Who's Don Caballero?

Who's This? Who's Who vol.VII, page 7. The sevens have it. Check out this swashbuckling frontier hero:
The facts: Don Caballero was one of the original features in All-Star Western, featuring in 6-to-10-page stories from #58 to #65, between 1951 and 1952. He was National Comics' answer to Zorro, a swordsman and hero of the people in Spanish California. The strip was drawn by Gil Kane (the splash below was signed "Eli" because Kane's real name was Eli Katz), but the writer's identity is a mystery.
How you could have heard of him: He only resurfaced during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, in that series, or guest-starring in All-Star Squadron's Crisis tie-in, or in its epilogue, History of the DC Universe.
Example story:
All-Star Western #60 (1951)
Don Caballero ("The Companion"), armed with El Capitan ("The Captain") is only on his third story, his longest, but "The Sword of Flame" makes it clear he's been active for a lot longer. In fact, a year before this story, he faced and killed a masked swordsman calling himself El Fuego ("The Fire"), who vowed to steal a 100,000 peso fortune before he was through. After only accumulating 50,000, he fell off a cliff when fighting Don Caballero. This is prologue.

Now he has returned as a ghost, somehow, and he wants to extort the rest of the cash from the people. What's Don Caballero think of this?
In other words, why ruin his lazy day with crazy stories? He tells the citizenry to act like men, and Ricardo Ugalda, the town's big ranchero, joins him in smothering the superstitious flame before it breaks out into a panic. The town defies El Fuego, so the phantom swordsman attacks the town, and fights Don Caballero... who kinda loses when he's blinded with noxious weeds!
Caballero gallops to help Ugalda, but he just misses the ghost. Maybe he shouldn't have stopped to change his shirt. Dandy. Ugalda is safe though, he was only given an ultimatum and lives to tell the tale of the ghost disappearing before his eyes.
The townsfolk pay up, but Caballero doesn't and decides to fight El Fuego (and now his gang of like-masked "ghosts") again. This time, HE falls to his death.
So sad when the handsome and dashing are taken from us... But of course, he faked his own death and now tracks El Fuego to his lair where - and this is the moment of incredibly precise swordplay you expect from Zorro and his clones - he unmasks El Fuego with a single stroke!
It's Ugalda! Well, was any other character NAMED in the story? More swashbuckling action ensues. Just so you know, while Kane keeps these scenes to only a couple panels each time, they are very well choreographed action beats. Fights break out every couple pages, but I basically stayed my hand until the end. So you could, y'know, enjoy a kind of climax.
Speaking of climax, what does Don Caballero do after he's brought this second El Fuego to justice? Enjoy the fruits of his labors.
I do love a hedonist. Let's just say there's a little bit of Don Juan in him too.

Alas, Don Caballero was quickly replaced by other features (Strong Bow, I think), perhaps because his strip was only marginally "western". He never even got a real name or an origin story, and leaves the DC Universe's rapier fans with a decided void Black Pirate can't fill alone. But that's the Inigo Montoya fan in me speaking...

Who else? I was thinking of lesser villains like the Dragon King or the Dummy, but they both appeared quite close to their Who's Who entries in All-Star Squadron, or one largely forgotten like the Duke of Deception, but I think there's a combination of lesser AND forgotten I can make a meal of next.

2 comments:

SallyP said...

*sigh*

He can buckle my swash any day!

Siskoid said...

Looks like Don Cabellero has untapped potential with our female audience members, DC!

 

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