Kit Carson – a real life American frontiersman who has enjoyed several comic incarnations across the globe, including Britain – had his own digest in Australia in 1949, whose success was partly what inspired AP to start digest comics in the UK in 1950.
He alternated with Buck Jones in the early issues of AP’s Cowboy Comic digest from a couple of weeks before Eagle premiered in April 1950 and continued on when the comic changed title to Cowboy Picture Library with Issue 205 in 1957, to be in one of the last issues in 1962.
Seven Kit Carson annuals were also published and the character also featured in AP’s weeklies. Artists who drew the character included Geoff Campion, Joe Colquhoun, Gerry Embleton, Ian Kennedy, Graham Coton and Spanish artists such as Giorgio De Gaspari and Emilio Frejo.
Cowboy Comics were first published in Australia and New Zealand in the normal US comic book format in the 1940s as a series of episodic strips based on wild-west heroes (Steve Holland documented the original Cowboy Comic titles published in Australia here on Bear Alley).
The Classic Comic Store, which has a short feature on Cowboy Picture Library, notes two editors of Amalgamated Press, Edward Holmes and Leonard Matthews, saw the opportunity to lift this artwork and the completed stories and produce them for the British market but with a limited range of printing options available to them at the time they settled on the small, pocket book size digest format – which only Commando utilises today.
The first Cowboy Comics issue was published in April 1950 entitled “Buck Jones, The Fighting Sheriff”and cost 7 pence, featuring the popular cowboy film star of the 1920s and ‘30s who was killed in a horrific night club fire in Boston in 1942.
Both Buck Jones and Kit Carson were familiar to comics readers through the pages of Amalgamated Press’ Knockout and Comet comics and became the mainstays of the Cowboy Comics/Cowboy Picture Library series, which ceased publication in 1962.
Thirteen Cowboy Picture Library stories were re-published in High Noon: Wild West Picture Library by Prion Books in 2008, edited by Steve Holland, which included “Kit Carson and the Man Who Hated Redskins” (reprinted from Issue 353, May 1960) and “Kit Carson and the Cheyenne War” (Issue 389, Feb 1961) drawn by Jesus Blasco, and “Kit Carson – Indian Tamer” (Issue 349, Apr 1960), drawn by Gerry Embleton.
• Published in 2010, Thriller Libraries Volume Two, the second of three volumes by David Ashford and Steve Holland chronicling the full credits of all Fleetway Picture Libraries, contains a complete index of artists and writers for Thriller Picture Library, Cowboy Picture Library and Super Detective Library and includes every cover of every comic, as well as reproductions of cover and interior original art
With thanks to Jeremy Briggs | Cowboy Picture Library © IPC/Time Inc. UK