Cowboys 'n' Indians were big business for Australian comics, too. Apart from reprinting American Western comics, local publishers took part in the Wild West stampede with their own homegrown gunslingers. Arguably the most popular of these were The Lone Avenger (appearing in Action Comics) and The Hooded Rider, both written and drawn by Len Lawson for publisher Henry John Edwards during the 1940s and 50s.
Keith Chatto, who had been writing and drawing comics for various publishers since the mid-1940s, was no stranger to cowboy comics, either. Chatto's first gunslinger was The Lone Wolf, created for Melbourne's Atlas Publications in June 1949. In an unusual twist on the masked crimefighter theme, The Lone Wolf was a mysterious, masked U.S. Marshall, who posed as the wanted outlaw, Luke Jordan. The Lone Wolf proved to be a popular title, notching up 61 issues, with Chatto was the principal writer and artist, to be followed in later issues by the equally talented illustrator, Yaroslav Horak.
Chatto strayed from the usual horse-opera locales and cliches, saving some of his best writing and artwork for a sequence set in El Lobo's mysterious homeland, Ninguna Parte, a hidden valley populated by descendants of the Mayan people. Their existence was threatened by the arrival of a band of Mexican outlaws, led by the notorious El Tigre, who'd discovered the valley's inhabitants had rich stores of gold. The storyline, which ran between issues #10-12, represents a highpoint in Chatto's comic book career.
El Lobo - The Man from Nowhere ran for 23 issues between 1957-1959. It was published by Apache Comics, which was the comic book imprint of Cleveland Press. However, all the covers of El Lobo bore the King Size Comics logo, which became the title for Cleveland's giant-size reprint title, King Size Comics. Interestingly enough, the eighth, unpublished installment of The Twilight Ranger apparently later appeared in King Size Comics.
Decades later, some episodes of El Lobo were reprinted in The Australian Comic Buyers Guide, a Melbourne comic fanzine published by Joe Italiano and Peter Hughes between 1981-1982. The fourth issue featured a biography of Chatto and illustrations reprinted from John Ryan's 1979 book, Panel By Panel: A History of Australian Comics.
This column previously appeared in Collectormania magazine (December 2004) and was partly based on material previously published online at ModernTales.com. Image courtesy of the Rare Book Collection, Monash University Library.