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Lash LaRue Western

The above is not a complete list of Lash LaRue stories. Rather, it consists of my picks of the best tales in the magazines, the ones I enjoyed reading, and recommend to others.

These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.

Lash LaRue

Lash LaRue was a popular movie cowboy. The comic book Lash LaRue Western (1949-1961) capitalized on his huge fan base, offering tales about his movie character. Lash LaRue used a giant bullwhip, giving him the nickname 'Lash'. Photographs of LaRue in his distinctive all-black cowboy outfit, frequently appeared on the comic book cover. The comic book art inside kept this same outfit, although the "black" clothes were often represented in the comics by a very dark, deep shade of blue.

The comic book character was simply named Lash LaRue. It was common for Western movie stars to play a character named after themselves.

In the comics, Lash LaRue was a "roving Marshal", whose job it was to wander around out West, helping out local law enforcement officials. Larue reports to his boss, the Chief Marshal, who has an office in a town called Larado. Larue is thus an official government lawman. LaRue regularly goes after bad guys, and helps out people in trouble. Some of the better stories in the comic book have elements of crime and / or mystery.

Lash seems to like food: there are a lot of scenes in the comic book of him eating meals. Perhaps Western food scenes were also considered wholesome entertainment for kid readers - who after all, were probably always thinking of food themselves!

The Perfect Hide-Out (1949). Bad guys replace a Sheriff friend of Lash's with an evil double. Stories of doubles were a comic book tradition. They frequently show up in super-hero or crime comic books, not just Westerns.

Lash performs what he calls "my favorite trick" with a bullwhip, towards the end of the story.

Like other cowboys in Lash LaRue Western, Sheriff Dick Payson's clothes and horse are vividly designed in color. He wears a white shirt, green pants and a yellow Sheriff's star. His horse is white, with a red saddle. Lash's own saddle is yellow, with red trim. Western movies would soon be adjusting to the era of color films as well, with cowboys in brilliantly colored clothes. However, the color design sense in Lash LaRue Western is distinctly different from anything that will be emerging in the movies. The colors seem brighter. There is less detail work of scarves and hats than in the movies: such detail is hard to draw in comics. Also, the brightly colored pants in the comics are more subdued in a lot of films.

The Mysterious Gold Strike (1951). Lash goes after a gang of counterfeiters; meanwhile, a gold rush is going on in the same region. A three-part story, that takes up most of the issue.

A series of interesting locales have been created for the story. Lash visits them in sequence. They form a giant "environment". Each locale is positioned, with respect to the previous locale in the tale.

This tale has a richly designed physical background, reflecting both good story and good art. It takes place at a chain of towns, camps and mines visited by LaRue in turn. Some of these, such as the mountain, are physically elaborate. Like several comic book Westerns, the tale seems to be located in complex landscapes that would be expensive to create on a movie screen. Such landscapes are inexpensive to draw in a comic book, however. One wonders if the comics are deliberately seizing an advantage of their medium.

Similarly, the dramatic scenes of Lash LaRue falling down a mine-shaft, and trying to rescue himself in mid-air, would also be both expensive and hard to film clearly, in a movie. But comics have no trouble capturing such motion in mid-flight. Lash's aerial adventure recalls a bit, the way comics also have of showing a super-hero flying, better than any other medium.

The brilliantly colored landscapes, also perhaps reflect that comic books are a color medium. These richly hued, not realistic, landscapes, would be difficult to create on film.

The art shows the folds of Lash's shirt, where it tucks into his belt. Other images show the word "Lash", written in script on Lash's belt buckle. The artist did not make this up: cover photographs of Lash LaRue in his movie costume, show his name written on his belt.

At the tale's end, we learn that Lash's horse, Black Diamond, is retiring and is being sent out to pasture. Lash will now be riding Black Diamond's son, Rush. Horses were almost as popular in the movies, as the cowboys that rode them.

The Escape (1955). Lash LaRue goes after escaped convicts. Cleverly plotted tale, that reflects comic books' interest in new identities and costumes. Such stories seem more likely to appear in comic books, than in films or TV shows. They perhaps reflect the "secret identity" theme of super-heroes, although the identities in tales like "The Escape" are not strictly speaking secret identities.

This tale is apparently unusual, in that it shows Lash LaRue wearing something other than his standard black outfit.

The Circus Train Calamity (1955). Lash LaRue helps out, when a circus train has trouble at a railroad bridge. This story shows Lash coping with a series of thrilling events. There is no crime: like Superman, Lash also does daring feats that prevent disasters and form "public service" accomplishments.

Flowers for Miss Cora (1957). Farmers in a valley are being driven off their land by greedy, powerful bad guys. Ingenious story with elements of mystery. The core situation of people being run out of their homes has appeared in a lot of Western stories, such as Terror in a Texas Town (Joseph H. Lewis, 1958). In "Flowers for Miss Cora", this is intermixed with some complex plotting, including the behavior of Miss Cora, a spinster who is being courted by a bad guy.

The Silver Saddle (1957). A bad guy is obsessed with a fancy saddle and guns. This story's plot anticipates another Joseph H. Lewis film: the episode of The Rifleman TV series, The Letter of the Law (1959).


Dusty was a comedy character, who appeared in brief tales in Lash LaRue Western. Dusty was a bearded, slovenly old ranch hand, crusty and full of dry humor.

The Close Shave (1949). Dusty's employer orders him to get a shave and haircut, because he "wanted all my cowpokes to look neat". In 1949, one suspects, beards were definitely out of favor. Beards in the USA were rare except on comedy sidekicks in Westerns: which is the tradition Dusty comes out of. Dusty's employer is viewed as both "normal" and sympathetic, and justified in being opposed to beards. However, a codger like Dusty is also seen as being true to his old ways in resisting.

This story is a barrage of barber shop jokes, many of them quite funny.

Text Stories

Like many comic books, Lash LaRue Western also published short prose stories. These helped comic books be classified as magazines that qualified for special treatment from the US Post Office.

Gun-Slick Showdown (1955). A sinister, fancily dressed professional gunman, threatens the working cowboy hero. This charming tale is unusual, in that its quick-witted cowboy hero uses brain power to defeat the bad guys. He employs a clever trick. The hero resembles such comic book heroes as Adam Strange to come, in responding to menaces with clever strategies. Comic books were often a highly pro-intellectual medium.

The story also throws some light on cowboy boots. It gives a different perspective than many movies, where fancier was equated with better. Here, the gun-slinger's fancy cowboy boots are seen as a sign that he actually doesn't do any work in them.

Mountain March (1957). People try to orchestrate a rescue, of travelers stuck high in the mountains. Another tale, which stresses the mental skills of a hero. Here, he uses math ideas.

Smiley Burnette

Alias 'Frowny' Bugle. Comic-but-honest newspaper writer Earnie Bugle cleans up a crooked town. Funny tale. I especially liked all the comic signs, that were in the windows of the Western town. They and the rest of this comedy story are delightfully exaggerated, and not at all realistic.

Western movie comedy star Smiley Burnette had his own comic book in the 1950's, parallel to Lash LaRue Western, and brought out by the same publisher. The Grand Comics Database speculates that "Alias 'Frowny' Bugle" is really a Smiley Burnette story, perhaps reprinted from an unknown issue of that magazine. The publishers seem to have simply changed the name Smiley Burnette to that of Earnie Bugle, when they reprinted the tale. Also, the name Earnie Bugle goes under in the crooked town, 'Frowny' Bugle, would make more sense, if Smiley Burnette had gone under the alias of 'Frowny' Burnette.