Writer: Pat Kennedy
Original Publication: Betty and Veronica Comics Digest Magazine, No. 179
On-Sale Date: November 12, 2007
Length: 12 pages
In 2007, in a weird move, Archie Comics did a sequel to a 17-year-old story – an obscure story at that, notable only because it was featured on the cover of the issue that it appeared in. The new lead story in this digest, “Westward, Huh?”, is a sequel to “Way Out West“, which appeared in Archie Giant Series Magazine, No. 608 (8/90). Why they decided to follow up on a 17-year-old story, I have no idea. It’s not even written by the same writer. Did Pat Kennedy just happen to come across that story and think “Y’know, this story needs a sequel!”?
Sly drives Veronica and Betty to Charlie Chuck Ranch. It’s been a while since they’ve seen Charlie. Veronica asks Sly if Charlie is still writing best-selling Westerns. Sly says Charlie’s had writer’s block for “’bout two years”.
When they arrive at the ranch, Charlie greets them. Even though Charlie had invited them, it was Mr. Lodge’s idea; maybe some new blood around the ranch could get rid of Charlie’s writer’s block. Veronica pitches some ideas for Western novels – starring her. Charlie offers lemonade. Lenora comes out of the house with the lemonade. She gives a fax that came in to Charlie. It’s from Zane Grubb, a rival writer that “lives down the way”, saying he passed 500,000 on the bestseller list. Charlie gets mad, draws his guns, and fires them, forgetting there are no bullets in them. Lenora tells the girls that the guns aren’t loaded; he only carries them around for inspiration. Sly brings up the things that have been happening around here (snakes in the corral, brush fires, midnight stampedes), causing Lenora to yell at him. Lenora says those incidents have caused only limited damage so far, like they have a guardian angel.
That night, Sly, Veronica, and Betty are outside. Sly is flirting with Veronica. Betty spots a bucking bronco. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a mysterious stranger rides in on his horse and instructs his dog/wolf/whatever to round up the bronco. He somehow ties the bronco to a stake, says good night, and leaves. Charlie comes outside and demands to know what’s going on. Sly tells him.
Later, on the porch, Charlie says they’ve seen the stranger a couple of times, and Lenora says he’s helped them more than that. Veronica asks who’s causing the “accidents”. Sly says he knows. Charlie yells at him. Sly says it’s the oil companies; they’ve had their eye on this piece of property for years now; these incidents started after their last offer was turned down “a couple of years ago”. Charlie says he doesn’t like to think bad of people. Sly says they have to face reality and deal with it.
The next day, Charlie, Sly, Betty, and Veronica go out for a horse ride. Suddenly, a rockslide starts. The stranger, standing on a cliff above them and being fought by someone, warns them. Sly gets knocked off his horse by a boulder but only gets the wind knocked out of him. Betty decides to help the stranger and takes off on her horse. Charlie goes along. He says Betty rides like a pro. Betty says she’s had lessons and requests Charlie’s gun. Charlie gives it to her. Betty holds the man attacking the stranger at gunpoint and dismounts her horse. She gives the gun to the stranger. The man attacking the stranger is Zane Grubb. Zane had caused all of the incidents to keep Charlie uneasy; without the competition, Zane’s books soared up the bestsellers list. As Zane says, “Fer two years, I was king!” Zane tells the stranger to put his guns away, because he got him, and he knows they aren’t loaded. The stranger ties Zane up.
Back at the ranch, Charlie finds out that the stranger had been looking over them this whole time. The stranger says he’ll retire but doesn’t know what he’ll do now. Betty whispers to Charlie and gets him to hire the stranger to tell his experiences to Charlie. Charlie’s writer’s block is gone, and he’s writing up a storm.
I’m not sure what to make of this story. When I saw a preview of this story back in 2007, I assumed it was going to be a remake of “Way Out West”. Instead, it seems to be a sequel – but a disjointed sequel.
It’s pretty clear from the dialogue that this story is set at least two years after “Way Out West”. That means Betty and Veronica are out of high school and in college – not that it’d be explicitly mentioned here.
The passage of time is further indicated by the fact that Lenora now has white hair, whereas she had brown hair in “Way Out West”.
I’m guessing this is exposition for people that didn’t read “Way Out West”, but Lenora tells Betty and Veronica about Charlie’s guns – even though he told them himself in “Way Out West”.
It’d odd to see Sly flirting with Veronica and Veronica in love with him, whereas there was no attraction between them in “Way Out West”. Well, Veronica is at least two years older now, so I guess Sly figures it’s okay, now that Veronica’s legal.
The mysterious stranger is such a stereotype. He diminishes the story.
It’s understandable that Lenora yelled at Sly earlier – even if the motive wasn’t specified. She was likely trying to get Sly to not scare Betty and Veronica. However, Charlie’s yelling at him now, because he doesn’t like to think bad of people. Well, I guess that explains the lack of a connection between the oil companies and the incidents in “Way Out West”. However, Charlie did say in “Way Out West” that they weren’t accidents. Why is he so reluctant to admit that here?
More importantly, this story seems to ignore the revelation in “Way Out West” that Curly Saddlesore was behind those incidents. Instead, Sly blames the oil companies, saying the incidents started after their last offer was turned down, presumably referring to the encounter with the oilmen in “Way Out West”. This doesn’t make any sense. The only explanation would be that these are a separate series of incidents that started after some unseen rejection of an offer after “Way Out West”. That would explain Veronica’s unfamiliarity with the incidents. Nah, I’m overthinking it; the writer just fucked up.
How could Sly only get the wind knocked out of him by a boulder? Since he has a crutch later, it obviously did more harm than that. Heck, the boulder hit him right between the legs. He might want to have his sperm count tested.
Betty mentions her riding lessons. That’s a nice continuity touch with “Way Out West”.
Betty seems visibly shaken when she hands the gun to the stranger. Even though it’s unloaded, Betty seems uneasy with pointing a gun at someone.
So Zane Grubb is behind the incidents. He bears a striking resemblance to Curly Saddlesore from “Way Out West”.
How was Zane, an old man, able to beat up on the younger stranger?
How does Zane know the stranger’s guns aren’t loaded? Did he dare him on it earlier in their fight? Also, how does Zane know Betty’s gun isn’t loaded?
Why does Betty whisper to Charlie? The stranger is standing right behind them, and Charlie will presumably offer a job to the stranger immediately afterwards, so what’s the point?
Veronica doesn’t call Charlie “Uncle Charlie” in this story. Only Sly does it. Veronica continues with her odd habit of calling Charlie by his full name.
We never find out who the stranger is. This is made even weirder by the revelation that it’s a profession that he can retire from. Who, exactly, paid him to be a “masked avenger of the plains”? Did he have to reveal his identity when he turned Zane in to the sheriff? Why is he still masked when working for Charlie?
So the stranger lost his can of baked beans on the trail. That’s got to inspire some adventurous story. Yeah, right.
This story is okay, but I like “Way Out West” better.
Tune in next Wednesday!