Comanche volume 3: The Wolves of Wyoming


By Hermann & Greg, translated by Montana Kane (Europe Comics)
No ISBN. Digital only edition

Welcome to another Wild West Wednesday with a self-indulgent peek at a favourite book I first saw way back in the 1980s, crafted by two Belgian masters of graphic narrative.

Michel Régnier was born in 1931 in Ixelles. The cartoonist, writer, editor and publisher sold his first series – Les Aventures de Nestor et Boniface – at age 16 to Belgian magazine Vers l’Avenir and – calling himself “Greg” – followed up over many decades with legendary strips such as Luc Orient, Bruno Brazil, Bernard Prince and Achille Talon in Héroic Albums, Le Journal de Spirou (scripting the title feature amongst many others), Paddy and Le Journal de Tintin (which he edited from 1966-1974). One of his new finds on Spirou during this period was an artist named Hermann Huppen…

Greg is estimated to have worked as writer or artist on more than 250 strip albums during his career. He died in 1999, leaving behind an astounding and beautiful legacy of drama and adventure crying out for revisiting in English…

Hermann Huppen entered the world on July 17th 1938 in what’s now the Malmedy region of Liège Province. He studied to become an interior architect and furniture maker but was thankfully swayed and diverted by comics. His narrative career began in 1963, but really took off three years later when he joined with writer Greg to create cop series Bernard Prince for Le Journal de Tintin. The artist then added to his weekly chores with Roman adventure serial Jugurtha (scripted by Jean-Luc Vernal).

In 1969, Hermann expanded his portfolio further, adding Greg-penned western Comanche to his seamlessly stunning output. At this time Charlier & Jean Giraud’s epic Blueberry was reaching its peak of excellence…

Bernard Prince and Comanche made Hermann an industry superstar – a status built upon with further classics such as The Towers of Bois-Maury, Sarajevo-Tango, Station 16 and many more (I estimate upwards of 24 separate series and a total north of 94 albums, but I’m probably short-changing the man).

In 1978 Hermann bravely dropped guaranteed money-spinner Bernard Prince to create as (writer and illustrator) Jeremiah but he stayed with Comanche until 1982 (10 albums in total) because of his abiding love for western-themed yarns.

Thanks to digital-only publishing commune Europe Comics, it’s easy to see why in this third translated volume of the sprawling cowboy epic starring no-longer wandering gunslinger Red Dust and his growing band of friends at the Triple 6 ranch. The taciturn hombre has found a home – if not peace and quiet – after joining a most unlikely string of comradely outcasts on a struggling cattle-spread in Wyoming

The heart of the ranch crew are crotchety ancient pioneer Ten Gallons and the new owner he dotes upon: a young, immensely determined woman called Comanche

Comprised of linked weekly episodes, and originally published in 1974, The Wolves of Wyoming sees our quotidian, ever-expanding cast embroiled in a classic cinematic scenario that begins with a stagecoach hurtling over dusty plains with ruthless bandits slinging lead in hot pursuit.

Doughty driver Sid Bullock is hit, but the lone passenger is more than holding his own with a sixgun, and when Triple 6 ranch-hands Toby and Clem intercept the chase, the predatory Dobbs Brothers peel off and flee…

Diverting to the homestead, the party formally meet self-confessed lay preacher Brian Braggshaw; a notorious former gunslinger with an extremely unforgiving attitude to sin and sinners and who takes an instant dislike – fully reciprocated – to Red…

As Ten Gallons doctors Bullock, Comanche learns that the Dobbs were after a cash shipment to the Ranchers Union – money Greenstone Falls depends on. The gang have bled the town dry with their recent raids. It’s like they have an inside man informing them of key shipments…

Compounding the problem is that fact that wily Sid actually diverted the latest money: carrying an empty decoy strongbox while legendary old drunk Pharoah Colorado carried the cash by a circuitous route. It’s a cunning, brilliant plan that only falls short on one point. Finishing his booze early, Colorado has been forced to make a detour, visiting local moonshine maker Trapper Hans even as the Triple 6 hands split up into search parties to find the leathery soak and precious funds…

Covering many potential routes, they are being secretly observed. The Dobbs are mostly cruel brutes, but oldest Dobbs brother Russ is as smart as he is sadistic and quickly deduces what the ranchers are hunting for: money he feels is his by right.

Red has been paired with the vengeance-happy Braggshaw, and their heated debates over morality bring them close to blows. It’s not enough to stop the preacher killing Melvin Dobbs when he tries bushwhacking them, and as they backtrack to the gang’s cabin, they observe the entire clan riding off. Investigating the cabin, Red finds missing Indian Affairs Commissioner Howard Calhoun, who embezzled funds and almost sparked a war. His cunning hideaway amongst the Dobbs Boys has clearly proved there’s no honour among thieves, and their treatment of their criminal “comrade” has resulted in what can only be regarded as divine justice…

Russ meanwhile has gathered the clan to scour the region, whilst Red has made a few deductions of his own. Trapper Hans’ sturdy shack is the only place to find booze in the Wyoming wilds so he and Braggshaw head there. As night falls, Comanche and Toby are already there, preparing to fight for their lives against the besieging Dobbs gang.

As the bloodshed begins, the rest of the Triple 6 men converge on the scene. With battle joined it’s not long before a hero dies and the gang turn tail. In the aftermath, Red Dust rides off, having embraced the Preacher’s unforgiving doctrine and now determined to destroy all the “wolves of Wyoming”…

To Be Continued…

A classic saga of the filmic western genre, this yarn is drenched in European style and ingenuity, elevating it above the unreconstructed mire, uncomfortable associations and unsavoury tropes that make even venerated old movies an uncomfortable experience for most of us in these enlightened days.

It’s also so beautifully depicted, the images will stay with you forever…

A splendid confection of the Wild West blended with sleek yet gritty European style, this is a timeless treat comics fans and movie lovers will adore. Don’t miss one of the most celebrated comics cowboys of all time…
© 2017 – LE LOMBARD – HERMANN & GREG. All rights reserved.