Saturday, June 18, 2022

Weird Western Tales #48 "Slaveboat"

 Weird Western Tales #48 Sept/Oct 1978 

Gerry Conway, story - Dick Ayers & George Evans, art - James Sherman & Dick Giordano, cover

Wednesday, April 23rd, 1862. New Orleans, Louisiana.

Scalphunter has been captured by Reginald Ashe and is bound in chains aboard the slaveboat (hence the title) Swanee Dawn. The slave master is whipping Scalphunter, berating him for being a white man in warpaint making him a savage. Scalphunter grabs the end of the whip and jerks the slave master down into the hold. Even in chains Scalphunter is a force of nature and he quickly cracks the man's neck. (notice how I didn't make any mention of the word 'Cracker'? Such restraint!)

  The slaves are worried what will become of them once this is discovered. Scalphunter says that together they can free themselves.

  We see that Mademoiselle Magarit is speaking with Reginald Ashe aboard ship. She warns him about keeping Scalphunter on board but Ashe is having none of it. He has paid for Magarit's girls to be on board and he expects them to be more 'friendly'. She reminds him that this was all her plan and he plants a big wet smacker on her. They are interrupted by General St. Samuels.

  The two men retire to Ashe's quarters where the General reveals that his spies downriver that Admiral Farragut has breached the the Confederate blockade of the Mississippi and that Farragut is planning on getting past the two Confederate forts guarding New Orleans and will land troops before dawn. He says they have to cast off immediately in order to get the slaves delivered else they shall have to kill them all. Ashe says he'll get the ship underway, but what could possibly go wrong. 

  On shore we see a dark hooded figure slide from the wharf into the water and make their way on board the Swanee Dawn. The figure slips into the stateroom of Mademoiselle Magarit and reveals himself to be Wakwame!!! Wakwame explains that he knows places on the body where a knife can go that will cause no serious injury. He managed to position himself at the right time so that Scalphunter's thrust did not cause death and that his 'death' was merely an illusion of magic. Since Ashe's men thought him dead, they tossed him aside and ignored him.

  Shortly thereafter, the Swanee Dawn casts off and makes its way north. Down in the hold we learn that the slaves have freed themselves from being chained to the ship, though they still have chains on their hands (it is unknown how they actually did it). They make their way through back passages in the hold, finding a concealed door. Scalphunter slowly opens the door and knocks out the guard that was napping on the other side. Scalphunter tells the slaves they now have a knife and a gun and fire but the slaves say that without the key to the shackles, they are unable to swim to shore. Scalphunter assures them he knows who holds the key...Reginald Ashe!

  A dozen miles downriver at Fort Jackson, lookouts realize that the U.S.S. Hartford, Brooklyn and Varuna are slipping past the fort. The alarm is sounded and the fort opens fire upon the ships. However, the ships are able make their way past the fort at 03:40, making their way to New Orleans.

  Back on the Swanee Dawn, the door to the bridge opens and Scalphunter grabs Ashe by the throat, dragging him out. Scalphunter demands the key to the shackles and Ashe tosses the key down to the slaves on deck. Scalphunter then demands to know what happened to Samantha Savage. She said she loved Ashe and was going to be his wife. Ashe says he sent her east to Atlanta. He says Samantha wanted to be married but not to him, so he had Mademoiselle Magarit take Samantha to a business partner of the Madam. Scalphunter asked if Samantha worked for Mademoiselle Magarit and Ashe starts to say she was the most promising...BAM! Scalphunter knocks him out cold.

  Scalphunter tells the slaves that he needs to find Mademoiselle Magarit and the slaves proceed to take over the Swanee Dawn. Scalphunter battles Confederate guards, searching for the woman and the ship is now engulfed in flame. Scalphunter grabs Ashe once again, demanding to know where his quarry is. In a fit of rage, Scalphunter grabs Ashe and pushes both of them over the railing into the Mississippi. 

The General and others on board attempt to follow suit but find themselves entangled in chains that formerly bound their cargo. Enmeshed in the iron, everyone on board is dragged to the bottom of the river.

On the shore, Reginald Ashe is horrified at the carnage and death but Scalphunter demands to know where his sister in located in Atlanta. Ashe says she is with a woman named Maxwell but he doesn't know the address. Scalphunter turns to leave into the dark as Ashe swears he will pay for what he has done to Ashe.

 That day, at an undisclosed location, Mademoiselle Magarit is riding is a carriage driven by Wakwame. Mademoiselle Magarit says they were very fortunate to have left the Swanee Dawn prior to its departure and Wakwame says he only wants to find his brothers in Atlanta. She says that will be no trouble because they are being hidden by a woman named Maxwell.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - Wow, this one is tough. We see Scalphunter kill four guards but we can't really count the entire passenger list of the boat on him since the fire was started from 'spilled torches'. Were these caused by the slaves rioting? The shelling from the Union boats? I'm gonna keep it at four but it's probably a lot more
Running Total - 91
Compared to Jonah Hex- Ten appearances in and Scalp has 91 vs Jonah's 56
Scalps Taken - 0
Running Total- 14
Injuries - Whipped. 
Timeline - One day, Wednesday, April 23rd, 1862.

I enjoyed this one. More intrigue with Mademoiselle Magarit, Wakwame returns and an entire boatload of Confederates get an ironic death, and Scalphunter gets one step closer to finding his sister. This issue was part of the DC Explosion and had an 8 page backup introducing Cinnamon, a character that started off wonderfully but.... timelines and all that. I'll be giving her separate posts because I think there was a lot of potential there

Next Issue: A rocky train ride and nobody judges another man's Charity.


Anonymous said...

When are you going to continue with Jonah Hex?

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I have another Scalphunter scheduled for next week and I plan on resuming Jonah Hex next week as well.

Thanks for stopping by.