Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Shattuck Already!

Shattuck is a comic strip I'd never heard of (or forgotten about) because when I chanced upon a copy of this Fantagraphics volume which purports to republish this lost Wally Wood comic strip I knew I had to have it. Searched high and low at most of the local shops then broke down and ordered it off Amazon. Produced for the same overseas military market as Sally Forth and Cannon, Shattuck is a western but a raucous and bawdy western indeed.

What makes Shattuck such a delightful curiosity is that it features the first credited artwork of two of the Bronze Age's best talents - Howard Chaykin and Dave Cockrum. Created by Wally Wood to give work to his idol Syd Shores, Wood turned to first Chaykin then Cockrum when Shores was unable to pursue the job. With scripting help by Nick Cuti, Wood apparently laid out the stories then turned it over to his apprentices to finish up. Veteran Jack Abel then stepped in to add his own singular inking to the whole affair. Chaykin by his own admission was not up to the task and was fired off it pretty summarily, but Cockrum stepped in and this brief series showcases some lovely artwork by him.

The premise of Shattuck, not necessarily evidenced by the two samples below, involved creating scenarios in which the women of the strip would do just that, strip. Naked dames were the calling card of this male-centered western fantasy just like Sally Forth (humor) and Cannon (adventure).  

Merle Shattuck is a douche bag, there's no denying it. The yarn seems to draw its inspiration from the Spaghetti Westerns popular at the time and Shattuck falls right into the anti-hero category. He starts his career with the killing of the sheriff of the town of Sundown and before it's all done he ends up taking his place though he proves to be rather ineffective. There's a "Kid" who seeks to spar with Shattuck who reminded this reader of Johnny Clay from Marvel's Rawhide Kid. The story here is an amoral one, with women reduced to total and utter sex objects, who in some cases appreciate being raped. It gets pretty ugly.

All in all though as a piece of history of the form it's a nice addition to the Dojo stacks.

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