America's foundational myths are many and varied, ranging from the first Thanksgiving to George Washington and the cherry tree, from the "domino theory" of foreign policy to that 1970s pledge to switch to the metric system. But this week we look at what happens when a couple of America's fundamental cultural touchstones are slammed into each other with great force. Are they two tastes that taste great together? Or just a big mess?
One thing is certain; exploring this topic meant I had to go out and deliberately purchase a specific Western comic - and not just any Western. A Charlton. Certainly this was an unexpected milestone of sorts in my comic book buying career. So there's that.
Geronimo Jones is one of those 70s style hippie dropout cowboys, showing up just as both the Western and the hippie fads were fading away. However, in spite of then-current trends, Charlton was determined to put Geronimo through low-key self-actualizing wandering-cowboy adventures, in the thrilling days of an 1846 that might as well be 1856 or 1866 or 1876 or 1886. If you're looking for specific historical accuracy in Charlton comics you've come to the wrong publisher.
To be fair, accuracy was never one of Charlton's strengths. Check out the less than accurate folding and stapling job on this very comic book! Fun fact: the guys working in Charlton's press room were likely being paid more than the artists and writers, and even the press guys couldn't be bothered to check their work.
Whoops, now we're in a very different kind of Western. Sorry, I guess? Unless this is your kind of thing.
Just pick a town at random, any town will do. It's all good as long as Glun is running the general store. Good old Glun!
Like many communities in the Old West, this town is evenly divided between "tastes great" and "less filling." Additional townspeople might upset a delicate strategic balance!
Their leader demands a strict policy of invisibility, rude intrusion questioning and stranger elimination.
This is one of those really exclusive taverns where they don't serve wandering hippie cowboys or people who can't pronounce "sarsaparilla" correctly.
One rude bartender and he's done? Come on, Geronimo, give this town a chance. There might be unfriendly shop clerks and surly livery stablehands too!
Finally Geronimo gets some of that human companionship he's been longing for! Maybe he'll get to explain how he comes to be named after a famous Apache who won't be famous for five or ten years yet.
No friends here, just punching. After being punched Geronimo declares it's his turn... to continue being punched. King of the wild cowboy brawlers, he ain't.
This town simply has a hate on for people who order incorrectly in saloons. And longhairs.
What's a better premise for a Twilight Zone episode - weird strangers with odd clothes and strange weapons who come out of nowhere and take over a town under orders from their mysterious "leader," or a scraggly cowboy drifter babbling about soda fountain ice cream drinks that won't be in vogue for fifty years?
Why this is absolutely outrageous, here in the United States of America we will never have a criminal code that confines or restricts people based on their religious beliefs! Not based on their religion, no way! Other things, sure, maybe, possibly. Definitely.
Bunch up, brandish firearms, loom menacingly... That's some good henching there, fellas.
Again, solid hench dialogue here. I would also accept "no funny business," "don't get any ideas," and "don't get smart."
NOW I know where these guys are from, they're meatpackers. Every time I'm buying an entire side of pork at the wholesale butcher, this is what I'm hearing, they're always saying I have to settle up my bill, in essence that I will "pay" for that "swine."
No? Nothing? Fine.
To be fair, not a lot going on in those small towns. A firing squad or two might provide a welcome break in the tedium.
Maybe Jones should speak up about how the crime of treason requires the perpetrator be violating a prior oath or commitment to a governmental body, which obviously, as a stranger in town, he could not have made. I don't know that mentioning this would do him any good, but it couldn't hurt.
So maybe after the jackboots and the "vot iss" and the "himmels" and the general fascist vibe, everybody except the dimmest Charlton reader has grasped the concept that we're dealing with Nazis here, Nazis who either were in the Old West all along and we just never noticed, or something. But is this Geronimo Jones comic going to just come right out and be blatantly, painfully obvious about the whole thing?
Yes. Yes they are. They are giving us big-as-life dress-uniformed Adolf about to order the two-page-spread machine-gun death of Geronimo Jones. Never let it be said that anyone picked up a Charlton expecting subtle, nuanced storytelling.
Gosh, here I was thinking that the one cliche we'd avoided so far was the "being saved by the cavalry," and yet here we are, watching this hoary old trope hauled out again, mitigated only slightly by the new and exciting spelling of "Fuhrer."
Jeez Hitler, think of history, think of how you'll be remembered for this heinous, cowardly... oh, that's right, this is Hitler after all.
Fresh from three or four massacres of innocent civilians, today the US Cavalry says "enough!" Better late than never, I say.
You loved Rutger Hauer in "Hobo With A Shotgun!" Now Rutger Hauer Jr. will blow you away in the thrilling sequel!
The good part about a shotgun is that you don't have to aim it much.
As our Old West Nazi spills the beans, we're reminded that the Geneva Convention clearly states prisoners of war are only required to give their name, rank, serial number, and specific time-travel itinerary.
WOW, first we get "saved by the cavalry in the nick of time" and NOW we're getting "They went that a-way!?" I had my doubts, but Geronimo Jones, you have DELIVERED.
So when your Western comic is about to wrap up but you still have some space to kill, why not just throw in a full page of some cowboys and a posse riding out of town? You could probably save this page and toss it into just about any other Western without too much trouble. Which might be what's happening here.
Feldwebel Dieter Teufel here invaded Poland, blizkrieged his way through the Low Countries and France, survived Tobruk and Stalingrad and Monte Cassino and the Ardennes, lived through everything three or four armies could throw at him, and in the end all it took was one cowboy. The ironic part? He really loved Westerns.
If only Geronimo Jones had been able to pass along this German-fighting wisdom to America's future armed forces. Just shove 'em aside with your horse and snatch that grenade right out of their hands, boys!
One of the wonders of the sequential arts is that you can fill up entire panels with explosions, and anything you don't feel like drawing you can just have a character talk about seeing. Let the reader's imagination do all the work! That's what they paid twenty cents for.
Look, he said all he wants to draw are cowboys and horses, he's NOT going to draw some kind of zany 1940s time machine. That's all there is to it. If you don't stop complaining he says he'll just fill another panel with an explosion!
And just as it looked like Tony Tallarico might have to actually stretch himself artistically, he remembered how low Charlton's page rates were and just said "to hell with it."
Well, it looks like you can't cheat fate; the unseen time machine merely took Hitler and his pals back to 1945 where they had to face defeat after all. Which actually happened for Hitler in his bunker in Berlin, not in his mountaintop retreat in Berchtesgaden, but what's a little geographic misidentification when we've been through so much, when the Wild West and World War Two have been mashed-up like the work of an out-of-ideas comic book writer? Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write in and tell Charlton how much you like Geronimo Jones and rest assured Geronimo Jones will ride the West for many years to come (this was the last issue of Geronimo Jones. He took that time machine to 1973 and said "I quit!")
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