This is the first in a series of posts that compare DC versus Marvel non-superheroes. The second post compared war heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/). The third post compared working women (http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women/) What if DC cowboys and Native American heroes took on the Marvel cowboys and Native American heroes? First, who are they? The following is a list of major DC Western heroes: Arak, Ballon Buster, Bat Lash, Big Anvil, Black Bison, Brass Buttons, Captain Fear, Cinnamon, Dan Hunter, Don Caballero, El Castigo, El Diablo, El Papagayo, Firehair, Frenchie, Hawk, Son of Tomahawk, Healer Randolph, Johnny Cloud, Jonah Hex, Kaintuck Jones, Long Rifle, Lord Shilling, Madame 44, Miss Liberty, Nighthawk, Pow-wow Smith, Roving Ranger, Scalphunter, Serifan, Silver Deer, Stovepipe, Strong Bow, Super-Chief, Terra-Man, Tomahawk, Trigger Twins, Vigilante, Whip, Wildcat, Wyoming Kid.
The Marvel list is a lot shorter and includes American Eagle, Annie Oakley, Apache Kid, Arizona Kid, Ghost Rider, Gunhawk, Kid Colt, Matt Slade, Phantom Rider (Modern West), Outlaw Kid, Rawhide Kid, Red Warrior, Red Wolf, Ringo Kid, Shooting Star, Tex Morgan, Tex Taylor, Texas Kid, Texas Twister, Two-Gun Kid, Western Kid, and Wyatt Earp. When the two lists are put side by side we notice a couple of interesting differences between these two universes.
DC has some superhero type cowboys and Native Americans. Super-Chief is basically a superman type Native American. Terra-Man fights Superman. Some Marvel Western heroes that are more superheroes than Western heroes and include American Eagle, Texas Twister, Red Wolf and Shooting Star. The “Western superheroes” would absolutely destory the more traditional Western heroes with their superpowers so they are going to be kept off the contest roll call.
Marvel also has a couple of real life Western heroes in their universe unlike DC, mainly Annie Oakley and Wyatt Earp. What both companies share is a list of very obscure characters. Marvel Westerns are described as having a big three that include the Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. The three kids were united in the title Mighty Marvel Western that ran from 1968-76 and perhaps this was an attempt at some sort of genre synergy.
So a logical contest would be the big three of Marvel versus the big three of DC. Number one on the DC list has to be Jonah Hex due to critical acclaim, popularity and longevity.
Jonah Hex first appeared in the seventies, not the fifties and sixties like most comic book Westerns, and has managed to survive to the present. This is largely because Jonah Hex is an anti-hero and has had more interesting plot lines and superior artists and writers than other comic book heroes. I have written about Jonah Hex in another post (http://foxhugh.com/2008/05/19/the-lone-ranger-vs-other-fictional-gun-slingers/).
Number two in the DC pantheon would be Tomahawk due to longevity. I was born in 1957 and first started reading comic books in 1964 as detailed in my Comic Book Autobiography (http://foxhugh.com/about/comic-book-autobiography/). I remember Tomahawk fondly. As a kid I always saw Tomahawk as a Davey Crockett/Daniel Boone copy because he wore a coon skin hat. The series was set interestingly in the revolutionary war rather than the Wild West but when I was young I noticed the coon skin hat more than historical details. I actually owned an imitation Davey Crokett coon skin cap so of course I would read a series with someone with such a hat on the cover! Daniel Boone, the Disney TV series, was also very popular when I became aware of Tomahawk. I was surprised to find out while researching this post that the Tomahawk series lasted from 1950 to 1972 for a total of 140 issues! This may be some sort of record for a Western comic book. This means Tomahawk came before the Disney movies and TV series, to my surprise. Tomahawk even appeared the 2008 series The War that Time Forgot.
Number three on the DC list is Bat Lash due to critical acclaim but not longevity. Bat Lash won the Alley Awards in 1968 and 1969 for best Best Western Titles. Bat Lash only lasted eight issues. I also picked Bat Lash because he actually appeared on an episode of Justice League Unlimited alongside Johan Hex in “The Once and Future Thing”. This means Bat Lash has not totally joined the ranks of Westerns in comic book limbo. Bat Lash was inspired in part by spaghetti Westerns of the time and I love spaghetti Westerns and this is my list! Last but not least I have some vague memories of the issues I read as a kid and the same cannot be said of other Western fare I read when I was young. Bat Lash is the weak link of my DC selection and I welcome comments.
The DC heroes face off against the kids of Marvel but Jonah Hex is missing. The Marvel kids outnumber Bat Lash and Tomahawk, brought to the Wild West via a cave that allows time traveling or whatever, and manage to send them running for cover and they are pinned down. Suddenly a stick of dynamite is tossed from a second story window and lands right in the middle of the Marvel kids and blows them into little pieces. Jonah Hex is no fool. He does not fight great gunfighters like the Marvel kids head on. Bat Lash and Tomahawk are sickened by this dishonorable victory and ride away vowing to never associate with Jonah Hex again! Jonah Hex could care less.
Another interesting contest would be between two supernatural Western heroes. DC has El Diablo. There is more than one reincarnation of Diablo but the Wild West version is host to a minor demon. El Diablo showed up alongside Bat Lash and Jonah Hex in the afore mentioned Justice League Unlimited episode “The Once and Future Thing”. El Diablo could actually be the third most significant DC Western hero rather than Bat Lash. The host of the demon is in a coma and the body only moves around when the demon roams the West seeking vengance.
Marvel’s supernatural Western hero is the Ghost Rider, not the one with the bike, but the one with a horse. The horsey Ghost Rider was retroactively renamed the Phantom Rider by Marvel but sorry the name on the comic book cover is the correct name no matter what Marvel decides later on. The Ghost Rider wore a phosphorescent costume and was not a ghost at all. Even minor demons can defeat fake ghosts so that match goes to El Diablo. Now try to keep this straight, the story plot device of El Diablo is very similar to the Ghost Rider that rides a bike. The modern Ghost Rider is also possesed by a demon. The bike Ghost Rider is about a thousand times more famous and relevant than the horsy one but the horsey one does make an appearance of sorts in the Ghost Rider movie as the caretaker (Sam Elliot) who was a Western version of the Ghost Rider.
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