Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Weird Western Tales #47 "City of Shame!"

Weird Western Tales #47 Jul/Aug 1978 
"City of Shame!"
Gerry Conway, story - Dick Ayers & George Evans, art - George Evans, cover

Tuesday, April 22nd, 1862. New Orleans, Louisiana.

In the French Quarter, after a harsh rain, we find Scalphunter slipping in the muddy streets, almost falling under the thundering hooves of a horse drawn carriage. He goes flying face-first into the mud, much to the enjoyment of the onlookers. Scalphunter stands, snarling and one by one, the crowd quietly disperses, all except for one woman, herself an object of disrespect and scorn by many.

  She steps forward and introduces herself as Mademoiselle Magarit. She offers her 'house' to Scalphunter so that he may bathe and she will have his clothes cleaned.

  After his bath, several of Magarit's 'girls' are admiring Brian's chiseled form. Magarit apologizes for not being able to remove the bear smell from Scalphunter's coat but he replies that the bear had much medicine and he is proud to carry the scent. Magarit asks his business and he replies, walking out the door, that he seeks Reginald Ashe. As he leaves, Magarit calls over Judith and gives her a secret task.

  Not long after, Scalphunter finds himself at the docks in front of the Swanee Dawn where he witnesses a slave owner getting ready to whip a female slave. Without thinking, Scalphunter draws his knife and advances but is quickly stopped by Wakwame. Wakwame warns Scalphunter that he can't help the woman by interfering, he must stay silent and come with him. As they leave, Wakwame explains that he is about to use his Shaman medicines to help free his African brothers. Scalphunter acknowledges that Wakwame once saved his life and is willing to help.

  Sadly, they are deep in conversation and do not see the two Confederate soldiers approach them and start taunting them. Something snaps inside Brian and he lunges, tackling one of the soldiers. Wakwame throws a knife into the neck of the other soldier as Scalphunter quietly snaps the neck of the man he holds down. Brian then scalps the man and the two leave to continue their plans elsewhere.

  Later than night, at Magarit's house, she is entertaining Reginald Ashe and Confederate General St. Samuels. She explains about Scalphunter looking for Ashe and she fears he may upset their plans. Ashe tells them there is nothing anyone can do, the Swanee Dawn will sail upriver tomorrow and that is that. The General rants that Ashe doesn't have a grasp of the situation. Farragut is about to capture New Orleans and even now is outside Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. Ashe tries to ease St. Samuels fears and states that he has to leave for his mother's birthday party. He gives Magarit a deep kiss and leaves. Samuels puts forth "That man will doom us all."

  A mile northeast of the city, deep in the swamps, Scalphunter and Wakwame talk around a fire. Scalphunter tells of his search for his sister, Samantha, and how he learned she was in New Orleans. The trail has lead to Reginald Ashe. Wakwame also explains that his quest leads to Ashe due to a vision he received last month. Wakwame has learned where Ashe lives and they will go there tonight.

  Later, under cover of darkness, Scalphunter easily overcomes the wall surrounding Ashe's plantation. He dispatches a guard via quick use of a club and then enters the mansion, knife drawn. There is a large party taking place and Scalphunter makes his way to Ashe's office. Once there, he searches through Ashe's desk and finds a daguerrotype, more recent than the one he carries, but obviously it is Samantha. Just then a voice from the doorway reveals that Scalphunter has been discovered.

  Reginald Ashe stands there with two Confederate guards, gloating of how they captured Wakwame and how he will kill him and Scalphunter. The guards open fire as Scalphunter dives to the floor, rolling under a couch. He picks up the couch, using it as a shield, rushing the two guards. An unseen third guard comes from behind and knocks Scalphunter out.

  Some time later, Scalphunter regains consciousness and he finds himself in a ring surrounding by a roaring crowd. Lit by torches, the ring is one for battle. In the sand before him is a knife and across the ring is Wakwame, already armed. Ashe explains that the two captives are to battle to the death for the pleasure of his friends. Scalphunter refuses but Ashe explains that he will shoot all of the slaves unless the battle takes place. Wakwame whispers to Scalphunter that they have no choice and he rushes at Scalphunter. 

  The fight ensues, during which Wakwame reminding Scalphunter that the African is a man of medicine, medicine of Africa, or Kiowa and even of voodoo. Even though Wakwame may be cut, may bleed, may even die, he cannot be defeated. The pitched battle continues for half an hour until Wakwame moves into position and Scalphunter drives his knife home. The African shaman slumps to the sand, thanking Scalphunter, exhorting him to free the slaves until Wakwame returns.

  Scalphunter watches his friend fall to the sand, he turns and rushes towards the nearest guard, but the butt of a rifle comes down upon his skull, once more thrusting him into darkness. When he awakens, he is bound in chains upon the Swanee Dawn along with a boatload of slaves, Reginald Ashe standing before him, gloating at the Kiowas fate.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - One wharf guard and Wakwame
Running Total - 87
Compared to Jonah Hex- Nine appearances in and Scalp has 87 vs Jonah's 39
Scalps Taken - 2
Running Total- 14
Injuries - Knocked out twice. 
Timeline - One day, April 22nd, 1862.

A nice issue with a reappearance of Wakwame from issue 41 from the year prior. Just one major problem... dates. Surprised? Issue 41, written by Michael Fleisher, took place in Summer, 1862 and once Gerry Conway took the reins, two issues ago, he placed us firmly in March, 1862. So, I'm calling an audible and saying that since there is nothing in issue 41 tying it historically to 1862, I'm gonna say Scalphunter and Wakwame first met in 1861. I like Wakwame as a character and how he is his somewhat appalled at Scalphunter taking scalps.

I enjoy that they are putting Sclaphunter in actual history in a believable timeline. He was last seen in St. Louis in March and now we're in New Orleans in the end of April. A nice amount of time to cover that distance. 

Next Issue: Scalphunter finds himself up the river without a paddle, and Matching Dragoons takes the Cinnamon Challenge!

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