Markley’s Fevered Brain: Wild, Wild West

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

I love westerns and I have no idea why. I can spend an entire day watching TV westerns from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and to be honest, very few of them are good. They are all very formulaic. Yet I still watch them for hours on end. I have the same issue with comics, but fortunately (?) there are far fewer western comics than there are TV westerns. And on the other hand, the comic book westerns are excellent, at least the ones I am going to discuss here. There are two new graphic albums that came out recently I really enjoyed even though one is based (a sequel really) on a movie and the other is a reprint of a comics from the1970s. Plus, I have thrown in a couple of recommendations of books you may have to make an effort to find.

Rawhide Kid #26

Rawhide Kid #26


In the 1950s there were all sorts of western comics. DC had a number of titles including All Star Western and All American Western. I would love to see DC reprint these books as they are filled with great art by Alex Toth, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and many others. Marvel had the Rawhide Kid (with lots of Kirby art in the early issues) as well as Two-Gun Kid and, in the ‘70s, the Mighty Marvel Western. There also all sorts of books from other publishers, most notably The Ghost Rider from Magazine Enterprises. This was the western Ghost Rider, long before Johnny Blaze got a flaming skull and rode a motorcycle. Plus there were tons of comics based on TV Cowboys, such as Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Annie Oakley, Dale Evans, Jimmy Wakely, etc. Again, these were published by a number of different publishers, (Mainly DC) and featured art by Alex Toth and John Buscema among many others. By the early ‘70s, there were not many left. DC had All Star Western (a revival of the ‘50s title) which introduced Jonah Hex, one of my all time favorite comics, and Marvel still had their two western reprint anthologies and a few ongoing titles. Over the years there have been a variety of westers comics, some revivals like the interesting Joe Lansdale/Tim Truman Jonah Hex series, Alejandro Jordorwsky’s Bouncer (which is excellent), and Marvel’s revamped Rawhide Kid-Slap Leather that came out in 2010, and was better un-revived.

The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain

The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain


Speaking of Alejandro Jordorwsky, who happens to be one of my favorite writers, he just had the first volume of his graphic novel series, The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain come out from BOOM! Studios. This is a full color hardcover book which is a sequel to his 1970 film called El Topo. This story was originally written as a sequel to this cult classic which is sort of a magical surreal western (it has to be seen as no description would do it justice), but for some reason no one wanted to finance the sequel, so Jordorwsky made it into a graphic novel instead. He got the amazing Jose Landronn to draw it. This first volume is mostly set up as it introduces and explains who El Topo’s two sons are and their life stories. As the title suggests, the story revolves around two brothers, one who is attempting to kill the other, and from there the story just gets weird. If you are a fan of the film or of Alejandro Jordorwsky’s work in general, then you will love this book. If you like beautiful art, then this book is for you. If you are looking for something different from the traditional superhero fare, then this is it! If you just like non-traditional westerns, then you will love this. (I would highly recommend this book for fans of Joe Lansdale & Timothy Truman’s Jonah Hex: Shadows West trade collection).

El Mestizo

El Mestizo


Then we have El Mestizo by writer Alan Hebden and drawn by the late, but great, Carlos Ezquerra. This was a western strip that appeared in the pages of Battle magazine in England in the late 1970s. This story was so different than the typical fare in Battle (war stories) that this strip did not last that long, so Rebellion was able to collect the entire run into one very nice hardcover. The story is set in 1862. El Mestizo is a former slave from Alabama who escapes and flees to Mexico during the American Civil War. While in Mexico, he sharpens his mercenary skills until he is famed gunsmith. He returns to the United States with a strong sense of right and wrong. From there he finds himself work for both the South and the North, with neither side realizing it, as he is really just fighting for what he thinks is right. He is armed with his guns and his bolo. As with most British comics, these stories run 3-4 pages long, which is to the benefit of this strip as if forces the action (and there is a lot, almost every panel) and the story to move at a breakneck pace. I really enjoyed this story and I thought it took enough twists and turns with El Mestizo’s constant double dealings that it is a real page turner. As always, Ezquerra’s art is beautiful and Hebdon’s stories were a pleasant surprise. This is by far the most traditional western in this blog, along with the early Jonah Hex run, and it is a rip roaring fun story that I am sure Beau Smith would enjoy, being the western buff he is. Well worth going out of your way to read. My only regret is the story didn’t go on longer as it seemed as if there were many more stories that could have been told.

Jonah Hex: Shadows West TPB

Jonah Hex: Shadows West TPB


Jonah Hex had a long and prosperous run starting in 1972. He first appeared in All Star Western #10 by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga. The title was changed to Weird Western Tales with issue #12 and Jonah was the lead feature through issue #37. Jonah’s most famous writer started with issue #22 and his name was Michael Fleisher. Fleisher would write Jonah for the rest of his run in Weird Western Tales and through his own titles run of 92 issues and the ten issues of a series called Hex where he lands up in the future. To me, the All Star Western/Weird Western and Jonah Hex runs are the pinnacle of western comics. Unlike the comics of the ‘50s, these were tales of drama and violence. Jonah was a bounty hunter and as his back story was slowly revealed, he became more and more human. He is never a traditional hero, and he is very much in the vein of the classic Spaghetti Western heroes, namely Clint Eastwood in the film The Man With No Name; a killer with his own moral code. Jonah Hex was easily the most violent book DC published at the time, and perhaps ever, and I would argue it was only rivaled by Fleisher’s other tour de force of violence, the Spectre in the pages of Adventure Comics. There was also a Jonah Hex Spectacular that came out in 1978 which to me is one of the greatest comic stories ever told by Michael Fleisher and Russ Heath telling the tale of how Jonah Hex died, and his legacy. These stories all told are an epic collection that deserves to be collected in a deluxe format. (Not that I am holding my breath for this to ever happen). Jonah also appeared in a series of miniseries by Joe Lansdale and Tim Truman and was most recently revived in a series written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray which ran 70 issues and was drawn by a variety of people and was quite good. It was replaced by a revival of All Star Western that ran another 34 issues. While these were also good, I hated the direction the series landed up going in and I felt it was totally disrespectful to who the character was and undid so much of his history. There was also an original graphic novel by Tony DeZungia, Jonah Hex’s co-creator. Almost all of the newer material and the Lansdale stories have been collected into trades. Very little of the Fleisher material has been collected outside of two volumes of Showcase which reprinted all of the original run of Jonah Hex from All-Star Western/Weird Western (1972 version) and the first 22 issues of his own book, Jonah Hex. Sadly, almost all, if not all, of these books are out of print.

Louis L’Amour’s Law of the Desert Born

Louis L’Amour’s Law of the Desert Born


Louis L’Amour’s Law of the Desert Born graphic novel is adapted by Charles Santino and beautifully drawn by Thomas Yeates. This is a classic L’Amour story filled with vivid characters and non-stop excitement and is set in the wild west of New Mexico in 1887. I mention this book because it is such a beautiful book that slipped by most comic fans. It is available still from book sellers but no longer from comic stores. It is well worth going out of your way to find it. It is a 160 page hardcover that originally came out in 2013.

That wraps it up for this blog. Do any of you still read and enjoy western comics? Or western TV shows for the matter? Have you read any of the books I have written about here today? If you have I would again like to hear your thoughts. I can be reached at Wayne Markley on Facebook or at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. All of this babbling has been my personal thoughts and opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. So, as always…

Thank you.

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  1. Beau Smith Says:

    Ahhhhhh, this is as good aa reading or watching a western! Talking about westerns!! Really nice article and I hope it introduces folks into the west that have never been there in the fictional sense. Great job, Wayne. Thanks for inviting us along on this western trail.

    Beau Smith
    The Flying Fist Ranch