BULLSEYEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Mainline Publications
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
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Charlton was never one of the "A" list comic book publishers. Churning out massive quantities of product, irrespective of value, its major strategy being to keep the presses running, thus keeping costs down, it wasn't a place where top creators sought an opportunity to do
quality work. But many top creators did work there at one time or another, for one reason or another. Some, like Joe Staton (E-Man, Power Girl) and Denny O'Neil (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow) got their starts there, accepting its low rates until they'd honed their skills enough to work for the majors. Some, like Wallace Wood (EC Comics, Sally Forth) and Al Williamson (Flash Gordon, Secret Agent X-9) found refuge there when the entire comic book industry contracted, and well-paying work was hard to find. Steve Ditko (Doctor Strange, Shade the Changing Man) liked the creative freedom there — as long as he churned out publishable work, they didn't bother him too much about what he was saying with it.
During the lean years of the 1950s, even the team of Joe Simon (Prez, Jigsaw) and Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Devil Dinosaur), who together were responsible for creations ranging from Captain America to the entire genre of romance comics, published one of their minor masterpieces through Charlton. Their western hero, Bullseye, started out at their own company, Mainline Publications, dated August, 1954, but was sporting a Charlton logo as of #6, dated March of the following year.
On the day he was born, the boy who was to become Bullseye became one of the few survivors of a raid on the frontier town of Dead Center. His grandfather, an old Army scout called Deadeye Dick, carried him to safety by clutching the baby to his chest and galloping right through the surprised Indians, reaching safety only by a miracle. He returned later, finding only a ghost town where Dead Center had been. But he stayed there to raise the boy, whom he called Bullseye for his uncanny ability to shoot, ride, etc.
Years later, Dick left Bullseye asleep as he sought revenge against Yellow Snake, the renegade chief who had conducted the raid. He was gunned down for his trouble, leaving Bullseye to seek revenge of his own. Bullseye and Yellow Snake fired simultaneously, but Bullseye's bullet went right up the barrel of Yellow Snake's rifle, causing it to explode in the Indian's face. Yellow Snake was about to kill the boy, but his warriors, taking this as a sign from the Great Spirit, stopped him. Instead, they tied Bullseye down and branded a target on his chest, so Yellow Snake would recognize him when he grew "old enough for me to drive a spear through its center".
Bullseye later came to the rescue of a peddler beset by gunslingers. The peddler was killed anyway, but so, thanks to Bullseye, were the assailants. The law, misinterpreting the aftermath of the event, branded Bullseye an outlaw. Bullseye took over the peddler's operation, calling himself Panhandle Pete, but when action was called for, would spring into action on his horse, Buckshot, to right whatever wrongs in the vicinity needed righting.
Bullseye didn't last long at Charlton. In fact, #8 (October, 1955) was retitled Cody of the Pony Express, and the new star was Buffalo Bill. Bullseye made only a cameo appearance (not by Simon and Kirby) in that issue, and was completely gone in the next. Cody, too, was short-lived — after only three issues, the title was changed to Outlaws of the West; and as such, it was published, off and on, until 1980.
In 1983, Charlton, then on its last legs. put him on the cover of Gunfighters #78, along with other western heroes who had secret identities, including Gunmaster, tho none of them appeared inside. The following year, in Gunfighters #85 (the final issue), they reprinted a couple of his stories. But that was the last of him.
Bullseye may not have set any endurance records, and he may have been one of the lesser Simon/Kirby creations in the first place, but he was an early demonstration that even Charlton was capable of brief spurts of quality.