Until I took the time to research the entirety of Marvel titles from 1961, I would have given DC credit for inventing the “weird western” genre in the early 1970s with characters like Jonah Hex and the Scalphunter. I now think that honor should go to Stan Lee, Jack Keller and Jack Kirby for several stories and covers produced between 1960 and 1962.
Kid Colt was no stranger to the “apparently” weird. In a 1949 story entitled “Curse of the Chinese Idol” (Wild Western #7) Earnie Hart and Russ Heath spun a tale about an object that brings death to all who come in contact with it. Kid Colt investigates and exposes it as a hoax.
This type of “explainable” weird western plot was also used by Lee and Keller in Kid Colt, Outlaw numbers 93, 100, and 102. Kirby (who was mostly penciling monsters at this time) provided the cover art.
“The Ghost of Midnight Mountain” in Kid Colt, Outlaw #93 (1960) is resolved with the Kid exposing the “ghosts” as cloaked members of the Caleb gang. There is, however, a slight “wink” at the end as the gang appears to be frozen stiff by a real ghost.
“When the Witch Doctor Strikes” was the cover story of Kid Colt, Outlaw #100 (1961). The Kirby cover shows the Kid being forced down a gauntlet of crazed Indians only to face a devil-like Warloo. Warloo is soon exposed to be the work of a stage magician named Rack Morgan and a Comanche usurper called Black Feather.
Finally, in Kid Colt, Outlaw #107 (1962) we see the true birth of the weird western as Lee, Keller and Kirby jump the shark with a tale called “The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”. This one has an honest-to-goodness monster from another planet! Kid Colt readers may have been too jaded to suspend their disbelief in ghosts, but green men from outer space were still within the realm of comic book reality, coming on the heels of a Skrull invasion in Fantastic Four #2.