Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tales From The Quarter Bin--Who The Heck Is Reno Jones?!?

Western comics have never really been my thing. But I always thought I was enough of a Marvel Zombie that I had at least a passing familiarity with all of their gunslingers.

Until I found this in the Quarter Bin:

I had never even heard of Reno Jones before.

In my defense, it was an obscure title, even by Marvel Western standards, and it wrapped up before I started buying comics.

So a little history.

In 1972, Gray Friedrich and Syd Shore debuted The Gunhawks, starring original characters Reno Jones and Kid Cassidy.

The premise: Reno was a slave on the plantation of Cassidy's family. They grew up best friends (I know, I know...).

Cassidy joined the Confederate Army once the Civil War started. The Union Army destroyed the Cassidy plantation, killing almost everyone and kidnapping Reno's lover Rachel. So Reno joined up with the Confederate Army. (Yes, yes, I know).

After the war, they wandered around the country, looking for Ruth, and always just missing her, or not realizing she was there before they left, or...

As you may have noted, Marvel must have thought Reno had bigger star potential, because he clearly dominated the covers.

And then Jones dominated the entire series, as Kid Cassidy was killed! Reno was framed for the killing, and went on the lam.

Which brings us back to this issue:

Some have said that this was a Big Deal, as, to quote the Wikipedia article,
With the next issue, the series was retitled to Reno Jones, Gunhawk, making Jones Marvel's second black character to have his own self-titled series, after Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. (The Black Panther had taken over the lead in the Jungle Action series a few months prior, but the Panther's name was not included in the series' title.)
However, it was a short-lived distinction, as this was the last issue of Gunhawk. And we leave on a pretty good cliffhanger:

 And fin.

The last caption promises us that the story would be followed up:

But that was a damned lie. Western Team-Up did debut the following month...

...but Reno and his story were nowhere to be found.

That was the only issue of Western Team-Up, and Reno's story was never, ever resolved.

Until a 2000 mini-series (which I never read, as I was out of comics at the time), which retconned the Gunhawks stories as "dime store novel" version of what really happened. They were never really friends, Reno himself killed the racist Kid Cassidy, he never found Ruth, and settled down in a western town with a new wife. Until the Klan showed up, and it turns out that Cassidy wasn't dead, and he was head of the Clan, and Reno became the 2nd western Ghost Rider/Phantom Rider, and killed Cassidy for real this time.

I'd say it's surprising that Marvel never did more to revive Reno Jones, given his historical significance and the desire for more diverse characters. Then again, it was a Western title, and modern Marvel has had a best a disdainful relationship with that part of their history.

Still, if someone were to write a story establishing that Reno Jones was an ancestor of Rufus "Super Midnight" Carter, I for one would read the living hell out of it!


George Chambers said...

And in the final issue of POWER MAN and IRON FIST, the white guy is killed and the black guy is framed for his death, just like what happened here. Probably nothing more than a coincidence. Probably.

Madman said...

Snell, you have such great essays, particularly on obscure comic runs. Thank you!!