August 20, 2008

It Stalks the Public Domain - Range War

BLAZING WESTERN #1 [1954] was the first issue of a short-lived series from a publisher called Timor, which from some casual research seems to have some shared ownership with Gillmor and Stanmor (the company which published this and the one that appears to have bought and later sold this), Whatever the details, it has the 8-page story below, "Range War", that makes a trio of scattered early stories by Ditko in three genres, horror, romance and western. Before his first year in professional comics was up, he'd get some experience in science-fiction, crime, fantasy and even a touch of super-heroes (if you count inking backgrounds in CAPTAIN 3-D). Looks like it would take him a while to hit war comics, but he'd get there, along with some humour work. Funny animals would take a bit longer.

Anyway, westerns are another genre that Ditko isn't really associated with, although he did quite a few more of them than he did romance, mostly for Charlton, some for Marvel. As I've said before, I think it's a shame, as he does some really nice work in the genre, and a lot of the morality of his independent work would fit nicely in the traditional setting (see the end of this story).

Anyway, again a very over-written story. It features the Utah Kid and his sidekick Golden Eagle, although it's pretty clear from the lettering that it wasn't "Utah" originally. Don't know what it was, something five or six letters, from the looks of it. Don't know if this was a pre-existing character. Looks like the he continued in later issues, though not by Ditko. Anyone with an encyclopedic knowledge of third-tier comic book gunfighters out there?

And oddly, while they changed the name of the lead, they didn't change the character "Ed Begley" (and I just checked he was a pretty well established actor by then). Anyway, the story has the Kid and Eagle coming across a poisoned watering hole and getting in the middle of a conflict between cattlemen, led by Silas Black, and the sheepherders led by Ed Begley, and figuring out that there's something else under the surface driving the conflict.

A pretty good little story, Ditko's art has some really good moments, though a few other bits are overdone, and some of the staging doesn't quite work (but that might be a problem in the script, like how the jailbreak works). Printing seems pretty awful, unfortunately.

Scans adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, go over here for ordering info on some amazing creator-owned works and over here for info on recent and upcoming releases from all publishers, good and bad.

Click to enable the embiggening.


  1. I recall this story from its 1964 reprint in Blazing Six Guns, one of a number of reprints put out by an outfit called I.W. Publishing.

    I suspect they had both the art and the color
    separations, because the coloring you show is exactly the same in the reprint -- only the reprint seems (to my eye) much sharper printing.

    Even as a kid i noticed the "Utah" squeezed in on the first page and wondered what that was all about! I wonder if "Golden Eagle" in the same caption also covered up another character name.

  2. Joe Simon talks about selling some of the Mainline stuff to Israel Waldman (I.W.) after they went under in THE COMIC BOOK MAKERS, and yeah, he bought the colour plates which were sent to the printer from Simon, and likely what he did with the Timor/Stanmor/whatever line, so they'd have the same colouring.

    Given how much "Utah" sticks out like a sore time every time it appears, I'm guessing "Golden Eagle" was unchanged from the original.

  3. "Given how much "Utah" sticks out like a sore time every time it appears, I'm guessing "Golden Eagle" was unchanged from the original."

    I'd agree.

    I also find it interesting that the "Utah Kid" is referred to as a lawman, but we never see a star or badge on him.

  4. I'm tempted to suggest "Cisco Kid", but that doesn't seem right, especially given the Indian sidekick.

  5. "Cisco" was my first thought, too, but he had a fairly well established comic book at Dell for over two years at that point, and I couldn't figure out a mechanism whereby Ditko would do a fully lettered story at Dell (and no other known work for them in that era) and it winding up re-lettered at Timor. Plus of course the sidekick being Native American rather than Mexican.

  6. My first thought at the original name was "Rawhide," and that Charlton had changed it to avoid a problem with Atlas.

    But! Atlas's Rawhide Kid did not premier until 1955, so this may not be the case at all.

    By the looks of the rubbing residues, I would guess the first letter to be an A and the last (in all likelihood the seventh) an E. Keeping with the western motif, I would suggest "Abilene Kid" as a likely moniker.

    Would anyone know Mr. Ditko or anyone else still alive who might remember?

  7. Hm, interesting speculation. Apparently "The Abilene Kid" was the name of a character in the 1948 movie 3 GODFATHERS. He's an outlaw in the movie, so obviously a different character, but maybe a name they'd change just to be safe.