Friday, June 25, 2010

Marvel Tries To Revive the Western... With a Side of Spaghetti

During the 1970's, DC had unleashed a string of Western comics that drew from the spirit of the Italian western films. Although they also reprinted earlier stories of heroes like Pow-Wow Smith and Johnny Thunder, they had introduced more contemporary charcters like Jonah Hex, Scalphunter and Bat Lash.

Marvel, on the other hand, had produced a nearly endless string of reprints of Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Outlaw Kid. Their new Western comics were usually a new story featuring one of their old, Atlas heroes backed up by reprints of their old, Atlas heroes. They introduced Red Wolf, but his adventures were formulaic, and very similar to Atlas' Apache Kid.

In 1980, Marvel tried to introduce a new style of Western hero. Well, new to Marvel. Caleb Hammer has the look and feel of an Italian Western. Caleb bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain high plains Drifter. And, if it reminds you a little bit of a DC Western from 10 years before, it may be because it was inked by Tony DeZuniga, the original artist on DC's Jonah Hex.

From 1980's Marvel Premiere #54, we have "The Coming of Caleb Hammer" by Peter B. Gillis, pencilled by Gene Day and inked by Tony DeZuniga.

And as a bonus, this comic had two Western-themed ads:

Man, Dingos look like some killer boots!

I mean, alleged killer boots. I have to confess, I had a pair of these in second grade.


  1. Wow, this is a completely new comic to me (I love when that happens). I really enjoyed it, which kind of suprises me. Often, Marvel stuff from the eighties doesn't hold up real well for me. I think DeZuniga's inks really put this one into the land of cool.

  2. CALEB HAMMER was cool... and more importantly, SO easy and cheap to collect!

    Mighty Marvel gave it a shot, I'll give 'em that. But alas... Those 70s western efforts from "National Periodical" that you mentioned still seem quite superior, it is true.

    Still... ya gotta love how the HAMMER stories so boldy-- as you note here-- rip off "the man with no name." I almost expected Eli Wallach to jump out of every other panel! ["Hey, Blondiiiie" LOL]

    Wow, Aaron, you mentioned SCALPHUNTER... man, does that ever take me back! I actually loved that one as a lad. Wonder how it would hold up today? Hmmmm... May just have to search the discount boxes for one!

    Peace, Brother.

  3. Mykal: It was completely new to me when I found it in the $1 box! It was well worth it just for the DeZuniga inks.

    Albie: LOL- yep, this was Hammer's only comic. Although he does appear in "Blaze of Glory" the gritty take on the Marvel Western heroes. He's tracking Kid Colt who, like always, is "wanted". He also makes a couple of cameos in one of the later X-books.

    I FOUND a pile of Scalphunter in a quarter box the other day! I haven't posted any yet, because Scalphunter always seems to be an ongoing story. Frankly, it's a little heavy-handed.

  4. Yeah... "Heavy-handed" sounds right actually. I definitely did like it back yonder but I always-- ALWAYS-- was a sucker for a western comic.

    I basically remember it as a pretty violent "white indian" action soap opera?

    Hmmmm ... Couldn't be all bad at that... LOL

  5. "a pretty violent "white indian" action soap opera" sums it up pretty well. Just add in muddled geography and chronology and you've got it. :) Still a fun read.