Gardner Fox and Gil Kane fell into a pattern with the Matt Savage stories in Western Comics during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age. In almost every story Matt and his crew happen across people in trouble while on the Texas Trail, and deal with their issues. The cattle drive itself has become far less important than it was when the series began. Matt Savage himself continued to look as much like John Wayne as they could get away with.
General Custer gets a small role in Western Comics 79. The story centres on the two squabbling former soldiers, who had been on opposite sides during the US Civil War. The tension between the two plays perfectly into the hands of a Cheyenne who is trying to incite a war between his tribe and the white settlers.
There is some excellent art on this story, especially the stampede, and a fairly good plot as well, with the rival soldiers finding they need to work together to expose the manipulations of Cheyenne warrior. General Custer's role is pretty small, and has little bearing on the outcome of the tale.
Custer is about to head to Little Big Horn, and this is made to match the native victory foretold by the bad guy.
The story in Western Comics 82 opens as Matt Savage faces off against some wolves, even though that is not really what the story is about. The actual tale deals with a long lost child, and an outlaw who claims to be the missing boy, even though Savage figures out that he is a fake.
The mother can tell as well. Savage helps take down the phony, and re-unites the mother with her real son.
A little of Matt Savage's past gets explored in Western Comics 83. The story has a strange opening, one that effectively draws the reader in, as a bandit comes to take one of the horses from the cattle drive, insisting that Matt Savage will have no problems with that. And indeed, Matt does not, once the man hands over a torn shirt. We then get the backstory to the shirt, which belonged to the man who killed Matt's former boss. Matt has the missing piece of the shirt, and has been hunting for the killers for years.
Savage teams up with a marshal also on the trail of the killers, although the marshal is a fake. Matt figures this out, and manages to take down the phony marshal, the killer of his boss, and even the bandit from the start of the story. The cattle just sort of hang out, waiting to continue on with their drive.
Matt Savage spends much of the story in Western Comics 84 dealing with issues being faced by another trail boss. I guess his own crew are not considered interesting enough, despite all the detail given to them. Instead, the action all relates to saving the other man's cattle from a river, fending off rustlers and brawling hooligans.
Matt even manages to bring together a couple of young lovers before the story concludes. He does stop a couple of men from killing him and stealing his herd, which are still waiting to be moved up to Kansas. At this rate, it's no surprise that it's taken Savage over a year on this trip already.
The final Matt Savage story, in Western Comics 85, has virtually nothing to do with the cattle drive. Those poor cows must be awfully bored by now. Instead, he deals with thieves who have stolen the money a young man was planning to use to buy a ranch and marry the dance hall girl he had fallen for.
Of course Matt sets everything right. But the supporting cast is largely absent. When one appears in a cameo, it just serves to remind the reader they aren’t usually there. So little was done with them, after such a big introduction.
Matt Savage next appears in Weird Western Comics, as the father of Scalphunter. This is chronologically impossible, as the Scalphunter series is set during the Civil War, and Matt Savage's set shortly after. I like to think that perhaps this Matt Savage was a nephew or something of the one from Scalphunter.
Matt Savage, Trail Boss: Western Comics 79 - 85 (Jan/Feb 60 – Jan/Feb 61)