Tex Arcana

By John Findley (Catalan Communications)
ISBN: 0-87416-036-7

One of the best comedy/horror westerns (not, admittedly, a vast field of creative endeavour) of the last fifty years, Findley’s quirky masterpiece of gory, saucy, tongue-in-cheek eccentricity delves into the same rich vein (oh, what a card am I!) as Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires (1967 retitled The Fearless Vampire Killers) and the so-bad-it’s-good Captain Kronus (a rare Brian Clemens turkey from 1974) as well as the immortal Mel Brook’s gem Blazing Saddles in this sagebrush saga of the little town of Hangman’s Corners and the extraordinary things that keep happening there.

Narrated in venerable EC style by the Old Claim-Jumper this slightly abridged volume from 1987 collects the strip which ran in Heavy Metal magazine between March 1981 to 1986 and recounts how a vampire in the thrall of demons attacks the town and how they are all saved by the mysterious lone rider known as Tex Arcana – although most of the work is done by his eerie and ethereal paramour “the Woman in White”. Also included is the short mystery ‘The Amazin’ Case o’ th’ Disappearin’ Chickens’ in which two unprepossessing and ineffectual demons Sweaz and Herp solve the perplexing riddle of why the territory’s biggest chicken rancher loses five head of prime fowl at every full moon…

Findley’s writing is deliciously wacky, full of mock-heroic hyperbole, as he diddles with the icons of the genre whilst his astoundingly rendered fine-line-and-hatching style of drawing – meticulous to the point of mania – is completely mesmerising. This guy can really move a pencil and he doesn’t know how to take short-cuts!

Even after the series was dropped from Heavy Metal Findley kept on working and the eerie epic continues to this day online (http://www.texarcana.com/). In 2006 BookSurge published a 282 page compilation (Tex Arcana: a Saga of the Old West, ISBN: 978-1-41964-632-4) which collected everything to date, but I’ve gone with this 72 page, oversized edition because the reproduction on the new edition is reportedly not everything it could be, and also because I haven’t got hold of a copy of the new book yet. When I do I’ll report back to you…

A little spooky, a lot funny, incredibly realized: whichever version you plump for, doesn’t this sound like your kind of thing..?

© 1987 John Findley and Catalan Communications. All Rights Reserved.