Comic Book Review: Classic Western – The Thundering Herd, by Zane Grey!

comics the thundering herdAn old Dell Comic Book: Zane Grey’s The Thundering Herd, based on the novel of the same name. Dell Comics often did book and film adaptations throughout the 1940s through the 1960s. Most stories are watered-down for the kiddies and this one is no exception, though quite interesting. The art is fair for its time.

Three Stars (outta five!) :

I wrote this one a couple of years ago. Enjoy:

The Thundering Herd is a decent adaptation of the Zane Grey story.

Dell Comics didn’t wear the “Comics Code Authority” seal, soon after Congress and others accused comics companies of contributing to juvenile delinquency, since their comics were “good comics.”

And it’s true. Their four-color issues were fun to read and dealt with wholesomeness but also tended to sugar-coat the realities of life as here on the open prairies.

The Kindle version starts out with a nice painted cover of a cowboy as he tries not to fall off his white horse as it rides atop a fierce bison buffalo. Quite a dramatic cover to convince any 10 year old boy to pull out that dime and get some Western stories.

The Kindle version has a Wiki article on Zane Grey (which obviously was not on the original comic book), giving the reader some background on Zane, such as his rough childhood and depression as he carved out a writing career.

The Dell comic tries to do this too in comic-strip form, but sugar-coats it. Family is supportive and people who rejected his stories are looked on as crazy editors, quite a stretch from the Wiki story. Zane was a dentist and soon gave it up for the Wild West, and with the help of his wife who organized things, he became a successful writer, if a pretty bad, neglectful husband.

Stories and Plots:

The first story is the bio of Zane Grey himself, with the modest title, “King of the Westerns.” Zane is seen as writing the Lone Star Ranger (later the Lone Ranger!), and his story’s impact in the movies, novels and on radio. In 1939 “he came to the end of the trail” but his legacy lives on, etc., etc. Art is not bad. Writing tends to be a bit over the top.

Title page has a cool article on the Sequoia Tree, where you can ride a whole Wells Fargo coach through it!

Main Story: The Thundering Herd stars Tom Doan, who hooks up with some guys who want to go out buffalo hunting. To the modern reader, the hundreds of buffalo mercilessly shot down by rifles, with their meat wasted and hides stretched to sell at market might be a bit much, but that was apparently how things were in the Old West. The Indians are looked at as hostile savages. The women, supporting their men.

One such woman meets Tom and they immediately take a liking to each other, but she has a mean father in law and she’s not “of age.” Good dynamic tension here, though hackneyed in its execution.

The art is stiff but shows good action between man and horse and buffalo. Enjoyed the close-up panels with action and excitement. Some panels take up the entire middle of the page as Tom rides hard through a herd.

A few tear-jerkers as Tom thinks Milly Fayre is dead after an Indian raid. This girl is tough to kill as she uses a herd of buffalo to disguise her escape from Indians. Yeow!


Written Story:

Some sections of the comic are pure story text without much illustration. This one was about young Jim Harkness who gets his first rifle. His dad is proud of him. Jim runs into a bear and then things start happening. It’s one page, and gives some decent pointers on power and responsibility.

“True Western Adventures”, about Jesse James’ gang trying to hold up a bank, and a particularly plucky banker who won’t let them do it. It’s great how the town gets together and starts shooting at Jesse and the gang shoots back, yet not ONE person gets killed by a bullet. Bad shots! At the story end, Dell Comics encourages the kids to read another Zane story, “The Trail Driver.” I just might, but it may cost more than the ten cent cover price!

A cute article about the modern cowboy “At Work, At Play.” Nice picture of a mesa and a cowboy looking out on the prairie, as we learn of the attitudes and hard work the cowboy enjoys.

Finally a cute article from Wrigley Juicy Fruit Gum (keeps your teeth clean, kids). Dopey Dan rides his bike recklessly and doesn’t obey traffic rules. Safety Sam though always does these things. Which do you think Wrigley’s wants you do be? There are no morality articles in today’s comics, unfortunately.

Kindle Quirks: You can just slide your finger across your Kindle to “turn” the pages, but it’s hard to read. I tap on the screen twice to enlarge the page, read it, then tap again to activate the slider. The slider doesn’t work when the page is in “enlarge” mode.

Bottom Line:

Interesting history of the West, with one of the more prolific writers of westerns, Zane Grey. The stories are fair, which is too bad. I’m sure the actual novels are richer in description and characterization. The morality plays in the comic are heartening though it’s way too bad today’s comics don’t do this.

KINDLE Version on

What Is Dell Comics?  [Video]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s