Boys’ Ranch (April 1951) by Jack Kirby
I lament so often about the fact that various Simon and Kirby productions have not been reprinted that is nice to be able to write about Boys’ Ranch. Although there are other comics I sure wish would be available again, if I had to pick a single S&K title as most worthy of the reprint honor it would be Boys’ Ranch. Fortunately Marvel already has published it in a nice volume. It is out of print but shows up often on eBay and at comic conventions. It has not gotten too pricey and deserves to be in the library of any Kirby fan. Not all Simon and Kirby productions were actually drawn by Jack as the studio used a number of talented artists. However a lot of Boys’ Ranch truly was penciled by Kirby, although not as much as claimed by many authorities. We can blame the failure of Stuntman and Boy Explorers on the comic glut. The downfall of the Mainline titles can be laid at the anti-comic sentiments among many adults at that time. For Boys’ Ranch we have no similar explanations and we must accept the fact that they just did not sell well enough. That reflects on the times not, in my opinion, the product.
Boys’ Ranch followed the general practice of S&K productions in having Jack Kirby pencil all the covers for the title. As far as I am concerned not a single cover for the title is anything short of a masterpiece. I am not sure how I would manage to pick my favorite, but one of my Featured Cover Contests participants did and he choose issue #4. With a main cast of three boys and an adult it is not an easy achievement to give them all prominence on a cover. But then add some soldiers and Indians to the mix and it might be an insurmountable task for many artists. But Jack was not a typical comic book artist and he overcomes these challenges with such ease as to make the viewer unaware how hard it really is. What exciting action Jack has provided. Although only four Indians are actually presented we are made aware of the fierce struggle that is occurring. One soldier is on his back, obviously seriously wounded, while another continues fighting but is unable to stand. A third soldier in the background has entered hand to hand combat with an Indian foe and appears about to loose. This is all in midst of a cloud of smoke from all the shooting. It all brings to mind Custer’s last battle. Actually in the cover for issue #4 one boy, Dandy, does get special treatment. He appears prominently on the left while the other three form a triangle on the right. Dandy stands pausing from his firing to blow the bugle. This is the reason for his prominence because it is a reference to the story title “The Bugle Blows as Bloody Knife”. Our heroes are defiant but will they face an end similar to Custer? Of course originally you were meant to buy the comic to find out. I will give a subtle hint, the Boys’ Ranch title ran for two more issues.