Friday, June 9, 2017


About three years ago, I wrote about Wally Wood's CANNON comic strip, which was published by the Overseas Weekly some decades back. Wood also furnished two other strips to the Weekly back then: the very well-known SALLY FORTH, and the much more obscure SHATTUCK. Last year, Fantagraphics Books, who published the CANNON collection in 2014, issued a hardcover for SHATTUCK as well. I had enjoyed CANNON and SHATTUCK's price was right, so I went ahead and picked it up.

SHATTUCK is a western strip, and while the division of labor isn't perfectly spelled out, it seems that it was masterminded by Wood and produced by his studio: written by Nicola Cuti and drawn at various points by Howard Chaykin, Dave Cockrum, Syd Shores, and Jack Abel, with contributions from Wood himself as well.

The book's afterword notes that the story behind the strip's creation, and the people who worked on it, is probably of more interest and importance than the actual strip itself, and that may well be true. SHATTUCK isn't awful by any means; but it's not exactly groundbreaking, either. It tells the story of Merle Shattuck, an outlaw who kills the sheriff of a town called Sundown and then goes on the run.

As with CANNON, a major part of SHATTUCK's purpose was to keep our servicemen warm in their bunks at night. Shattuck frequents whorehouses everywhere he goes, and for about half of the strip's run, women lose their clothing left and right. It's not quite as contrived and gratuitous as in CANNON, though. At least here, given the places he hangs out, it makes sense for Shattuck to be surrounded by naked women. Cannon was a secret agent who frequently found himself partnered with arbitrarily topless women just because the strip needed topless women in it.

Then, somewhere around SHATTUCK's halfway point, the same odd thing happens that occurred in CANNON: the bare bosoms vanish entirely and the strip almost becomes more of a comedy/soap opera than the action/adventure serial it began as. If there was a way to tell exactly when these strips were published, I'd check them against CANNON and see if the sudden modesty and change in tone occurred at the same time, perhaps signaling a new editorial direction from Overseas Weekly for all of its content. But since the strips in both books are undated, I have no way to verify this.

SHATTUCK ends on a cliffhanger, just as it veers back into action territory with Shattuck on the run from a group of bandits who hold his love interest hostage. According to the afterword, Wood simply stopped production on the strip when he moved away from Long Island, where he had briefly resided during its run.

As I said, SHATTUCK's not bad; I find it to to be a mostly enjoyable breast-enhanced look at the Western genre (note that's "breast-enhanced", not "enhanced breasts" which are totally different things) -- but compared with CANNON, it's really kind of bland. That may be due to Wood's more hands-on involvement with the latter strip compared with his letting assistants handle this one. On top of that, compared with some of the more mainstream action/adventure strips I've looked at, SHATTUCK iss really not that good at all.

Oh, and then there's this:

This girl is a call girl who was sent upstairs by her madame to check on Shttuck when he slept in. Now, I'll note that the story makes it clear she was interested in him from the start, and I think she's supposed to be joking here, but holy cow. I'm really speechless.

One final note: This book is reprinted as a facsimile of the original art boards, in the same fashion as IDW's "Artist Edition" books. I have no problem with this at all, though it caught me by surprise when I received the book and it took a little getting used to as I read the thing. CANNON was entirely black-and-white throughout, reprinting the original strips as they were published. SHATTUCK, meanwhile has paste-ups, White-Out corrections, etc. plainly visible in the artwork.* The Amazon listing for the book says nothing about this (and also shows the wrong cover), so I wanted to mention it so anyone interested in the book knows what they're going to wind up with.

Available from Amazon

* A lot of breasts were corrected/redrawn over the course of this strip. I, for one, greatly appreciate the dedication of the artistic team to their pursuit of excellence in this realm.

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