Sir Jon’s Comic Book Review
Some months ago, I traded a handful of comics I’d had in my possession for far too long for a selection of old Charlton comics. Charlton comics have been a passion of mine since I was a kid, long before I knew that the company was based in my home state of Connecticut. I used to be pickier about the books from the company that I wanted, but as the years progress, finding Charltons of any sort get harder and harder to locate, regardless of condition. One of the better issues in the pile was YANG #8, from June of 1975.
Yang is an extremely thinly veiled version of Kwai Chang Caine from the television series KUNG FU. That show ran for three seasons, ending in 1975, sparking a country-wide fascination in Chinese martial arts, which the ever-opportunistic Charlton was willing to exploit. The Yang series has our hero wandering the western United States of the 1880’s, detailing his adventures.
This issue of Yang is a done-in-one tale. Few comics of the era followed the current trend of continued chapters or a multi-part epic; comic books were then still considered dispensable entertainment and Charlton comics even more so. Written by the indefatigable Joe Gill, drawn by the underappreciated Warren Sattler, with the only other credit given to Editor George Wildman, a longtime Charlton employee and great artist himself, Yang wastes no time with the story. Starting with an almost two-page bit of backstory to get a new reader up to speed, it rolls right into Yang stumbling upon a wolf attack on a prospector in the Northwest US. Attacked himself, Yang sees a woman in a wolf skin ordering the wolves. Yang defends himself until he’s knocked unconscious from behind and left for wolf meat. He’s able to wake and climb a tree, remaining there until found by fellow prospectors the next morning. Yang speaks perfect English, explaining what happened to the dead prospector. Lo and behold, the men believe Yang, as wolves have been bothering them and the nearby town for some time. Yang is allowed to enter the town and take a room at a boarding house, where he discovers the woman running it is the same woman who was in charge of the wolves the previous night. (You can just feel the shock and awe of it can’t you?) The story plods along in typical fashion, with Yang getting arrested and blamed for the recent attacks by a sheriff and man in cahoots with the woman, who has a fairly standard history of out of place socialite/daddy got killed/must return to real cities by any means. She’s also pretty. Joe Gill wasn’t on his best day here, banging out a pretty trite tale ending with the woman dying in a stagecoach driven off a cliff by hungry wolves situation that is pretty laughable. For some reason, there’s a one-panel epilogue to stamp the story done, moralizing that gold will bring more “wolves” to the town, but it can be forgiven. The whole tale itself is pretty terrible, while still being fun, if in a goofy way.
Joe Gill wrote many comic stories in his career, possibly more than any other writer. Many were good, many were bad, many were just pedestrian efforts. Yang #8 falls somewhere between pedestrian and bad. To make up for it, Warren Sattler’s art is absolute fun. From a striking cover to excellent interior sequential work, it looks as though he enjoyed drawing Yang. Regardless, there are some oddities. Some panels look like Joe Kubert had a hand in them, while others have emotive, cartoonish faces. Some others are bland and a bit stiff, usually those needed to depict a boring scene or two. It’s wildly uneven, while still showing the excellence of ability and style that is largely missing in modern comic books.
Yang #8 is a curiosity in its age, subject matter and production quality. The latter due to Charlton running the presses like mad, with no real quality control over what came out. My copy had the famous “ragged pages” from the company, as well as being offset somewhat. It all adds to the enjoyment of the read, as you go from story to ad for x-ray specs and joy buzzers, to story to ad for 204 Revolutionary War toy soldiers for only $2.25. While I can’t say everyone will enjoy it, I can say I did flaws and all.
This is the first in a series of retro-reviews. If you liked it, let me know! Also, George Wildman can still be found on the web at his his own site. Give it a visit.