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Scott’s Classic Comics Corner: Bill Black – Swiping Westward

Cover swipes are almost as old as the industry itself (check out Atomic Comics #1, Roly Poly Comics #15). Not too long ago, I found myself browsing through some Charlton westerns from the early 80s (if not me, then who?) and a couple of cover images caught my eye.

Now, let me get this out of the way. I admire Bill Black; editor/publisher at AC Comics. His love for obscure Golden Age comics has helped keep the flame alive (see this recent post at my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent).


When I first saw the cover to Gunfighters #71, I was all like “Heeey, wait a minute – I know that image”. I flipped through my short box of Lone Rangers with painted covers and lo and behold, I see Lone Ranger #88. Now turning a painted cover into a line drawn cover may fool some people, but not me – all those LR covers are etched in my brain. While adding the sniper in the background may have been an attempt to make it more original – it actually makes the whole scene more confusing. Is the Ranger completely surrounded? If so, shouldn’t he try to find better cover? The cool mountains in the background have been erased, but the town looks essentially the same. Not terribly subtle.


The Lone Ranger swipe got me thinking: are there other Charlton covers by Bill Black taken from older westerns? I was familiar with the cover from Gunfighters #73 because Black would recycle it years later for AC’s Latigo Kid #1 (see image at my blog). I wasn’t too fussed up about that as Black was simply reworking something he’d done earlier. But I just knew I’d seen this pose before. Eventually, it occured to me that it was the cover to Outlaw Kid #12 by the late great Joe Maneely. Sure, the background is all different and a whip has replaced the rifle but this central figure and the horse is a pure swipe. I guess if you’re going to swipe a cover, steal from the best.


After that I took a peek at a bunch of other Bill Black covers from this period, and many struck me as very familiar but I haven’t been able to connect the dots. I swear I’ve seen the three images above elsewhere, but my sleep deprived mind just can’t track them down. So, I am enlisting you – the fine readers of Comics Should Be Good, to help me determine whether or not these come from older books. I’ve found plenty of covers with many horses charging, but not this specific pose, but it’s that cover with the gunman turning to fire that’s driving me nuts. Please, help me before I split the spines on my Gerber Journals.


Charlton was publishing Westerns into the early 1980s? On what newsstands were they being distributed? None where I live.

Yes, R. J., I often wonder that myself, about a lot of companies. I started tracking down comics wherever I could find them in 1980 at age five. What is always shocking to me is how many old companies didn’t fail until the early 80s, so technically I should have some distant memory of seeing their comics, but I don’t. The same applies to long-running comics that were still going at the time like “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos”. I sure don’t remember seeing any issues of that of the stands. For that matter, I don’t remember seeing any back issues in the back issue boxes.

We had these Charleton’s on the rack here in Rhode Island. Or at least the “Adam’s Drugs” did where I used to buy my comics. I was buying exclusively Marvel & DC by the 80’s, but my girlfriend at the time would occaisionally buy me a stack of Charleton horror and western.

Matthew Johnson

October 2, 2008 at 6:30 am

I only ever saw Charlton comics in small-town grocery stores (especially in Quebec, for some reason — the only anglophone comics I ever saw in Quebec in the 70s were Charltons.) It was like being in some weird parallel universe.

Matthew Johnson

October 2, 2008 at 6:31 am

(As opposed to all those normal, ordinary parallel universes.)

I was buying these Westerns at the the local bookshop in Morehead City, NC – although comic shops were selling them too.

Hi Scott I can’t say for sure but believe the cover with the gunman turning to fire is from a Billy the Kid comic. I use to collect them and I ‘m sure it is from a Billy the Kid comic.
Thank you Capt’n G

Hi Scott i guess i was wrong as i checked the GCD site and could not find the cover.
Thakn You Capt;nG

Thanks for the input everyone – Capt’n G, you are probably going crazy like me.

Over at the Classic Comics forum at CBR, Jeddy informed me that the cover to Gunfighters #76 is a swipe of ME’s Best of the West, so my thanks to him for helping me maintain my sanity.

I think you should look at Straight Arrow Comic cover No. 1 for a similiar scene with a palomino horse and rider being pursued by other indians. The scene is Sooo familiar to “gunfighters cover basically in yellow with a red & yellow target as a backdrop over the horizon… it may scratch that memory itch of where you’ve seen it ( pun intended) before.

Happy reading of ‘golden age ‘comics.


Gunfighters # 76 and Best of the West # 3

Gunfighters #74 could look like the splash page of The Gunhawk # 14

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