Matt Savage, Trail Boss was definitely one of the better western series to come out of DC during the period 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age. Matt Savage himself was drawn to resemble John Wayne, and lead a crew of distinctive characters on a long cattle drive. The first two instalments of the series, the only ones I will be looking at in this column, connect together, and give the feeling that this will be a series following a continuous drive. Sadly, that would not prove to be the case in the long run.
Matt Savage, Trail Boss, debuted in Western Comics 77, gaining the cover spot, which it would hold for the duration of its run. Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Joe Giella launch the strip, which has a far more detailed feeling than most of the other western series. Off the top, we learn that it is 1866, and Matt is putting together a crew for a trail drive from Texas to Kansas.
The first installment spends much of the time introducing us to the men that Savage hires, including two former soldiers who had fought on opposite sides of the US Civil War. Luther becomes Matt's main helper, and gets the worst costume of the strip. Some minor players are also introduced, before Matt spends a few pages proving that the cook is innocent of a crime he has been accused of.
The trail drive just gets going as the first story ends, and they face a Kiowa trying to exact a toll for moving their cattle.
Matt Savage and his crew face troubles as they begin their cattle drive in Western Comics 78. The story picks up directly from the ending of the previous issue, as Matt Savage's team begin to move the cattle onto the Texas Trail, which will take them north to Kansas. But just as they get going, an earthquake blocks the entrance to Painted Canyon.
Seeking a way around, they come across a young woman who owns a ranch, but who is being menaced by a rival rancher who wants her land. The remainder of the story deals with trying to take the bad guy out. Luther tries to challenge him directly, but winds up in a shoot out with his minions. To lure the bad guy out, Matt gets his men to stage a mutiny, figuring that the bad guy will try to take advantage of this.
He does, and Savage is able to take him down and expose his actions. In gratitude, the woman allows Matt to move his cattle through her land, and back onto the Texas Trail.
Matt Savage, Trail Boss continues in the next period, 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age.
Matt Savage, Trail Boss: Western Comics 77 – 78 (Sept/Oct – Nov/Dec 59)