Friday, June 15, 2012

Forgotten Books: Rick O'Shay, Hipshot, and Me - Stan Lynde

I've mentioned before that RICK O'SHAY was one of my favorite comic strips when I was a kid. I was referring just to the Sunday episodes, though, which always appeared in full color on the front page of the comics section in our local newspaper. You see, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had two editions, a morning and an evening, and different comics ran in each edition. The Sunday paper ran a mixture of comics from both editions. So I never saw any of the O'Shay dailies until much later in its run, except for those occasional times when I came across an out-of-town newspaper. But I loved the Sunday strips, which were stand-alones instead of being part of the daily continuity. I always read them before I went off to Sunday School, and before I could read, my dad read them to me.

So Stan Lynde's RICK O'SHAY, HIPSHOT, AND ME held quite a bit of nostalgia value for me, in addition to being very entertaining in its own right. After a fairly brief autobiographical essay, the book reprints the first two weeks of the daily strip, to show it all began, and then ten complete storylines ranging from 1959 to 1977, including the last work on RICK O'SHAY that Lynde did.
One thing that came as a complete surprise to me because I'd never read the daily strip was that in its early years RICK O'SHAY was set in modern times. The settlement of Conniption was a former ghost town that looked like Western, the citizens rode horses and dressed like the Old West, but there were also TV sets, movies, automobiles, machine guns, etc., sort of like the setting of so many of those Roy Rogers movies I also loved. It wasn't until more than halfway through the strip's nearly 20-year run that Lynde changed the actual setting to the Old West. Also, it was much more of a humor strip early on, before developing into a fairly straightforward Western adventure strip in its later years (although with practically every character name being a pun, there was humor all the way through).

For me, the highlight of this volume is "Trackdown", an epic storyline that ran for six months in 1974 and '75. It's probably the grimmest and grittiest that RICK O'SHAY ever got, with Rick turning in his badge so he can pursue the men who ambushed his friend Hipshot across the border into Mexico. Lynde's ink bill must have gone up during those months, because the strip is darker than ever before, in the literal sense, and in places the use of light and shadow reminds me very much of the great work of Milton Caniff.

Lynde was an early self-publisher. This oversized paperback from 1990 was published by his own company, Cottonwood Graphics, and it's still in print.  I really enjoyed revisiting Conniption and reading some new (to me) adventures of Rick and his sidekick, the gunfighter Hipshot Percussion, who is one of my all-time favorite comic strip characters.

After leaving RICK O'SHAY, Lynde created another Western adventure comic strip, LATIGO, which our newspaper did carry. I read that faithfully all through its relatively short run and enjoyed it. Dean Owen wrote four LATIGO tie-in novels that were published in paperback. I used to have all of them but never got around to reading them. Lynde did some single-panel Western gag strips that were pretty good, self-published a few Western comic books, and eventually turned to writing Western novels, many of which are available on Amazon as e-books. I have a few of them and plan to read them soon. There's a pretty good chance I'll enjoy them . . . even if they're not quite like reading the Sunday "funny paper" with my dad.


Rick said...

Thanks. I just ordered mine. I haven't seen this in years. I was led to believe Stan Lynde had turned to what is called fine art. I wasn't aware of westerns he had written and will have to look into that as well. Thank you for the head's up.

Keith said...

I remember reading this strip in the Sunday paper when I was about 5 or 6. It may have been the Star Telegram. I don't recall. We moved when I was 6, and I only saw the strip sporadically after that.

Jerry House said...

I, too, enjoyed the strip when I was young. Although it only ran during its humorous years in our local paper, I also caught the daily strip. My favorites were the Sunday strips; Lynde seemed to put extra effort into those

Anonymous said...

I envy you the experience of discovering Stan Lynde's novels for the first time. The characters, the historical details and the plots are outstanding. I would rank him among the very best authors of traditional westerns. It always amazes me to find someone so talented in two different venues.

Anonymous said...

Same here, it ran in the Sunday comics of the L.A. Times and I enjoyed it every week. This does look interesting. Thanks, James.

bubblebee said...

Great to read your write-up, James. Rick O'Shay, Hipshot & Me is a great book. I loved the biographical info scattered throughout.