So what exactly makes a comic a western?
So, what exactly makes a comic a Western? That is now a tough thing to answer, but for the purposes of this book, in order to be counted as one, the comic must include aspects of the following:
- It must take place in the western part of North America (the US, Canada, and Mexico) and/or some other worldly versions of those countries.
- It must include some element or idea of a “frontier”.
- It can take place anywhere from the colonial era to the far distant future.
- There is usually some sort of wandering, nomadic character (gunslinger, cowboy, outlaw, bounty hunter, rogue, soldier, gambler, or some combination thereof).
- It is often set in some sort of savage, untamed, and often openly hostile wilderness. Be it the Algonquin frontier of upstate New York during the French and Indian War, a lonely mountain mining camp in the frozen wastes of the Yukon, or the vast open stretches of arid desert in the Southwest in the 1870’s.
- There is almost always some sort of morality play going on in the story as well, i.e. good vs evil, technology vs humanity, revenge vs justice; although these terms can be overly simplistic, especially with some of the more modern westerns.
Even with these six defining characteristics, the field of Western comics is still a rather large one, as it covers everything from Natty Bumppo and Daniel Boone to Wyatt Earp and Jonah Hex to the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers to the Man with No Name and the Saint of Killers. Using these six, one quickly discovers that many movies like the “superhero” film Logan is actually a western.
Although an argument could be made that there were some components of western comics in the early pulps, as many had some illustrations on the inside and those incredible covers on the outside, the first true western comic book could be movie cowboy Ken Maynard’s appearance in Wow Comics #2 in 1936. Since that first foray, there have been several hundred western comic titles, both here and abroad. The latter maybe somewhat surprising as the genre is considered uniquely American, but there have been many cowboy tales in Britain, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, and other countries since WWII. In fact, there are more traditional western comics made outside the US than in it. No doubt their post war foreign popularity was due in part by the rapid spread of the American cinematic culture after 1945, but there is also something rather powerful to a citizen of any nationality in the simple stories of one person (or occasionally a group) confronting and overcoming a minor or monumental injustice of some kind, which at the end of the day is the general plot line of most westerns. That, and they have guns. Lots and lots of fast drawing and quick firing side-arms to help them tame that injustice right into an early grave.
So why westerns comics? (word file) or why did I get involved with this project?
What is a western? (word file)
How to read a Guide entry:
All entries are alphabetical and are currently presented as word files. I hope to make searching easier in the future.
Title of comic (in bold)
Publisher of comic
Issues Published: Total number first, sometimes followed by actual issue print number. Example- 12 (#6-#18) This indicates that the title under this name started with an issue #6 of what had been another series. You see this mainly in the early comics of the 40’s and 50’s.
Most, but not all are followed by:
Background or story line information
Movie or TV tie-ins
Other collectible info