Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Billy the Kid Meets a Giant Iguana!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about Billy the Kid's career as the hero of B-moves--a career that far surpassed his brief activity as a real-life outlaw. But Billy also had quite a few adventures as a comic book hero. In 1950, Toby Press (a comic publisher active from 1949 to 1955) gave Billy a 29-issue run. In 1957, Charlton droped Billy into their own series (beginning with issue #9, because it took over the numbering of another book titled The Masked Rider) that ran for 145 issues, coming to an end in 1983. Billy had some pretty wild adventures during that run. Heck, he once had to trail a corrupt Indian agent back to Washington and punch him out in front of President Grant!

That's from Billy the Kid #31 (November 1961) and is actually only the second most interesting thing that happens to the young outlaw in that issue. And not just because you could punch out pretty much any random guy in the Grant White House and it probably would have been a crooked politician. It's because in the story "The Monster of the Mountain," Billy the Kid has to fight a monster.

The script is tentatively credited to Joe Gill, with Charles Nicholas providing the art work. It's a tale that begins with Billy getting jumped by some Indians, members of a tribe whose warriors are reputed to be among the best, but still need an outsider to do something they won't do.

The tribe, you see, lives in a hidden valley. They mostly like it there, but a huge and carnivorous creature is driving down the property values. To appease the creature, they have to send someone in with food every so often. Whomever delivers the food doesn't always come back.

Billy tries to fight his way free, but is overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. He's stuck with the job.

What I like about the story is that Billy isn't trying to be the hero this time around. He recognizes the danger involved and sees no sense in risking his life. He's perfectly capable of acting with courage if he needs to and certainly fulfills the role of Hero in other stories, but this time he just doesn't see the need. He tries to talk his way out of the job as well as fight his way out, but in the end, he carries a dead deer into the monster's cave.

Both the cover and a splash page that begins the story give away the monster's nature, so it's no surprise when Billy is confronted by a giant iguana. What follows is a nifty three-page battle as Billy employs first his torch and then a rawhide lasso to defeat the monster. The Indians are pleased with this--they can now safely wall up the cave and keep the creature from ever threatening them again. Billy rides free.

The story runs for 10-pages and to a degree it feels a little bit rushed, with necessary exposition being squeezed in sometimes a little awkwardly. But I like the bizarre idea of a giant iguana wrecking havoc in the Old West, while Billy's fight with it is nicely choreographed. That big lizard really does some across as creepy and scary, especially in that panel where we see him in a close-up as he lunges towards Billy.

I'd like to say that a giant iguana is probably the most bizarre threat Billy encounters in any of the post-real-life tales in which he appears. But there's a 1966 movie (not a very good one--sad to say) in which Billy the Kid battles Dracula. So the poor lizard probably has to move into second place. Gee whiz, if Billy had done stuff this interesting in real-life, he wouldn't need us to make up stories about him, would he?

You can read Billy the Kid #31 online HERE.


  1. Fascinating reading. I sure haven't seen anything like that yet on THE TALL MAN, the 1960-62 series starring Clu Gulager as Billy and Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett. I appreciated reading about Billy the Kid's comic book appearances and plan on checking out the full story. Thank you for posting! --Gary in Omaha

    1. I don't think I knew about the Clue Gulager series! Thanks for mentioning it. I'll have to try to find an episode.


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