Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wild Bill Everett's 1960s and 1970s Westerns

This time out I’ll continue to showcase Bill Everett’s western stories for Marvel, beginning in 1960 (to read a thorough examination of Everett's Romance art for Timely-Atlas, and much more, please go to Doc V's blog):

Bill Everett worked in every genre for Timely/Atlas, including war, humor, jungle, romance, horror/mystery and, of course, westerns. Everett contributed stories and covers to titles like Western Outlaws, Quick-Trigger Western and Wyatt Earp

Everett's first 1960s' western was a five page filler in Kid Colt # 90, drawn, lettered and possibly written by him. Everett’s work at Marvel was sporadic in the early 1960s, as he was working at a greeting card company, but he returned in full force by 1966, working mainly on the superhero line, including stints on The Hulk, Dr. Strange and, of course, his baby, Sub-Mariner. Everett had a special affinity for the western genre, though, and produced his share of back-up stories in this period, as we shall see.

Character, body language and scenery set the mood in this Everett splash page, "Desperado!", Kid Colt, Outlaw # 90 May 1960

Dick Ayers pencils; Bill Everett inks, Two-Gun Kid # 81, May 1966

Everett's fist foray into Marvel's western stars begins with the Two-Gun Kid. Here  Everett teams with Dick Ayers, inking the cover and interior story (as Bill Roman, get it?).

Page 3 of "The Hidden Gun!" from Two-Gun Kid # 81. Steve Skeates plot; Larry Lieber story; Ayers/Everett artwork.  

Dick Ayers was certainly no slouch in the western department, producing some of his most accomplished work in the 1950s and early 1960s. Everett’s rendering adds another layer to Ayers’ pencils, much like John Severin did with Ayers on Sgt. Fury. It would be another seven years before the team was reunited on another western. 

"All in A Day's Work", Everett story and Art, Two-Gun Kid # 82, July 1966

Everett returned for a back up story in the next issue of Two-Gun Kid, and his solo work is breathtakingly beautiful. One can feel the dusty, muddy streets of the town. Everett again uses his ability to turn the sea into a vibrant element as the stagecoach falls into the ocean. Everett put plenty of effort into these vignettes and the results are rewarding.

 Page 5 of "The Passenger", Rawhide Kid # 54, Oct 1966. Denny O'Neil story, Don Heck pencils; Bill Everett inks (as "Willie Bee").

Bill Everett was an exceptional inker, and, like Wally Wood, added a gloss and depth to almost every penciller he worked over. Don Heck was another veteran western artist who was a standout in the genre, and the combination of the two produced fine results. The dialogue by Denny O’Neil in the final panel is a nod to the Bat Masterson TV show (and theme song) starring Gene Barry, which ran from 1958-1961 and lived on in re-runs for many years. The catchy theme song can be heard here:


"Blazing Showdown", Sol Brodsky script; Tom Sutton pencils; Everett inks, Kid Colt, Outlaw  # 137 Nov 1967. Page 4. 

Newcomer Tom Sutton brought both cartoonishness and personality to the owlhoots pictured above, and his qualities meshed well with Everett. Sutton is another artist whose versatility and individuality is vastly underrated and deserves a post all his own. Although he was not often involved with superheroes or associated with one character, his diverse credits, including westerns, war, humor and horror, have proven him to be one of the most interesting artists of the period.

Page 4 of "Wild Bill Everett's" (as he was credited on the splash) written, drawn, lettered, perhaps even colored story - "The Medicine-Man or: The Parable of the Pitchman's Pitch". Two-Gun Kid # 91, Jan 1968.   

Everett turned in some of his finsest western art in these back-up stories appearing in the 1966/1968 period. He sense of mood and pacing shines through, and adds a pretty gal, to boot!

"Gunrunners' Trail!", Sol Brodsky script, Bill Everett art and lettering, Rawhide Kid # 65, Aug 1968. I suspect Brodsky named Texas Ranger Buck Maynard after early cowboy movie star Ken Maynard.  

While Everett's art was not up to the standards of his previous stories, he still turned in an exciting splash page.

"The...Double Cross!", Bill Everett art and letters; Everett script?; Rawhide Kid # 66, Oct 1968. 

Everett's final solo western story was likely written by him as well.( "Great Shades of Hades!" sounds like a line that wouldn't come from any other Marvel writer!). Everett turns in another effectively drawn tale. It's a shame there were not more opportunities for Everett to work in the genre. It almost happened according to info from On The Drawing Board # 71, Dec 68:

"The new 25 cent western title is being held up until they have 3 or 4 completed
issues on hand....The book will probably feature 5- ten page strips. The strips
should include the Ghost Rider; Half-Breed, a new strip; a somewhat changed
version of Bill Everett's Negro-Indian "Dark Arrow" strip; and two others..."
Later information had Arnold Drake attached to the script, who noted that Dark Arrow, or Half-Breed, was supposed to be about a Native American character. There apparently was talk of adding new material to Mighty Marvel Western but it was not until Western Gunfighters appeared in 1970 that any new material appeared in the 25 cent line. The Dark Arrow/Half-Breed concept may have been turned over to Steve Parkhouse and Barry Smith, morphiing into the one-shot Outcast that appeared in Western Gunfighters # 4. It would have been interesting to see Everett work on a new continuing character, but it was not to be.

There were no new Everett western covers or stories in 1969. Everett returned to the field in 1970 for the Outlaw Kid cover and story discussed in my last post. Everett returned to inking stories in 1971.

"Triple-Cross!" (Gunhawk) Allyn Brodsky script; Werner Roth pencils; Wild Bill inks-Western Gunfighters # 6, Sept 1971

  Bill Everett provides inks over Werner Roth in the Gunhawk feature. Gunhawk was a short lived western character that debuted in the anthology title Western Gunfighters and appeared from time to time in other strips. Like Don Heck, Werner Roth was very comfortable drawing  western stories, having produced quality work for Atlas on The Apache Kid and Matt Slade, along with numerous genre stories. At the time Roth was known for his superhero art on the X-Men, and compared to the overwhelming figures of Jack Kirby, John Buscema, John Romita and Gene Colan, Roth’s storytelling was often considered weaker and less dynamic. Roth was a solid storyteller and here his work shines combined with Everett’s precise inking. Roth also produced exciting work on a few Kid Colt and Rawhide Kid stories, especially those inked by Herb Trimpe.

Gil Kane pencils/Everett inks; Rawhide Kid # 96. Feb 1972

Rawhide Kid # 96 includes a double dose of Everett magic. Inking Gil Kane’s dynamic cover, one wishes they had drawn some interior western stories together. Kane was another in a long line of artists who had a true feel for westerns, and whenever he was inked by Everett, mainly on covers, the combination was exceptional.

Everett teamed up with Dick Ayers one more time, inking the Gary Freidrich written story “The Kid From Misouri”.

Larry Lieber pencils; Everett inks, Rawhide Kid # 97, March 1972

                    Larry Lieber pencils; Rawhide Kid # 98, April 1972

Everett inked three consecutive Rawhide Kid covers, the latter two rendering Larry Lieber’s pencils, who had been drawing and often writing the character for years. Everett never inked Lieber on any interior stories, which is unfortunate, as Everett would have added another dimension to Lieber’s pencils.    

And so ends Everett’s western run at Marvel. Sadly, Everett died in 1973, but his singular talent continues to live on, as fresh and exciting as ever, waiting to be explored, celebrated and appreciated.    


Kid said...

Some fantastic artwork there, Nick. Although I love the Masterworks and Omnibus editions, I sometimes think it's a shame that some stories aren't available in the standard comicbook format. Only the diehard collector is going to pay the rather pricey amounts for the hardback books, but comics are more likely to be picked up by the casual browser. (If they're obtainable in places other than specialist shops obviously.)

I love Bill Everett's '50s (?) Sub-Mariner artwork, but wasn't too impressed with his inking on Thor. Not that it wasn't utterly professional - I just think that Kirby needed an inker who diluted his idiosyncracies, and Everett left too much of Jack's abstract musculature on the page for my liking.

However, there's no doubt that Bill was one of the greats. Keep 'em coming, Nick.

Nick Caputo said...

Thsnks, Kid. It would certainly be great to have collections of western art by the likes of Bill Everett, but it doesn't look like that's on the horizon anytime soon.

I loved Everett's inking over Kirby and thought it added a distinctive feel that was far from "pure" Kirby as interpeted by Mike Royer, but although our opinions differ I always appreciate your thoughts. We certainly agree on the worth of Bill Everett!

Barry Pearl said...

Picking up where the Kid left off. I wish there were softcover TPB Masterworks that covered the material NOT in the hardcovers. That would include these westerns, but also some of the beginnings of Millie the Model and such.

By the way I really liked Everett on Thor. And I thought his work in the 1950s for Subby was some of the best out there at the time. I wonder what his stuff would be like if he worked at EC too.