RIC O'SHAY, 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 encouragement.
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 their heels.
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.