Times Past, 1966
Whatever Happened to the Golden Arrow?
The myths surrounding the hero called the Golden Arrow are many. Just who was the Robin Hood of the West? And was there a second Golden Arrow who had a short career of his own shortly after the original disappeared? Author Stephen Paul Coltraine aims to find out in his efforts to explore the legend of the missing hero. But is he just chasing ghosts?
Denver, Colorado, January, 1966:
Stephen Paul Coltraine studied the information he had gathered so far; he really wanted to make this a good book and not just another quick look at a hero from the 1940s and ’50s. Too many of those books existed already, and besides, the Golden Arrow was a western-based hero who had even appeared here in Denver a few times, helping him stand out from the usual crowd of mystery-men of that era.
Coltraine had already written most of the book already, having interviewed several eyewitnesses to the Golden Arrow’s adventures throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. The stories, as fantastical as they sometimes were, gave him a fairly consistent picture of the hero’s career from 1940 to 1953. Sure, a lot of those stories made it seem as if the Golden Arrow existed in an Old West that should have already died out by the beginning of the twentieth century, but he tended to chalk that up to local color.
One thing still really bothered him, though. Sporadic newspaper accounts from the years 1954 to 1957 presented a fairly different version of the Golden Arrow. Most importantly, this latter-period Golden Arrow did not look the same as the earlier one, and not just because he had inexplicably begun wearing a mask after going without for so many years.
Few actual photos of the hero existed, and the more recent ones from 1954 and 1957 showed him dressed in a more or less standard-looking super-hero costume complete with a mask. Yet earlier and rarer photos from the 1950s, including a couple of notable visits to New York City in 1942 and 1943 — when he was pictured with Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher, and Ibis the Invincible — showed him dressed in a more casual outfit with no mask whatsoever. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Bumble-Brained Bridegroom,” America’s Greatest Comics #4 (August 12, 1942) and “Capt. Marvel Battles Sabotage at the Printing Plant,” Whiz Comics #43 (June, 1943).]
So while Coltraine was wondering why Golden Arrow had changed his costume, he had begun to suspect that the masked and the unmasked Golden Arrows were not one and the same as originally believed, but two different men entirely. Somehow, he hoped he could find out, but the eyewitnesses he’d interviewed so far had all related events prior to 1954, when the masked Golden Arrow first appeared.
As synchronicity would have it, his phone rang then. Coltraine answered, hoping it was his agent. It wasn’t, but it was nearly as good; it was his best friend, Dave Jimmison.
“Hey, Steve. Still working on that book about the Green Arrow?”
Coltraine sighed heavily. “Golden Arrow, Dave; the Green Arrow was just a comic-book character with a kid sidekick named Speedy.”
“Right… well, how soon can you get to Tucker’s Town?”
“That’s about a half-hour. Why? What’s there?”
“I found someone who knew your Golden Arches guy. Knew him well, in fact! He saved her life a time or two.”
“OK, I am practically out the door. Whereabouts in T.T.?”
“Old diner called the Dewdrop Inn. Bring lunch money. I’m getting hungry.”
Coltraine hung up, then quickly grabbed his cameras, tape recorders, and notebooks. This could be a good lead.
He hoped his buddy was on the right track, unlike the time someone claimed to have seen a man with wings and a hawk mask flying around. That guy must have been into the wacky tabakky or something.
Twenty-five minutes later, in an almost-dead road town, Coltraine pulled into the old rundown diner’s parking lot. Since the end of the war, a lot of towns like this were dying out. Maybe his next book would be about these towns. Had to beat tracking down semi-mythical characters from his parents’ time.
Dave was talking to a woman who seemed to have spent her whole life out here on the edge of nowhere, having dark hair flecked with gray, a weary-looking but still handsome face, dry skin, and a chain smoker’s rasp to her voice. After introductions, she asked but one request: that her name would remain withheld, and that no photos of her would be taken. Coltraine agreed.
“It was June 27th, 1950,” she began. “You remember what happened that day?”
“I’m not too sure,” said Coltraine, “but wasn’t that about the time the Korean War began?”
“You got it, kiddo!” she laughed. “But anyways, there was this kid used to come in here a lot; rodeo cowboy he was, good-looking, blond, named Gary. Can’t remember his last name, since I only heard it once, though I do recall it started with a C. He was probably about eighteen or nineteen — young, anyway; heck, we all were that young once. I was thirty-one and married with kids but could still enjoy looking at him, ya know? He just walked in right after we heard the news over the radio. That was when it everything happened.”
June 27th, 1950:
Moments ago, the news that President Harry S. Truman had committed U.S. troops in a new war over in Korea had left everyone stunned. Gary, a tall, young, handsome blond rodeo cowboy pulled his truck into the parking lot. After checking on his palomino in its carrier, he went inside.
“Hey, what happened? Everyone looks utterly shocked! I know I ain’t been around over the last two months, but I’ll betcha that can’t be it.”
Before anyone could tell the young man what had happened, another vehicle pulled into the parking lot, and three men in suits got out, tough-looking men who looked totally lost there in the back country, and who were all very, very drunk. As they entered, one of them drunkenly stumbled into Gary and turned to him angrily as if he’d bumped into him.
“Hey, pal, watch it, OK?” Then he took a second look. “You know me, bud?” the tough, scarred man asked, swaying slightly back and forth and blinking.
Gary recoiled slightly — the man smelled strongly of hard liquor and cigarettes — and shook his head no. “Can’t say’s I do.”
“Yeah, well, yer eyes said different, bud. Where you think you know me from?”
A second tough, shorter and rounder and equally as drunk, came up and looked at Gary. “Hey, I know ‘im!” he said with a surprised look on his face. “Boss, picture this kid on a white horse, wearin’ a buckskin jacket an’ a blue bandana ’round his neck, like some kind’a Injun.”
The boss, known as Digger — short for Grave-Digger thanks to all the men he’d killed — looked at Gary again through bleary, bloodshot eyes. “Yeah, Sparky, jus’ imagine — dat white Injun what busted our operation seven years back, here in this rinky-dink diner, an’ without his arrows. But dis kid’s gotta be too young to be him, right?”
“Me, the Golden Arrow?” the kid laughed. “Sorry, friend, you got the wrong guy. I’m just a rodeo cowboy.”
“Deny it all y’want, ya mugg,” slurred Sparky, pointing a fat, grubby finger at the kid. “We got you dead ta rights!”
“Sparky, I think yer right,” said Digger with a growl. “He may look young, but that blond hair, and that voice — sounds about right, am I right? And besides, how would he’ve known I was talkin’ ’bout Golden Arrow otherwise?”
“Hey, yeah, how would ‘e know?” agreed Sparky.
The third tough, skinnier and taller than the others, and not nearly as drunk as they, wasn’t so sure. “I dunno, boss. I don’t think dat’s da guy.”
“Ahhh, shaddup, Lefty,” growled Digger. “Dat’s da guy. I swear it is.”
“Yeah!” agreed Sparky. “It’s really him!”
“I’m tellin’ ya, dat ain’t da guy, boss!” insisted Lefty a bit more vehemently. “He’s too young and too skinny! He ain’t as husky as Golden Arrow is!”
Digger looked as if he was ready to murder his lanky henchman for disagreeing with him, and started to raise one fist toward him. “Lefty, if I told you once, I told you a thousand–”
“We don’t want no trouble in here!” the cook shouted as he reached for his shotgun just in case, but just a bit too late to keep the peace.
Despite their drunkenness, all three of the toughs quickly drew their pistols, and as Gary tried to move out of the way, they each opened fire. Gary collapsed to the floor, and blood flowed everywhere. The cook, a World War II veteran, fired his shotgun and hit two of the men, killing Sparky and wounding Lefty. Digger shot back at the cook and in turn was shot and killed by the county sheriff, who had just come out of the restroom. Lefty had already dropped his pistol and feebly held his hands up in surrender as best he could, having received a non-fatal wound in his left shoulder, his shooting arm now useless.
The waitress of the place checked out Gary; although he had lost a lot of blood due to a burst artery, the bullet hadn’t hit any vital organs, and he was in shock but still breathing. The sheriff had someone call his office, and he went to secure his wounded prisoner before checking on the wounded young man.
Later that day, he returned to the diner and informed the people there that, sadly, Gary had died en route to the hospital.
Was this kid really the Golden Arrow as the toughs had assumed? The diner was swarmed with reporters asking questions.
“Well,” the waitress had told a reporter, “two months ago there was a barn fire in town, and a blond man wearing a red bandana over his face came along and pulled several children out of the barn. When he handed me my two boys, aged four and six, he winked at me, and I recognized him by his eyes and voice as a sometime customer at the diner. I didn’t think of it then, but now I wonder if that really was the Golden Arrow after all.”
Three-and-a-half years later, February, 1954:
While visiting a cousin in Phoenix, the waitress and her cousin were in a bank when it was robbed by a band of escaped cons.
The cons were captured by a man wearing a black face mask, along with a golden-colored shirt and a hood, black boots, golden pants, and a big black belt. He used a long bow and several arrows, and rode a golden-hued palomino. When he spotted the waitress, he smiled at her and asked her if her children were safe and staying out of barns where older kids were trying corn silk cigarettes. She assured him they were. Even behind the mask, his voice sounded identical to the man who had saved her boys years ago.
Typical for yellow journalism, the local newspapers had presumptuously declared in print that the great Robin Hood of the West known as Golden Arrow had been the one to save the day, even though the man had not identified himself by that name. Still, they ended up being proved right in the end when this masked hero would have several more adventures under the name of Golden Arrow before making his last known appearance in 1957.
To this day, twelve years later, the waitress still wondered whether it was the same fellow who had rescued her and her family in 1950 and in 1954. Despite his apparent youth, was the small-time rodeo cowboy really the legendary Golden Arrow as she’d assumed? If so, had the Golden Arrow convinced the sheriff to claim that he was dead so he could start over with a new look to protect his off-duty time?
And if this was indeed the same Golden Arrow who had been active since the early 1940s, how could he have remained so young to appear only eighteen or so a good decade after his first known appearance? Or was this indeed a second Golden Arrow who only made the decision to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor after a simple case of mistaken identity by a few drunken criminals? Could this theoretical successor have served in the Korean War before returning home to find that the original Golden Arrow had disappeared, prompting him to carry on in his hero’s footsteps for a time, but with a mask and the more conventional costume of a super-hero?
We may never know the answers to these questions. But the waitress never saw the youth named “Gary C.” again. And neither the original nor the theoretical second Golden Arrow have been seen since 1957.
— From the Epilogue in Whatever Happened to the Golden Arrow?
by Steve Coltraine, published in 1966 by Major Publications.
The Golden Arrow reined in his white stallion and turned in admiration to the figure astride the smaller, golden palomino next to him. His junior sidekick had outdone himself once more.
“Well, partner, thanks to you, the Black Ghost and crew are all in jail. Once again, Swifty, you saved the day. No wonder Captain Marvel wants you to become his kid partner instead of mine.”
Swifty looked around the woods, dusted off his green and red costume, and nodded bashfully. “Aw, shucks, G.A. You taught me to be your sidekick! I couldn’t have taken those bad guys out without your help.”
“Edwin Gary Carlson, it’s time to get up for school!”
At his mother’s exasperated tone, Eddie woke up with a start, quickly recalling that he wasn’t really Swifty, boy archer. He was just a ten-year-old boy from Arizona who hated his first name and his ordinary life, and who nevertheless still had to get out of his warm bed and get ready for another boring day of school.
“Coming, ma!” he quickly shouted to keep his harried mother from becoming even more impatient with him. As he quickly threw on his clothes, he resolved to himself, “OK, so maybe it was a dream, but someday I am gonna be a champion rider and a costumed crime-fighter besides, just like my favorite hero from Whiz Comics! You betcha!”
Editor’s note: The adventures of Golden Arrow were originally published by Fawcett Publications in Whiz Comics and in Golden Arrow and Golden Arrow Western from 1940 to 1953. Charlton Comics later published several more Golden Arrow stories in Cowboy Western from issue #48 (Spring, 1954) to issue #57 (October, 1955).
It is our opinion that these stories, written and drawn by Charlton staffers, take place on Earth-S (instead of Earth-Four like other Charlton stories) and feature a second, younger Golden Arrow whose published career lasted little more than a year, but who continued crime-fighting until 1957.