Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Lone Ranger's Work is Never Done

Golden Comics Digest #48: "The Lone Ranger's Western Treasury"

The Golden Comics Digests that came out during the 1970s were a venue used by Gold Key to reprint old comic stories. Most of them featured cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker or the Pink Panther, but occasionally they would do something really nifty showcasing an action/adventure character.

 G.C.D. #48 featured the Lone Ranger, a character created for radio in 1932 who had achieved enormous success that spilled over into books, comics, movie serials, and both live-action and animated TV.
"On the Warpath"
The Ranger can be a tricky character to write for. He pretty much has to be corny--a man who exists purely for the purpose of helping those in need. What made the Ranger popular over the years was a combination of good acting and good production values on both radio and TV and solid plots. All this helped create a version of the Old West that was believable and helped fans of the Lone Ranger accept him as "real." The actors who portrayed the Ranger (Brace Beemer on radio and Clayton Moore on TV) both played the part with real sincerity and it's to the credit to the memories of both men that they accepted their responsibilities as role models in their real lives as well.

The Gold Key comics reprinted in the Digest maintained this tradition of quality. Unfortunately, the Digest does not tell us when these stories were originally published or credit the writers and artists. Whoever they were, they were all pros: all the stories presented here are a lot of fun.

"The Great Range War"
Several of the stories feature the Ranger as a peacemaker. In "On the Warpath," the Ranger's nephew Dan Reid and a young Indian boy both risk their lives to preserve peace between Indians and settlers. In "The Great Range War," the Ranger manages to negotiate a three-way agreement between feuding cattlemen, farmers and sheepherders. And in "Ransom for Silver," the Ranger must leave his horse behind as a hostage while he works to prevent two rival tribes from going to war.

"Ransom for Silver"

"Silver Bullets" is set early in the Ranger's career, as he and Tonto go undercover with a gang of rustlers to lure them into a trap. The story takes a nice twist after the bad guys are captured--the Ranger abruptly finds himself trying to prevent the posse from degenerating into a lynch mob.

"Silver Bullets"

In "The Mission of Mercy," the Ranger and Tonto escort a doctor carrying smallpox vaccine to an Indian tribe. The action moves from a riverboat to a stagecoach as a gang of bandits, who have an unknown motive for wanting to see the tribe die off, tries to stop them.

"Mission of Mercy"

In "Cunning Hunter," the Ranger and Tonto hunt a wounded puma that has been endangering human lives, only to discover that the puma is itself a skilled and tricky hunter.

"Cunning Hunter"

 Another story features Silver, before he was befriended by the Lone Ranger and was still running wild, being stalked by an Apache who wants the magnificent horse for himself. Silver's not easy to catch, though, and the Apache learns to respect the horse's freedom. (Those familiar with Lone Ranger mythology will remember that the Ranger never captured Silver, but let him go after saving the horse from a buffalo. Silver voluntarily chose to become the Ranger's mount.)

"Indian Scout"

Finally, "Indian Scout" is a story about Tonto, also before he met the Ranger, as he helps lead a wagon train through a desert as they are menaced by an Indian war party. This story also tells us how Tonto acquired his own superb mount, Scout.

All the stories have good, solid plots. The different artists are all good, helping to tell the story clearly and presenting the fight and battle sequences in ways that allow the readers to easily follow the flow of the action. There's a lot of realistic detail, both in the portrayal of the equipment and weapons of the Old West and in the actions of the characters that help add to the overall verisimilitude. For instance, in "Indian Scout," Tonto shows the settlers how to find hidden water holes in the desert. in "The Mission of Mercy," there's a sequence where the riverboat uses large wooden spars to help lever itself over a sandbar--something real-life riverboats of the time did all the time. These little bits of accurate practical and historical detail help maintain the drama of the stories.

The Indians, for the most part, talk in the same sort of pronoun-less stilted English that Tonto is famous for. This is something that has been cited (with some justification) as a reflection of the bigotry of the time these stories were produced. But both whites and Indians in these particular tales have their share of good guys and bad guys. Neither the Ranger nor Tonto ever make decisions about helping people based on race--rather they are driven by the needs of justice and compassion.

And that's just as it should be.


  1. Because these Golden Comics Digests came out when I was around ten years old, I get real nostalgic just looking at the covers. I couldn't afford to buy them then. Fortunately, they're not that expensive when you can find them now.

  2. I've found a number of digests, both Gold Key and the DC Blue Ribbon digests, very inexpensively on Ebay.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...