DC Comics History
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith (1952 - 1955: We Don't Need Another Hero)
By Deejay Dayton
September 20, 2016 - 10:44

DC Comics


In some ways, the years 1952 – 1955: We Don’t Need Another Hero were very good for Pow-Wow Smith, Indian Lawman.  Ohiyesa went from being a back-up character in Detective Comics to getting the cover and lead spot in Western Comics during this time.  But his stories veered further and further from the Sioux, and he became often the only native character in the stories he took part in.  There was far less about his family and his tribe, and much more time spent solving problems for the white residents of Red Deer Valley.


The last story in Detective that deals with Pow-Wow Smith’s family or people appears in issue 180.  The villains are jewel thieves pretending to be Sioux, but killing anyone who gets close enough to see them clearly.  It takes Ohiyesa a while before he figures out that the murderers are not renegade Sioux.  
There is a really dramatic spire of rock, which looks as though it has a face on it.  This rock was climbed many years earlier by Broken Blade, the grandfather of Pow-Wow Smith. 


Not everyone believed that the grandfather really made the climb, but as he mounts Ohiyesa finds proof of his grandfather’s trek, even the broken blade that gained him his name. The point of this is to freak out the bad guys, make them think the rock is talking.  But the climb, and the family history, are more interesting than the crime plot.


Increasingly, Pow-Wow Smith’s adventures would take on an urban feel.  He made it all the way to Manhattan in Detective 183, and made two trips out to Hollywood, in issues 197 and 202.


In the latter, Pow-Wow Smith is working as a stunt man, while at the same time investigating murder attempts on the actors during the shooting. It was the producer, doing it for the insurance.  A run of the mill plot, for a series that lost its exploration of a man of two cultures for straightforward crime stopping.


Ohiyesa even makes it all the way to Canada for a very unusual tale in Detective Comics 190.  He is greeted cheerfully by the RCMP, and spends the issue with the Mounties, working with them on their cases.  Of course, Canada is shown as it always is, trees and rocks and lakes and trees. 


But the really curious thing about the tale is the way that Pow-Wow Smith shows the Mounties the Sioux way of doing things, and the Mounties consistently react as if no one had ever shown them anything similar.  It’s as if there is no native population at all in Canada, or none that the Mounties have ever met.


In Detective 194 Pow-Wow Smith gets his most intense tale by far, a story clearly derived from High Noon.  The Bentons, some old foes of the hero, are coming back to Red Deer Valley, determined to kill Pow-Wow Smith. 


The rest of the townspeople hide, and Ohiyesa takes the men down one by one, all on his own.  The art is particularly strong for this one.


When Pow-Wow Smith moved over to Western Comics, the series continued to place the hero in his white surroundings.  The first Pow-Wow Smith story in that book, in issue 43, had Ohiyesa helping to protect a witness from hired killers, and Infantino’s art was always good on this series.  But the Sioux have been left behind. 


Western 44 sees deputy sheriff Smith become a wanted man.  Other outlaws are hesitant to believe that he has turned criminal, suspecting that this is a ploy so that Pow-Wow Smith can pretend to join them, and then capture them. And, in fact, that is exactly what is going on. 


It's hard to think much of the bad guys, who fall for the ploy, even though they see it coming.  But the story is only six pages long, and has little room for any twists.


Thieves who steal nothing but silver dollars are the menace in the tale in Western 48.  Curiously, this causes a run on silver dollars.  Everyone in town wants to have them.  Because they all want to be robbed?  The logic to that part of the tale escapes me completely. 


The bandits are masked, but one man makes a comment about Smith getting hit with a sandbag, which gives away that he is part of the crew.  The telegraph bomb, shown on the cover, does make for a brief bit of suspense, but the stories at this point are just too short to be effective.

Pow-Wow Smith continues in the next period, 1955 – 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age.

Pow-Wow Smith: Detective Comics 179 – 202 (Jan 52 – Dec 53)

Western Comics 43 – 52 (Jan/Feb 54 – July/Aug 55)

Next up – Epics of the Texas Rangers!

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DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith (1952 - 1955: We Don't Need Another Hero)
DC Comics History: Pow-Wow Smith