Tonto Is Surprisingly Menacing On This Great Cover


This month’s great comic book cover is a surprisingly menacing one. It’s also surprising that it’s by Dell Comics and not EC. Being that it is from late in comic books’ Golden Age, I wonder if it caused anti-comic book crusader Sen. Estes Kefauver any pause for concern.

The popular series The Lone Ranger, with Clayton Moore as the title character, was still in its original run on television when this issue of Tonto hit the newsstands (issue #16 dated August-October, 1954). The Lone Ranger’s faithful companion had gotten his own comic book series and, on this cover anyway, it seems he’s quite the badass!

Not only is the coloring of the cover dark, the tone is dark. Very dark. It sure looks as though Tonto might be more than willing to break that bad guy’s neck. He shows no signs of mercy. His deadly serious look of calm determination is in stark contrast to the look of fear in the bad guy’s eyes. “D-d-don’t kill me, M-m-mister Tonto!”

If the baddie wasn’t wearing the nose and mouth covering handkerchief (the disguise of choice of villains in Hollywood’s Old West) and we didn’t know it was Tonto this cover would certainly have us thinking a Native American is going to kill. With his bare hands!

Don Spaulding’s illustration is masterful. Beautifully done in those darker colors with a flat black background. Tonto’s expression is terrific, if damn cold. Those hands are fantastic and, along with the clothing, look almost photographic.

This really is a great cover.

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.


Here’s This Month’s Great Comic Book Cover


This month’s great comic book cover comes from the religious Treasure Chest series (volume 1, number 5 – August 18, 1966). I haven’t read this comic, but I thinking it’s a safe bet that, since in was published in 1966, it’s not going to have a very sympathetic view toward the Native peoples who were fighting for their land and way of life. The title – The March To Glory: The Story of Custer’s Last Stand – pretty much confirms my suspicion.

But, I’ll put America’s troubled and sometimes shameful past aside to look at what I think is a great cover by artist Reed Crandall.

Although, what exactly happened during the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or the Battle of the Greasy Grass as it is called by Native Americans, will never be known, the image depicts Custer separating his forces as a Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, or Arapaho warrior observes. Since most of us know the results of the battle (Custer’s forces were soundly defeated), we can assume the splitting up of his men was probably not a good idea. Also, knowing the history, there’s a sense of foreboding to a lone warrior witnessing Custer’s error.

Crandall does an excellent job rendering the warrior. I don’t know if the garments worn are accurate, but the drawing is wonderfully done. It’s not a comic book superhero we see, but a realistically drawn man. The anatomy is right and looks real. There’s no exaggeration, no over-muscled physique. The coloring is muted with the exception of the bright orange markings of the Native’s battle gear.

Sometimes an illustration of a scene anticipating a great battle can be every bit as great as the battle scene itself. And that’s the case with this month’s great cover.

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Four not to be missed Westerns of the modern era!

I love Westerns. Everyone should love Westerns. The world would be a better place if they did.

The Western is the oldest of all film genres. The first narrative film ever made was The Great Train Robbery (1903) and it was a Western. Hollywood has had a long time in which to get the genre perfected. But, Hollywood being Hollywood, it still doesn’t always get it right.

Because I love Westerns so much I may tend to be a little more forgiving of the lesser ones than a more critical viewer. That said, I still have no interest in watching Young Guns (1988) or Bad Girls (1994).

I got to thinking that there have been a few not too shabby Westerns in the past 25 years. I thought it might be a good idea to take a quick look at four of the more recent ones that I find to be pretty damn good. I won’t include Unforgiven (1992) and Tombstone (1993). They are fantastic, but everybody knows those two. They don’t need my touting.

I’m also going to avoid remakes such as 3:10 to Yuma (2007) and True Grit (2010), both are also very good. But, they found a larger audience.

So, here are four very recent Westerns that were somewhat overlooked, but I think are worth watching:

Bone Tomahawk (2015):


This genre bending film, the most recent on my list, is about 8 1/2 parts Western and 1 1/2 parts Horror. It stars Kurt Russell as the world-weary sheriff of the small prairie town of Bright Hope. Russell is excellent and definitely needs to make more Westerns!

As the film opens, we come upon two drifters cutting the throats of sleeping cowboys in order to steal their goods. After securing a few valuables, the drifters stumble into a sacred Indian burial land and are attacked for the violation. One drifter (David Arquette) escapes to Bright Hope and ends up in jail with one of the sheriff’s bullets in his leg.

A townswoman (Lil Simmons) who assists the town’s doctor, who was too drunk to be of any help, was summoned to help with the drifter. She, the drifter, and a deputy are abducted during the night by a particularly savage clan of cannibalistic Indians. The sheriff, his “backup” deputy (Richard Jenkins), the town’s wealthiest and most learned man with plenty of Indian killing under his belt (Matthew Fox), and the husband (Patrick Wilson) of the abducted woman set out to rescue the three who had been taken.

The film follows this group into the “troglodyte” clan’s territory and they enter a horrifying world of brutal savagery. The third act of this film displays some very stark and stomach-turning violence inflicted by this Indian clan that pushes this Western into the realm of horror.

The acting is terrific and the dialogue feels authentic, even when people have conversations that are more meant to define their character, not service the plot.

Watch for an amusing cameo by Sean Young.

The Homesman (2014):


This Western stars Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones (who also directs) as a pair of frontier misfits brought together to see that three prairie dwelling woman, who have lost their minds, are transported safely back to the East where they can get the care they need. The harsh living conditions had driven these women over the edge of sanity and their husbands could no longer care for them, but were unable or unwilling to caravan the sick women back to Iowa.

An old maid, property owner Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank), spurned by men due to her being too ugly and too bossy, volunteers to take the women. As she starts out she encounters George Briggs (Jones) on the verge of being hanged. She rescues him and strikes a bargain for his assistance.

It’s a harsh country. It’s little wonder the three women lost their grip on reality. It takes hard people to tame such a hard land. Is Mary Bee hard enough?

The Dark Valley (2014):


This Austrian-German Western (Yes! Austrian-German! There are subtitles.) is set in the Austrian Alps where an isolated town is under the thumb of Old Brenner and his six sons. The town holds a dark secret kept from the audience until well into the film.

The townspeople live in fear of the Brenners, but there is little they feel they can do in such an isolated land. As another harsh winter closes in, a wedding between two of the young townspeople is pending. Normally a joyous time elsewhere in the world, in this town there’s a dread of the Brenners that grows as the ceremony approaches.

One day a stranger rides into town…

Open Range (2003):


My favorite of this batch. This Western feels more like the Westerns of old, but not hokey as many of them could be. There’s a strong sense of being honorable on the part of Boss (Robert Duvall), an old cowboy who doesn’t look to get into a fight, but he won’t be done wrong. Boss is driving a herd of cattle with his longtime partner Charley (Kevin Costner) and two others when they are set upon by an Irish land baron Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) who hates open range cattle feeders.

One of Boss’s men is killed and another, the youngest of the group, is severally wounded. Boss and Charley take the young man into town to get him treated by the town doctor. There they meet a woman they assume is the doctor’s wife (Annette Bening) and Charley falls in love. It turns out she is the doctor’s sister.

The love story isn’t necessary in the film, but it feels genuine, as they come to realize their feelings for each other.

But, they still need to deal with Baxter and his men. Charley has seen and done his share of killing. He’s good at it, but he wants to leave it behind. He can’t. This wrong must be dealt with.

With the help of the livery owner (Michael Jeter), Charley and Boss take on Baxter and his men in a shoot out that feels real. There’s none of the grab their gut and slowly drop off the roof kind of shooting in this Western. Charley knows how to kill and how to read his opponents and he uses that advantage well. Boss may not be the gunslinger Charley is, but he can take care of himself.

There’s a close quarters gunfight between Boss and Baxter that is sloppy and inefficient and feels so real. None of that quick draw, shoot dead eight opponents with one six shooter kind of gunfighting here. They miss at close range almost more than they hit. That’s how I imagine real gunfights going down.

Open Range feels honest and authentic throughout.

Don’t let anyone tell you good Westerns aren’t being made anymore. Just give them these four examples.

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Hang on. What was it you were trying to do?


On this date in 1976, ‘The Shootist’ was released. ‘The Shootist’ is a Western that stars John Wayne in his last ever performance. Wayne would die from stomach cancer in 1979.

There’s been something about ‘The Shootist’ that has always bugged me…

Now at this point I should warn you there will be massive spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie and you intend to and you don’t want it ruined for you stop reading after the next sentence. But, please, do come back to read the rest after you have seen it.

The movie is about an aging gunfighter or shootist named JB Books. Books (John Wayne) learns from a doctor he trusts (Jimmy Stewart) that he is dying from cancer. He doesn’t have long to live and when the end draws near he will be in so much pain that he’ll just stay in bed and wait to die.

The doctor tells him like it is. Lays it out straight and then states, “I would not die a death like I just described, if I had your courage.” This sets up the climax of the film. Books determines the death he wants to die, although he isn’t letting on to anyone, including the audience, what kind it will be.

In the meantime, Books develops a relationship with Bond Rogers, a widowed boarding house owner (Lauren Bacall) and her son Gillom (Ron Howard). Books and Mrs. Rogers have a complicated relationship. After he moves into her house, she learns he’s a gunfighter and wants him to leave; but she also learns he’s dying of cancer and, being a good Christian woman, knows she can’t throw him out. They do develop a mutual respect for each other as Books slowly deteriorates.

Gillom is thrilled a real life famous gunman is living in his house. Books becomes a father figure to young Gillom, giving him life advice as well as shooting lessons.

There are people who want Books out of town, namely the town marshal (Harry Morgan). There are those that want to exploit him, such as the town’s newspaper man (Rick Lenz), the undertaker (John Carradine), and an old flame from Books’ past (Sheree North). And then there are those who want to kill him. They might be seeking revenge or to make a name for themselves by killing the renown JB Books.

Books goes about setting his affairs in order. He sells his horse to the livery man (Scatman Crothers) in a very confusing scene of haggling. (Or does Books sell the saddle and buy back the horse? I told you it’s confusing.) He buys a tombstone and make other arrangements with the undertaker. He decides to read every word in the newspaper he bought the day he came into town by his birthday, which was coming soon. And he has his best suit pressed and dry-cleaned.

He has one more task for Gillom to perform:

Gillom is to give the message to three men in town that Books will be at the saloon on an upcoming morning. One (Richard Boone) is a cruel, mean-spirited man, who holds a deep hatred of Books for killing his brother. Another (Bill McKinney) is a harsh little man with a big chip on his shoulder. And Hugh O’Brian plays the faro dealer at the saloon who is himself an excellent shot. It’s clear to us now that Books intends at least one of these men to kill him.

Books’ birthday arrives and he heads to the saloon to meet his fate: A better death than a bed-ridden, painful one from cancer. He intends to go out guns ablazin’.

A shoot-out ensues and Books kills them all. He only suffers a minor and certainly not fatal wound. He turns to walk from the saloon when the bartender comes out with a shotgun and blasts Books to death. This is witnessed by young Gillom, who charges in and takes Books’ six-shooter and kills the bartender. Before the gunfighter breathes his last, he sees Gillom realize what he had just done and throw the gun away. Books dies, pleased that the young man would not follow the path of a shootist.

The film ends.

Did you catch what happened that has bugged me all this time?

Well, here it is: JB Books decides he would rather die in a shoot-out than from cancer. So, he sets up a situation in which three skilled gunmen can gun him down. But he doesn’t let them. He kills them all. He would have survived the battle had he not been shoot in the back by the bartender, something he couldn’t have planned. What the hell was the point of setting the whole thing up in the first place?

“Come on, pilgrims, and kill me before the canc…Crap! You’re all dead!”

I guess having Books turn to the gunmen and allow them to shoot him down without him fighting back wouldn’t have been a satisfying ending. Especially, for a John Wayne film.