Two dumb beasts duke it out under Western skies. Black Fury is the one in front.

BLACK FURY

Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1955
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Comics protagonists have been made out of people of all types — detectives (Star Hawkins, Dick Tracy), cowboys (The Wyoming Kid, Texas Slim), superheroes (lots and lots of superheroes), and even clerks and minor bureaucrats (Dagwood, Morty Meekle). But unless you count funny animals like Andy Panda and Doodles Duck, not many of the lower orders achieve comics stardom. There's Detective Chimp and Rudy, of course, and the occasional guy like Konga, if he counts, but animal stars in comics are few and far between. That's why Black Fury (no relation) stands out from the crowd of Kid Montana, Gunmaster,

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… The Cheyenne Kid and the rest of Charlton's western characters. He was a horse hero who held down a title at Charlton for more than a decade.

There's no basis for accusing the publisher of trying to ride the coat-tails of NBC's Fury, a live-action Saturday morning TV show blurbed as "The story of a horse and the boy who loved him." In fact, there's a good reason for supposing the titles were mere coincidence — timing. The comic book's first issue was dated May, 1955, five months before the debut of the TV show. There's also no particular reason to assume the name was derived from that of the three superheroes and one villain who had used it before — no uses of the name were very prominent until Charlton's horse came along. Even a similar horse named Black Fury, published a few years earlier by Marvel, probably had nothing to do with this one.

Despite the relative paucity of animal protagonists in comics, it wasn't entirely unheard-of for a TV cowboy's horse, such as Trigger (Roy Rogers) or Silver (The Lone Ranger), to be published in his own title by Dell Comics. But Black Fury belonged to nobody. He was the leader of a pack of wild (or more precisely, feral) horses that roamed freely in the unsettled parts of the American Southwest. He wasn't entirely unfriendly toward humans, having occasional adventures with members of our species. But when the adventure was over, he and his companions would go their separate ways.

1950s Charlton westerns aren't so well documented that it's possible to know for sure who created Black Fury. But creative personnel involved over the years include Joe Gill (Nukla), Dick Giordano (The Human Target), Steve Ditko (Captain Atom), Rocke Mastroserio (Nature Boy) and Pat Masulli (Son of Vulcan).

Charlton's comic books tended to be cheaply produced; and therefore even a title of minor interest could sometimes generate enough revenue to pay for itself. Black Fury, in fact, lasted 57 issues, with an additional 12 having been produced as give-aways for shoe stores. The last issue was dated April, 1966. After that, the title was changed to Wild West, and it didn't feature any series characters. Black Fury was never revived, reprinted, or in any other way, seen again.

— DDM

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Text ©2008-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics.