God bless Bill Black and AC Comics. Now, I never really got the whole Femforce thing, but I can certainly respect and admire a publisher who loves old westerns and is happy to put them out in the marketplace knowing full well that the enterprise might be futile. Not too long ago I stumbled upon a ton of AC westerns in a dollar box. I scooped up as many as I could carry, knowing that I'd be in for a treat. Here's a look at a few of the books.
Durango Kid #2 is a good place to start. From what I can tell, Bill Black absolutely loves the Durango Kid as a character. The text pieces in this book, discussing many of the movies as well as the comic's history is probably more interesting that the comic itself. This strip was drawn by Fred Guardineer. I'm not quite sure what to make of Guardineer's art. Based on some of his early covers for DC books, I thought he was a Golden Age genius, but his interior work comes off as stiff and flat and has none of the panache of those classic covers. A Frank Frazetta drawn story serves as a counterbalance.
Latigo Kid #1 is a very novel idea for a comic. Black has taken a bunch of old John Severin artwork from Charlton's Billy the Kid and reworked it into a new story featuring a brand new character. Does this Frankenstein Monster work? Well, it's not bad at all, and John Severin is John Severin. The story is a bit kooky because the LK has some ill-defined paranormal powers. There is a fun Steve McQueen cameo, though. It also features a good text piece on how Black put this all together. This cover pose is a swipe from a Bill Black cover for an 80s Charlton western, which is itself a swipe of an old Atlas cover - but that's a story for another day.
Raise your hand if you've never heard of the Lemonade Kid. OK, that makes all of us. I love old westerns, but I've never owned an issue from Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders, which featured this character. The good news is that we get 100% artwork from Bob Powell and Associates. It's awesome stuff, and finding a hidden gem like Lemonade Kid #1 is what makes bargain bin hunting worth the effort. Really great stories and another fine text piece on the history of the radio show and the Magazine Enterprises' title.
Finally, we get a real classic: a reprinting of the Black Phantom one-shot. The Black Phantom stories are drawn by Frank Bolle, and anyone who thinks that the man's artwork is dull should check this out. It's dynamic, layered and even a bit sexy. He is definitely on my under appreciated shortlist. I always looks for the initial 'FWB' when reading stuff from the 50s - you never know where his work will turn up. To top things off, we get a Dick Ayers' Ghost Rider story (sorry - Haunted Horseman) from the 50s. This is the best stuff Ayers ever produced.
Think about it: I was able to get all of the above into my collection for $4. Isn't it time you hit the bargain bins?