Gunsmode Western #51 (march 1959) “The Raiders Strike” page 1 art by Jack Kirby
I recently posted on the Black Rider Rides Again #1 that Jack Kirby did for Atlas prior to the Implosion. I find this period fascinating because the work Jack did seems a mixture of material that he had a good deal of creative control and others which he did not. Jack’s efforts after the Implosion seem to me to decidedly fall in the latter category. Tom Lammers in his “Tales of the Implosion” discusses job numbers and the existence of an inventory of pre-Implosion work that was published after the Implosion. Among these are work with a job number starting with an “M”. This would include “The Raiders Strike” from Gunsmoke Western #51 (March 1959). Actually job numbers are not the only reason to believe that this story was pre-Implosion. Three Black Rider stories were published after the Implosion as back-up features. This is just the right number for a Black Rider Rides Again #2 but that title and did not survive the Implosion.
“The Raiders Strike” is very much like the older Black Rider stories. A gang of thieves rob the receipts from a county fair. The Black Rider is present and manages to wound one, but is without his horse so he cannot follow. Still he vows to recover the money. Resuming his secret identity as the local doctor he frets that since he has no lead he will be unable to fulfill his promise. Some of the thieves arrive and take the doctor at gun point to treat their wounded partner. The doctor is hit after he performs his services. When he recovers he pursues the gang as the Black Rider. He catches up with the thieves and of course recovers the money.
This is a repeated plot with the Black Rider wounding a villain, the doctor tending the wounds, followed by the Black Rider saving the day. In my opinion, the writing style does not sound like Kirby did it. That Jack probably was not the writer is not too surprising. I did not believe he was the scripter for the earlier stories either.
The big difference between this and the earlier Black Rider stories is that Kirby was not the inker. This inker provides a more detailed and realistic inking then Jack’s. Unfortunately I find it a poor marriage between the pencils and inks. Jack drew this Western and “No Man Can Outdraw Him” with a elongated figure style. This seemed quite interesting to me when inked by Jack’s more abstract Austere Style (the subject of a current serial post). This story’s more realistic inking sometimes makes the figures come off rather freakish looking. Still the inker was sensitive to many of Kirby’s nuances and he does not overwhelm the pencils.