Western comic books. Such a huge genre for so many years. Golden Age, Silver and even heading into the Bronze Age with books like Jonah Hex and Weird Western Tales from DC Comics, Marvel’s Ringo Kid, Red Wolf & Night Rider. But the Modern Age is lacking good Western comics for the most part. Sure, there has been a pretty good Jonah Hex relaunch or two, Rawhide Kid limited series … it just doesn’t seem to resonate as much as before and the few Western comics that do pop up occasionally feel like copyright renewal vehicles. So, when a really good Western comic or graphic novel comes along, people take notice.
Red Range was originally published in 1999 by Mojo Press. The graphic novel was praised for Joe R. Lansdale’s writing and his gritty depiction of the violent times following the end of the American Civil War. The racism and hatred is tangible in this story about an African-American, masked hero in the Lone Ranger vein. New edition editor Drew Ford launched a crowdfunding campaign to re-release this long out of print story. Working without access to the original artwork, a copy of the graphic novel was scanned and touched up before being masterfully coloured as the original was released in back and white. In addition to the restoration work Drew also added a fantastic afterward by comic great Stephen R. Bissette for this hard cover re-release.
Set during the 19th century, Red Range is a Western genre graphic novel containing all the racial unrest, unique characters, and weird happenings one would expect during these turbulent times as America struggled with the Civil War’s outcome. A mysterious rider appears thwarting a Klan lynching with a deadly accurate gun hand. This masked rider is reveled to be the Red Mask, a vengeful African-American man who wisely keeps his real identity under wraps. During his misadventures fighting the Klan, the Red Rider befriends an orphan side-kick and tries to teaching him how to turn the racial hatred to work for a greater good.
I’d say Sam Glanzman’s art has a very John Severin vibe to it but Sam had been working in the industry for nearly six decades by the time he did Red Range. With that kind of history, it would be more apt to say that Sam’s art style has a very Sam Glanzman vibe. Colours are handled by Jorge Blanco and Jok with a dark palette that really suits the material. You are not expecting to see pretty pastures and bright blue skies when gun slinging at a lynching. As mentioned, the Stephen R. Bissette afterward is a fantastic essay on its own.
Great story, great art, nice new presentation and extras make this a fantastic new edition of a truly masterful graphic novel that has been a bit forgotten. I am definitely going to order this in at my Local Comic Shop (Diamond Order Code FEB170492). Arriving in stores 28 June 2017.
Title: Red Range | Publisher: It’s Alive! & IDW Publishing
Writer: Joe R. Lansdale | Artists: Sam Glanzman, Jorge Blanco & Jok