Once Upon A Time In The West In Comics had a nice blog post about Spaghetti western inspired comic books from the 1970s, including an entire story about Caleb Hammer.
During the 1970’s, DC had unleashed a string of Western comics that drew from the spirit of the Italian western films. Although they also reprinted earlier stories of heroes like Pow-Wow Smith and Johnny Thunder, they had introduced more contemporary charcters like Jonah Hex, Scalphunter and Bat Lash.
Marvel, on the other hand, had produced a nearly endless string of reprints of Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Outlaw Kid. Their new Western comics were usually a new story featuring one of their old, Atlas heroes backed up by reprints of their old, Atlas heroes. They introduced Red Wolf, but his adventures were formulaic, and very similar to Atlas’ Apache Kid.
In 1980, Marvel tried to introduce a new style of Western hero. Well, new to Marvel. Caleb Hammer has the look and feel of an Italian Western. Caleb bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain high plains Drifter. And, if it reminds you a little bit of a DC Western from 10 years before, it may be because it was inked by Tony DeZuniga, the original artist on DC’s Jonah Hex.
From 1980’s Marvel Premiere #54, we have “The Coming of Caleb Hammer” by Peter B. Gillis, pencilled by Gene Day and inked by Tony DeZuniga.
This earlier post contains an entire early Jonah Hex story:
The recurring heroes in Western comics were traditionally cut from heroic cloth. Guys like Red Ryder, The Lemonade Kid, NightHawk… Maybe some of them wore masks, but they weren’t outlaws or bandits, just guys with secret identities. And even the guys who were “outlaws” were never really bad. Guys like The Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, The Outlaw Kid, the Two-Gun Kid (Weren’t there any grown-ups in the West?) were branded as outlaws, but they were all falsely accused.
Sure, there were a few misfits, mostly Indians or “half-breed” characters who weren’t accepted by the folks they tried to help. But the reader knew about their troubled, noble hearts and so that was okay.
This approach lasted from the Golden Age of the late 30’s all the way through the 1960’s. And then, in 1971, a new type of hero began to surface in the fabric of American Western comics. The ANTI-hero. What’s an anti-hero?
“In fiction, an antihero is generally considered to be a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of thearchetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis.” – Wikipedia
Jonah Hex is not a typical hero. He is not handsome (although he may have been once). He is not noble (He kills men for money). Jonah Hex is a horribly disfigured Confederate veteran who makes his living as a bounty hunter. And he’s mean. Plumb, mad-dog mean.
Enjoy his debut in All-Star Western #10, “Welcome to Paradise”