Their six-guns blazing under a hot sun, roping bucking broncos
and trying to control women wilder than the territory.
But now, cowboys barely get respect.
Tough nomads who roamed the dusty trails with six-shooters
and guitars once commanded a large section of the comic book
shelf, but today the genre barely gets a nod.
Indeed, many of the big names of the 1940s and 50s,
like Gene Autry, ruled the movie houses, the radio airwaves and
the comics and pulps. But today characters like Gabby Haynes
and the Cisco Kid invoke blank stares except among those aficionados
steeped in American folklore.
Indeed, in 2012, guide values of the top western genre books
either saw no increase, or decreased in value. The top western
comic, Gene Autry Comics 1, remained static at $10,000 in near
mint, while the second most valuable, Hopalong Cassidy 1 dropped
by an astounding 20 per cent to $6,000 guide. A near mint minus
slabbed copy of Hopalong 1 sold at a Heritage Auction for $2,868
The horseshoes fell off another loser, Red Ryder Victory.
A very fine copy of Red Ryder Victory Patrol 1943, a promotional
comic for Langendorf Bread which guides for $2,000 in near mint
and about $825 in very fine, sold in a January auction go for
But of course there are exceptions. Marvel Golden Age westerns
seem to hold their value and push beyond guide prices for third
party appraised books. Two-Gun Kid 1 is gaining in importance
as a key book, and Rawhide Kid 1, too, is holding its value.
Both demand multiples of guide value if slabbed.
An online comics dealer listed his top 50 sellers, and they
include all comic eras, but the tally doesn't include one western
title. Granted, while the genre will be more popular in certain
parts of the continent, particularly where cowboys still roam,
the decline in interest is disappointing.
Some of the best comic artists worked in the genre, including
Russ Heath, Jack Kirby, Syd Shores, Dick Ayers, Joe Maneely,
Doug Wildey, John Severin, Russ Manning, John Buscema, Alex Toth,
Joe Kubert and Frank Frazetta. That only scratches the surface
of the talent that drew the dusty West.
But a soft market presents an opportunity for collectors
who want to delve into the genre. There are many titles worth
exploring for story lines and artwork. DC Comics has a long history
in westerns, such as All-Star Western and Weird Western Tales,
as does Marvel, including The Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid.
But some of the best work belongs to other companies, including
Dell and Gold Key. Those two companies focused much of its westerns
on movie or television titles, including The Wild, Wild West,
Bonanza, Maverick, The Lone Ranger and Western Roundup. Dell
also included a number of renditions of stories written by prolific
Western genre writer Zane Grey.
The names of the genres heroes include Gene, Dale Evans,
Roy Rogers, the Cisco Kid and many others. They have longevity
and are ingrained and intertwined in American folklore. Many
Canadians remember listening to singing cowboys and watching
black-hatted bandits fire their six-gun shooter about 15 times
at a fleeing white hatted hero on their grainy black and white
televisions. And Europeans love a good western yarn.
Comic companies keep the characters alive because although
the markets for golden and silver age books have weaken, the
stories continue to resonant with readers. The genre may not
be on the top of most collectors lists, but for those with
a desire to travel along the trails, it's a great time to explore
the Wild West in four colour.
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting
comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker
really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit
in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on
his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great
metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a
little bit of history the past three decades.