I was sorting through piles of old comics for some eBay listings last week and came across a big fat pile of Westerns. There were some really old ones going back into the 40s and there were lots of 50s and 60s photo cover Westerns as well. I was trying to make listing lots for eBay that were big enough so it would be at least worth the time and effort to list them, pack them etc. I found myself adding more and more to each pile because as a genre the Westerns are slower than slow, pretty near dead if you ask me.
Will the Western genre ever have a collecting revival? There have been plenty of attempts at publishing revivals but I’m not focusing on that in this here post, I’m talking about a collecting revival.
What would it take for us to covet those early Gene Autry’s and Lone Rangers? I really don’t see it coming but if I’ve learnt anything over these decades of collecting comics it’s that things you don’t see coming sometime come. Another pattern seems to be that things tend to come around.
Are there Western grail books? Is it Gene Autry Comics #1? Is it the first Western comic, Western Picture Funnies #1 from February 1937?
Are there original comic book characters created in the Western Comics genre that have pop-culture appeal and that have the potential for even broader appeal? Lobo from Dell Comics? Jonah Hex from DC Comic? Rawhide Kid from Marvel Comics? Or someone else?
A big thing working against Westerns is the subject matter, fighting Native Americans into submission is not a great selling point today. But there is no denying the allure of the Wild West, the whole world ate up American Cowboy folklore for decades, there was obviously a massive global market for Westerns.
How about covers? Covers have been a big driver in comic collecting for a few years now, are there any iconic must-have Western covers? I think I’ll do a Top Ten Western Covers soon, my goal is to keep you guys interested and awake all the way until #1.
Would a good movie or series of movies to it? Could Marvel develop something exploiting the deep and rich history of their Rawhide Kid/Two-Gun Kid/Kid Colt Outlaw properties? Or Could Warner DC do something first with Hex and Tomahawk, Johnny Thunder? Or maybe Dell’s Lobo can conquer today’s audience?
The thing is Westerns are such a massive chunk of comic book history, its a huge genre going back to before superheroes and teeming with characters after characters after characters that were once very popular. We’re not talking about some little fringe sub-genre here. And Westerns had the greatest creators in comics working the genre for decades, Frank Frazetta, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams and on and on all worked on Westerns.
Could a successful adaptation of a property like DC’s Scalped help? I don’t think so, I think we need a revival of the old Western characters, its the only way to ignite interest in the old books.
I do think there could be some gold mining right away with covers. Westerns have been dead so long I think collectors aren’t even looking at the massive library of covers available to them. Actually I think cover mining of Westerns has already begun, take a look at the prices some of those great Neal Adams Tomahawk covers are getting!
So Western covers are already a go and maybe this is what the genre needs to start clawing back onto the collector’s radar.
It might be a good time to snag some nice John Wayne Comics and some nice early Lone Rangers and Two-Gun Kids. I’d focus on scarcity of grade and strong page quality and build myself a little Western Comics corner in my collection, the good news is at today’s prices all I have to do is sell off a couple of Amazing Spider-Man #300 doubles and I’m well on my way.
Anybody give Westerns a chance? Anybody have some nice Westerns?