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Annie Oakley and the phallic implications of an itty bitty bullet – Annie Oakley and Tagg #8

September 1, 2012

Sometimes a bullet is just a bullet. And sometimes it’s a little tiny baby carrot of a weewee held by a bemused gun-toting heroine. So Freud, what’s one to make of this?

I confess to being no great aficionado of Annie Oakley, either the real or fictional make. Or comic book Westerns, for that matter. But you have to respect any woman who delves into the largely male-dominated sphere of marks(wo)manship, and a lady whose skill with a rifle was so profound Edison recorded it with his early Kinetiscope motion picture device. And I quite clearly recall a remark made by a guy next to me when I pulled this rather immaculate comic out of a box. He was an older gentleman, old enough to remember the 1950s television show that this series was based on, and more specifically the star, Gail Davis. He said something like this: “I saw her once. Most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Broke my heart.”

The memory lingers, apparently. The above image isn’t the most flattering, but others out there bear out his affection. And really, who doesn’t love a fiery cowgirl? Little phallic bullets and all.

The big difference between the real Oakley and the fictional was the TV Annie’s crime-fighting ways. A woman traipsing from town to town shooting playing cards and coins out of the air wasn’t enough to sustain a weekly television program, so they made her the niece of an Arizona sheriff, a lawman that was almost always absent when trouble was a-brewin’, and gave her a deputy sheriff and a younger brother (the Tagg of the title) as sidekicks. But there were, natch, plenty of opportunities for firearms displays, and the comic spinoff aped that as much as it could.

Well, almost.

There are two Annie Oakley stories in this particular book, and one of them has zero — ZERO — gunplay from our heroine. You go into an Annie Oakley show, comic, cave painting, whatever, and you expect guns. Jaw-dropping sharpshooting. Without it, it’s like getting Robocop Versus The Terminator and having the titular cyborgs sip coffee like they’re in Waiting for Godot or something. “Nothing to be done.” WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE.

Fortunately, the first (capable artwork by Dan Spiegle, who adapted properties as diverse as this, Sea Hunt, The Shaggy Dog and It’s About Time) has plenty of fancy shootin’, including my favorite trick of all, shooting another gun out of somebody’s hands. BLAM!:

Hey, the dumb son of a bitch is a recidivist, and she has to do the same thing again later in the story. BLAM!:

God, I love it when someone teases an opponent by shooting an object out of reach. (The highest exemplar of this art form is the Clint Eastwood/Lee Van Cleef showdown in For a Few Dollars More.)

Lest we get bored with that — really, how could you? — she rings a bell with her pistol, which doesn’t seem all that challenging to me, but whatever:


And those are pretty much the highlights. Like most comics of this genre, whether based on real figures like Davy Crockett, or fictional personages like Hopalong Cassidy, they leave a lot to be desired. They aren’t my thing. If they’re yours, great — I’ll at least grant that the artwork focusing on western landscapes and architecture (like the night-shrouded bell tower above) can at times be pleasing to the eye.

Now, to circle back to that cover. Someone smarter than me could I’m sure generate a deep, scholarly paragraph or two about how whatever phallic symbolism contained is part and parcel of Annie Oakley working with weapons that are widely seen as misguided extensions of manhood. (See Pearl Jam, Vs., “Glorified G.”)Maybe throw in some yack about castration/emasculation symbology. I’m far too stupid for all that. I’ll just toss this out there, in case anyone wants to dedicate a doctoral thesis to parsing it. Your move, academe.

One Comment leave one →
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