(Son of) Tomahawk #131

TOMAHAWK #131; (official indicia title; the cover logo reads SON OF 
TOMAHAWK); Nov.-Dec. 1971; DC Comics; Joe Kubert, editor; cover-featuring Hawk,  Son
of Tomahawk in "Hang Him High!", written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by  Frank
Thorne. On the cover by Kubert, a young man with dark hair streaked with 
blond sits on a horse with a noose around his neck, and a white-bearded 
gentleman is about to wield a whip to spur the horse out from under him and  carry out
an impromptu hanging.  But in the foreground, two aged but steady  hands are
pointed toward the would-be executioner; one of them holds an  old-style
flintlock pistol, and its holder demands, "What's it going to be,  Judge.... my
SON'S life.... or YOURS?"

Review by Bill Henley

By my  reckoning this review is slightly off-topic since I would regard this
issue  published in late 1971 as post-Silver Age (which, of course, by no
means  automatically translates to "bad comics").  But there seemed to be some 
interest on the list, so here's my review of the launch of a fnal effort to 
revamp and revitalize a venerable DC feature.  Starting in 1947 in  STAR-SPANGLED
COMICS  and moving into his own title in the 1950's, Tomahawk  was a
fictional frontiersman in the mold of the real-life Daniel Boone or Davy  Crockett. 
He spent most of his career fighting British redcoats and  hostile Indians (and
befriending friendly Indians) during the Revolutionary War,  at first with
only his kid sidekick Dan Hunter at his side, then (starting in  1963) as leader
of Tomahawk's Rangers, a kind of Revolutionary-era Easy Company  or
Blackhawks.  During the 1960's editor Jack Schiff kept the series going  (while other,
more traditional DC westerns reached the end of the trail) by  introducing
sci-fi and fantasy elements which mixed uneasily, to say the least,  with the
historical setting.  Then for a couple of years 1969-71 Murray  Bolftinoff
brought in the creative team of Robert Kanigher and Frank Thorne and  involved
Tomahawk and his Rangers in somewhat more believable frontier  adventures. 
Finally, with this issue, Joe Kubert took over the editorship,  keeping the
Kanigher/Thorne team but trying to take adventage of a resurgence of  interest in the
traditional Western by jumping ahead a generation (or more) to a  more familar
vision of the wild frontier.

The splash page, split into  three long vertical panels, depicts a young
woman (in a ragged dress showing  rather more skin at bosom and leg than a real
young lady of the era would have  considered decent) fleeing in terror on foot. 
Behind her on horseback is a  grim black-clad figure with a pistol.  The
final panel is a closeup of his  scarred face (which incidentally looks nothing
like the bad guy drawn by Kubert  on the cover).  The symbolic second splash
page shows a long shot of the  unequal chase (with two more horsemen behind the
black-clad man) passing through  a canyon whose sides are emblazoned
Eisner-style with the story title, "Hang Him  High1" while above the eyes of the
protagonist, Hawk gaze on the scene.   Appearing on the scene suddenly, the young
rider with blond-streaked brown hair  seizes the young woman by the arm, pulls
her up into his saddle, and spurs his  horse.  The pursuing rider fires his
pistol at them, shouting "GIT THEM  BOTH!"  As Hawk rides through a creek, his
horse stumbles and he and the  girl fall into the water where the pursuers catch
up with them. seizing the girl  and clubbing Hawk from behind with a pistal
butt.  Holding a thick rope in  his hand, the top-hatted leader orders, "Bring
them both to the clearing!   We're gonna hold court threre!"  One of his
followers chortles, "No one's  gonna say 'The Judge' ain't fair! Haw, haw!"  And so,
we find Hawk on that  horse about to be hanged.  "THE 'COURT' IS NOW IN
SESSION!  Defendant  Angela Addams, your brother already suffered the death penalty
because he  wouldn't tell me the location of his secret gold mine!  Unless
YOU tell me  where it is, I'm gonna stretch your boyfriend's neck!"  The
"defendant"  insists that there is no goldand that she never saw her would-be rescuer
before,  but her defense is overruled by the "Judge".

But as "sentence" is about  to be carried out on Hawk, a dfferent kind of
appeal is filed, as a bullet  knocks the whip from the hand of the executioner
and another well-aimed shot  severs the hangman's noose around Hawk's neck.  The
shots are fired from an  ancient long rifle in the hands of a buckskin-clad
figure, and they are followed  by a hurled Indian hatchet that knocks the
pistol from the "judge's" grip.   "Hurry, untie me!", Hawk urges Angela.  "I have a
notion who's bustin' up  this party!"  It is, of course, "like a legendary
patriarch out of the  past.... TOMAHAWK!"  Though gaunt, wrinkled and
white-haired, the old  frontiersman is clearly not ready for the rocking chair yet. 
Seemingly not  long on either gratitude or respect for his elders, young Hawk
jibes his father,  "Dad!  What kept you?  Waitin' for your Rangers?"  Tomahawk's 
reply is, "For a son of mine, you sure looked like you got your wings clipped
pretty good1"  But they both may yet get their wings clipped, for the Judge 
and his two henchmen are now disarmed but still ready for action, and
Tomahawk  is now out of ammo for his rifle.  The "Judge" recognizes Tomahawk but has 
no respect for his historic service to his country; "Tomahawk!  Youll be 
joinin' your whelp on the hangin' tree!"  Father and son prevail in a 
three-to-two hand to hand fight, with Tomahawk putting an assailant out with a  swung
rifle butt while Hawk punches out a club-wielding foe.  Now  outnumbered, the
"Judge" declares a sudden recess, leaping on his horse to flee,  but flinging a
parting ruling; "This 'case' ain't over yet!  I'LL BE  BACK!  I'll hold a NEW
trial!  With a 'hangin' jury'!"  

Tomahawk invites Angela to his homestead rather than her returning to  her
home to face attack by the "Judge", and as the threesome arrive at  Tomahawk's
cabin they are met by a middle-aged Indian woman who chides her  husband and
son for coming in late for dinner.  Angela is introduced to  Moon Fawn, Hawk's
mother, and to their other son, Young Eagle, a much younger  boy who looks
entirely Indian and is clad only in a loincloth (though clearly  the two
dissimilar brothers are devoted to each other).  Angela also  "meets", via a group
portrait hanging on the wall, her host's old associates,  the Rangers. "BIG ANVIL!
where they are now!",  Tomahawk muses.  (He found out about some of them in
later issues, as they  appeared as guest stars.)   Though she seems concened only
about  overcooked venison, Moon Fawn knows her son is in danger, and the next
morning  she confronts Hawk, telling him she knows what he plans to do, not
stopping him,  but warning him to be careful and use the Indian wiles she
bequeathed to  him.  Hawk rides off alone to catch and defeat the "Judge" and his
gang  before they can further threaten his family and Angela.  Or so he
intends,  but Angela insists on going with him.  "If you want to decoy the Judge, 
you've got to have ME there with you!"  "All you women got a mind of your 
own... just like my Ma's!" 

Hawk and Angela lure the Judge and his  men to the site of the secret mine
(which does exist, whether or not it has any  gold).  Creeping up by night, the
Judge's men blast a figure wearing Hawk's  fancy frilled shirt-- only to find
it is a straw dummy.  Hawk takes some of  the Judge's gang out of action by
firing shots to topple the mine sluice down on  them.  But the Judge himself
hurls a stick of dynamite at the Addams cabin,  then leads his remaining men to
"pronounce sentence" on Hawk and Angela "with  lead!"  But Hawk is playing
possum in the ruins of the cabin, and he meets  gunfire with gunfire.  As he
shoots, the Judge shouts,  "WHELP OF THE  DEVIL!  JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!"  But the
Judge's shot misses while  Hawk's strikes home, and so, according to the
caption, "The Judge gave the  correct verdct-- with his LAST WORDS!"  And somewhere
off in the  background, an aged, pipe-puffing figure watches the scene with a
look of  satisfaction; "Looks like my son, Hawk, rushes in where angels fear
to  tread!  Figured he'd need my help, but.... he did ALL RIGHT for  himself!" 

The SON OF TOMAHAWK series continued for nine more  issues until the title
finally gave up the ghost wth issue #140, Apr.-May  1972.  (It could be said
that Tarzan killed Tomahawk, as Joe Kubert dropped  the title in order to take on
editing, writing and drawing DC's version of the  jungle lord, and Kanigher
and Thorne also moved on to work on DC's KORAK.)   The series might better have
been called TOMAHAWK AND SON, as the aged but hale  frontiersman continued to
share the action roughly equally with young Hawk in  succeeding issues.  The
big anomaly about the series had to do with the  time period.  No specific
date was ever mentioned of when the "Son" stories  took place, but given that
Tomahawk was a young man during the Revolution from  1776-83, Tomahawk's apparent
age in these stories would have put the time no  later than 1820 or so, at
which time the "frontier" was still in what is now the  Midwest, and only a few
explorers and trappers had ventured into the Great  Plains west of the
Mississippi.  Yet, the visual look of these stories is  that of the post-Civil War
West of the standard Western.  I guess we'll  have to ascribe this to a heavy
dose of artistic/historical license.  The  stories are entertaining and well
crafted, if (as always with Kanigher)  melodramatic.

This issue has several backup features in addition to the  14-page Tomahawk &
Son lead.  The first is a reprint of Strong Bow,  "The Moccasins That Won A
War!"  Strong Bow was featured (and sometimes  cover-featured) in early issues
of ALL-STAR WESTERN, the '50s Western title that  took over the JSA's old
home.  He was an Indian hero who operated "in the  days before the white men
came", wandering among the Indian tribes keeping the  peace and solving mysteries. 
In this story, Strong Bow gets involved in  defending a peaceful tribe led by
aged Chief Kyana against the machinations of  Running Buffalo, a warlike and
greedy chief.  Attempting to get past  Running Buffalo's warriors to enlist
aid from another friendly tribe, Strong Bow  decoys the enemy by firing an arrow
with his moccasin attached to it to leave a  footprint on a hillside where he
really isn't.  Despite the ploy, SB is  surrounded by the enemy, but he
enlists his other moccasin to float a message  (presumably in pictographic Indian
sign language) down the river past the enemy  to the friendly Indians.

A two page text feature deals with the origin of  "Arapaho Names", and
another reprint, a three page featurette on "Botalye,  Immortal Indian Warrior",
features the art of Frank Frazetta.  Botalye was  a Kiowa who won his fame by
riding three times in succession to "count coup"  against a troop of U.S.
cavalry, somehow returning uninjured each time.   Later, we're told, Botalye becane a
"famous medicine man" and made peace with  the whites.  (1950's DC liked
Indian heroes, but they avoided as much as  possible putting the "good" Native
Americans in conflict with white  people.  Strong Bow, as noted, had his
adventures before whites arrived on  the scene-- as did the short-lived, super-powered
Super-Chief.  Pow-Wow  Smith, a long-running feature, was an Indian who
assimilated to white life and  served as sheriff of a white town.  The Tomahawk
feature, though it's  protagonist was white, featured many Indians portrayed
positively-- but the  series simplistically depicted "good" Indians as those who
kept the peace with  whites and raised no objections to the incursion of white
settlers.  And  this featurette singled out for positive treatment an Indian
warrior who fought  whites-- but in such a way as to not actually kill any of
them!)  Finally,  speaing of Indian heroes, we have a two-page preview drawn
and scripted by Joe  Kubert of his "Fireheair" feature, which had previously
debuted in SHOWCASE  issues #85-87.  Firehair (no relation to the 50's Western
heroine published  by Fictin House) was a white, redhaired boy who is orphaned
and adopted by  Indians, only to find himself an outsider to both Indians and
whites.   Sales of the SHOWCASE issues and/or Kubert's work schedule didn't
allow Firehair  to get his own title, but Kubert did shoehorn short backup tales
of this  beautifully drawn feature into three future issues of TOMAHAWK.