Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Fastest Gun Western

There is a small hole on the top right hand corner where the issue number should be, but that didn’t worry me. I recognized this as the first issue of The Fastest Gun Western anyway, without needing to confirm it via print on the spine. Not that I recall seeing a copy before, but hours misspent poring over old K.G. Murray comics advertisements when I was a kid meant instant recall when the quick decision had to be made whether to purchase this copy or not.

Up until a week or so ago I didn’t own any Fastest Gun Western issues – I have had some over the years, but always traded them or sold them – but, on the heels of a purchase in the last week, a neat bunch of early issues fell into my lap this morning, and it’s hard to resist such well preserved specimens (the hole mentioned above on #1 is the only fault to speak of in the whole bunch!)

The contents of the early issues appear to follow a pattern. The lead feature is Vandalia West by George Dollart (this is the only Google link I could find…) and Marculeta (I assume I have the right artist here…). The back-up features are generally a mix of Two-Gun Kid or Rawhide Kid reprints, or other similar Marvel material.

At some point Vandalia West is dropped in favour of Jackaroe as the lead feature. The credits say Robert O’Neill, presumably the writer, and art by Dibujos de Dalfiume (who may or may not also be Gianni Dalfiume, a Charlton war comics circa 1967-68).

The title later becomes Charlton-centric in it’s contents.

I don’t pretend to know much about this series or the lead contents, I’m just briefly laying out some of the information I’ve gleaned from browsing though them this morning and the obligatory Google hit.

The main reason I looked at them in the first place was on the off-chance of scoring some Alex Toth reprints, but I reckon I cashed that paydirt voucher a week ago, and I’ll let you know all about that one tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Wall of Flesh: A Pre-Code Horror Classic!

Bob Powell’s The Wall of Flesh!, from This Magazine is Haunted #12, 1953 is a certifiable horror comics classic. The wall of flesh itself is one of the more bizarre and grotesque concepts to be encountered in pre-Code horror comics, so oddball and off-the-wall (sic) that it would not be out of place in a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol issue (maybe on Danny the Street – now that’s a team-up I’d like to see!). Or maybe even a Mr. Monster comic!

If it wasn’t for the play of formal elements in Colorama maybe The Wall of Flesh! would be the most oft-reprinted Powell story. As it is, black and white reprints can be found in AC Comics’ own Wall of Flesh #1, and in at least two K.G. Murray issues: Doomsday #6 and Haunted Love Tales of Gothic Romance, Planet Series 3 No. 2.

The Doomsday reprint comes complete with Dr. Death’s visage overseeing proceedings, and a small correction in the dialogue - “Vietnam” is inserted into the dialogue to replace "Korea". The Haunted Love reprint appears to be the Doomsday version as the “Vietnam” correction is in place and the handwriting appears to be identical in both.

The Haunted Love version suffers from a bit more tampering than the Doomsday version. For example, the Dr. Death images are removed from the beginning and end of the story; the title text is slightly reformatted; and the left foreground on the last panel has been filled by a rather formless shape to cover the space left by the erased host – a bit of surplus wall flesh courtesy of a K.G. Murray sub-editor!

Most jarring is the crude intrusion by a keen amateur black spotter. For example, in the panel above there are four black patches forming a virtual border around the clock and figure in the centre. In the original only the clock on the side is shaded. Maybe the editors were not accustomed to borderless panels operating outside the regular beat of the grid. Or maybe the two-panels-in-one appeared to require correction or balance. The open clock/figure/flesh image is replicated on the facing page, which is also corrected by a lick of black ink, so maybe they thought this was necessary to avoid the reading eye flowing from the bottom of one page directly across to the bottom of the following page.

I don’t know… maybe best to assume good intentions poorly executed.

Oh, and love those lurid colours on the original... not to mention the details not picked up by the black line art!

In a neat little junkyard coincidence, it turns out The Wall of Flesh is being reprinted in The Comics Journal #190, May 2008. Not only that, it features an introduction by Michael T. Gilbert! Spooky.... Thanks to Dillon for the heads-up on this.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Renegade Raiders

In the early 1980’s Murray Comics published numerous magazine-sized one-off titles. The bulk of them would be superhero-related issues – titles such as Dr. Fate or Superman and Manhunter from Mars. Along with the superhero titles came a variety of other genres, such as horror eg. Shock and Suspense! and Carnival of Fear; science fiction/adventure eg. Space Adventures and Space Warriors; and war eg. Men in Combat and Army Attack.

There were also a number of westerns published, some with recognizable characters carrying the titles such as Cheyenne Kid, Pow-Wow Smith and Tomahawk, as well as generic titles such as Trail Blazers of the West, Epic Western Action and Western Action and Adventure.

Renegade Raiders is another such 1980’s Murray Comics one-off. The cover looks like it might be a Spanish painted illustration with K.G. Murray text overlays. The contents range from recognizable features such as Cheyenne Kid, Texas Rangers in Action and Billy the Kid, to a number of nondescript Charlton-esque stories, to even a Spanish instalment. It is not uncommon to find Spanish westerns in various Gredown titles, but I am surprised to find one slotted into a K.G. Murray title. (Then again, I'm no expert on the westerns, so maybe it's not so uncommon).

Anyway, it's another little-known western to add to your wants lists!