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  1. #1
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    Default Owlhoots and Hombres: Western Hero Appreciation

    It is about time we had an Appreciation thread for those forgotten heroes of the Old West. At one time, they were a large part of the Marvel stable of characters and then they were put on the shelf for “modern day” heroes. In my opinion, Marvel is cranking out too many title right now to hope to keep up quality, but after the inevitable pruning of failing titles, perhaps it is time to give a serious try at reviving the Western heroes. No mutants, no powers, no pseudo-technology: just a fast horse, a faster gun and a desire for justice.

    So let’s review some of Marvel’s finest.

    My personal favorite was Matt Hawk, the Two-Gun Kid. A lawyer who refused to wear guns, but then put on a mask and two guns to defend the town of Tombstone from all comers. Unlike most of the Western heroes, Matt had a regular supporting cast, which could easily have been expanded for more diverse stories.



    He, of course, then became a time traveling hero, coming “back to the future” with Hawkeye, then going back to the Old West, then faking his death and creating a new identity, then dying for real, then coming back from the dead just to be brought back to the future again! Pretty much, he has hit every superhero trope that there is, and he is still going strong!

    And then there was The Ringo Kid, a multi-racial character (although in those days he was called a “half breed”) with a white father and Native American mother (who was either Cheyenne or Cherokee--or maybe she was both?). There is lots of potential for stories from that background, and it fits Marvel’s current desire for a more racially diverse cast!



    Not to mention he really rocked the all-black attire!

    More in the mainstream, there was that favorite of the editorial office, the Rawhide Kid. He must be their favorite--after all, he is the only one to date to get a Marvel Masterworks edition. In fact, he had two volumes, which puts him two volumes ahead of everybody else on this list! I always found that favoritism odd, as he was about as plain vanilla as you could get: wanted for a murder-he-didn’t-commit, he roved the Old West with his horse and fought for justice. Also one of the more popular ones from days gone by was Kid Colt, Outlaw. He was wanted for a murder-he-didn’t-commit, while he roved the Old West with his horse and fought for justice. Both the Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt had an impressive number of issues to their credit.



    But wait! There’s more! The Apache Kid, The Black Rider, The Outlaw Kid, The Reno Kid, The Ghost Rider (a/k/a Night Rider, a/k/a the Phantom Rider---talk about an identity crisis!), Matt Slade, and the Gunhawks (Reno Jones & Kid Cassidy). Truly, there are characters to be used, if Marvel ever wants to return to old-fashioned heroes who face down death and danger with no cop-outs like invulnerability or healing factors. They are people who choose to be heroes even though they could easily be hurt or die in the process, having no greater weapons than the people they fought.

    The three-image policy prevents me from showing them all here, but it is time to appreciate them!
    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

  2. #2

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    Well, there was that John Ostrander series that was produced about 16 years ago or so. I believe there was a sequel as well, by Ostrander. I forget who the artist was. Steve Epting, perhaps? The maxi-series "updated" many of the Western characters.

    Christopher Priest has written some interesting Western-based arcs of some comic books. Could be cool to get him to write some new mini-series or an ongoing.

  3. #3
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypestyle View Post
    Well, there was that John Ostrander series that was produced about 16 years ago or so. I believe there was a sequel as well, by Ostrander. I forget who the artist was. Steve Epting, perhaps? The maxi-series "updated" many of the Western characters.
    Yes, that is right. As far as I can figure, the time line is like this:

    1995, Fabian Nicieza writes Two-Gun Kid: Sunset Riders. This picks up the story of Matt Hawk after he returned from his time in the future with the Avengers (the first time). We learn that, while in the future he learned the date that Matt Hawk would die--and that the Two-Gun Kid would be blamed for the murder. Oh, and that the Two-Gun Kid would die two months later. So he has one last adventure where he fakes Matt Hawk's death, but expects to die as the Kid. Along the way he teams up with a black Canadian trapper named Marcel Fournier, a Cibecue Apache named Running Fish (and how did THAT name happen?), and a samurai warrior named Hijiro Nguri. Incidentally, this series is the first time I saw reference to Matt's real name being Matthew Liebowicz--I don't know if that was established before then. Anyway, the series ends with the apparent death of the Two-Gun Kid (to satisfy the history reports) but Matt and the rest of the Sunset Riders survive, and the story ends with the implication that the Sunset Riders would continue on as a team.

    2000: John Ostrander (with art by Leonardo Manco) writes Blaze of Glory, subtitled "The Last Ride of the Western Heroes." It brought back the Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, Outlaw Kid, Caleb Hammer, Reno Jones and Red Wolf, as well as bringing back Fournier from the Sunset Riders--except now he is white instead of black, and now he is a bad guy. No word on what happened with the other two.

    Anyway, Blaze of Glory also provided a new incarnation of the Ghost Rider as well. The Rawhide Kid and Caleb Hammer ride off together at the end, but Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and the Outlaw Kid are all killed. Marvel being Marvel, two of them have since recovered from being dead, but as far as I know the Outlaw Kid is still dead.

    2002: Ostrander and Manco give us Apache Skies, featuring the Rawhide Kid again, and this time the Apache Kid gets killed off. Ostrander writes good westerns but he does tend to use up characters rather briskly.
    2003: Comedian Ron Zimmerman writes Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather in which there is plenty of innuendo that the Rawhide Kid is gay. Because apparently Zimmerman thought that was funny. Nobody cared.
    2010: Zimmerman wrote Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven, which uses Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid again as supporting characters.

    You see my point about Rawhide Kid being the darling of the editorial staff?

    So there have been sporadic attempts at reviving the Western comic, but usually by killing off characters or doing it for a laugh rather than focusing on a serious ongoing comic set in the Old West. A cross somewhere between Nicieza's Sunset Riders and Ostrander's Blaze of Glory would be just about right.
    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

  4. #4
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    So, time to start individual appreciation posts of the various Western heroes. I am going to start with a semi-obscure one, the Ringo Kid. Why? Well, mainly because I have always liked him. But also because, as I hinted earlier, if Marvel were to revive the Western genre, the Ringo Kid best fits the current ethos at Marvel: a multi-cultural hero.
    1-ringo-kid-western August 1954.jpg
    The character was created in 1954, first appearing in Ringo Kid Western asa well as having stories in Wild Western as well. Ringo Kid Western ran for 21 issues (August 1954 to September 1957). Some internet sources state that the series dropped the word “Western” after the first issue, while others claim that “Western” was only included in the first and third issues. The truth is that the covers clearly show it being called Ringo Kid Western for the first four issues before the word “Western” was dropped. However, I find it useful to refer to the whole run as Ringo Kid Western to distinguish it from the 1970s reprint by Marvel (under the name of The Ringo Kid)

    The Ringo Kid is the son of a white man (Cory Rand) and a Comanche woman (Dawn Star). Now in the books sometimes the Kid was called part Cherokee rather than part Comanche, but the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe opted for Comanche. Frankly, I kind of like the idea that Dawn Star was half Comanche and half Cherokee--lots of story potential there if the Kid is both Comanche and Cherokee (as well as white...I guess “both” was a poor choice of words). Frankly, I am amazed that, in 1954, any publisher took the risk on a hero of “mixed race.” In the mid-fifties, several states would have considered interracial marriage (as happened between Cory Rand and Dawn Star) to be illegal and immoral. And yet here was Marvel’s predecessor, Atlas Comics, dedicating a book to the offspring of such a union! Kudos for them!

    But back to his story: While tutored by his white father, the Ringo Kid also learned the Comanche ways. He did not know there was such a thing as racial prejudice until, in 1868, he went into town and was treated poorly because of his mixed heritage. Then, as the origin story goes, a man named Shad Rathburn begins whipping Ringo. Cory Rand kills Rathburn to avenge his son. Now an outlaw, Rand flees. Rathburn’s men also seek revenge and kill Dawn Star and burn the Rand family home. They caught Rand and were about to lynch him when the Ringo Kid came to the rescue of his father, killing Rathburn’s men. This, in turn, made him an outlaw as well.

    This created the dynamic of a father-son duo, both outlaws, who try to keep apart to minimize the chance of both being captured, but who frequently would come to each other’s aid when needed. In essence, the comic merge both the lonesome rider trope of Westerns with a family unity trope. It is an odd mix. The two live separate lives but were loyal to each other. The Kid’s childhood friend, Dull Knife, would also be added to the mix.
    2-Ringo_Kid_Western_October 1954.jpg
    The “outlaw” brand would slowly change over time as more and more people in authority came to respect the loyalty and sense of justice of the Kid and his father. Eventually, the Ringo Kid was only technically an outlaw with nobody really trying to bring him to justice.

    It is not clear who actually “created” the character of the Ringo Kid. The author of the first stories appears to be unknown. At least, I have found no definitive source giving a name of the writer. The first artist, though, was Joe Maneely. Maneely was a key component of Atlas Comics in the 1950s. He was not only a good artist, but a fast one! He had quite a dynamic art style (as is obvious from the covers I am posting--click for a larger image). Legend has it that he was quite a minimalist when it came to pencils, doing most of his art work in the inking stage. It is an odd technique, but it certainly worked! He is credited as co-creator (with Stan Lee) of the original medieval Black Knight as well as (with Al Feldstein) the characters of yellow Claw and his adversary Jimmy Woo. And, of course, he must be considered a co-creator of the Ringo Kid along with Anonymous. Sadly, he died in a tragic accident in June of 1958, leaving behind a wife and three daughters.
    3-Ringo_Kid_Western_December 1954.jpg
    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

  5. #5
    Veteran Member codystarbuck's Avatar
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    Thing was, a lot of Marvel's western output were reprints of the earlier Atlas westerns. Some got new stories, like Rawhide Kid (some excellent stuff, from Kirby). I read a bit of that and enjoyed Rawhide and Two-Gun Kid, as well as Ghost Rider/Night Rider, though I prefer the ME Ghost Rider stories (both series by Dick Ayers). I didn't see a ton of them; but, they never grabbed me quite as much as Jonah Hex did. Then again, Marvel's westerns were all but gone by the time I was reading Jonah Hex, with any regularity. War and western comics were areas where I felt DC always outdid Marvel. Doesn't mean Marvel was bad at it; just that DC seemed to have a better handle on it.

  6. #6
    Mighty Member Johnny Peril's Avatar
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    Gunhawks

    The Gunhawks were Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones. Cassidy was the son of a plantation-owning family in the antebellum American South, and Jones was an African-American slave of the family. Cassidy Snr. was kind, treating his slaves like employees, and allowing Reno and the Kid to be tutored together. The boys grew up close friends, and when the Civil War broke out, Reno chose not to fight on either side, until rampaging Union troops slaughtered his master and carried off his love, Rachel Brown. Reno then joined with Cassidy and they fought together for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, with Jones claiming he wanted to kill every Yankee he could. After the war, they became wandering gunfighters, the Gunhawks, and continued searching for Rachel.

    - From Marvel Wiki.
    I read a few of these as a kid. Not the usual cowboy comic and the only series(to my knowledge) where one of the Stars gets killed.

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  7. #7
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by codystarbuck View Post
    Thing was, a lot of Marvel's western output were reprints of the earlier Atlas westerns.
    I am sorry. I should have been clearer on that when discussing the Ringo Kid. Ringo Kid Western ("RKW" for short) and Wild Western both contained Ringo Kid stories, but those were both Atlas Era books from the 1950s. Marvel's 1970s book The Ringo Kid ("RK" for short) was purely a reprint book of those Atlas stories. RKW ran 21 issues, while RK went for 30 issues--but that was just because of reprints of reprints. For example RK #30 was reprinting RK #7, which had reprinted the stories from RKW #7.

    As far as I can tell, the only Marvel Era "new" Ringo Kid action occurred in Avengers #142 (December 1975). The Avengers are chasing Kang through time and end up in 1873 in Tombstone, Arizona, where they meet Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Night Rider and the Ringo Kid. In the issue, the Ringo Kid helps save Hawkeye by clubbing an owlhoot preparing to shoot Clint. Kudos to writer Steve Englehart for doing his research because he has Ringo then comment: "My mother was an Indian. I shouldn't have struck him from behind--but he used the word to insult you, Hawkeye." In that one line, Englehart captures both Ringo Kid's mixed heritage and his sense of honor. Legend has it that Englehart intended to write an ongoing Western with the Ringo Kid, but plans fell through.

    But that is it, as far as I can tell. The Kid's one and only new Marvel Era action. Oh, he had a cameo in Avengers #143, but he didn't do anything.

    On a slightly off topic note: as we know, Matt Hawk/Two-Gun Kid came to the future with Hawkeye after the events of #142/143, then returned back to the West only to be brought back to the future by She-Hulk. So now there is going to be Occupy Avengers with Hawkeye and Red Wolf fighting for the common people. Any bets on whether Matt Hawk joins the group, too? It seems to me it would be right up his alley.
    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

  8. #8
    small press afficionado matt levin's Avatar
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    one of my favorite Marvel westerns was a one-shot in Marvel Premiere (#54) featuring Caleb Hammer. I've always wished they'd be smart enough to create a hard-bitten, Jonah Hex-style (still my all-time favorite western comic) 'historical' western featuring Hammer, but, well, still waitin'...
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  9. #9
    The One Above All 616MarvelYear is LeapYear's Avatar
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    Talking Happy Birthday Jim Steranko!!!


    Roomy and intricate in detail, this is Jim Steranko's original illustration for the cover of Western Gunfighters v2 #14.

    Western Gunfighters v2 #14, 1973 - Jim Steranko's cover squeezes in multiple characters within the confines of a relatively small square.
    Black Rider, Apache Kid and Matt Slade reprints fill the interiors, but appear together in this scene.
    The warning sign at the bottom, complete with skull and venomous snake, is a nice metaphorical touch.
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  10. #10
    The Celestial Dragon Tien Long's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tulku View Post
    Yes, that is right. As far as I can figure, the time line is like this:

    1995, Fabian Nicieza writes Two-Gun Kid: Sunset Riders. This picks up the story of Matt Hawk after he returned from his time in the future with the Avengers (the first time). We learn that, while in the future he learned the date that Matt Hawk would die--and that the Two-Gun Kid would be blamed for the murder. Oh, and that the Two-Gun Kid would die two months later. So he has one last adventure where he fakes Matt Hawk's death, but expects to die as the Kid. Along the way he teams up with a black Canadian trapper named Marcel Fournier, a Cibecue Apache named Running Fish (and how did THAT name happen?), and a samurai warrior named Hijiro Nguri. Incidentally, this series is the first time I saw reference to Matt's real name being Matthew Liebowicz--I don't know if that was established before then. Anyway, the series ends with the apparent death of the Two-Gun Kid (to satisfy the history reports) but Matt and the rest of the Sunset Riders survive, and the story ends with the implication that the Sunset Riders would continue on as a team.

    2000: John Ostrander (with art by Leonardo Manco) writes Blaze of Glory, subtitled "The Last Ride of the Western Heroes." It brought back the Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, Outlaw Kid, Caleb Hammer, Reno Jones and Red Wolf, as well as bringing back Fournier from the Sunset Riders--except now he is white instead of black, and now he is a bad guy. No word on what happened with the other two.

    Anyway, Blaze of Glory also provided a new incarnation of the Ghost Rider as well. The Rawhide Kid and Caleb Hammer ride off together at the end, but Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and the Outlaw Kid are all killed. Marvel being Marvel, two of them have since recovered from being dead, but as far as I know the Outlaw Kid is still dead.

    2002: Ostrander and Manco give us Apache Skies, featuring the Rawhide Kid again, and this time the Apache Kid gets killed off. Ostrander writes good westerns but he does tend to use up characters rather briskly.

    2003: Comedian Ron Zimmerman writes Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather in which there is plenty of innuendo that the Rawhide Kid is gay. Because apparently Zimmerman thought that was funny. Nobody cared.
    2010: Zimmerman wrote Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven, which uses Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid again as supporting characters.

    You see my point about Rawhide Kid being the darling of the editorial staff?

    So there have been sporadic attempts at reviving the Western comic, but usually by killing off characters or doing it for a laugh rather than focusing on a serious ongoing comic set in the Old West. A cross somewhere between Nicieza's Sunset Riders and Ostrander's Blaze of Glory would be just about right.
    Proud to say that I have the Blaze of Glory TPB as well as 3/4's of the Apache Skies miniseries! I particularly liked the former. Especially liked how Rawhide, Two-Gun, Outlaw, and Kid Colt ride into town and take down the bad guys. Also, Manco could do some badass splash pages:


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  11. #11
    The Celestial Dragon Tien Long's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, always found this splash page to be funny:

    "I am a man of peace."

    "A man of peace...who fights like ten tigers."

  12. #12
    The One Above All 616MarvelYear is LeapYear's Avatar
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    Leonardo Mancho is to me an OUTSTANDING artist!
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  13. #13
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    Tien Long, I agree that that scene from "Blaze of Glory" made me laugh too!

    Resuming my periodic appreciation posts, let's focus on Blaine “Kid” Colt:

    Kid Colt is credited as the longest running comic book cowboy star in American comics. His origin story is fairly standard. Blaine Colt does not wear a gun. it is not because he isn’t good with a gun (he is) but because he knows he has a short temper (originally he was a redhead--a trope for a short temper). A sheriff then arrests Blaine Colt for killing his father. Colt discovers that, in fact, the sheriff killed his father and shifted the blame to Colt. Colt kills the sheriff and his helper, Lash Larribee. Unfortunately, having killed everybody who knows the truth, Kid Colt is not able to clear his name. As such, he runs away as an outlaw.

    As I said, at first, Kid Colt was depicted as a red-head.



    By issue #11, though, he became a blonde.



    Kid Colt had his share of returning enemies, such as Sam Hawk (Manhunter) and, especially, Iron Mask (a man who decides walking around in an iron suit would keep him from being shot). He also would co-star with other Marvel Western Heroes such as the Rawhide Kid, the Night Rider and Two-Gun Kid. Kid Colt stories (although I think many of them were reprints) also appeared in Gunsmoke Western (issues # 32 through #77) (December 1955 to July 1963) and Wild Western (issues #4 through # 57) (November 1948 to September 1957).

    The strength of this character is impressive. In many ways, he is the granddaddy of them all--especially as far as Marvel is concerned. He first appeared in August 1948 (when Marvel was Timely). The first two issues went under the name “Kid Colt, Hero of the West” before it was changed to the more familiar “Kid Colt Outlaw” (hero, outlaw, what’s the difference?). The first issues are credited (both writing and art) to Pete Tumlinson (1920-2008). The original Kid Colt Outlaw basically came out every two months (although sometimes it was three or four months between issues). In its later years, it came out on a monthly basis. The title started at Timely, became Atlas, and transitioned to Marvel before finally ending in 1979. (There was admittedly a large gap between issues #139 (April 1968) and #140 (Oct. 1969)). From the sixties on, the book was basically a reprint title--but let’s face it: Kid Colt had a lot of stories to reprint! Issue # 100 came out in September of 1961. Issue # 150 was in October of 1970. #200 came out in November of 1975. His book finally ended in April 1979 with issue # 229. That is a long run!

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  14. #14
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    I guess it is time to do a tribute to the Rawhide Kid. As you may have guessed from my prior posts, I don't hold him on deep respect, but a lot of that is just because Marvel's editorial staff seems to favor him unduly. He has been the central Western character for some time now whenever they try to do a Western story. Honestly, Kid Colt would be a better choice, having a longer history. And I personally prefer the Two-Gun Kid (Matt Hawk version). But be that as it may, the Rawhide Kid is certainly a Marvel Western hero and should be properly acknowledged in this thread.

    The original “Rawhide Kid” was from the Atlas Era. He had no other name, but in the first issue he gained a young sidekick named Randy Clayton. The two of them, as a team, brought justice to many an owlhoot.



    It ran from March 1955 until September 1957, for a total of 16 issues. Atlas evolved into Marvel and had the rights to the characters. However, while Marvel would continue the series with issue #17 (August 1960), it introduced a new Rawhide Kid (with no sidekick). The blonde Rawhide Kid was gone and a new, young red-head was introduced.




    This isn’t unique to the Rawhide Kid. Marvel did the same thing with the Two-Gun Kid who, during the Atlas years, was Clay Harder for 59 issues before becoming the masked Matt Hawk in issue #60.

    The new Rawhide Kid was originally named “Johnny Bart,” although even at the start he was referred to as adopted by Ben Bart, whom he called his “uncle.” And like another Marvel “Uncle Ben,” Ben Bart was soon killed. Later on, it would turn out that Johnny Bart’s real name was Johnny Clay.

    His branding as an “outlaw” is particularly lame: he doesn’t kill anybody, just wounds a bad guy and the sheriff thinks he did it without justification. Yeah, wounding. Not dead. And yet, rather than stay and explain himself (for cripes sake, he even has a witness who is willing to speak on his behalf!) he runs away and so becomes a wanted “outlaw.” This lame story is almost entirely the fault of the Comics Code, which wouldn’t allow a hero to kill anybody. The Rawhide Kid isn’t the only Western hero to suffer under the Comics Code--every one of them was forever shooting guns out of people’s hand, with only the most desperate cases even getting wounded. Undoubtedly it weakened the characters and may partially explain why the titles died out.

    The Rawhide Kid would have a number of colorful costumed enemies, such as the Red Raven, the Rattler and the Living Totem (and just what was Stan Lee smoking when he came up with that character???), and he would become friends with Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid.



    Anyway, the Rawhide Kid proved to be quite a durable hero for Marvel. Like most of the western heroes, his title would be prone to a LOT of reprints, but it still survived for a respectable 151 issues, finally ending in May of 1979. And, as mentioned before, he keeps showing up whenever Marvel wants to do another Western story because, apparently, the editorial board thinks he is the most fascinating character they have. I disagree. I find him dull and uninteresting. A hot-head with a gun does not make for interesting stories. But, maybe I am in the minority with that view. There is no denying he is one of Marvel’s great Western heroes.
    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

  15. #15
    Spectacular Member Tulku's Avatar
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    I am late with this! But Happy Birthday John Severin (12/26):

    "Age is not defined by years, but by regrets...I'm an old man now." --Fighting Yank, "Project Superpowers"

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