Friday, September 25, 2020


The Whitman Maverick TV tie-in was written by Charles I. Coombs, a young-adult author of both fiction and nonfiction. Most notably: Sabre Jet Ace, the story of a Korean jet pilot. Along with a full court press of teen-age sports stories and blood-churning adventure tales, Coombs is responsible for Whitman’s Big Little TV tie-in with Disney’s Andy Burnett.
Along with its solid scribe, the Whitman Maverick title is collectible for the energetic interior illustration, rendered by none other than comic book legend Alex Toth. Those familiar with him will immediately recognize his expressionistic line work, so common to the dozens of western comics he produced during the same era.
For this story, Brett Maverick arrives on the scene outside the small town of Red Bluff, Wyoming as nothing more than a wandering drover, thirsty and looking for work. Wearing Levi’s and toting a gun, not only is he not the black-clad dandy we know from the TV show, he doesn’t lift a card in the entire story. This tale of a cowpoke who returns to his old home to reclaim a ranch with the help of the original owner’s daughter and trusty hired hands is a well-worn and overly familiar trope. When Maverick becomes the new Boss of the Rocking H, you might suspect suspect Coombs adapted a Western manuscript he had laying around and applied it to the assignment. One paragraph makes reference to brother Bart, describing the siblings as men who roamed the West as Indian fighters, scouts, cow hands and jacks of all trades. Notably not gamblers.

Like other Whitman tie-ins, the American version is simply titled after the TV show, Maverick. But in Great Britain, the Whitman hardbacks were a little different. Have Gun Will Travel, for example, is given the British subtitle, Perilous Journey.

Maverick is called Boss of the Rocking-H and sports a dust-jacket that includes Jack Kelly on the cover.

Believe it or not there was also a Little Golden Book Maverick tale. Many of Whitman’s licensed western TV tie-in novels—which I’ve always felt were aimed at teens or perhaps what is referred to as tweens today—were also licensed to Little Golden books for the pre-teen crowd. Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, and others all had appearances in Little Golden Books and are considered highly prized collectibles today.

The Maverick entry was written by Carl Melming and illustrated by John Leone. It’s a simple story of Maverick foiling a stagecoach robbery and saving the life savings of a father and his young son, Jerry, who are on their way to buy a ranch. At their invitation, Maverick later arrives at their ranch in time to save Jerry and his new horse from a rock slide. Leone’s art really helps the cause as he captures the image of Garner in the role, which helps sell the story.

There was also a series of nineteen Maverick comics from Dell publishing. Drawn by Dan Spiegle, the comics eventually featured all of the various Mavericks. Spiegle, however, had met James Garner at the studio before the first Maverick comic was drawn and subsequently only Garner as Brett Maverick was featured in the first few issues. Spiegle and Garner became friends, so Spiegle put extra effort into capturing the likeness of the actor when drawing the comic books. However, his depictions of the other Mavericks—Jack Kelly as Bart, Roger Moore as Beau, and Robert Colbert as Brent (who was inaccurately referred to as Bret in the comic book version) bore practically no resemblance to the actual actors.

1 comment:

  1. The photo of the British version of the Whitman Maverick book 'Boss of the Rocking H' has been removed at the request of the photographer...