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.
“The Ghost of Silver City” in Kid Colt, Outlaw
#102 (1962) has the Kid once again exposing a fake ghost; this time it’s the outlaw Johnny Ringo who fakes his own death in a plot to frame the Kid for his murder.
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.
In “”The Giant Monster of Midnight Valley”, a gigantic telepathic and telekinetic alien creature is castaway in the old west after its spaceship crash-lands on Earth. The Kid encounters the alien and decides to help him return to his planet. When the posse chasing them tries to shoot the monster the Kid takes a bullet for him. Moved by Kid Colt’s sacrifice, the alien uses a special lotion to bring him back to life. Just as the posse is moving in, a rescue party from the alien’s planet arrives and takes him away, but not before erasing the events from the minds of the posse and the Kid.
Now, the kicker: The alien is so impressed with the daring-do of Kid Colt, he can’t abide that the Kid’s fellow humans will never know about his brave act. So, nearly a century later, the alien visits the office of a comic book writer named Stan Lee and gives him the story so he can tell it in the pages of Kid Colt, Outlaw.
Update: Somehow, I neglected a June, 1961 issue of Kid Colt‘s sister title Rawhide Kid. I have no knowledge of what the story entails but the cover is definitely in the realm of weird western. Without further comment, here is the cover of The Rawhide Kid #22: