SPACE WESTERNMedium: Comic books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1952
Creators: Walter B. Gibson (writer) and John Belfi (artist)
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There are a lot of cross-genre series in the long and diverse history of comic books. One of the more notorious is DC Comics' War that Time Forgot, which mixed World War II action with
dinosaurs. Funny animals were combined with superheroes so often — Marvel's Super Rabbit, Fox's Cosmo Cat, L.B. Cole's Wiggles the Wonderworm etc. — that they almost form a genre of their own. During the 1950s and early '60s, it was a common practice to create a new series by putting the word "space" in front of something unrelated, as in Avon's Space Detective, Gold Key's Space Family Robinson, and of course this one — Charlton's Space Western.
Another practice seen frequently in comic books is to change titles and keep the same numbering, to avoid paying twice for second-class mailing privileges. Thus, the first issue of Space Western was #40, dated October, 1952. Earlier issues had been titled Cowboy Western Comics; and earlier yet, it had been Jack in the Box. It started in 1944, under the name Yellowjacket Comics.
The hero was Spurs Jackson, who, with his Space Vigilantes, fought UFOs and other space-borne menaces in a contemporary setting. The credits aren't 100% documented, but according to Will Murray, author of several books on pulp magazine history, the initial writer was Walter B. Gibson, creaor of The Shadow. The first issue artist was John Belfi, whose credits also include a few Heap stories, some in Crime Does Not Pay, fantasy stories in ACG's early '50s titles, and other out-of-the-way comic books. Later artists include Stan Campbell, who also did crime and western stories for Charlton, Dell and occasional others.
At the time, the phrase "space western" could also have been taken to mean an old-fashioned style of science fiction, consisting of sci-fi stories that might easily have been westerns, if horses were substituted for space ships and trackless desert for interstellar space. That style was on the way out, supplanted by ones that hinged on scientific principles, using props and situations that didn't translate easily into other settings. In newspaper comics, the shift was illustrated by old-fashioned Buck Rogers as opposed to up-to-date Twin Earths. Not surprisingly, a comic book whose very name called to mind the obsolescent approach failed to catch on.
With its 46th issue (October, 1953), the title Space Western was changed back to Cowboy Western Comics, and neither Spurs Jackson nor his Space Vigilantes were ever seen again. It lasted until 1959, tho the last few issues were titled Wild Bill Hickock & Jingles.