Strong Bow, the native hero from beyond the Misty Mountains, who solved crimes and brought peace to various tribes in the days before the Europeans arrived, continues in the pages of All-Star Western throughout the period 1952 – 1955. But there is a change in the stories as they proceed through the era, becoming increasingly off-beat, and in one case downright supernatural.
What little we will ever learn about Strong Bow’s origin is related in the story in All-Star Western 72. An old man and his children are trapped on a swift-flowing river, which leads to a waterfall. To distract his children from their imminent deaths, he tells them the legend of Strong Bow. We do not find out anything about what happened to the rest of his now-dead tribe, from beyond the Misty Mountains, but we do see that he was trained from youth to be a fighter for peace and justice, and given difficult challenges to build his strength, endurance and resourcefulness.
The story comes to a happy ending, as Strong Bow shows up just in time to save the family from going over the falls.
We get a sense of how much the reputation of Strong Bow has spread in the pages of All-Star Western 76. Strong Bow is in the north for this story, in a region called Ananoche, which appears to be along the northern BC coast, or perhaps Alaska. Arriving there, he is surprised to find a totem pole carved with his image, despite never have been to this territory.
The totem pole even speaks, ordering people's deaths. It's all a really complicated plot to ruin Strong Bow's reputation, which has preceded him to this area. The kayak scenes are great.
The tale in All-Star Western 63 look like it might be supernatural, but turns out to have a very reasonable explanation. Strong Bow encounters a tribe who live on rafts in the middle of Lake Superior. This keeps them safe from other tribes, but they are ruled tyranically by their Shaman, who keeps them terrified of a supposed water demon.
Strong Bow challenges the Shaman, but during the fight seems to fall victim to the demon, losing his strength and coordination. But Strong Bow prevails, and also reveals that the supposed demon was really deadly toodstools, the secretions from which had been rubbed onto his clothing and absorbed into his skin.
Things get a bit weird in the Strong Bow adventure in issue 66. The Hudson River is the location of the tale, as the Seneca have constructed a giant drum on a boat, and are using it to demand tribute from other tribes. If they refuse, the chief of the tribe will be placed inside the drum where the pounding noise will drive him crazy.
Some really nice art, but a silly story. Strong Bow uses beads from a necklace to magnify the sun's rays and set fire to the deadly drum.
Strong Bow takes to the air in All-Star Western 79, after a raiding tribe build themselves wings and start besieging other settlements. The other natives are convinced that the marauders are really able to fly, and are terrified of the bird-men. Fair enough, they would probably scare the crap out of me as well. But Strong Bow fashions himself a similar set of wings, and learns how they are used, basically to glide on updrafts, although the degree of motion shown is more complex than that. At any rate, Strong Bow all on his own proves capable of taking down the entire swarm of attackers, despite just having learned to use the wings. That's impressive.
But at least those stories, while outrageous, have some semblance of reality. The story in All-Star Western 65 goes pure supernatural. Strong Bow winds up captured by Cloud Giants, and doesn't seem even mildly surprised to find that such creatures exist.
He calmly figures out how to outwit their plans to kill him, and tricks the giants into thinking that the "little people" like him have great powers. Strong Bow binds the giants as they sleep, and makes them vow never to come to ground to attack the "little people" again.
I also need to discuss the Strong Bow story in All-Star Western 82, which may be the basis for an unusual detail in the History of the DC Universe. In that volume, Strong Bow is shown entering a mysterious cave, which makes him a "hero of two worlds." The title of this story, and the cave, seem to indicate that this is the story referred to.
Strong Bow does find a tribe who live deep inside it, and they appear to have some magical ability to turn invisible. However, this is all a trick, based on the green luminescence in the cave, which the warriors coat themselves with to blend in.
There is nothing supernatural or otherworldy about this cave, or the story, but it is the only one that really deals with a cave. That's a disappointment, as the scene in the History of the DC Universe certainly implies that something bigger is going on.
Strong Bow continues in the next period, 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age.