Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wild Wild West Germany

Judging from my last post on JONAH HEX you might get the impression that I didn´t read a lot of western comics in my youth but nothing could be farther from the truth. It´s true that I didn´t know much about american western heroes as far as Bat Lash, Rawhide Kid, Two Gun Kid or Jonah Hex for that matter.

That´s because germans have always preferred to make their own versions even if they were only cheap knock offs. It´s not a new trend as some may think watching german tv but originality has always been seldom in the entertainment industry.

Nowadays there is always this underlying anti american sentiment in german culture something that I think is connected to the fact that when I was just a small tyke germans couldn´t get enough of what´s now called " american cultural imperialism ". And of course comics were no exception. The comics I read as a kid were of course the comics from BASTEI ( which mainly does pulp magazines now since it´s newsstand horror anthology GESPENSTER - GESCHICHTEN has been canceled ) which included such titles like BESSY.

BESSY was the german version of Lassie....only better. Lassie + better = Bessy. Anyway, I tried to find a cover that I remembered but I couldn´t find any. Which might have something to do with the fact that most covers looks the same. Some dangerous situation is involved and Bessy jumps on the bad guy at a strategical opportun moment.

Which sums up 90 percent of the stories. Bessy jumping at a guy at the last moment saving the day. Hey, don´t knock it. They still use the same formula on KOMISSAR REX and they sold that tv series to a dozen countries. Anyway, normally Bessy did all the work but from time to time her human sidekick did save some poor damsel in distress and even got the cover all to himself on some occassions.

Another western comic from BASTEI was SILBERPFEIL - DER JUNGE HÄUPTLING ( Silver Arrow - the young chief ) which followed the old Winnetou / Old Shatterhand formula of Karl May. A cowboy and an indian who were blood brothers and I think the indian was either the son of the old chief or the new chief. It has been a while since I read them.

There also were some hot squaws who had to be saved from evil desperadoes and all the usual stuff. At first the issue was all Silberpfeil but later on they had the co - feature of AYAK THE WHITE WOLF.

But of course germans did not only do comics with western heroes they themself invented. They also did comics about american western heroes like BUFFALO BILL. Which brings us to LASSO.

LASSO must be one of the most original titles for a western comic ever and had two main features. On some issues it was KID RENO UND HÄUPTLING ARPAHO ( which is the reason why the name of Jim Aparo sounded so familiar to me ) and on some it was BUFFALO BILL. When Kid Reno and Chief Arpaho were in the issue the comic was red.

When Buffalo Bill was in the issue - well, at first it was also red. But later on when Buffalo Bill got more popular they changed it to yellow and instead of LASSO they put BUFFALO BILL on the cover. This way they wanted to optically differianciate it from the normal LASSO comics which makes sense if they sold more issues that way. In fact Buffalo Bill was so successful that issue 467 was it´s last issue under LASSO and from then on it was officially BUFFALO BILL. They also kept the yellow cover.

I´m not sure how the sales were because later on they had co - features in their comics. In LASSO it was SCHWARZER WOLF - DER EINSAME SIOUX ( Black Wolf - the lonely Sioux ). And if you want to know....yes....in Germany every book, comic, movie or whatever has to have a second title or at least a totally uncool byline.

Now Buffalo Bill co - featured FLAMMENDER SPEER - DER GROSSE HÄUPTLING ( Flaming Spear - the big chief ) in his pages. You might have noticed that there were a lot of chiefs out there at that time. Like the old saying : we need more indians because we have enough chiefs.

Speaking of co - features there of course were a lot of anthology comics around when I was beginning to read comics and some of them also had western comics. One of the anthology comics was called MV COMICS which was short for MICKYVISION COMICS. At that time MICKEY MOUSE was a really successfull comic so their publisher EHAPA did MV COMICS into which they packed everything they could get their hands on.

There was a second and third volume of MV COMICS which was then called MICKYVISION COMICS but which only had Disney stuff in it. But back when I was reading MV COMICS they had american comics like ARCHIE

SUPERMAN ( although I have no idea why he´s strapped to an electrical chair or a lie detector )

the LEGION OF SUPER - HEROES ( sorry, no cover ) and BATMAN. Who by the way was wearing the only true Batman costume with the yellow emblem.

It also had a lot of franco - belgian comics like RICK MASTER



ISNOGOOD by Rene Goscinny and Tabary

and of course ASTERIX who was in most issues.

But back to westerns and cowboys. Of course there were some cowboys in some issues of Superman or Batman.

But there were also real western comics like PAPI TOMATO

and RAUCHENDE COLTS ( the comic to the tv show GUNSMOKE ).

Another anthology comic was ZACK ( more about the different series they had in Tomorrow´s post since this post is already too long ) that also had lots of franco - belgian comics. Which also included some westerns. Of course there was Jean Giraud´s ( or Moebius like he called himself later on when he did science fiction comics ) BLUEBERRY


There also were funny western comics like HÄUPTLING FEUERAUGE ( Chief Fire - eye )

UMPAH - PAH by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, the same creative team as on Asterix

and the most famous funny western : LUCKY LUKE the guy who draws faster than his own shadow by Rene Goscinny with art by Morris.

Looking at this I really used to read more than just super heroes. Well, there were of course many more western comics like THE BLUE BOYS but back then there was a cheap anthology comic that featured a wide range of comics. Now most of the franco - belgian comics are not released for readers but for collectors in expensive hardcovers.

So, time to wrap this up. Tomorrow : more about ZACK. By the way, before ZACK LUCKY LUKE was published by KAUKA the german publisher that published ANDRAX and FIX UND FOXY. ZACK was first published by KORALLE and later on by KAUKA who got the most rights like RICK MASTER, DAN COOPER, ISNOGOOD and the rest I mentioned in this post.

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