Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody ever asked for!
Once again, I'm sorry for a bit of delay between entries this time of year. I manage a hotel and we're fully in the swing of Utah tourist season right now. . .even though I've been assured by the fine folks on my television screen that it's SO unsafe to venture out of your home and stand in a line that we need to vote by mail this year. I look at my packed parking lot, raise an eyebrow, and mutter, "Well, if you say so, I guess."
ANYWAY. . .
Long story short. . .the incongruous combination of a busier than usual tourist season and a hotel still running on a pandemic skeleton crew (for some reason I can't figure out) doesn't leave much time for comic readin' and reviewin'.
BUT ENOUGH OF THAT. . .
I'm going to continue my "mini-series" of Longbox Junk Retro Reviews for a little while longer, since I've been having a lot of fun stepping outside of my usual bargain bin fare and shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection.
This time out, I'm setting the Longbox Junk paper time machine to 1951 and heading back to the days when Cowboys were king of the hill in movies, T.V. and comics for some wild west fun with one of my personal favorite characters of all. . .The Lone Ranger!
In MY extremely humble opinion, when it comes to heroes, the Lone Ranger has it all!
A tragic origin, a faithful sidekick, an iconic look, and a never-swerving determination to help others. He may have changed a little bit here and there over the years (witness the original red shirt outfit on the cover below), but one thing about The Lone Ranger remains steady and firm. . .he will ALWAYS do the right thing, no matter how dangerous it may be. He's not just a great western hero, he's a great hero, period.
Is it any wonder that the adventures of that mysterious masked man of the west have lasted since 1933 when so many other characters have come and gone? How can you NOT like a hero that says things like, "I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one." Or, "Everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world."
While Batman is slowly spiraling into the madness of the monsters he fights and Captain America's status as the bright symbol of a strong nation is being steadily eroded, The Lone Ranger is the hero that steps forward and tells you that he'll be your friend if you need one. In these times of trouble, we NEED a hero like The Lone Ranger!
But enough introduction.
Let's get that paper time machine running and head back to the Old West by way of 1951, shall we?
THE LONE RANGER #35
COVER: Ernest Nordli (?)
It's just a beautiful thing! A fantastic moment of action frozen in time with wonderful colors, composition, and sense of motion. This is one of my favorite covers in my collection and was the reason I bought this comic for probably a little more than what it's actually "worth", but you know what? I would have paid more if I had to! I mean, LOOK at that cover! There's no such thing as a perfect comic cover, but in my opinion, this one comes pretty close. They certainly don't make 'em like this anymore. Let's get inside. . .
Never let it be said that Golden Age comics don't deliver their money's worth! For a single lousy dime we get three full comic stories, a short text story, a single page article on different saddle styles. . .
AND a very nice piece of full back cover art to go along with the awesome cover up front. . .
That's a good chunk of comic for ten cents! Let's take a look at all this stuff in here.
REPRINTED FROM 1944 LONE RANGER NEWSPAPER STRIPS
SCRIPT: Fran Striker
PENCILS: Charles Flanders
The Lone Ranger and Tonto come to the aid of a wealthy banker in San Francisco whose daughter has fallen into the clutches of a notorious seafaring criminal named Shark Dawson. After reading the ransom note, The Ranger decides to pay a visit to Dawson's known criminal confederate, Stingaree, owner of a dangerous dockside tavern where men commonly go missing. . .shanghaied for the crews of Dawson's ships.
Donning what is possibly the world's worst disguise, The Ranger allows himself to be knocked out and captured by Stingaree, then delivered to Dawson's ship as a kidnapped crew member.
Nobody will suspect a thing!
In the meantime, after The Ranger has been taken to Dawson's ship, Tonto rushes into Stingaree's bar and informs him that the Lone Ranger has been taken aboard in disguise, sent by the banker to rescue his daughter! Stingaree panics and rushes with all his men to Dawson's anchored ship to warn the Captain and try to find the disguised Ranger. Tonto ambushes one of Stingaree's men, disguises himself, and rows out to Dawson's ship among the rest of the thugs, unnoticed.
Aboard the ship, as Stingaree's gang search for the Ranger, he and Tonto rendezvous and make their way to the Captain's cabin where the banker's daughter is being held. They subdue the guards and then Captain Dawson himself. As The Ranger, Tonto, and the banker's daughter make their escape in the darkness, The Ranger decides that now the banker's daughter is safe, he's also going to rescue the kidnapped crew members and take down Dawson's gang.
Tonto and The Ranger creep through the whole ship in the darkness, subduing any gang member they run across and sending any kidnapped crew to the waiting lifeboat with the banker's daughter. When they are done, the only men left on Dawson's ship are Stingaree's gang. . .now themselves forced into service as Dawson makes his escape. The Lone Ranger is satisfied with his good night's work.
Okay, not bad. It's a pretty simple story at heart. . .The Lone Ranger vs. Pirates. . . and it's obviously written for a younger audience, but there's nothing wrong with that. I just have to try and look at it from the point of view of who it was written for instead of as a modern reader. Coming from that direction, this story combines two things kids love. . .Cowboys and Pirates! I'm thinking that for the 1950's kid who spent their dime, this is a great, action-packed story that shows the Lone Ranger and Tonto in a bit of an unusual setting. For a modern reader, maybe not so great.
The Ranger's "disguise" is unintentionally hilarious, and the ending is confusing (He lets them all escape, being satisfied with the "poetic justice" of the kidnappers becoming the crew instead of taking them in to the law). But with a bit of research, I've learned that with the Lone Ranger there were certain specific guidelines for the character. . .such as his NEVER taking off the mask. . .that writers had to work around. So I can look past some of the odd things in this story knowing that. Other readers might not be able to.
As far as the art goes, it's surprisingly good. It has a very cartoony style that is pretty appealing to the eye. Backgrounds are a bit sparse, but that's to be expected from a story that originated in a daily comic strip. What really surprised me was that the coloring was actually good here. I've found the coloring to be a pretty common problem with older comics. . .usually very sloppy or garish or both. Here it's not bad at all. So overall, no problems with the art.
All in all, a pretty good story. For a modern reader, there's a few things that are a bit clunky, but for the kids this was written for, it's a story full of action and adventure that brings the Lone Ranger and Tonto out of their usual setting for a little bit of Pirate Punchin' on the high seas!
REPRINTED FROM 1944 LONE RANGER NEWSPAPER STRIPS
SCRIPT: Fran Striker
PENCILS: Charles Flanders
Thunder Martin is a giant of a man, and a menace to a small town. Unfortunately, the local sheriff doesn't have enough evidence to make any charges stick. The Lone Ranger decides it's time to put him out of commission.
First, he brings Thunder in to the Sheriff on charges of property destruction. The Sheriff tells the Ranger that without Thunder's gang and some real charges, putting him in jail will only cause more trouble. The Ranger confides that he's got a scheme in mind.
They enlist the help of the shortest man in town, Pee-Wee Grimes, and lock him in the same cell as Thunder Martin. . .handcuffing the two men together. Later that night, The Ranger enlists the Sheriff's daughter to stage a jailbreak under the pretense of feeling sorry for Pee-Wee.
After the two men make their escape, Thunder heads straight for his hideout so that he can break the handcuffs keeping him leashed to Pee-Wee. . .who he plans to kill after breaking free, so that Pee-Wee won't reveal where Thunder's hideout and gang are.
Fortunately for Pee-Wee, The Lone Ranger, Tonto, and the Sheriff are following Thunder Martin unseen as he leads them to his hideout. The lawmen make short work of Thunder's gang and recapture him. . .this time with stolen goods and Pee-Wee as a witness to his plan to kill him.
The next day in court, Thunder is sentenced to hang, but he manages to escape, intending to kill Pee-Wee Grimes for helping trick him and testifying against him. The Ranger and Tonto catch wind of Thunder's escape and they head directly to Pee-Wee's ranch, where they manage to save him and recapture Thunder so he can hang the next morning. All's well that ends well!
Okay. . .not bad. Not quite as good as the first story, though. The Lone Ranger's scheme seems to be needlessly complicated and he's actually using an innocent man as bait. The Sheriff mentions this several times through the story, but the Ranger just sort of ignores his concerns. In the end, the bad guy pays the price for his deeds, it's just how he gets there seems a little out of character for The Lone Ranger. It's actually sort of a dark story if you think about it.
I guess it's just me looking at the story from a modern reader's point of view. From the point of view of a kid in the 50's reading this, I see a story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto tricking a rotten criminal into giving himself away. Bad guy loses, Good guys win. Simple as that.
As far as art goes, it's the same artist as the first story, so it has the same exaggerated cartoony look and sparse backgrounds. More of this story takes place during the day, so the colors are a bit more garish than in the first story, but not so much as to ruin the art the way bad coloring tends to do in a lot of the older comics I've read.
Overall, not a bad little story. Not quite as good as the first story and actually a little dark in the Ranger's casual use of an innocent man to trap a criminal, from a modern point of view. From the point of view of who this story was written for, it's very simple and action-packed tale of good vs. bad.
THE RESCUE OF LITTLE CROW
TEXT STORY WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Jon Small
Next up is a two page text story written by Du Bois, a prolific comic writer (one of the most famous characters he created was Turok, Son of Stone) and the author of the original Lone Ranger novel, which is a great read that's ACTUALLY more of an origin story for the Ranger's horse (Silver) with the Ranger as more of a supporting character! If you're looking for some great pulp western fiction, then definitely try to find a copy. But let's see what THIS story is about. . .
A bullied young boy named Little Crow is taken in by the great chief, Walking Tree, who teaches him the ways of life and being a man. Little Crow's journey to becoming a great warrior under the guidance of Walking Tree comes to its best moment when the young man risks his own life to save a friend from a bear.
Truthfully, this was my favorite part of this comic. I'd venture a guess that for the audience this comic was written for (young boys in the 1950's), this was probably the LEAST favorite part of the package, but to my modern eye Du Bois' punchy and descriptive prose is a great example of pulp fiction writing. . .even better for managing to tell a good story in an extremely limited space. Reading this makes me want to get my copy of the original Lone Ranger novel off the shelf and read it again!
AND FINALLY. . .
YOUNG HAWK: THE TURKEY HUNTER
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Jon Small
We join Young Hawk and his brother, Little Buck, on a journey in progress along the Mississippi river shortly after losing their canoe during a bear attack (this story was a continuing Lone Ranger back-up starting with issue #11).
They find a new canoe with dead braves in it, letting them know that there are hostile tribes nearby. After taking the canoe for themselves, the brothers are caught in a raging storm, where they see a herd of buffalo scattered, picked up, and thrown around by a tornado.
Several days after escaping the tornado, Young Hawk and Little Buck are pursued by hostile warriors. The brothers are forced to hide on the river bank after Young Hawk is wounded by an arrow. They finally manage to escape under cover of darkness.
Days later, Young Hawk spots a plump turkey on shore. He decides to go hunt it because the brothers are tired of eating fish. As he prepares to take a shot on the turkey with his bow, Young Hawk hears a rattlesnake and sees a stranger about to be bitten! Little Hawk kills the snake and saves the stranger, but loses the turkey in the process.
The stranger introduces himself as Eagle Wing, a Chickasaw. He declares his life to be in debt to Young Hawk and Little Buck, naming them as friends of his tribe and welcome at their camp.
Hmmmmmm. . .okay.
I did a review of Dell's Four Color #656 from 1955 featuring the second appearance of Turok, Son of Stone, and also written by Du Bois, at the beginning of this little series of looking at some of the older comics in my collection (You can read the entry HERE
I wasn't a big fan of the writing because it seemed less like an actual story and more like a series of "They went here and did this. Later, they went there and did that." vignettes. This story suffers from exactly the same thing. You can see from the summary that it's basically three unrelated events hanging on the framework of two brothers going down a river. They aren't presented in any especially exciting way. . .more of a "This happened. That happened" sort of almost documentary style.
Of course, looking at it from the point of view of the kid it was written for, you have the journey of two young boys on their own without any adults and facing the dangers of the wilderness, using their meager resources and wits to prevail. Coming at it from that direction, it's not a bad little story.
Unfortunately, when I look back just a few pages and see Du Bois writing a pulpy, descriptive narrative in the sparse confines of ONE page front and back, and then seeing a comic story that doesn't even look like the same person wrote it, I realize that Du Bois may have been a prolific comic scripter that deserves a place in comic book history, but in MY extremely humble opinion, he's obviously a much better prose author.
The art changes with this story to a more darkly-inked and realistic style, with more detailed backgrounds. It's not bad. Probably better than the first two stories from a technical point, but for some reason it's just not as interesting as the other art style. I can't even really put my finger on why. Like I said, it's not bad at all. It's just sort of. . .there. It does a good job of telling the story, but doesn't try too hard to do anything else.
Overall, this story sort of fell flat for me. It's not BAD, but it suffers from an extremely straightforward and documentary style of storytelling that probably didn't matter much to the kids this was originally written for, but I find it hard to ignore as a modern reader. Don't get me wrong, I've read MUCH worse when it comes to Golden/Silver Age comics. It's just that the scripting is a little too dry for something featuring buffalo getting thrown around by a tornado.
One of the things I like best about these Longbox Junk "Retro Reviews" is that it gives me an opportunity to educate myself a little bit while writing the review. A lot of what I look up never makes it into the review itself, beyond maybe a little mention (Like the specific requirement that the Lone Ranger NEVER remove his mask, I tossed out above), but I wouldn't have any other reason to look up someone like Du Bois or Ernest Nordli (my best guess for cover artist) otherwise.
So when I write one of these reviews, one of the MOST common things I learn is that there really isn't that much information out there on many older comics. So the opportunity to educate myself comes circling back around as I reveal what's under the cover of the comic for others who may be looking for information.
Good or bad, when I write what will probably be the one and only review of the contents of an older comic like the one at hand, I get a nice feeling of satisfaction that I've contributed a little something to the general comic knowledge out there. I'm not trying to blow my own horn here or make a review of a Lone Ranger comic more than it is. I'm just saying that if you happen to come across this review while doing a Google search for information, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
ANYWAY. . .
As for the comic itself. It's pretty good. It's not the greatest comic I've ever read, but for something written for young boys in 1951, it holds up pretty well to a modern reading. The first story gives us the Lone Ranger and Tonto out of their usual backdrop of dusty western towns and fighting pirates on the high seas. The second story is extremely simple in nature, but has a somewhat strange layer of darkness underneath it when viewed through a modern lens. The third story is lacking in excitement, but is still pretty interesting. And the text backup is an unexpected little gem of pulp western writing.
If you're a fan of The Lone Ranger or early western comics in general, you'll definitely get more mileage out of this than other readers. You won't find it in the bargain bin, and it doesn't look like it's ever been reprinted or collected, but if you should spot this at a reasonable price, I say go for it! It will make a very nice addition to any collection including western comics.
Up Next. . .
I think I have time for another couple of Retro Reviews before I turn my attention to some Halloween fun in October! I picked up a copy of She-Hulk #1 last year that I haven't read yet. I think it's time to fix that.
Be there or be square!