Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Stagecoach Stops, Dark Caves & Sixguns
Laramie, which ran on NBC from 1959 to 1963, was not in syndication when I was growing up. At least not where I was growing up. So, though I was well-steeped in Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman and Big Valley, I didn't happen to see an episode of Laramie until I was well into my adult years.
That meant that Robert Fuller was, in my mind, the doctor from Emergency. So what the heck is Dr. Bracket doing wearing a six gun? And who's manning the E.R. while he's shooting it out with outlaws? Where's Gage and DeSoto? It actually took an effort to wrap my mind around the idea that he had been a cowboy--I hadn't seen later seasons of Wagon Train at that point either.
Despite the absence of paramedics, Laramie was a good, solid show. Many consider it one of the best Westerns of its time. I haven't seen enough episodes to pass judgement, but I have liked the ones I've seen.
The premise is a neat one--Slim Sherman, along with his young brother Andy and his partner Jess Harper run a stage stop near Laramie. Jonesy--played by Hoagie Carmichael--also worked there during the first season. It's a premise that allows for different characters to pass through their lives, bringing various adventures to their doorstep.
The pencils are by Gil Kane and the inking was done by Russ Heath. Kane and Heath were two of the best artists in the industry during the Silver and Bronze ages. FC #1125 has two very well-written stories (the writer is unknown), but its the art work that really shines. The book is a pleasure to simply look at.
Later, the driver's body and the empty strongbox that had carried the money are found at Slim's station. Someone is framing him for murder & robbery.
I love the attention to detail in the art that helps to subtly set the mood. The top right panel above, for instance, has the top of Slim's head in shadow, highlighting the shocked expression centered in his eyes when the body is found. I wonder if that was something Kane indicated when he did his pencil work, or something Heath added with the inks. It's the sort of emotional touchstone that both men were brilliant at creating.
The story really is well-written, with the story progressing in a very logical manner.
"The Passenger" involves a witness to a murder being escorted to the trial by a lawman. But the witness doesn't trust the law to protect him. When the stage stops at Laramie, he knocks out Jonesy and makes a break for it.
Four Color #1125 is now in the public domain, so you can read it online HERE.
Next week, we'll move from the Wild West to the equally Wild East, trading in our six guns for some giant robots.