The Red Gaucho laughs, as usual, in the face of danger. Artist: Harry Anderson.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Fawcett Publications
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: unknown writer and Harry Anderson (artist)
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Superheroes ruled the roost in American comic books of the early 1940s, but they were far from the only kind of heroes found there. In fact, every sort of hero found in popular fiction was there as well — detectives like Slam Bradley, seafarers like Lance O'Casey, spacefarers like Rex Dexter, jungle guys like Kaanga, jungle guys like Congo Bill … and of course, this …

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… included a smattering of Hispanic heroes taking the part of the common people in their constant struggle against the forces that oppress them.

Possibly as a legacy of pre-20th century racism, which had a relatively benign side (a sense of obligation among European-descended people to lead their "inferior" brethren out of darkness, or as it was expressed at the time, "white man's burden") as well as a completely malignant one (leading to subjugation of the "lesser" races), those Hispanic heroes tended to be white men — The Whip, for example, was originally New England WASP Rodney Gaynor, slumming as a Mexican hero, and wasn't retconned into an actual Mexican until the 1980s.

Similarly, the introductory story of The Red Gaucho was sure to mention, in its very first panel, that Red was "born in South America of Yankee parents". Tho he lived among the people he was a hero to, he had those good ol' whitebread genes that made him seem just a bit more heroic to readers raised in a society that still held vestiges of such "benign" racism.

That introductory story appeared in Nickel Comics, #4 (late June, 1940). The writer's name hasn't been recorded, but it was drawn by Harry Anderson, whose scattered credits in the 1940s and '50s included work at Marvel and Dell.

Nickel was a publishing experiment, to see if a comic book half as thick as standard comics of the time, but coming out twice as often and costing half as much, could succeed in the American market. The experimenting publisher was Fawcett Publications, which had entered the comics market earlier that year with Whiz Comics (Captain Marvel) and would also launch Wow Comics (Mr. Scarlet) before the year was over. The cover-featured star of Nickel Comics was Bulletman.

The Red Gaucho had the outward form of a superhero, with a distinctive look (red pants and matching cape) and a catchy name, but lacked the secret identity that would also place him in that genre (which also made him dissimilar to Zorro, with whom he's sometimes compared). As far as readers knew, Red had no name except The Red Gaucho. He just turned up when needed, righted wrongs as need be, and went back wherever he'd come from. The "Yankee" (or "Yanqui", as it's usually spelled in that context) parents that had been such a prominent element of his introduction, weren't made a necessary story point again.

Like most experiments, Nickel Comics failed. The Red Gaucho was in each issue, laughing in the face of danger (the script mentioned it several times), but the title lasted only until #8 (late August, 1940). Its characters had a tendency to wind up in Fawcett's Master Comics, where Master Man had started out as the cover-featured star. During Red's tenure, that position was occupied by either Bulletman or Minute Man.

Red transferred to Master with its 8th issue (November, 1940). He shared the back pages with El Carim, The Devil's Dagger, Captain Venture and others, until #13 (April, 1941). After that, he was replaced by Companions Three, a series transferring over from Whiz Comics.

And that ended the brief back-pages career of The Red Gaucho. Presumably, he's now owned by DC Comics, which first licensed, then bought, the Fawcett heroes. But DC hasn't yet found a use for Red, and gives no indication of ever intending to use him in the future.


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Text ©2009-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fawcett Publications.