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Tex Taylor #1-9 (Sep. 1948 – March 1950).
Western in comic books. Is a comics genre usually depicting the American Old West frontier (usually anywhere west of the Mississippi River) and typically set during the late nineteenth century. The term is generally associated with an American comic books genre published from the late 1940s through the 1950s (though the genre had continuing popularity in Europe, and persists in limited form in American comics today). Western comics of the period typically featured dramatic scripts about cowboys, gunfighters, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, and Native Americans. Accompanying artwork depicted a rural America populated with such iconic images as guns, cowboy hats, vests, horses, saloons, ranches, and deserts, contemporaneous with the setting.
Western novels, films, and pulp magazines were extremely popular in the United States from the late 1930s to the 1960s.
Western comics first appeared in syndicated newspaper strips in the late 1920s. Harry O'Neill's Young Buffalo Bill (later changed to Buckaroo Bill and then, finally, Broncho Bill), distributed by United Feature Syndicate beginning in 1928, was about a group of Boy rangers, and was a pioneering example of the form. Starting in the 1930s, Red Ryder, Little Joe, and King of the Royal Mounted were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers across the United States. Garrett Price's White Boy (later changed to Skull Valley) was another syndicated strip from the 1930s.
The first Western stories to appear in the comics were in the mid-1930s: National Allied's New Fun Comics #1 (Feb. 1935) ran the modern-West feature "Jack Woods" and the Old West feature "Buckskin Jim"; Centaur Publications' The Comics Magazine #1 (May 1936) ran the feature "Captain Bill of the Rangers"; and David McKay Publications's Feature Book #1 (May 1937) and a single issue of King Comics (also 1937) featured King of the Royal Mounted reprints before Dell took over licensing of the character. Dell Comics' The Funnies published a run of short adaptations of B-movie Westerns starting in vol. 2, issue #20 (May 1938). Whitman Comics' Crackajack Funnies ran regular Western features (including Tom Mix stories) beginning with issue #1 in June 1938.
The first stand-alone Western comics titles were published by Centaur Publications. Star Ranger and Western Picture Stories both debuted from the publisher in late 1936, cover-dated Feb. 1937. Star Ranger ran for 12 issues, becoming Cowboy Comics for a couple of issues, and then becoming Star Ranger Funnies. The series ended in October 1939. Western Picture Stories ran four issues in 1937. Dell Comics published Western Action Thrillers #1 shortly thereafter (cover-date Apr. 1937), and began publishing Red Ryder Comics, initially reprinting the long-running comic strip, in 1941.
Western comics became popular in the years immediately following World War II, when hip comics readers found crime-busting superheroes in tights and trunks a thing of the past. Adult comics readership had grown during the war years, and returning servicemen wanted subjects other than superheroes in their books. The popularity of the Western genre in comic strips and other media gave birth to Western comics, many of which began being published around 1948.
Most of the larger publishers of the period jumped headfirst into the Western arena during this period, particularly Marvel Comics and its forerunners Timely Comics and Atlas Comics. Kid Colt Outlaw debuted in 1948, running until 1979 (though it was primarily a reprint title after 1967). The company soon established itself as the most prolific publisher of Western comics with other notable long-running titles, including Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, and Wild Western.
The six-issue 1950 Harvey Comics series Boys' Ranch, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, was a seminal example of the Western comics genre. DC Comics published the long-running series All-Star Western and Western Comics. Charlton Comics published Billy the Kid, Cheyenne Kid, Outlaws of the West, Texas Rangers in Action, and the unusual title Black Fury, about a horse that roamed the West righting wrongs. Both Dell Comics and Fawcett Comics published a number of Western titles, including The Lone Ranger (Dell) and Hopalong Cassidy (Fawcett, later continued by DC after Fawcett folded in 1953). Avon Comics published a number of Western comics, the most notable titles being based on historical figures like Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickock. Youthful published the Western titles Gunsmoke, Indian Fighter, and Redskin (later known as Famous Western Badmen). And Toby Press published its own Billy the Kid Adventure Magazine.
The first Western hero to have his adventures published in the comics was the Masked Raider, published by Timely Comics beginning in 1939. Timely/Atlas/Marvel favored Western characters with the word "Kid" in their name, including the Apache Kid, Kid Colt, the Outlaw Kid, the Rawhide Kid, the Ringo Kid, the Two-Gun Kid, and the Western Kid — as well as the more obscure the Prairie Kid, the Arizona Kid, and the Texas Kid. Other companies followed suit, with DC's Stuff, the Chinatown Kid and the Wyoming Kid, and Charlton Comics' Billy the Kid and the Cheyenne Kid. Black Rider and Phantom Rider were two other Marvel company characters from the genre's peak. Other early DC Comics Western characters included Johnny Thunder, Nighthawk, Pow Wow Smith, Tomahawk, the Trigger Twins, and Vigilante. Dell Comics featured the Lone Ranger, and Dell's Lobo (debuting in 1965) was the medium's first African-American character to headline his own series.
The years 1946–1949 saw an explosion of titles "starring" Western film actors and cowboy singers. Almost every star, major or minor, had their own title at some point; and almost every publisher got in on the action: Fawcett published Allan Lane, Monte Hale, Gabby Hayes, Lash LaRue, Tex Ritter, and Tom Mix comics; Dell published Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Roy Rogers, and Wild Bill Elliott comics; Magazine Enterprises published Charles Starrett and Tim Holt comics; Toby Press published a John Wayne title; and DC produced short-lived Dale Evans and Jimmy Wakely titles. (Dale Evans and Reno Browne were the only two Western actresses to have comics based on their characters. Most of the cowboy actor titles featured photo covers of the stars; most series had been canceled by 1957.
The Western genre in general peaked around 1960, largely due to the tremendous number of Westerns on American television. Increasingly, the genre reflected a Romantic, dishonest view of the American West — and American history in general. As the country grappled with the cultural issues of the 1960s and the Vietnam War, the genre seemed increasingly out of touch.
As the American public's interest in the genre waned, Western literature — including comics — began to lose its appeal as well. At the same time, the comics industry was shifting back to superheroes (entering its "Silver Age") and away from some of the other genres which had flourished during the 1950s. In fact, of the original Western comics series begun in the late 1940s and early 1950s, only a handful of titles survived the 1950s. Charlton's low production costs enabled it to continue producing a number of Western titles, but otherwise Dell's The Lone Ranger, and Marvel's Gunsmoke Western, Kid Colt Outlaw, and Rawhide Kid were the only Western titles to make it through the 1960s.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the rise of revisionist Western film. Elements include a darker, more cynical tone, with focus on the lawlessness of the time period, favouring realism over romanticism, and an interest in greater historical authenticity. Anti-heroes were common, as were stronger roles for women and more-sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans and Mexicans. The films were often critical of big business, the American government, and masculine figures (including the military and their policies).
Reflecting the trend, in 1968 DC debuted the new character Bat Lash, who starred in a short-lived series. They also revived the All-Star Western title, starting volume two of the series in 1970. In 1972, All-Star Western changed its name to Weird Western Tales, with many stories featuring the newly created Western antihero Jonah Hex (who beginning in 1975 had his own title). Weird Western Tales (sister title of Weird War Tales) defined a new multi-genre form: "Weird West," a combination of the Western with another literary genre, usually horror, occult, or fantasy. Other Western characters DC created during this period include the heroes Scalphunter and El Diablo, and the villains El Papagayo, Terra-Man, and Quentin Turnbull.
Marvel also attempted to capitalize on the renewed interest in the Western with two mostly reprint titles, The Mighty Marvel Western (1968–1976) and Western Gunfighters vol. 2 (1970–1975).
The short-lived publisher Skywald Publications attempted a line of Western titles in the early 1970s, but nothing came of it.
Weird Western Tales survived until 1980, and Jonah Hex until 1985. By then no major publishers were producing Western titles, though iconic characters from the DC and Marvel canons would occasionally make cameo appearances in other books.
The DC Comics imprint Vertigo reintroduced the Western genre in 1995 with Preacher, set in a contemporary version of the West. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Western comic leaned toward the Weird West sub-genre, usually involving supernatural monsters. However, more traditional Western comics are found throughout this period, from Jonah Hex to Loveless. Series like Desperadoes, High Moon, and Scalped demonstrate the genre's continuing appeal. Creators like Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Fleisher, and Tony DeZuniga were notable contributors to Western comics from this period.
In addition, publishers like America's Comics Group and AC Comics have reprinted a number of Western comics from the genre's "Golden Age."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.