I’m a big fan of Dell’s Lone Ranger series. Apparently so were a lot of people during the late 40s and into the 50s. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery – the Lone Ranger was flattered greatly. The rash of Lone Ranger imitators forces one to rephrase the question as “Who were those masked men”?.
In 1951, Ajax-Farrell introduced the Lone Rider. I’m not sure if there is a technical difference between a Ranger and a Rider, but at least his overall look was quite different. He wore head to toe blueish-black, or is that blackish-blue and a full face mask reminiscent of the Golden Age hero, the Clock. He had a decent run, lasting 17 issues until 1954. Swift Arrow, who ran as a back-up here.
The Masked Ranger was Premier Magazines’ addition to the Lone Ranger rip-off parade. He looks astonishingly similar to the earlier pre-TV red-shirt version of the Lone Ranger. As if one carbon copy wasn’t enough, this series also featured a character named the Crimson Avenger. It ran for a mere 9 issues, as Premier was a 3rd tier publisher. It did feature some nice covers, though.
If you take the Lone Rider and add the Masked Ranger and remove any originality, you get the Masked Raider. Actually, that’s not totally fair as the Masked Raider was accompanied by a giant eagle named Talon. Other than that, it is a pure Lone Ranger rip-off, right down to using the mask as background for the title logo. This series was fairly successful (in its three iterations), and it lasted 40+ issues well into the 60s. Some of the stories were reprinted in the Charlton series Gunfighters in the early 80s. I have to wonder if this was initially either a Fawcett or Ziff-Davis creation, as the first issue featured a nice painted cover – not something normally associated with Charlton.
One of the very earliest Lone Ranger clone was also one of the shortest-lived. As superheroes waned in the late 40s, Standard-Nedor introduced a variety of jungle and western themed characters, including Rick Howard, the Mystery Rider in Exciting Comics. Yes, that is perhaps the lamest cowboy name ever. He also wears a red shirt like the Lone Ranger but at least his hat and scarf are different colors. He is really nothing more than the Black Terror on a horse.
Like many Atlas-Marvel western characters, the Black Rider churned through several costumes and series. He started out with the scarf look (a la Vigilante), but he went with the full face mask (much like Lone Rider). Just before the Atlas Implosion, a new Black Rider series was launched with him wearing a small domino mask, much more like the Lone Ranger. This series lasted a single issue, so we’ll never know if he planned on keeping this look for a long time.
There were other masked cowboys over the years, including the hilariously retconned Two-Gun Kid, but that's story for another day.
If you want to waste more time on comic book chatter, check out my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent