When you see the name Red Ryder, what comes to mind? A BB gun, right? Or maybe Don “Red” Barry or Allan “Rocky” Lane, two of the guys who played him in the movies. Or maybe Robert Blake when he was on trial for murder, with the media constantly reminding us he played Little Beaver in some of those movies. Or an old comic book. Or a Whitman hardcover. Or even a Big Little Book.
What comes to mind is almost anything but the real thing - the Fred Harman comic strip that ran from 1938 to 1964. That’s because - of all those manifestations - the comic strips are just about the hardest to come by. As we’re currently enjoying a resurgence in comic strip reprints, we can only hope that old Red will soon be one of those getting the deluxe treatment.
In the meantime, this slim 1985 collection from Dragon Lady Press is about as good as it gets. (The cover above is not by Harman, but by V. Laszlo trying to emulate his style.) The book has only 66 pages, but it’s good stuff, presenting the first 7½ months of the strip’s run. Here are the first nine days . . .
(click to SUPERSIZE)
Harman went on to become a serious and respected western painter. My wife and I visited the Fred Harman Museum in Pagosa Springs, CO a few years back, where we had a nice visit with his son and saw a lot of amazing art. Here's a sample of his later work (I bought a print of this first one):
As usual, you should gallop on over to pattinase for Patti Abbott's list of links to other Forgotten Books.