Friday, July 19, 2019

Forgotten Books: John Severin's Billy the Kid, Western Outlaw, Volume 1 - Joe Gill and John Severin

I never read too many comics published by Charlton when I was a kid. I started reading mostly Dell comics, discovered DC and then Marvel, so the smaller publishers didn’t get much of my allowance money, plus they weren’t distributed very well around here. However, I do remember reading some issues of BILLY THE KID, WESTERN OUTLAW when I was very young. Too young to know anything about artists, for sure.

But in later years, John Severin became one of my favorite comic book artists during his long run on SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS, a title I read faithfully and always enjoyed. Severin’s art was a big part of that, and when I came across his work in other places, I continued to enjoy it. He did quite a bit for Charlton in the early Sixties, including the Billy the Kid stories in this volume, which reprints ten stories from BILLY THE KID, WESTERN OUTLAW #20-23.

These are very short stories, running six or seven pages each, and journeyman writer Joe Gill’s scripts are pretty simplistic, as you’d expect at that length. There’s no attempt to make the Billy the Kid anything like his actual historical counterpart. He’s only vaguely regarded as an outlaw. Mostly he’s just a drifting do-gooder seemingly loved by common people and lawmen alike, whose only real goal in life is to fight rustlers, bank robbers, and bullies. The writing is serviceable, but no more than that.

Severin’s art makes these stories worth reading, though. It’s not overly detailed but always has a gritty air of Old West authenticity about it. He does a good job with guns, horses, Western landscape, etc., and his action scenes are dynamic. He’s just a good comic book artist in the classic style, with a strong storytelling sense. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

You can read these stories for free on-line, but I thought this inexpensive collection, which also includes some photos and biographical material on Severin, was worthwhile. I plan to seek out more of his Billy the Kid stories.

1 comment:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Though I read DC, Marvel, Dell, Harvey and Classics Illustrated as a kid, I stumbled upon Charlton and Sgt. Fury comics only in my thirties. I bought a few of these comics but they were so old that they came apart in a few days. I rarely ever see any of the comics in used bookshops. In fact, Bombay has all but dried up where comic-books are concerned.