DC Comics History: Strong Bow
By Deejay Dayton
Jun 7, 2016 - 14:00
The fourth and last of the series to debut in All-Star Western during the period 1948 – 1951: End of an Era is Strong Bow, about the lone survivor of a tribe from beyond the Misty Mountains who drinks a lot of apple cider. No, he doesn't. But I had to make that joke or it would have gnawed at me forever.
Dave Wood and Frank Giacoia introduce the native hero in All-Star Western 58, which has Strong Bow fighting injustice on his own, wherever he might find it. What makes the story really stand out is that there are no whites in it.
Set in what would become Montana, the tale deals with a war between the Crow and the Blackfeet, with the former tribe portrayed as good guys and the latter as scheming and treacherous.
There are horses in the story, which would have to place after the time of the European invasion of the Americas, although none of the characters seem aware of any whites, so presumably these are the "wild" horses that got free from the Spanish and made their way north, although that assumption gets challenged by the tale in issue 62. This strip is far more interesting for existing in a solely native culture.
Strong Bow is in what will become New Mexico in issue 59, as he comes between the Navajo and the Pueblo. The Pueblo live in a hidden community deep inside a mountain ravine, not easy to find. They have a sacred gold mine, which the Navajo are eager to find. Strong Bow helps keep the location of the mine and the village a secret from the Navajo, and then rides off on his lonely way.
Strong Bow comes north, maybe to Canada, in All-Star Western 60, dealing with battling Chinook and Wenatchi tribes. There is some lovely art on this story, which has the Wenatchi sealed into a canyon by the Chinook, after years of warring between the tribes. The canyon is near a volcano that threatens to erupt, and they just want out. Strong Bow steals the weapons of the Chinook, and even calls on a mountain lion to help him against them.
In his first story, he was able to call on a horse belonging to a different tribe, but calling a mountain lion endows Strong Bow almost magical powers. With the Chinook disarmed, he is able to lead the Wenatchi to safety before the volcano erupts.
Strong Bow heads to Mexico for a story that puts him in between the Aztec and Maya in All-Star Western 62. As there is no mention at all about the Spanish, this must be taking place before their arrival, which really makes one wonder where all the horses in this series come from. The Aztec are capturing Mayans and using them as slave labour to construct their pyramids. While the Aztec did, indeed capture other people and use them as slaves, I'm not sure it was actually for pyramid construction, though it might have been. Strong Bow also gets caught and chained up.
He talks about summoning all his strength to break free, which had me suspecting some sort of powers again, but then he spends time looking for the weak spot, so that keeps it at human strength levels. The story climaxes with a battle atop a pyramid, and the leader of the Aztec almost falling to his death, although Strong Bow saves his life. He makes them vow to live in peace, although for how many years this would even be an issue depends on what year this story is set in.
Strong Bow continues in the next period, 1952 – 1955: We Don’t Need Another Hero.
Strong Bow: All-Star Western 58 – 62 (April/May 51 – Dec/Jan 51/52)
Next up – Knights of the Galaxy!
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith (1955 - 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age)
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith (1952 - 1955: We Don't Need Another Hero)
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith