Tuesday, March 8, 2016


There's no getting around the fact that Tonto, despite all the problems he presents for current readers, remains one of the best-known Real Americans in fiction.

Normally, I won't be covering characters who originated in media other than comics or cartoons, but Tonto does merit an exception by dint of his great fame, even if it did come about through association with You-Know-Who.

I've only read one of Dell's 1951-59 TONTO series, which lasted about 30 issues. Though this feature, like many Dell comics, sported beautiful painted covers, the only thing that struck me about the one issue I encountered was this: whenever Tonto was seen to converse with other Indians, his Indian-speak was translated as completely perfect English, as opposed to the pidgin English for which he's become known.

I believe Tonto is also the first "straight adventure" Indian character to appear in an animated cartoon. In 1966's British-produced LONE RANGER teleseries, Tonto not only appeared alongside the Ranger in two episodes per show, he also occupied his own solo spot in each show. There was a heavy blend of science-fiction in all of these stories, and Tonto got to fight such devious foes as mad scientist Professor Sumac and a few Indian villains with names like Yellow Snake and the Avenger. The standout episode was "The Legend of Cherokee Smith," in which Tonto sought to make peace between the white and red inhabitants of a fractious town, by taking the guise of an Indian wearing white men's garb, the titular Cherokee Smith.

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