Saturday, March 28, 2015
Mainlining Four - Bulls Eye!
Bulls Eye, a raucous western comic was the fourth and final offering from Joe Simon's and Jack Kirby's Mainline Comics. Ostensibly the flagship title for the little company, Bulls Eye Western Scout lasted a whopping five whole issues. To read a few stories check this out.
The fifth and final Mainline issue of Bulls Eye was published in early 1955.
Charlton Comics took over the title and much of the unpublished material with the sixth issue later in 1955 and published two more issues.
With the eighth issue the title was changed to Cody of the Pony Express. Like the other Mainline books, the series would continue inside the original genre for many years.
The last issue of Cody of the Pony Express was the tenth.
Then the with the eleventh issue of the run the title was changed again to Outlaws of the West in 1957 which proved to be a very successful alteration.
Outlaws of the West, which went on to feature such notorious Charlton anti-heroes such as Kid Montana and Captain Doom lasted until 1970 when the eighty-first issue hit the stands.
The title was revived again with its numbering intact in 1979.
It lasted until the summer of 1980 when the last issue of the venerable run, the eighty-eighth and final issue landed with little fanfare.
Bulls Eye (sometimes spelled Bullseye in its Charlton listings) was a typical Simon and Kirby offering, full of energy and punch. The western as a genre was powerful during the 50's and early 60's but lost its footing as the Bronze Age appoached. By the time of the final issues of Outlaws of the West only a few western comic titles were being published, a few by Charlton and several by DC.
I first ran across Bulls Eye in an issue of AC Comic's Bill Black's Fun Comics. The character appears to be in the public domain these days, though I see very little of him. A good set of trades reprinting the Mainline Comics are certainly in order.
Mainline Comics was sadly at once atypical and all too typical of comic book companies in the waning days of the Golden Age and the onset of the Atomic Age of Comics. Public pressure on the form had been gearing up for some time and the onslaught brought by Dr.Frederick Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the public hearings which followed remain a blight on the industry even after all these decades since.
Comics thrived during the early days of World War II because they offered man, woman, and child alike an escape from the tribulations of the day. Brightly clad heroes battled grim-faced villains and good won, a dandy distraction from a more complicated reality. But the advent of the 50's brought a new dynamic with attempts to bring other kinds of stories to the masses. Simon and Kirby had produced hits for other publishers such as Timely, DC, Harvey, and Crestwood, among others and now they wanted to create something better for themselves.
With some of the profits they made from Crestwood Publishing (which they knew was holding out on them in spite of the huge success of the romance comics) they began their own company called "Mainline" in 1953 or thereabouts, the goal to create comics for a broader range of readers. But they had to keep a lot of that quiet from Crestwood who was still their major client. They rented space from Harvey Comics and began their little start up. But the timing was awful.
The debut of Bulls Eye was just a few weeks after the Senate started looking into what the upright considered the grimy world of comic books. EC Comics was a top target for those looking for comic book boogey men and the collapse of EC in the face of wide criticism, took down Leader News, their distributor. Leader News was also the distributor for Mainline. Sadly a proposed title from the company called Night Fighter never saw the light of day. (See the ad above.)
Without a means to get comics to the stands, Mainline Comics Inc. fell apart and the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, arguably the most successful duo in the history of comics to that time, went their separate ways. Joe Simon went into advertising, though it wouldn't be long before he returned to comics when things cooled off. Jack Kirby went to work for DC, taking with him a concept which some say was originally intended for Mainline, the Challengers of the Unknown. After a few years at DC, he found his way across town to Marvel and the rest (as they say) is history.
For more details on Mainline check out this article which appeared in The Jack Kirby Collector many years ago.