The Wyoming Kid socks it to a bad guy.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1948
Creators: Jack Schiff (writer) and Howard Sherman (artist)
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In second half of the 1940s, American comic book publishers were trying out various types of characters to replace the superheroes that had …

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… fallen in popularity after the war years. In 1948, DC Comics made a big move into westerns. That was the year they introduced Johnny Thunder, Foley of the Fighting Fifth, and The Wyoming Kid. The latter, in fact, starred in a brand-new comic devoted entirely to that genre, titled (appropriately enough) Western Comics.

Western #1 was dated February, 1948. Tho Wyoming made his first appearance there, he wasn't the cover-featured star — that position went to The Cowboy Marshal. Wyoming got the cover as of #2 and kept it for years. His early stories were probably written by editor Jack Schiff (who worked on Tomahawk, Challengers of the Unknown and many other DC characters of the 1940s and '50s) and certainly drawn by Howard Sherman (whose other co-creations include Tommy Tomorrow, Chris KL-99 and Doctor Fate).

It was in the 8th issue (April, 1949) that he was given an origin story. His name was Bill Polk, and his father, a sheep farmer, was murdered. Since the American west at the time was dominated by a war between cattle and sheep men (providing an endless source of conflict for stories in that setting), the deed was at first thought to have been done by a cattle rancher named Mallon. But Bill uncovered evidence Mallon was innocent, and the murder actually committed by an owlhoot named Hoke Claggett, who had since taken off for parts unknown. Bill (with his horse, Racer) became a wanderer, honing his gunfighting skills while working as a ranch hand, rodeo player, army scout or whatever, and always on the lookout for Claggett.

The Wyoming Kid became so prominent a character, DC added him to World's Finest Comics, where they got extra mileage out of their most popular characters (the cover features were Superman and Batman). There, he replaced The Boy Commandos, whose raison d'etre had become rather hazy once the war was over. It was in his first World's Finest appearance (#42, October, 1949) that he caught up with Claggett. After that, he continued wandering, righting wrongs wherever he went.

He did it for so long, readers (and, apparently, writers) seem to have forgotten who he was when he started out. In later years, when he needed a regular name he called himself "Johnny Jones". Sometimes, he even used that as a secret identity, making him one of three DC characters to do so. (The others were "Answer Man", aka Johnny "Genius" Jones, and John Jones, Manhunter from Mars.)

The Wyoming Kid continued ridin' the trail in World's Finest Comics until #64 (June, 1953), and in Western Comics a good deal longer. In fact, he was there right up until the title folded, tho he eventually lost the cover spot to Nighthawk, Pow Wow Smith, and finally Matt Savage, Trail Boss. The final issue was #85 (February, 1961).


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Text ©2004-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.