The Old West
I seem to have hit an odd place recently. Of the two things I am actively reading right now, both are a take on the idea of westerns but in a slightly different way. So where do I begin?
I guess I can start with the more bizarre of the two. I kept seeing the book on the new shelf at the library and it called to me but I hadn’t picked it up. You know how it is, the more you see the more it digs under your skin and you just can’t let it go. This is “The Builders” by Daniel Polansky.
Now I could have the time period off with it but the feeling I get is western. But it is a bit more than that. See, this one is an animal book in all manner of what personified animal stories can be. That right there throws off the time frame a little but I in my mind I switch back and forth a bit between the time frame of the Dirty Dozen (WW2) and the old west.
Either way this is a fun play. We have the Captain (a mouse) and his collected cut throats and the mission of revenge that he is leading them through. The characters are all larger than life, so much bigger than their status of various animal types calls for, and the Captain is the biggest of them all (though the smallest of stature and with a squeaky voice to boot).
You just don’t go into this story expecting it to be a serious work. In an adventure like this, nothing should be taken too seriously. I mean, at one point there is a French Stoat making goo goo eyes with a squirrel. I don’t know about you but this makes me wonder what animals get up to when we aren’t paying attention. They may just have huge lives we don’t have any idea about with underground liquor joints and casinos.
This is a fun take on a theme that has been popping up a bit more of late. Add that it isn’t a medieval society and you have something just a bit more on the side of different than what we have come to expect.
Now on to the next…
I don’t know what your childhood was like, but I remember when the channel became available on our tv that eventually became a Fox Affiliate. That sounds weird. Well, maybe if you don’t know life with only 3 networks like we had growing up. Yep, I am referring to life with just NBC, CBS, and ABC. Of course, if you were lucky you could pick up PBS as well. But that one always came in fuzzy for us. I never watched Sesame Street as a young child.
But I digress…
So this new station comes in. It started as an independent (if I remember correctly). And their programming was all over the place. They showed all sorts of odd shows that didn’t run on any of the networks and even better they showed a fairly large assortment of old black and white movies. Yes, even then the black and whites were old.
So where am I going with this? I want to bring your attention to an old western hero (nope, not the Lone Ranger though those were some great ones too). This was something just a bit different. Zorro isn’t necessarily what you might think of when you hear about westerns but it was a special brand of western that still worked within the realm.
I spent many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon picking up the old shows and movies of the Zorro adventures and never really understanding the specific ideas even though the themes of adventure and fighting against the oppressive government officials gave us a different flavor of Robin Hood. This was some great television when we had so few choices of crappy stations to choose from. Unlike now where there are almost unlimited stations and 90% of them are all showing essentially the same crap. But that is a gripe for a different time.
Right now I need to delve into the thing that sparked this trip down memory lane. With that I refer to the comic series, Lady Rawhide. I tell ya, the first thing that popped into my head when I opened this one up was the old Zorro Stories. Except they tend to use guns a bit more than the gentleman’s sword that was part of Zorro’s trademark.
The stories are similar in intent of the old hero stories though their tenor is changed just a bit. Of course, with the hero being played by a woman it does change things up a little bit.
Now, I won’t get into any of the politics of whether or not these are boys or girls comics or any of that nonsense. These are stories with characters that have their own merits no matter how you want to look at them. Aside from their similarities to the old Zorro stories, they stand on their own and are enjoyable by anyone who enjoys stories. But there I go again, another digression…
There is a spot of trouble though that I noticed. But it might just be me stepping out and looking at the story and going WTF. So at one-point Lady Rawhide is in disguise as she tracks down the villains. In her disguise she is less flamboyant with brown hair and toned down clothing. This is far different than her working clothes (so unlike Zorro in this. He always wore black with a black mask). Her outfit is pink with a pink mask and she has long red hair.
The thing is, when she changes out of the disguise, they show her with a pot of hair dye. The picture of it actually looks like a bottle of red ink. Now this is where I run into the issue. She uses the ink stuff to change her hair back to red and it is obviously red. For anyone who has ever been a part of a hair dye experience (fiasco), this stuff should have gotten into everything and should have been dripping and gross everywhere. But through the miracle of comics it is simple and quick and done from one panel to the next. And I don’t know why this bothers me because I know and understand it is simply a comic. But there it is, it’s just weird.
And so after all that, great comic series and graphic novel compilations. Spend some time with them reliving the stories of long ago if you get some time. Just watch out for the hair dye. You never know what might happen with that.
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