Apache Trail No. 1, a Silver Age Western Comic

Discovering a Lost Gem

Apache Trail #1

This Silver Age Western Comic was published in 1957 by Steinway Comic Pub. Inc. with artwork by Ken Battefield.
Source: Comic Book Plus and Grand Comics Database (GCD)

Native American on Horseback with Rifle


In June 2016, I discovered this beautiful comic book cover featuring an American Indian on horseback firing a rifle. I was immediately taken with this image; the dynamic lines and the beautiful color combinations impressed me as something special that I should share on my The Ninth Art store.

The Main Image—Apache Attack!


The central figure is a rider on horseback, with smaller figures in the far background depicting the rest of the Apache war party. On the right is a barrier with just the slightest suggestion of rifles behind which, one supposes, the white soldiers and cowboys are defending their fort. A large cloud of dust erupts around the feet of the Apache rider’s horse, the rider leans to the left, the horse’s head heaving up in the opposite direction.

The background is a brilliant blue, the banner—the title of the comic—is deep red. A couple of word balloons add some plot points to the scene.

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Restoring the Cover: Masking and Merging


The original image for this cover was the scan uploaded to Comic Book Plus. The Comic Book Plus image showed a lot of wear—folds, scratches, cracks, a yellowed color. So I searched for a better version and found one on GCD. The GCD image was in a lot better condition and the color was good except for the Native American rider’s skin tone.

Joel Pett 2017 Labor Day Cartoon

The GCD jpg became the base of my new psd file. I painted the background to soup up the blue color and fill in the cracks and scratches. Then I used parts of the Comic Book Plus image to correct the rider’s skin tone. The finished product showed a color-corrected image with most of the cracks and scratches filled in, but still showing signs of age around the edges.

The Apache cover became the source for a lot of interesting product designs, some set up with templates for personalization. Toward the end of this design phase, I realized that a lot of the products in my template inventory weren’t really suitable for the comic book cover format. So, I decided to do a second version, with a free standing image of the Apache warrior cut out from the background.

Western Comics

Apache Trail No. 1_Group 2

The Western comic genre was popular in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Western comics of the period often featured white cowboys as heroes and American-Indians as savages or assimilated sidekicks.

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Apache Trail No. 1_Group 1

I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of the image in Apache Trail #1, but the art is captivating and stylish. When I started to promote my Zazzle designs for Apache Trail #1, I was a little concerned that some people might take exception to the content—a Native American shooting a gun. But, the original image was created in 1957, when popular culture was saturated with images of American Indians in buckskins and war paint; during that era, comics and TV shows were used to sell toy guns.

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Please post your comments below and let me know what you like and don’t like about the old Western Comic Books of the Golden and Silver Age. Are there any current Western Comics that you like?
Sourced: All images in this post are from my The Ninth Art store, Comic Book Plus and Grand Comics Database (GCD).

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