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‘Space Western Comics: Cowboys vs. Aliens, Commies, Dinosaurs, & Nazis!’ (review)

Edited by Craig Yoe
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Available on 11/5/2024

NOTE:  BY WAY OF FULL DISCLOSURE, I DID SOME RESEARCH AND PROOFREADING FOR THE INTRODUCTION TO THIS BOOK – BOOKSTEVE

 

Eisner winning Craig Yoe has teamed up with Dark Horse to present Yoe Books’ latest reprint collection—Space Western Comics! Unlike Star Wars, which merely transplanted western movie cliches into deep space, Space Western Comics, and its cowboy hero, Spurs Jackson, give us actual cowboys in outer space, something any 1950s kid would’ve absolutely loved!

Jon B. Cooke—author of The Charlton Companion so he should know—wrote, “Genre-bending Space Western was one of the wackiest Charlton comic books (or from any publisher anywhere!)”

It was 1952, a year unlike any before it. The real-world headlines were filled with talk of flying saucers from outer space. Movie theaters were filled with cowboys, and the still-new TV airwaves were filled with both sci-fi and sagebrush adventures for kids. Ever-mindful of trends, and no doubt with the best interests of America’s children at heart, the great brains at Charlton Comics turned their redundantly titled Cowboy Western into (echo effect here) Spaaaaaace Western!

Space Western’s hero is the stalwart Spurs Jackson, a rancher with a horse named Pronto, as well as a secret laboratory (I mean, don’t all cowboys have one?) where he keeps his plutonium pistols that fire miniature atom bomb pellets. With all of the spaceships and flying saucers that end up around his ranch in Arizona, Spurs designs and builds a fleet of one-man space cruiser ships and recruits a bunch of locals to be his team of space vigilantes! Spurs develops such a reputation for fighting space weirdies that when the observatory scientists at Mt. Palomar spot something from space headed straight toward earth, their first thought is, “This is a job for Spurs Jackson! We’ll contact him at once!”

During the course of his insanely entertaining adventures in this book, Spurs becomes Prime Minister of Mars, dates the Martian queen, and he and his sidekicks Hank and Strong Bow and the other space vigilantes fight rock men, moon men, cactus men (who look like they’re wearing uncomfortable full-body knitted green sweaters), Mayans, Aztecs, Nazis, Commies, dinosaurs, giant monsters, and even find time to collect alien animals to work in mines.

And what the heck is up with Hank’s haircut? A big wavy glop of orange hair in the center of his head with the back and sides of his head shaved. Hey, I know people with this exact hairstyle today but this was seven decades ago! Was Hank really that much of a trendsetter?

Charlton, like most comic book companies for decades, never bothered to credit the writers of its comics, leaving them shadowy, behind-the-scenes figures. In this case, though, “shadowy” is the appropriate word as most of the stories of Spurs, Hank, and Strong Bow came from the same typewriters that crafted the pulp Shadow scripts—by Walter B. Gibson. It’s likely that the prolific Gibson even wrote the two-page text stories included here, too, many of which also star Spurs. The artists for the stories, on the other hand, were actually allowed to sign their work. In his Introduction, Craig Yoe calls the work of Stan Campbell and John Belfi “funktastic!”

Yoe’s Space Western Comics is filled with a lot of surprising fun and almost as wacky as a typical Mort Weisinger Jimmy Olsen comic! It just keeps getting crazier and crazier! Tell your local comic shop it’s NOT a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It’s soliciting now, here, today! Spurs Jackson could maybe be the next great sci-fi movie hero…but he was already a hero to comics fans! In Space Western Comics! And now he’s finally back in 2024!

Booksteve recommends!

 

 

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