Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Tom Mix (Thomas Edwin Mix, born Thomas Hezakiah Mix, 1880-1940) lived a life that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Often called the first major Western star by those who overlook William S. Hart, Mix was raised in Pennsylvania, rather than the wild West.  His father was a stable master for a wealthy businessman, and it was from his father that Mix learned to ride.  As a boy, Mix wanted to be in the circus and. to this end, he practiced knife throwing.   In 1908, he enlisted in the army.  Although the Spanish-American War was in full swing, he never went overseas and, in 1902 while on furlough, he married and never bothered returning to the army.  (He was listed as AWOL, never court marshaled, and was never officially discharged.  His army desertion was something that he kept secret.)  The hasty marriage was soon annulled.

Mix rode with a group of 50 horsemen in the 1905 inaugural parade; the group included several former Rough Riders and some of Mix's later publicity would try to spin that he had been a Rough Rider -- something blatantly untrue.  Mix drifted to the Oklahoma Territory where he held some odd jobs, finally landing a position in the Miller Brothers touring Wild West show, eventually winning several national riding and roping championships.  He began his film career in 1909 with Selig Polyscope and appeared in over 100 short films, mostly documentaries.  In 1917 Mix signed with Fox Studios and began making action filled, scripted films.  Mix's clean-cut film persona enthralled children at Saturday matinees and he (and his horse, Tony) became famous.  Only nine of the 291 movies Tom Mix made were not silent films.

Mix's stunts, his sense of showmanship, and his colorful costumes held him in good stead.  He drew fantastic salaries for the time and he should have been a wealthy man, but the Depression, profligate spending, and four ex-wives had their toll.  Mix toured with circuses and even owned on himself.  His career in the talkies ended in 1935 when the injuries from doing his own stunts made him retire.  In 1940, at the age of sixty, while driving to Phoenix in his Cord 812 Phaeton he came to a bridge washed away in a flash flood.  Unable to stop, he overturned in a gully.  Behind his head was a large aluminum case filled with cash, traveler's checks, and jewelry.  The case slammed forward, breaking Mix's neck.  I don't know why he had so many valuables in the case.  His last phone call, shortly before the fatal accident, was from a popular drinking and gambling spot.

In addition to his movies, Tom Mix also had a popular radio show, although Mix's voice (which had been damaged by a bullet to the throat (!) and an oft-broken nose.  The show ran from 1933 through the early fifties, less a year during World War II.

In comics, Tom Mix first appeared in the Whitman Publishing (Dell) Popular Comics, which collected various newspaper strips, beginning in February 1936 and ending that December.  (I have not been able to glean any information about the newspaper strip, althoug, admittedly, I did not look very hard.)  Mix then moved to Whitman's The Comics for a six-month period in 1937, and then to 18 issues of Crackajack Funnies from June 1938 to December 1939.  The compilation below covers the Crackerjack Funnies issues, inexplicably excluding Crackerjack Funnies #4, which carried the last two pages of the first story and the first two pages of the second story.

The five stories here are:

  • "Fence War in Painted Valley," very ineptly drawn (with an occasional caption balloon pointing to the wrong person) by someone who signed himself Al Lewin
  • "The Canyon of Lost Trails," again  by Lewin
  • "The Kidnappers of Cholla Wash," by Jim Stevens
  • "The Payroll Bandits," unsigned.
  • "The Story of Hoodoo Ranch," also unsigned
All five stories depict the traits of Tom Mix's movie persona.


P.S.  What about those missing pages from the first and second stories?  Fear not, gentle friends.  Here's the link to Crackerjack Funnies #4.  The missing pages are on pages 63 through 66.

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