Monday, September 9, 2019

Comic Comics #2: Ride Fast for Wyoming


Cowgirls are much more than the sexy lingerie that popped up in the sidebar of Google when I went to search "cowgirls". The women of the American West were an important part of the history of the establishment of the "wild west". There is very little information on cowgirls that would drive cattle up the trails like their fellow cowboys. The women, for the most part, worked side-by-side with the men on ranches and farms and worked to get pro-woman laws passed such as the ability to vote. Women, as cowgirls, came into their during wild west shows where they were able to show that they could handle a horse, bull, and gun just as good or, in many cases, better than a man.
photo by Evelyn Cameron

Fiction House was a publisher of pulp magazines and of comic books. They got into the comic book game, along with everybody else, in the late 1930s, their first title being Jumbo Comics which featured Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Soon, Fiction House was publishing about a dozen titles that were all selling very well. They helped start the careers of several future comic stars such as Nick Cardy and Bob Powell but also had a staff of women that included Ruth Atkinson, Fran Hopper, Lily Renee, and Marcia Snyder.

Fiction House titles would prominently feature strong, powerful female characters and kept away from the damsel-in-distress trope that was so popular at the time. Sadly, due to this, Frederick Wertham targeted Fiction House in his Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham blamed not only the horror-themed comics for juvenile delinquency but also the sexy and powerful women featured in the titles. Unable to compete in a shrinking market without their biggest titles, Fiction House stopped publishing comics in 1954 and went out of business the following year.

One of their titles was Cowgirl Romances, a combination western and romance title. It lasted twelve issues from 1950 through 1953. We're going to take a look at Cowgirl Romances #1 and the first story in the issue "Ride Fast for Wyoming".

First, I want to point out the cover dress with a woman roping a cow across the logo. That's just amazing and that definitely made me at least pick up the comic if I saw it on a newsstand. The cover is a bit odd--what does this man hear and why are those horses so interested in watching those people do it?

"You keep your mind on weddin' clothes and when our happy day is going to be!"

"No, Rusty--please! The thought of that makes me want to jump in front of stampeding cattle."

According to the information on this comic, the art was done by Al Feldstein who created Sheena for Fiction House but also would go on to work as cover artist and editor for EC Comics' horror, crime, and suspense titles. When EC had to cancel all their titles, Feldstein soon moved into being the editor of Mad, a post he held until 1984. I assume that Feldstein drew this story and Bart Hastings wrote it unless Hastings is a pseudonym for either Feldstein or someone else.

"Is he hurt bad?"

I don't know. He actually looks pretty dead and that horse is like "...the hell...?"

His shirt is getting more tattered with every panel.

I think the J-Box were chasing because he's a stranger...with green pants!?


Ok. Knock it off.

What's this?! A damsel in distress? And here we were just talking about how Fiction House didn't do damsel in distress.

Oh, she's not in distress. Right now, she'd hang him if she could.

Holy jumpin' Jerusalem! She's gonna burn down the Old West Patriarchy. She's gonna do what you lilly-livered men are too chicken shit to do!

"Because even though I rallied the troops, got their blood boiling, and came up with a plan, the men still aren't going to listen to a tiny dumb woman like me."

I want everyone to look at that next to last panel. Take a good hard look at it. Do you notice anything a bit off?
THEY'RE ALL SITTING IN THE KID CHAIRS IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE!! I don't know what happened to the desks BUT THE KID CHAIRS!!

Bess has apparently hitched her wagon to a horse with no legs. Bess is my new favorite character.

So Bess couldn't even be in the meeting with the men? Were they afraid that all the testosterone in the schoolhouse would be too overpowering and she wouldn't be able to keep her clothes on?

THAT'S who Rusty reminds me of. FUNNYMAN!
Just without the clown get-up and long red nose.

Yeah, and that Buffalo Boss is full of tricks. He tricked you good by getting your attention, riding past the door, and shooting you.

Have we gotten to Wyoming yet? Has it been explained why these people are so angry? Ok, you want the grass but you aren't explaining what you want to do with it. I don't get it.

still don't know what's going on...

What? "Trussed up like a turkey"? "What happened, gal? Were they mean to you? Did they tie up widdle-ole you?"

I feel really bad about the death of this character I, and also Bess, wasn't really into. It's a damn shame. Hopefully she can take consolation in the fact that his last words were the exact same thing she said two panels before.

Aren't men named Rusty in the Old West a dime-a-dozen? Just find yourself a new Rusty, I'm sure there are plenty and all basically interchangeable.

It's bad luck to not bury a cowboy with his guns. You just sentenced Rusty to an eternity in Cowboy Hell, missy.

Why are so many faces in the shadows? To hide the fact that they look slightly different than they did in the panel before?

I also don't like the random ranch names they're using. J-Box, Dot-In-A-Box. Sure, they sound real enough but are they really?

Heh. They're gonna meet at Indian Butts tomorrow.

"Du-uh! I'm Tex!"

Now you're listening to Rusty? Earlier you wanted him to shut up and called him a "gun-shy old maid" because he didn't want to just go around shooting everything.

The writer seems to be putting a lot of stock into what Rusty's spirit is saying. If we didn't listen to Rusty when he was alive then why would we listen to him in death?

Also, that horse seems to be having a war flashback or something.

Oh, good. Mr. Green-Pants is back.

I wish Bess' hat would decide what it wants to do. Either be on her head and stay there or just hang off the back of her neck. Make a decision.

At least he gets to raise the roof one last time.

First I'm gonna shoot him then I'm gonna beat his skull in with the handle.

Horse: "Looks like another fine mess you've gotten yourself into."

Hey, proof that we are in Wyoming. So we don't really need to ride fast to Wyoming because we are already there.

"It's Rusty's writing, all right...backwards e's and all."

Well, that was quite an act. There was a thought bubble and everything that led us to believe you were the real villain in the story.

"By the way, was it also an act when you sexually assaulted me? Was that part of the plan? Did Rusty know about that part?"

Huh. Well, that was easy. It's kind of weird that 1)the fire was still burning...wouldn't it be put out before they fall asleep and 2)no heads were sticking out of the sleeping bags, which, to me, would raise suspicions.

I guess if some are "down at the crick" then they would've left the fire burning. But still, their heads.

Holy crap! A background character that has been in every scene of the story is the bad guy and NOT the guy in the green pants? Whodathunk?

"And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!"


Wait. If Rusty and Chip are brothers then why doesn't Chip have red hair? Don't get me wrong, I understand how genes work. Different fathers? Maybe their mother was a whore in Denver or Abilene. I don't think that's a story they did in the Golden Age.

Yes, "some crazy things". He punched Rusty, sexually assaulted his brother's girlfriend, and then tied her up. People could've died or been otherwise physically hurt by your actions but he had a reason.

Was calling you "sister" kind of a hint? And you are way too okay with that kiss when you learned it was all part of the plan.

"Quick, kiss me!"

"No!"

"Kiss me. I'll explain later!"

"No!"

"I'll explain later!"

"The explanation isn't the problem!"

Women love being compared to cows.

It's like Rusty and Chip made a pact. "Hey, bro, if I ever die, I want you to ask out, date, and sleep with my girlfriend. Promise me that." "I promise, bro." "Swear on my life?" "I swear on your life, bro. I'll date your girl so hard."

Bess' hat still can't make a decision.

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