Saturday, March 8, 2014

RIO

I just finished reading RIO by Doug Wildey, a graphic novel published by Comico in June 1987. The entire package, story, art, everything is by Wildey who was one helluva storyteller. Wildey (May 2, 1922-October 5, 1994) was perhaps best known as the co-creator of the legendary animated television series JONNY QUEST in 1964. If he had done nothing else in his career, that feat alone would earn Doug Wildey a measure of immortality.

But Wildey was a terrific comic book artist whose work appeared all too infrequently over the years. He excelled at drawing westerns and RIO stands as his magnum opus. The graphic novel is told in three chapters and the story finds former gunslinger and outlaw Rio working for President U.S. Grant to stop the indiscriminate slaughter of buffalo by "hunters" sitting in passing locomotives. Rio gets crosswise with a wealthy railroad baron and is framed for murder after which he strikes out after the gunman who set him up. Rio crosses the trail of a cavalry troop led by an insane commander before finally finding his man in a lawless Mexican town just south of the border.

While reading RIO, I kept thinking that this material would make a terrific film starring either James Stewart, Randolph Scott or Clint Eastwood (take your pick). I also thought that Wildey's art at various times slightly resembles the work of Al Williamson, Gray Morrow and Jim Aparo. But make no mistake. Wildey was a true original, a vastly underrated comic writer and artist who was at the peak of his career with RIO. Highest recommendation.

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