Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog that's just FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me to write!
To me, comic collecting is all about the hunt. Finding unexpected comic book treasure in a forgotten back issue bin way down on the bottom shelf back in the corner. . .or sitting in a pile of unbagged comics with the pages flapping in the wind on a folding table at the flea market. . .or hiding in the middle of a pile of old Life Magazines in a milk crate at a little antique shop.
Maybe it's just me, but I think the internet has sort of ruined comic collecting a little bit. The easy access and ability to specifically pick and choose which comics you want to buy have brought a little bit too much focus on "Value" and "Grade" of comics and taken away some of the joy of discovery.
CASE IN POINT. . .
I'm a huge fan of The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, older Lone Ranger comics are a little hard to come by in "The Wild". Yeah. . .I could just jump on the internet and buy whatever old Lone Ranger comic catches my eye, but where's the fun in that?
So imagine my joy when I discovered not one, not two, but FIVE Golden Age Lone Ranger comics in decent condition sitting in a cardboard box mixed up with a bunch of battered Richie Rich and Archie comics at the local flea market about a month ago for a lousy TWO BUCKS each!
Now THAT'S the sort of find that keeps me excited for hunting comics in "The Wild" right there!
SO. . .
Since I've found these great old Lone Ranger comics, why not take a closer look at one?
Let's strap on a set of ridiculous steampunk goggles and crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a trip back to 1955. . .when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and characters like The Lone Ranger cast a long shadow over the imagination of young Americans. That's right, it's time for a Longbox Junk Retro Review!
THE LONE RANGER #84
COVER: Sam Savitt
Let's get this much straight. . .the cover of this comic is worth the admission no matter WHAT is inside. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: In my humble opinion, Dell/ Gold Key comics have some of the greatest covers in comic book history. Unfortunately, the interior art rarely ever even comes close to matching what's on the cover. This comic is no exception.
But that cover, though! Now THIS is one awesome Golden Age comic rack eye-catcher! I haven't owned this comic for long, but it's already among my top ten favorite covers in my collection. Heck, I'd say top five.
Just LOOK at this cover! Feast your eyes on the rich colors! This beautifully-painted piece of western art perfectly captures the motion, the spirit, the energy of The Lone Ranger and Silver. It's just a wonderful moment of action captured in art! I could go on, but let's get inside. . .
Never let it be said that a kid didn't get his money's worth from a Golden Age comic! Under that awesome cover rests three full length comic stories, an illustrated text story, and a couple of one page non-fiction information pieces. That's a nice amount of western fun for one thin dime! Let's take a look at each story in turn. . .
THE GHOST RIDERS
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
When the town of Weston is plagued by a series of robberies carried out by what seem to be glowing ghost men, the entire town is terrified except for the sheriff. Tales of the ghostly gang reach The Lone Ranger and Tonto, who arrive in town to help the sheriff get to the bottom of the strange happenings.
During their investigation, while taking shelter from a rainstorm in a cave outside of town, the Ranger discovers the secret of the glowing robbers. . .a phosphorescent sludge that the criminals are soaking their clothing in to fool the townfolk into thinking they are spirits!
The Ranger and Tonto work with the sheriff to set up a trap, and manage to catch the bandits flat footed in the dark, where their glowing clothes make them easy targets. Their work done, the Ranger and Tonto ride off to their next adventure.
Not a bad little story to start things off with. Not bad at all. I like that this short tale shows us the Lone Ranger as an investigator, solving a mystery. It's a simple story, but it still reads well 66 years down the road, so there's something to be said for simplicity.
The art is also surprisingly nice for a Dell comic. I usually have a pretty low bar when if comes to Dell/Gold Key comic interior art, but the art here is actually very nicely done, with rich dark inks, plenty of detail, and with none of the sloppy coloring issues that often turn up in Golden Age comics. It doesn't hold a candle to the fantastic painted cover, of course, but the art is quite a bit better than I expected.
Overall, a fun little western tale showing off the Lone Ranger as a detective, with unexpectedly good art. This comic has gotten off to a fine start. Let's see what else is in here.
SCRIPT: Paul S. Newman
PENCILS: Tom Gill
After the Lone Ranger and Tonto rescue an unconscious man laying on train tracks from certain death, they discover that he's a recently-discharged soldier who was attacked by another man, who stole his discharge papers and clothing and left him for dead after changing clothes with him.
Searching the man's clothing, they find an envelope addressed to a wanted killer named Mac James that the Ranger and Tonto have been tracking. They realize that James has stolen the soldier's identity in order to try and escape their pursuit. They head to the nearest town, Trail City, to try and catch the killer.
In Trail City, Mac James' disguise quickly falls apart when the Sheriff recognizes him. James shoots the sheriff and escapes by jumping onto a moving train, but Tonto sees him circling back around to Trail City and heading into a hotel that is a suspected safe house for criminals on the run.
Thinking that the soldier is dead, James decides to finish off the sheriff so that he can safely use his new identity. The Lone Ranger learns of this plan from the crooked innkeeper and rushes to the doctor's to save the sheriff. The Ranger arrives just in time to shoot the gun from James' hand. After taking the killer into custody, the sheriff deputizes The Lone Ranger and he leaves to arrest the innkeeper. And with that, all is well in the town of Trail City.
There's a little more meat on the bone of this story, compared to the simplicity of the first. . .with this tale of identity theft and murder requiring just a bit more of the reader's attention. Once again, this story shows the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than a gunfighter. As a matter of fact, reading back over the story, the Ranger fires a total of ONE shot (to knock the gun out of the killer's hand) through the entire narrative.
I find it interesting that both of the Lone Ranger stories in this issue focus more on the investigative side of the famous masked vigilante. And when I say I find it interesting, I mean I like it a lot. It seems an unusual path to follow in a 1950's western comic, where one would normally expect a lot of rootin' tootin' pistol shootin' action.
The art in this story is a little weaker than in the first, even though both are done by the same artist. I chalk it up to the first story mostly being set at night, allowing a lot of deep inks and silhouettes, where this story is set mostly in broad daylight. That's not to say the art is bad. It's still surprisingly good for a 1950's Dell comic.
Overall, an interesting story about identity theft and a killer desperately trying to elude the Lone Ranger, showing the Ranger as more of an investigator and less of a gunfighter, backed up by some more unexpectedly good art. It's a decent little western story that still holds up well, even after 66 years.
And that's it for the Lone Ranger in this Lone Ranger comic. Let's see what else we've got here.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Tom Gill (?)
Next up, we have a two page text story with some very nice spot illustrations.
It's about a man and his son hunting for a stolen herd of cattle and talking about an old maverick bull that's never been captured. When they finally find the herd, they are amazed to find that the maverick has already driven off the rustlers by himself. You can read the whole thing below.
Usually, unless I'm reviewing a comic, I just skip by the text stories. But this one was actually pretty interesting in that about half of it is told from the point of view of the maverick bull. An unusual storytelling choice. The illustrations are also very nicely done. Overall, I expected filler. What I got was a pretty good little read.
YOUNG HAWK - THE GIANT TURTLE
SCRIPT: Du Bois
PENCILS: Rex Maxon
Young Hawk and his brothers, Little Buck and Strong Eagle make camp beside a river. Their rest is interrupted by a bear and a wolverine fighting over the meat the brothers have left hanging.
After driving off the bear and killing the wolverine, the brothers continue their journey down the river. . .noticing the strange lack of young ducks, even though it's the season for them.
As their pet dog, Tumbleweed, swims through the river, he is suddenly pulled under water! Young Hawk dives in to save him and is astounded to see a gigantic snapping turtle. He kills the turtle by cutting off its head, saving Tumbleweed. The monstrous turtle will no longer trouble the animals or travelers along that part of the river again.
This story just didn't do it for me. I have to admit that I'm not a fan of Du Bois' writing in the first place, so I'm a little biased going in. That said, I can give anything a fair chance, and given a fair chance, this one still falls flat.
To be fair, the simplistic narrative, with its "This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. The End" story path IS well-suited for the younger audience this comic was written for, and is characteristic of Du Bois' style in ANY comic he's written that I've ever read. But where the simplicity of the opening Lone Ranger story gave it a snappy character, the simplicity here just makes the story feel like it's being written down to the lowest level of reader.
The art doesn't help. After the surprisingly well done art in the first two stories, the art here feels like a big step backward and more into the territory I would expect in the interior of a Dell comic. Compare the page above with the pages I scanned for the first two stories and you'll see what I'm talking about. The art here isn't BAD. . .it's just a little disappointing.
Overall, this one was the weak point of this comic. An overly-simple story backed up by some disappointing art just makes it feel like this effort was aimed squarely at a juvenile audience. To be fair, on that front it succeeds. . .but it doesn't read very well to a modern reader because of it.
AND FINALLY. . .
To finish things off, we've got a couple of short page space fillers.
The first is about Native American gourd lamps. . .
The most interesting thing about this little half-pager is that it was written by an actual Native American tribal Chief. . . Red Thunder Cloud of the Catawba Nation, who was a pretty interesting (and sort of controversial) character, according to his Wikipedia page. So I liked this one not so much for the gourd lamp information (which was okay), but for the direction it took me reading about Chief Red Thunder Cloud.
The second page space filler is a little synopsis of the tragic history of the Black Hills. It basically reads like an encyclopedia entry (For my younger readers, they were big sets of books we used to look things up before Google existed. . ., I feel old). Interesting, but ultimately there just to take up some unused space. The "Dell Pledge" below it was actually more interesting to me. It basically gives the justification as to why Dell comics never sported the CCA seal.
Overall, I found this to be a quite enjoyable read. The first two stories showcase the Lone Ranger as more of an investigator than as a gunfighter, and I really liked that a lot. The third story wasn't to my liking, but taking a step back and trying to put myself in the shoes of a kid in 1955 paying a dime for this comic, it's not really that bad. Heck, it's got a bear fight, a giant turtle, and Indians! What more could a kid ask for?
A lot of Golden Age comics don't age very well. This one still reads pretty good even 66 years down the line, with the exception of the Young Hawk story. But even that wasn't enough to keep the grin off my face as I transported myself back to 1955, when westerns were at the top of the pop culture pile and The Lone Ranger stood strong and tall as one of the great American heroes.
If you are a Lone Ranger fan, you will love this comic! Heck, the cover alone should be enough to make you love this comic. But this comic will also appeal to fans of Golden Age western comics in general. This was a lucky find for me, and it's a little more "valuable" than my usual Longbox Junk fare, so finding a copy in decent shape might be a bit difficult. That said, keep your eye out! I found this in "the wild" so there might be more of them out there just waiting to be found.
Up Next. . .
I'm thinking I'll spotlight another one of my recent great flea market finds.
But which one? Stick around and find out. . .