Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Best Genre Mash-Up Comic Of All Time!!!

For my 4000th post (so what? Big deal!), I'd like to take a look at the ultimate comic book ever--one that has everything good in one newsprint wrapper:

Yes, this comic has cowboys.

Cowboys fighting Nazis.

Cowboys fighting Nazis...ON MARS!!!!

And yes, this really happens!

From 1948 through 1952, Charlton published a nondescript little title, Cowboy Western Comics:

Not much to see there.

But in late 1952, things drastically changed with issue #40:

True to its word, Space Western #40 introduced Spurs Jackson and his Space Vigilantes. And the world had a science-fiction western on it's hands!!

I'm not sure why this happened, except perhaps Charlton was trying to catch onto the sci-fi trends that was just barely beginning to bubble through American pop culture. And why not combine it with a western?

Whatever the reason, the creative pedigree was remarkable. The lead feature, Spurs Jackson and his Space Vigilantes, was created and written by pulp legend Walter Gibson, who wrote hundreds (thousands?) of Shadow stories for the pulps and comic strips.

The art for the first issue was mostly by John Belfi. But with the second issue, art chores passed to Golden Age veteran Stan Campbell (here's a nice appreciation of his work).

And we were off to the races:

Set in the "future" of 1955, Gibson and Campbell created a bizarre world, where cowboys armed with 6-shooters would help the U.S. Army repel alien invasions, or keep the commies from using their space bases to nuke us!

Oh, and Earth had space bases, too. And Spurs was also sort of our ambassador to Mars. And...oh, did I mention that the cowboys had their own spaceships? And between round-ups and repelling aliens, they would travel the solar system?

That's one helluva cover by Campbell, clearly homaging the classic Wally Wood Spirit splash page from a few months earlier:

A cowboy western comic homaging a crime comic set in space. What a world!!

Then came the cover I started this post off with...oh, heck, it's a beauty, so let's look at it again!

This was the start of the two part classic where escaped Nazis established themselves on Mars, and were nuking--yes, nuking--Earth cities. So why not send a bunch of cowboys in a rocket to put them down?

And, yes, Hitler was there. And Spurs killed him.

But that was it. After 6 gloriously nutty issues, Charlton decided to go back to boring old Cowboy Western Comics...

...which was followed by Cowboy Western Heroes, which changed to Cowboy Western, which became Wild Bill Hicock And Jingles. Such was life at Charlton...

And that's why I love comic books, and why I'm still doing this after 4,000 posts. No matter how many I've read, there's still so much more to discover. Titles I never knew existed, insane ideas churned out with glee (and sometimes great skill), unexpected authors and illustrators appearing in the most unexpected places, homage covers back in 1953, for heaven's sake!!!

And on a good day, you'll find cowboys. Fighting Nazis. ON MARS.

1 comment:

Sina said...

I like comics books :)