Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tonto's Solo Career, Part 2

Last week, we took a look at the first story from Dell's Tonto #11 (1953), in which Tonto helped rescue the women and children of his tribe from enemy warriors.

The second story in that issue--"The Miners' Treasure"--has him helping out a couple of white men against outlaws. Though, at first, Tonto does have a little bit of trouble sorting out the good guys from the bad guys.

It starts with Tonto finding a man tied up in the desert. It's only natural to sympathize with that, so when the guy explains that he was ambushed by two outlaws, who stole a map to an old Spanish treasure, we don't blame Tonto for believing him.

They manage to cut off the "outlaws" and get the drop on him. This leads to the only weak point in an otherwise excellent story. The two captives explain that the first guy ambushed them to steal their treasure map. They managed to jump him, but--knowing more outlaws were nearby--had no choice but to tie him up and make a run for it.

At this point, Tonto should have been uncertain who was actually telling the truth and been careful of both parties. But he continues to blindly trust his original "friend." Because of this, he soon finds himself tied up alongside the other two guys, earning himself an "if you only listened to us" from one of them.

But then Tonto becomes awesome again.  He manages to free himself and the two miners (who did indeed have a map to a hidden Spanish treasure).  But the rest of the outlaw gang is coming, so they have to make a run for it before they can recover the map.

The map leads the outlaws to a dried-out lake bed. The lake is actually artificial. A few hundred years earlier, the Spanish had been closely pursued by Indians, so they buried the treasure and diverted a nearby river to hide it underwater.  The two miners had dammed up the river to dry out the lake, but it now seemed like the outlaws would reap the benefits of their hard work.

Tonto, though, has a plan. If they can get to the dam and open the sludge gate, the lake will cover the treasure again. This will keep the outlaws from getting it and perhaps give the good guys a chance to get the drop on their numerous enemies.

But to accomplish this plan, Tonto is going to have to avoid a brutal death-by-drowning at the hands of one of the villains.

Alberto Giolitti's art in this sequence really highlights his extraordinary composition skills. As Tonto sneaks up on the outlaw guarding the dam and then fights him, Giolitti keeps shifting the "camera" angle to keep the images kinetic, while blocking out the action in a way that both builds tension and makes sure we always understand exactly what's going on.

Despite forcing Tonto to hold the Idiot Ball for a few panels, this story (like the one we looked at last week) portrays the Indian as much more than a sidekick. He's capable, brave, intelligent and able to improvise clever plans when necessary.

The radio and TV Lone Rangers, though excellent shows, rarely gave Tonto a chance to shine on his own. It's nice that Dell Comics gave him a chance to show just how cool a character he is.

You can read this story in its entirety HERE.

Next week, we'll go a-sailing on the high seas with bloodthirsty pirates and... a nagging mother-in-law?

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