Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Classic Western Comics: El Mestizo - Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra

I’m familiar with Alan Hebden’s work from his scripts for the British war comic COMMANDO, but a while back my friend Paul Bishop mentioned this Western comic strip written by Hebden and drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, which ran in the British magazine BATTLE during the summer of 1977. There are only sixteen episodes, each running either three or four pages, but Hebden’s scripts and the great art by Carlos Ezquerra pack a lot of story into that limited space. The whole run was reprinted in 2018 in a handsome hardback collection from Rebellion Books in England.

These are actually Civil War stories, not Westerns, but the two are close cousins and Mestizo certainly has Western elements in his background. He’s a half-black, half-Mexican former slave who escaped from the plantation in Alabama where he lived and went to Mexico to become a bandit and gunfighter. During the Civil War, though, he returns home to try to rescue the girl he loves but instead winds up as a mercenary working for both north and south, taking on whatever dirty jobs need to be done as long as the money’s right. Generals on both Union and Confederate sides come to depend on Mestizo to carry out the missions they give him, which include stopping a crazed southern doctor from unleashing bubonic plague in Washington, D.C., and tracking down renegades on both sides who use the war as a cover for their outlawry.

As you can tell just by looking at that cover, there’s a great deal of Spaghetti Western influence in this comic strip. Actually, EL MESTIZO would have made a great series of movies with, I don’t know, Fred Williamson, maybe, playing the character. Likewise, what a series of novels it would have made for the Piccadilly Cowboys. There’s plenty of gritty violence, and Ezquerra’s artwork makes it even grittier. I enjoyed this collection enough that I’m really sorry the series was so short-lived. If you enjoy this sort of Western, I give EL MESTIZO a high recommendation.

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