A Tribute to the of

It’s interesting what will stick in your mind. I was thinking the other day of something Neal Adams had mentioned during our interview wa-a-a-y back in 2007 [Sage #174 & Sage #175] when he was discussing Carmine Infantino’s work.

And Carmine, had a very unique style. He then was doing the Flash and his style kind of got covered up, but I was a fan of his original style when he was doing Pow Wow Smith and some of those other things…

I remember thinking at the time that I’d never heard of Pow Wow Smith. As it happens, the character was a co-creation of Carmine’s, along with writer Don Cameron and took his first bow in Detective Comics #151 (September 1949.) Wikipedia tells us it was the only Western feature in Detective Comics before moving on to, appropriately enough, Western Comics.

Well, as it happens, thanks to the endless generosity of the webmaster, I have a pretty much complete and pristine run of DC Special at my fingertips and issue #6 (January – March 1970) is, like pretty much all of them, a collection of reprinted material, this particular one featuring early heroes of the West and Frontier, like Daniel Boone, Tomahawk, Davy Crockett and toward the end, Pow-Wow Smith, Indian Law-Man.

The cover to this anthology, ironically, was drawn by Neal Adams with Gaspar Saladino on lettering detail and Dick Giordano in the editor’s chair. The stories are held together with a running commentary between two little boys named Mike and Larry and “Old Gramp” who relates the stories to them. Credits for the bridges go to Len Wein with the scripting and Gil Kane and Vince Colletta on art with John Costanza letters.

The Tenderfoot Deputy” has an unknown writer but features Leonard Starr art and Ira Schnapp letters, and is reprinted from Detective Comics #178 (December 1951), where he even got a shout-out on the cover. It’s too bad Carmine didn’t do the artwork on this story, but Starr was no slouch and again, Infantino was the original artist, so let’s see what Pow-Wow Smith was all about.

The intro in the bridge has Old Gramp explaining to the boys that “…one of the best peace officers the west ever knew was a Sioux brave! To his Indian brothers he was known as Ohiyesa (the winner) but the white men called him…Pow-Wow Smith.”

Things begin on the boardwalk of an old western town where Sheriff Tom Miles is speaking with a friend whose nephew has a desire to become a lawman. Miles says he just couldn’t hire a tenderfoot, explaining he’d never make it a week on the job. They’re prone to being picked on, he further elaborates. Just then the men note a scene across the street.

A pair of ruffians are making sport of an obvious out-of-towner, but the gentleman in the suit and fedora isn’t easily intimidated, responding to their urging him to dance with gunplay by knocking their skulls together after a high kick that disarms them. He then drags them across to the Sheriff who is so impressed he offers him a job on the spot. As it happens, this is Eddie Graves, nephew to the man petitioning the Sheriff on Eddie’s behalf. Graves is given a badge and told to report to Deputy Pow-Wow Smith at Red Deer Valley where he’s dealing with the Bearded Bandits. Eddie has heard of the famed Indian law-man and is raring to go.

The next day, none other than Ohiyesa is trailing some suspects. If they happen to be wearing false whiskers, they’re members of the Bearded Bandits, but before he can investigate further, he’s jumped from behind. One of the riders fires a shot that strikes the man who tried to jump Smith and then they quickly ride off. Later, in a Sioux wigwam, the man awakens to a bandaged head and the knowing smile of Pow-Wow Smith who tells Deputy Eddie Graves that he found his badge and his letter of introduction from Sheriff Miles. Graves is mortified, but Smith assures him it was an honest mistake and they’ll get their chance with the Bearded Bandits.

Still unsatisfied and restless with his foolhardy performance, Eddie Graves is determined to redeem himself, so he decides to ride off from the Sioux village alone to try and find the bandits himself.

After several hours, the deputy is about to give up when he hears some carefully timed gunfire. He soon comes upon the man who fired the shots near a waterfall and Graves uses his athletic training from college to do a tackle. He then reasons that with his drama club training and the man’s false beard and clothing, he could impersonate him and infiltrate the gang.

When he meets up with the rest of the Bearded Bandits, he pulls off the ruse, even though it seems he has replaced Rourke, leader of the gang. He tells them he’s decided to delay the Platte City bank raid by a day, angling for time.

Elsewhere, Pow-Wow Smith has gone on the surveillance trail and has come across Eddie’s horse. Soon he spots a bearded man with the drop on another. The man in the whiskers is Deputy Graves with one of the gang members, but this fact is unknown to Pow-Wow Smith, who captures him with a well-thrown lasso. When the gang member realizes what’s happening, he quickly summons the rest of the gang and soon the lawmen are captured by the Bearded Bandits.

The gang then harangue the deputy until he reveals where he’s left Rourke and he leads them to the falls. Pow-Wow Smith tells Eddie that as soon as they retrieve their boss from the nearby cavern, they’ll kill them, but Graves says to watch his lead and when they look into the darkened cave, Graves plows into them, despite his bonds, knocking them inside. The other gang members are unsure how to proceed, fearful that if they fire into the cave, they’ll risk harming their own men. Pow-Wow Smith then follows Eddie’s lead and butts the other men into the water.

Back inside the cavern, Graves has slipped away in the dark while the gang members strike a match and seek to free Rourke, but Eddie hasn’t gone far and again uses his athleticism to kick the knife free and then disappear again into the darkness to cut his own bonds.

Outside, by sheer force of numbers, the remaining gang members are about to kill themselves a Sioux lawman when Eddie emerges from the mouth of the cavern and pitches a rock that disarms the gunman, relying on his first-string pitcher status at college. The deputy then calls on his boxing skills and simultaneously frees Smith. Between the two lawmen, the owl-hoots don’t have a chance.

In the closing panels, two bearded men approach the Sheriff to deposit five prisoners. When Sheriff Miles asks who the hirsute men are, Eddie and Pow-Wow doff the false whiskers and explain they brought them as evidence, but their saddlebags were overflowing.

So, Eddie Graves is redeemed, the bad guys are on ice and Pow-Wow Smith is certain that this new Tenderfoot will be an asset.

Now I have a better idea of how Pow-Wow Smith fits into things. Thanks to Neal Adams for making me aware of this unusual old west lawman. I’ll have to make it a point to find a story illustrated by Carmine Infantino for the full effect, but this was pretty good, despite the fact that Westerns aren’t my first choice in classic comic book reading.

Well, faithful readers, that wraps up the series of reviews for 2021. The next edition of this ongoing feature will help to ring in the New Year and here’s to a better time for us all in 2022. Feel free to drop a note any time to share your opinions, questions and other feedback. It’s a short hop to my trusty email: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in January and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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