I have read Tex Willer comics since my pre-teen years in school. It is a spaghetti western – western comics published by an Italian publisher. The first Tex Willer comic came out in 1948 and the publisher says that around 625 books have come out till now. The series follows the adventures of Tex Willer and his pals – Kit Carson, his longtime friend who has a wonderful sense of humour, Tiger, his Navajo friend and Kit Willer, his own son. Most of the adventures are set in Arizona and so the Grand Canyon keeps coming up in one form or another in the stories. Tex Willer’s wife was from the Navajo tribe and after he married her he became the head of the Navajo tribe. (His Native American name is ‘Eagle of the Night’.) So he is in a unique position to see the good and the not-so-good things on both the sides – the Native American side as well as the European settlers’ side. A typical Tex Willer story involves a few bad guys who try to destroy the fragile peace which exists at present by provoking people or indulging in violent and unlawful activities. Tex Willer and his friends arrive on the scene, fight against the bad guys, carry out daredevil actions, which are realistic, and come out trumps in the end. I picked the present book a couple of days back because I was in the mood to read a comic and I finished reading it in one sitting. Here is what I think.
‘Sigappai Oru Soppanam’ starts with a young prophet from one of the Native American tribes having a vision. This man’s name is Manitari. In his vision the goddess of his tribe says that the sun will become dark soon but it will brighten up again and when it brightens all Native American tribes will be able to fight with the white settlers and drive them away from their land and the old order will return back. Manitari goes to his village and tells everyone about his vision. He also goes to the villages of other tribes and describes his vision. One day the sun gets dark, because of an eclipse. Then most of the Native Americans who have heard of Manitari’s prophecy start believing in him. Manitari’s tribe gets smuggled guns and organizes itself into an army to fight with the army forces at the fort nearby. Tex Willer and his pals enter the scene here. The commandant of the fort invites them to discuss this with them. However they are ambushed by Manitari’s armed warriors on the way before they are saved by the army from the fort. Tex Willer and his companions talk to the fort commander and make a plan to foil Manitari’s designs to upset the existing fragile peace, which has been built in the area after many years of effort. Will Tex Willer and his pals succeed in their efforts? The answer to this question forms the rest of the story.
‘Sigappai Oru Soppanam’ is vintage Tex Willer – it has everything that one expects in a Tex Willer comic. The book is long – around 240 pages. The initial action scene where the Native American warriors ambush Tex Willer and his pals is action packed and gripping. The illustrations – the portraits which show the wrinkles on the faces, the horses’ hooves, the shooting fights, the silhouettes – are brilliant, wonderful, breathtaking, lifelike. In many places in the action scenes, there is no dialogue – it is like watching an action movie. Kit Carson’s humour lightens the tension and makes us smile. The old fox has still not lost his touch J There are many vintage campfire conversations. There are no major women characters in the story – like it normally is in a typical Tex Willer comic. There is one young woman character in this book though, who comes for a brief while and plays an important role. The only complaint I have about the book was in the way Manitari was portrayed – he is a man who was bullied when he was a boy, and got away from his tribe and went to the wilderness to meditate and had visions. He is sincere in his efforts and in wanting his people to regain their glory days. He doesn’t look like a villain to me – or atleast definitely not a black-hearted one. But the ‘good’ characters try to portray Manitari as the main villain, in their conversations. I don’t know whether this was the intention of the original creators of this story or whether this has crept in during the translation. Eventhough I didn’t want Manitari’s designs to succeed, I felt sorry for him in the end.
If you like a rip-roaring western adventure with lots of gunfights you will love this. It is a pity that it is not translated into English.
Have you read ‘Sigappai Oru Soppanam’ (‘Tra il cielo e l’inferno’)? What do you think about it?