issue, #10 appeared with a date of June, 1952.

Short and sweet.

All ten issues have photo-covers and 1-4 have photo back covers. In 1990, a small company called AC Comics published one issue of a combined Bob Steele/Rocky Lane comic with black and white contents. It has a photo cover and photo inside covers.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)



ALLAN LANE


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Allan Lane's comics career began before he was Rocky, during his Red Ryder days when he appeared on a photo back cover of Dell Publishing's Red Ryder Comics #41 (December 1946). These photo back covers continue through #48 and are also featured in issues 50, 51 and 53 through 57, dated April 1948.

The first 'Rocky' Lane appearance was as a guest star in Charlton comics' Tim McCoy Western Movie Stories #17 (December 1948). Rocky Lane Western #1 appeared in 1949 (dated May) published by Fawcett Publications. The first 20 issues contained a Slim Pickens backup feature (Slim returned once, much later, in #64). #10 featured the story 'Bad Man's Reward' the first of 12 'complete Western novelettes' or, later 'novels' which appeared during the series' first five years. That is, one long Rocky story rather than several short ones. Robert Overstreet's definitive Comic Book Price Guide cites the novel in #29 'The Land of Missing Men' as a classic comic story and describes it as featuring a hidden land of ancient temple ruins. #15 through #25, and issues 64 and 73 had a feature called Black Jack's Hitching Post.

With #56 dated February 1954, Charlton Comics took over the publication of Rocky's comic as they did with many other Fawcett Comics when that important company closed its comics division. This came about as the result of a titanic court case of many years duration in which National Periodicals claimed that Fawcett's very popular Captain Marvel infringed on Superman's copyright.

All 55 Fawcett issues had photo covers with numbers 1 and 2 having photo back covers as well. With the change to Charlton, the photo covers stopped after numbers 56, 57 and 60. The cover of #2 looks like a Red Ryder photo to me, but it's hard to tell Thunder from Black Jack, and not all the covers feature Rocky's blue shirt with black pinstripes. Rocky Lane Western ended with #87 (November 1959).

Apart from his own comic, Rocky was seen in several other titles. The first issue of Fawcett's Cowboy Love (July 1949) has a photo back cover of Rocky, though as usual with these cowboy romance comics, the contents have nothing to do with him. In 1950, Fawcett began Six-Gun Heroes (#1 dated March 1950) featuring Hopalong Cassidy, Rocky and Smiley Burnette. Rocky appeared on the covers of #4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13,1 5, 17, 21 and 23, usually alternating with Lash LaRue, who had been added to the cast. With #24 (January 1954) Charlton took over publication, just as they had with Rocky's own comic. The lineup was now Hoppy, Rocky, Lash and Tex Ritter. Rocky appeared on the cover of #24, the last with a photo cover. Six-Gun Heroes continued through issue 83, but Rocky and friends had disappeared long before. #38 was devoted to TV's Jingles and Wild Bill Hickok. Rocky also appeared in issue 50, probably dated July/August 1954, of Charlton/Capitol Stories title Cowboy Western. The stories in this issue may be reprints of previously published stories.

Meanwhile, in 1950, Fawcett began an undated series called Fawcett Movie Comics, and after 5 issues, four of which were westerns, featured Rocky's movie POWDER RIVER RUSTLERS fondly remembered for its unusual villain. Two issue later, the series returned to Rocky with GUNMEN OF ABILENE. The comic was now numbered and this eighth issue is prominently marked #7. #12 (August 1951) features Rocky's film RUSTLERS ON HORSEBACK, the last of his appearances in this series.

Fawcett had also started a virtually identical but separate series called Motion Picture Comics the same year. The second issue #101 (January 1951) featured Rocky's film CODE OF THE SILVER SAGE. The next two issues also featured Rocky. #103 had COVERED WAGON RAID, and #104 had VIGILANTE HIDEOUT. #107 (November 1951) featured FRISCO TORNADO. Rocky's last appearance in this series was in #109 (March 1952) featuring ROUGH RIDERS OF DURANGO which had been his first film of 1951. Naturally, all these movie comics have photo covers.

All of this represents an extraordinary success in comics, but there was one more special distinction to come. Four years after the last Rocky Lane movie with #20 (the numbering continues from unrelated comics) Charlton began publishing Rocky Lane's Black Jack. This is one of the very few series starring a cowboy's horse! Black Jack ended its run with #30 (November 1959) the same month that Rocky's own comic ended.

In 1989, AC Comics published Rocky Lane Western #1 featuring reprints from the series. In 1990, they did a combined Rocky Lane/Bob Steele issue #1. In 1991, they did a Rocky Lane annual. All have photo covers, the annual and the Steele/Lane issue have photos on the back and inside front covers as well. All three issues are in black and white.

Ted Holland, in his fine B Western Actors Encyclopedia sums up Rocky's appeal: "If I ever have to face a gang of muggers in a dark alley, I don't want Hulk Hogan or Smokin' Joe Frasier by my side, I want Rocky Lane."




(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
Above, Elliott's last comic #643
 
(Courtesy of J. P. Fannie)
Above - issue #15

BILL ELLIOTT

Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Everyone's favorite peaceable man made his first comics appearance in Dell publishing's Four Color anthology series with #278 (May 1950). The issue features him on the cover in a bright red shirt, gun drawn, and there is a photo back cover as well. For some reason the title just says 'BILL ELLIOTT'.

As a separate series, Wild Bill Elliott #2 appeared a few months later (November 1950) and ran through #17 (June 1955). Every issue had a photo cover and numbers 2-10 have photo back covers as well. #2 shows Wild Bill on Thunder, dressed as Red Ryder.

(Courtesy of J. P. Fannie)

Above, WILD BILL ELLIOTT # 2, with our hero in his Red Ryder costume and riding Thunder


In the midst of this modest run, Wild Bill appeared twice more in the Four Color series, both with photo covers front and back.

Meanwhile, in 1952, Dell's Giant series began a sub-series called Western Roundup (the first issue is dated June 1952). The covers featured head photos of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers with smaller shots of Johnny Mack Brown, Rex Allen and Wild Bill. These were fat comics, with many more pages than ordinary comics (most or all were 84 pages) selling for the high price of 25¢ each.

The first 14 issues had photo back covers as did #16 and #18. After #18 the photo covers ended, as did the Gene Autry stories. I am not sure how many after that had Wild Bill stories, but by #22 the contents had changed to TV westerns such as WAGON TRAIN and TALES OF WELLS FARGO.

Wild Bill's final appearance was in Four Color #643 (July 1955). Not a bad comic book career for Wild Bill, but not indicative of his standing as one of the best and most popular movie cowboys. The main reason for this discrepancy is, I think, one of timing. Even though Wild Bill was still making movies in the 1950s, the series Western was nearing its end.

If Western movie comics had become a staple in the late 1930s or early 1940s, Wild Bill might have had a much longer comics career. In those days, as now, superheroes were king. After the war, a temporary exhaustion of the superhero genre and increasing adult criticism of the effects of comics on children, among other factors, led to a greater interest in Westerns. However, for the cowboy series' stars the interest came a bit late. Eventually, many western comics featured TV westerns, and ultimately the superheroes came back with a vengeance.



RED RYDER

Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

The first comics (The Yellow Kid of 1897 was the first) contained reprints of newspaper comic strips and almost all comics continued to do so into the mid-1930s. A late addition to this tradition was the appearance of Dell Publishing's Crackerjack Funnies #9 (dated March 1939) with a cover featuring Fred Harman's character Red Ryder astride his horse Thunder billed as 'The Famous Fighting Cowboy'. RR continued to appear along with many other characters, through issue #35 (dated May 1941) and was mentioned on every cover in that period except #15. However, he made only one other cover illustration --- #28, which featured overlapping page facsimiles of RR and three other strips. Soon, all the covers were devoted to an original comic book superhero called The Owl, just one of a flood of superheroes dominating comics after the appearance of Superman in 1938.

Meanwhile, in 1940, Republic Pictures produced the 12 chapter serial ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER starring Donald Barry, ever after known as 'Red' in the title role. The film was tagged as 'based on the famous NEA newspaper cartoon'. Dated September of the same year Hawley Publications presented Red Ryder Comics #1, featuring newspaper reprints starting with the first meeting of Red and Little Beaver. Many other unrelated newspaper strips, including King of the Royal Mounted appeared as backup features. The cover was a line drawing by Fred Harman.

In 1941, Whitman Publishing released the Red Ryder Paint Book, an oversized 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 book with 148 pages. Hawley Publishing had not immediately followed up their initial issue of Red's comic, but Red Ryder #3 (#2 was devoted to other material) finally appeared dated August 1941. With the tag line 'At last Red Ryder in his own comic magazine!' A wide array of backup features was included once again.

Starting with issue #6 (April 1942), Dell Publishing took over the comic which otherwise continued as before. Beginning with #33 (April 1946), most of the backup features were gone, and the majority of the comic belonged to Red (King of the Royal Mounted reprints continued through #73). In May 1944, Republic released the first of their Red Ryder film series with Wild Bill Elliott as Red and Bobby Blake as Little Beaver. As far as I know, no mention of their 16 films appeared in Red's comic. In September 1946, a pre-'Rocky' Allan Lane assumed the part of Red and with issue # 41 (dated December 1946 but probably out in September), Allan appeared in a photo back cover. These continued through #57 (April 1948). The exceptions were #49 and #52, featuring back cover photos of Fred Harman, as did #59.

A more important change came with #47 (June 1947). At last there were brand new stories of Red and the gang in place of the now fairly uncommon newspaper reprints.

Red's comic just kept going strong, year after year. Harman illustrations adorned covers #1, 3-98 and 107-118, a few were painted covers though most were line drawings. Issues #100 and 106 had Jim Bannon photo covers (he had taken over the role for Eagle-Lion Pictures in 1949). Bannon also appeared dressed as Red Ryder sitting around a campfire with starlet Nancy Saunders on the cover of D.C. Comics' Romance Trail #2, dated September-October 1949 but as is usually the case with these Western Romance comics, they probably don't figure in the stories.

With #145, the title was changed to Red Ryder Ranch Magazine and featured multiple photos. Issue #149 changed that to Red Ryder Ranch Comics. Issue #151 (April-June 1957) was the last regular appearance.

This phenomenal run from #3 (August 1941) to #151 is the longest continuous newstand run of any Western comic. In July 1957, Red appeared one last time in issue 915 of Dell's Four Color anthology series (possibly a leftover issue from the regular run?)

That's not the whole story, though. Many popular comics characters appeared in giveaway comics and Red was no exception. In 1941 Buster Brown Shoes did one, and four others appeared in 1943, 1944 (2 different giveaways), and 1950. Two of them, produced by Langendorf Bread, called Red Ryder Victory Patrol, contained such extras as membership cards, decoder rings and maps of Red's home range. These giveaways are often rather rare nowadays, and the RR Victory Patrol issues are among the most expensive of all Western comics, coming in 4th place after Gene Autry #1, Hopalong Cassidy #1 and a Lone Ranger Ice Cream giveaway. Red Ryder #1 is in 6th place after a Tom Mix Ralston-Purina giveaway.

So popular was the Red Ryder strip that Little Beaver had his own series. Dell's Four Color Series #211 of January 1949 was the first issue, followed by 3 others through #332 of May 1951. Beavers' series then became independent with #3 (even though there had already been four issues) dated October-December 1951. The last independent issue was #8 dated January-March 1953, but there were eight more issues in the 4 color series. The last was dated January 1958. All 18 issues had painted covers.

Apart from all this, Red was often seen in other comics in ads for the very popular Red Ryder BB gun. In 1983, humorist Jean Shepherd's story of longing for a Red Ryder BB gun was filmed as A CHRISTMAS STORY. The film has developed such a following over the years that Ted Turner's TNT cable network is showing it for 24 hours straight, starting at 8pm on Christmas Eve, 1999.




(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
Above, Whip Wilson and Reno Browne (Reno Blair) on the cover of Western Love #2


(Courtesy of Bill McCann)

WHIP WILSON & RENO BROWNE/RENO BLAIR


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Whip Wilson's comic career began in Tim McCoy Western Movie Stories #19 dated April 1949. It continued somewhat inauspiciously with the cover of Western Love #2, dated September/October 1949 published by Feature Publications, part of the Prize Comics Group. The cover shot is a nice one of Whip and Reno Browne (his costar in six films starting with SHADOWS OF THE WEST in 1949) riding double on Bullet. The contents, as is common with cowboy romance comics, have nothing to do with the cover. According to Bob Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide, Reno Browne may be on issue #3 alone, but it is not certain.

Several other covers featuring Whip and Reno appeared. They are the October/November 1949 issue of Real West Romances (#4) published by Crestwood Publications/Prize Publishing; the first issue, dated December 1949 of Western Life Romances published by Marvel Comics, and the first and 9th issues of Western Hearts, dated December 1949 and December 1951 respectively, published by Standard Magazines. None has contents relating to Whip.

However, in 1950 (dated April) Marvel published Whip Wilson #9 (the numbering continues from an unrelated title). At last, Whip had a comic of his own! Unfortunately, it was to last only two more issues ending with #11, dated September 1950. All three have photo covers. Issue #11 was reprinted by I.W. Reprints in 1964.

Not much of a comics career. There is, however, one interesting thing related to Whip's comics.

Reno Browne #50 appeared at the same time as Whip's comic (April 1950) published by Marvel. It also ran for only three issues, ending with #52 dated September 1950. All three issues have photo covers and feature the tagline 'Hollywood's Greatest Cowgal'. The interesting thing about this is that apart from Dale Evans, no actual movie cowgirl ever had her own comic except for Reno Browne. (There were Annie Oakley TV comics and imaginary character comics such as Black Phantom, a masked cowgirl friend of Red Mask).

Apart from the six films she made with Whip, Reno appeared in one film with Jimmy Wakely, 1949's ACROSS THE RIO GRANDE, and six films with Johnny Mack Brown starting with UNDER ARIZONA SKIES of 1946. In the JMB films she was billed as Reno Blair, apparently to avoid the Brown/Browne billing. Ted Holland's fine B Western Actor's Encyclopedia lists those thirteen films, all made for Monogram, as her only appearances, so she was hardly Hollywood's Greatest Cowgal, but she does deserve a footnote in comics history. According to Holland, she was once married to Lash LaRue.




(Courtesy of Bill McCann)

TIM HOLT


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

From the point of view of comics history, Tim Holt's series is an especially fascinating one.  Western comics had existed since the appearance of Western Picture Stories, dated February, 1937.  But the real explosion in comics' popularity came with the publication of Action Comics #1 dated June 1938 containing the first adventure of Superman.  From that moment on, Super heroes ruled the comic book roost as they do today.

However, after the War, Superhero comics began to suffer a slow decline.  Many disappeared from the stands and others were converted to non-superhero subjects.  Crack comics, for example, which for some years had featured Captain Triumph, became Crack Western with the November 1949 issue.  (In fact, Tim's photo appeared on the cover of issue 72 of Crack Western dated May 1951 even though the contents appear to have nothing to do with him).

The first Tim Holt comic appeared in Magazine Enterprises' anthology series A-1 Comics with issue #14 in 1948.  It had a drawn cover with an upper left corner medallion containing a head shot of Tim.  Of course, Tim's movie series had started many years earlier in 1940, and after wartime interruption (he won the Distinguished Flying Cross), the films resumed in 1947.

A-1 Comics #17 and 19 also featured Tim now with photo covers (19 has a photo back cover, too).  With the next issue, (#4 dated January/February 1949,) Tim's series became independent of the A-1 series.  The photo covers continued as did the phrases 'Cowboy Star of the Movies' and 'Western Adventures' on each cover.  Issue 5 and 6 also had photo back covers.

The photo front covers lasted through issue 16, returning one last time with issue 18.  In issue 17, Tim was back to an upper left head shot and the rest of the cover presented a striking drawing of the new comic sensation, the Ghost Rider!  The seeds of this change had appeared as early as issue #6, which had a backup feature relating the adventures of the Calico Kid alias Rex Fury.  An insert on the cover of issue 11 heralded the metamorphosis of the Calico Kid into the Ghost Rider.  Clad in phosphorescent white and masked, GR was a spooky superhero-style cowboy hero, frightening and fooling villains into thinking he was a ghost.  Ghost Rider inserts appeared again on the covers of issue 16 and after his full cover splash on 17, again on 18.

Issue 19 had a drawn cover of Tim with the photo medallion again.  The comic ended with a page showing a cowboy all in red, wearing a Durango Kid style mask.  'Coming next issue', it said.  Sure enough, with issue 20, Tim's photo-medallion was back, along with a new tagline under the logo: 'Tim Holt As Red Mask'.  Tim hadn't been replaced exactly, instead, he had become Red Mask, and so he stayed through the last issue #41 of April/May 1954.  The one exception was issue 29 which featured a full-length black and white photo of Tim on Lightning against a red background with a drawing of Red Mask in a medallion for a change.  With issue 42, the comic changed it's name to Red Mask, but now there was a photo medallion of someone (Tim?) in a red hat, wearing the new Lone Ranger-style red mask.  The last issue was #54 dated Sept 1957.

An interesting aspect of the series was the adoption of so-called '3-D' artwork with issue 39.  A number of real 3-D comics requiring red/green glasses, had appeared in 1953 and 1954, but although the 3-D effects were good, they were all, of necessity, in black and white.  Tim's comic had drawings which broke the panel frame, and though not 3-D, it was an intriguing effect.  I remember one story, set in the hills in which rocks were dislodged in one panel and fell across the page into another illustration.

Red Mask, always identified as Tim Holt, also appeared in 9 issues of A-1 comics' sub series Best of the West along with the Ghost Rider, Straight Arrow and the Durango Kid, all superhero style western heroes.

In the sixties, I. W. Reprints did 4 issues of Red Mask reprints. In 1971, Skyward Comics reprinted Red Mask stories in 2 issues of Blazing Six-Guns, one issue of Wild Western Action (#3) and in a one-shot called The Bravados.  In 1989-90, AC Comics published Red Mask reprints in Black Phantom numbers 2 and 3. All these reprints demonstrate a continuing interest in Tim Holt's colorful alter-ego.



SUNSET CARSON


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Sunset Carson's comics career began in Charlton's Cowboy Western Comics #27 dated August 1950.  It features a photo cover, and an adaptation of his Astor film SUNSET CARSON RIDES AGAIN.  Although specific adaptations do occur in western hero comics, they are not the rule.  This series is somewhat unusual in its adaptation of all of Sunset's Astor films.  Issue 28 adapts both BATTLING MARSHAL and FIGHTING MUSTANGS.  Issue 29 adapts RIO GRANDE as well as James Stewart's WINCHESTER 73 and features a five page biography of Sunset.  Issue 30 has an adaptation of DEADLINE.  Issues 30 and 35 have photo covers and the later also has a photo on the inside front.  Sunset was still featured in issue #37.  I'm not sure about issues #38 and #39, but he was definitely out with issue #40 which became Space Western Comics.

Charlton also published Sunset Carson comics, beginning with #1 dated February, 1951.  Only four issues were published.  Issue #1 has a retouched photo cover rather like a painting, while #2 and #4 have drawn covers.  All four issues have a black and white photo medallion of Sunset in the upper left corner.  There are no adaptations of Sunset Carson films in these comics, but there is an adaptation of Audie Murphy's film KANSAS RAIDERS in issue #2.




(Courtesy of Bill McCann)
Above, Tim McCoy #19

TIM MCCOY


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Like most of the silent cowboy stars who made the transition to sound (Tom Mix is the great exception), Tim McCoy had a short comic book career.  This is partly due to the timeframe involved, as comics didn't really hit their stride until the end of the 30s, some years after McCoy's generation of cowboy stars had peaked.  However, Colonel McCoy holds a minor but noteworthy place in comic book history.

For his 1933-34 season at Columbia, Tim made a series of non-western action films, one of which became the first movie adaptation in comic book form.  This was Tim McCoy, Police Car 17 published by Whitman Publishing Co. in 1934.  It is an oversized comic (11 x 14 3/4) and is in black and white.

Colonel McCoy's next appearance was in issues #31 and #32, dated August and September of 1938 respectively, of Dell's long-running, aptly named anthology series Popular Comics.

Much later, in 1948, Charlton comics began Tim McCoy Western Movie Stories with issue 16 (taking over the numbering from a former unrelated title) dated October 1948.  It ran for only 6 issues, the last dated August 1949.  All had drawn covers of Tim, although the first featured a photo back cover of John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in RED RIVER.  In an apparent effort to support Tim with younger heroes, issue 17 had a Rocky Lane story and issue 18 had a Rod Cameron story.  Number 19 guest-starred Whip Wilson and Andy Clyde, while 20 featured Jimmy Wakely, and 21, the final issue, guest-starred Johnny Mack Brown.



JOHNNY MACK BROWN


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Johnny Mack Brown's first comic book appearance coincided with Tim McCoy's last appearance in Tim McCoy Western Movie Stories #21, dated August 1949 and published by Charlton Comics.  According to Bob Overstreet's indespensable Comic Book Price Guide, Johnny's own series began in March 1950 as part of Dell Publishing's Four Color anthology series, and continued until February 1959.  There were a total of 22 issues in that period, all with photo covers (and as in the comic issues on the right, at least some had photo back covers as well).

Johnny also appeared in the first 21 issues of the Dell Giant Series Western Roundup beginning in June 1952 which featured Johnny along with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Elliott and Rex Allen.  The first 9 covers are illustrated in Ernst and Mary Gerber's wonderful Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books.  All 9 covers have photo head shots of all 5 stars with Roy's and Gene's always slightly larger than the others.  The first 14 issues also have photo back covers, as do issues 16 and 18, according to Overstreet.

Johnny's first and only other comics appearance insofar as I can tell was in 1939 in issues 4, 5 and 6 of National Periodicals short-lived (6 issues) Movie Comics.  They contain a 3-part adaption of the serial THE OREGON TRAIL.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)



LASH LARUE


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Citing Robert Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide, Lash LaRue Western began publication in 1949 and ran for 46 issues, the last being dated January, 1954. I believe all 46 issues had photo covers. In any case, only the first 6 issues had photo back covers. The Gerbers' Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books illustrates the first 9 as well as number 46 and they do all have photo covers.

However, #46 was not the end of Lash's comic. In an unusual move, when Fawcett left the comic business, Charlton comics continued the series and even the numbering, beginning with #47, dated March-April 1954 and ending with #84, dated 1961. Most of these did not have photo covers although Overstreet indicates that #47 did.

In 1990, a small company called Americomics published Lash LaRue #1 and Lash LaRue Western Annual. #1 apparently contains reprints of Fawcett's issue #6 plus movie posters. The contents are partly color and partly black and white. Both issues have photo covers.

In addition to this long and successful run in his own comic, Lash also appeared in two issues of Fawcett Movie Comics, # 8 featured KING OF THE BULLWHIP (1950) and #11 THE THUNDERING HERD, dated June, 1951. Both have photo covers, #8 being an especially nice shot of Lash, gun drawn, standing just in front of Rush/Black Diamond.

Fawcett's related series Motion Picture Comics also featured Lash's film THE VANISHING OUTPOST in issue 11, dated July 1952.

Lash also appeared in Fawcett's Six-Gun Heroes issues 5 through 23 along with Hoppy, Rocky Lane and others. Issues 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 19 and 22 were Lash photo covers.

As with Lash's own comic, Six-Gun Heroes was at this point picked up by Charlton with issue 24, dated January 1954. I'm not sure how many issues Lash was in, although he was definitely still appearing in #30. (In January, 2004, Carl E. Kerley sent an e-mail noting that Lash's last appearance in Six-Gun Heroes was in issue #60 from 1960.)

The Grand Comics Database Project (GCD) website has images of the covers for Six-Gun Heroes and Lash Larue Westerns:
Fawcett Six-Gun Heroes issues 1 - 23: http://www.comics.org/series/14345/covers/
Charlton Six-Gun Heroes issues 24 - 74: http://www.comics.org/series/1019/covers/
Fawcett Lash Larue Westerns issues 1 - 46: http://www.comics.org/series/14331/covers/
Charlton Lash Larue Westerns issues 47 - 84: http://www.comics.org/series/1016/covers/




(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Hoppy #62


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Hoppy #74


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Hoppy #93

HOPALONG CASSIDY


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

In late 1942 (dated December but comics then as now frequently came out a month or two before their cover dates), Fawcett added Hopalong Cassidy to the cast of their popular title Master Comics starring Captain Marvel, Jr. Hoppy began in issue 33 and continued through issue 49 dated April, 1944.

In January 1943, Fawcett published the first Hopalong Cassidy comic.  The second issue didn't appear until mid-1946! It then continued uninterrupted until #85 in late 1953.  At that point Fawcett left the comic business, but Hoppy was popular enough to be picked up by National Periodical Publications (commonly known as DC Comics) the most important comics company of the time, starting with issue #86 in early 1954 and continuing through issue #135 in 1959.  Along the way there were also smaller 'giveaway' comics, one each for White Tower (1946) and Grape Nuts Flakes (1950), as well as three for the Bond Bread Company (all 1951).

Issue numbers 5, 8, 11, 13-19, all illustrated in the Gerber's Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books, have photo covers.  I'm not sure about the covers on issues 26-29 (the other '20s' have painted covers), however Bob Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide says that issues 35, 36, and 42-108 all have photo covers.  Oddly, a few issues repeat photos from earlier issues, sometimes reversing them.

Hoppy also appeared in Fawcett's Real Western Hero issues 70 through 75 (late 1948 and early '49) along with Tom Mix, Monte Hale and others.  With issue #76 the title was changed to Western Hero.  Hoppy continued in this title until issue #86.  In issue #87 (early 1950), Hoppy was replaced.  Who could replace the great Cassidy?  Why, none other than Bill Boyd.  Bill appeared in 9 issues ending with issue #95.  The 6 Real Western Hero issues all have painted covers of Hoppy, in all cases wearing a red shirt! In the Western Hero issues, small black & white head shots of the heroes appear under the title, but the painted covers continue until #84 which has a photo cover of Hoppy sitting on a fence next to Topper.  They appear again in a nice photo on #86.  Hoppy's alter ego Bill Boyd appears in a photo cover on issue #89 wearing what became his signature yellow (!) shirt and flat-crowned white hat.

Hoppy also appeared in Fawcett's Six-Gun Heroes beginning with issue #1, dated March, 1950.  The first three issues have Hoppy photo covers.  When Fawcett closed their comics division at the end of 1953, Charlton comics continued this series which featured Lash LaRue, Rocky Lane and others.  I'm not sure how many issues of this Charlton version Hoppy appeared in.  The Fawcett issues and the first Charlton issue (#24) have black & white head shots of the heroes at the bottom of each issue.  In spite of Hoppy's commitment to Fawcett, he appeared in issue #7 of Rural Home Publications/Patches Publications' Patches dated April 1947. This appears to have been a younger kid's comic with an emphasis on humor. Hoppy is featured in a drawn cover which, true to form, emphasizes comedy rather than action.

As far as I can tell, that completes Hopalong Cassidy's comic book career, but his doppelganger Bill Boyd had a 23 issue run in Bill Boyd Western from Fawcett (1950-1952).  All 23 issues have photo front covers of Bill, usually in yellow shirt, white hat and tan pants.  Some covers also feature his black horse Midnite.  The first three issues also have photo back covers.  My favorite cover in this series is #2, the lone painted cover, showing Bill with two guns blazing, painted in the style of the old western pulp magazines.  Fawcett's Cowboy Love #5 (November 1949) has a photo back cover of Bill Boyd, but the contents have nothing to do with him.

All in all, an extremely distinguished comics career.  Bob Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide lists Hopalong Cassidy #1 as the second most valuable of all western comics (the most valuable western comic is Gene Autry #1).



BUSTER CRABBE


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Buster Crabbe comics, published by Famous Funnies Publications, appeared in late 1951 (#1 is dated November) and ran until the September, 1953 issue, #12.  All 12 issues have a black and white photo of Buster in a cowboy hat in the upper left-hand corner.  The first 4 issues have taglines such as "Your Television All-American Cowboy" and the first 3 have drawn covers of Buster dressed as a cowboy, although #3 has green aliens as well!  After that, the covers vary from space to jungle, #6 features a shark attack, with only issues 11 and 12 returning to Western themes.

Almost immediately following the demise of his Famous Funnies series, Lev Gleason Publications began a new series, The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe The All-American Hero. Issue #1 is dated December 1953 and has a (partial) autographed photo cover of Buster in modern dress. Issues #1 and #2 as reproduced in Ernst and Mary Gerber's Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books offer free autographed pictures and also bear the legend "Space * Jungle * Western* His 3 Greatest Adventures".

Robert Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide says that issue #4 (dated January 1954), the final issue of the short series, has a Flash Gordon cover.

Finally, in 1955, Charlton Comics published issue #1 of Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion which had a 4 issue run ending with the September, 1956 issue.  #1 has small black and white headshots of Buster and his son Cuffy in the upper corners; these became drawings on issues #2 and #4, and a full-page photo of Buster on the inside front cover. There may be other photos inside as well.  #1 was also issued as a Heinz Foods giveaway, which Overstreet says has ads in place of some of the photos.



REX ALLEN


Lansing and Andrea Sexton provide the following info:

Rex Allen's first comic appearance was an unusual one. He graced the cover of Standard Comics Western Hearts issue #3 dated June 1950, holding hands with an attractive cowgirl. Insofar as I know, the comic itself had nothing to do with Rex.

Rex's next appearance was in Dell Publishing's Four-Color anthology series #316, February 1951. Dell continued with Rex Allen #2 September/November 1951. The series concluded with issue #31 December/February 1958-59.

All 31 issues have photo covers; some have typical action shots while others have relaxed, offbeat shots of Rex pouring a cup of coffee (#15), playing the banjo (#9), or polishing his boots (#3) which accurately reflect his laid back charm. Issues FC #316, 2-12, 20 and 21 have photo back covers.

Rex also appeared in Dell's Western Roundup beginning with issue #1, dated June 1952. Rex appeared through issue #21, published in early 1958. All these issues featured head shots of Rex and his compadres Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Johnny Mack Brown and Wild Bill Elliott. The first 14 issue and issues 16 and 18 also have photo back covers.

Rex appeared once again in Dell's Four-Color series with issue #877 dated February 1958 devoted to his TV series FRONTIER DOCTOR. The cover shows Rex with medical bag in hand under the title 'Frontier Doctor featuring Rex Allen'.

A fine run by a cowboy who came late to the series' western but made a substantial contribution to its annals.



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