HIPSHOT, AND ME
When I first started writing westerns, one of my first
online friends was Stan Lynde. We corresponded a handful of times, and there
aren’t enough superlatives to describe his gentleman’s decency, warmth, and
Best known as a cartoonist, Montana writer Lynde won the WWA
Spur Award in 2009 for the original audio book of his novel, Vendetta Canyon
and was a finalist in 2006 for his novel Marshal of Medicine Lodge, and in 2007
for the audio book of his novel Summer Snow.
As a long time fan of both comic books and syndicated
strips, so I knew about Ric O'Shay, the strip Lynde syndicated for 20 years
with Tribune Media Services beginning in 1958, and Latigo, his second strip that
began in 1979, when I wrote to him.I was less familiar with his prose and can now also
recommend his four book Merlin Fanshaw series.Healthy collections of both strips are available to sample
and they read as well as any full blown graphic novel you’ll pick up.
Today I’d like to talk about the fat volume that’s more than
simply a collection of strips. Rick O’Shay, Hipshot ,and Me is an illustrated
memoir with an introduction by Charlton Heston. It contains ten complete
stories from the syndicated strip, starring Ric—the Marshall of Conniption—gambler
Deuces Wilde, gunfighter Hipshot Percussion, dancehall girl (and future Mrs.
O’Shay) Gaye Abandon, Chief Horse’s Neck, and others.
Lynde carries us through the strip’s 20 years journey with
various anecdotes and observations, but it’s the visual evolution of his style,
and the strip’s tenor that is most fascinating.
Beginning as almost a slapstick parody of the 50s Western
genre (think F-Troop), the strip soon settles down into a series of more
traditional tales. Even as Lynde’s loose cartoon style coalesces into a
realistic rendering of adventure with moody inks and dynamic figures, the
stories he tells are infused with more sturdy dialog and underlying depths.
The best of the lot is 1974’s two-part Trackdown that tells
the story of young gun Billy Sinn and Red Rivers—an old gunny with an axe to
grind against Hipshot Percussion. Rivers and Sinn ride into Conniption and set
the gunfighter up by doctoring his ammo before calling him out. After laying
him low, they rob a bank and flee to Mexico with Marshal Rick O’Shay fast on
It’s a touching and poignant story told in deft strokes.
That so much can be conveyed with so little is Lynde’s trademark and Rick’s
moral dilemma, thrust on him by the Conniption town preacher, is clear in each
panel of his vendetta ride. How it ends is inevitable, and of course Hipshot
lives to fight another day—the friendship between the two men now solidified
more than ever.
Rick O’Shay, Hipshot, and Me is available at Amazon
and on eBay. Check it out.