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Chuck Norris laughs at this comic’s paucity of spinning heel kicks – Jace Pearson’s Tales of the Texas Rangers #11

May 10, 2012

There’s an entire generation out there that probably thinks all Texas Rangers (the law enforcement kind, not the baseball kind) know every manner of martial arts, and rarely have to resort to using their issued sidearms. That they’re nigh-superhuman, with hyper-masculine beards to go along with the de rigueur hat. That they’re all cut from the same Chuck Norris mold. Thanks, Walker, Texas Ranger. You’ve spoiled being a Ranger for all of them.

Mr. Norris’ Walker may have been the most recent and most famous TV Texas Ranger, but he was by no means the first. Jace Pearson, as played by Willard Parker (and seen on the photo cover above), patrolled the airwaves for several years in the latter half of the 1950s in Tales of the Texas Rangers. (The franchise had existed as a radio drama before that.) It combined the by the book morality of Jack Webb’s Dragnet with any of the million or so Western dramas of the day. The short-lived comic series, of which today’s issue was a part, was a standard-for-its-time companion to the show. In all the versions, Jace, often with his partner Clay at his side, would range over the wide open fields of Texas, battling crime as his horse-riding forbears had done before , just with a lot less Comanches threatening to ride in at any moment.

But he never kicked anyone in the face in a most spectacular manner. Which is a shame.

Ted Ushler provided art in this issue (as he did with the Davy Crockett one-shot profiled here last month), and while reading this story — the scripter is unknown, btw — I found myself thinking “this is a perfect time to spin in midair and nearly decapitate your foe, Jace” all too often. The propensity for cartoonish violence (to go along with the awkward drama) was one of the standout features of the improbably long-running Walker, and it also gave Conan O’Brien one of the best bits Late Night ever had. (Does he still have the Walker Lever on the TBS show? I guess he probably can’t because of rights issues. Oh well.) This kung fu cowboy silliness will cloud my views of the Rangers until the day I die. Likely that’s true for others.

There are three stories within this comic, and Jace matches the battle prowess of Walker to varying degrees in each. I’ll give you a brief look.

Here’s some scrubby convict, with his state issued jumpsuit and stubble, getting the drop on our hapless hero in the first tale:

Walker would have been the one shooting the gun out of a hand, methinks.

Here’s Jace getting a rock to the head:

Seems to me that a well-timed aerial sweep of a foot would have deflected that crude missile quite nicely.

Jace isn’t a complete milquetoast. A pansy check-cashing scheme in the second story proves more amenable to his ground-based brand of physicality:

I’ll say this for Jace: I don’t think Walker ever used a stack of soup cans to catch his man (or men.) So Jace gets points for this finale to the third of this issue’s entries:

Of course, he ruins it in the next panel by dropping an awful, awful pun:

HAW-HAW indeed.

There isn’t much to recommend this comic to a modern reader. The stories are plodding and unoriginal (the first two share a “twist” — the victim of a crime turns out to be a criminal himself) and the art, while at times offering clean views of sere, open Texas land (which evokes but doesn’t match the art in the Roy Rogers book reviewed here a long time ago), can’t overcome that. And there’s always that Walker nonsense in the back of your head. Chuck Norris may have spoiled all Texas Ranger properties for us forever. Jace, with his steely blue eyes, would not be happy.

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