For a hot minute in the late 1980’s, “space westerns” seemed to be a popular genre of syndicated children’s animation. While many science fiction series had some Western elements to them, what made this sub genre unique was the slavish recreation of various “Western” details in a futuristic setting (from cowboys to robot horses and so forth). The first to gain prominence was “The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers” and the last was “BraveStarr” (which was the last series produced by Filmation). Sandwiched between was “Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs”, which first hit North American TV’s in 1987. Originally titled, “Star Musketeer Bismark”, it was produced in Japan by Studio Pierrot (who would later go on to produce “Naruto”, “Bleach”, and “Yu Yu Hakusho”) and brought to American shores by World Events Productions. Three years removed from their successful translation and broadcast of “Voltron”, they sought to strike lightening twice by dubbing and reediting it for the U.S. as “Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs”. It had cowboys in space with robot horses and laser pistols as well as a giant transforming robot named Ramrod; seemingly everything children could have wanted at the time! As announced back in January, independent publisher Lion Forge Comics have obtained the license for this series and are set to recreate the adventures of the Star Sheriffs for the 21st century. To this end, writer Mairghread Scott (a veteran of TV reboots of iconic 80’s franchises such as “Transformers: Prime” and “G.I. Joe: Renegades”) and artist Sendol Arts (“Trimaxx”, “Chasing the Dead”, “Roboy”) have been tasked with recreating the series from the ground up in this month’s debut issue!
Much like most 80’s cartoon franchises, there are so many details and cast members involved in the overall series that any wise reboot tackles them one chunk at a time rather than going whole hog on everything at once. This issue introduces readers to three of the titular “Star Sheriffs”. In an unspecified point in the future, space has truly become the “new frontier” with humanity settling across a variety of planets and star systems. The Star Sheriffs are an intergalactic police force intended to aid local law enforcement on various worlds as well as protect the space routes in between. All but literally galloping into the introduction is Joshua Rider, a “saber” class star sheriff (a “Saber Rider” if you will) who rides on his robot horse Steed and quickly responding to a train robbery. Things are immediately fishy as he runs into Colt Willcox, a ne’er do well bounty hunter who more than dresses and acts the part. The pair quickly run afoul of a plot by the “Outriders”, a band of terrorists and raiders seeking to shatter exploration of the stars to their own mysterious ends. One of them turns out to be Jesse Blue, an ex-Star Sheriff who now has his own schemes in mind. Eventually teaming up with chief weapons designer (and high ranking Star Sheriff) April Eagle, the trio realize they all need each other to solve this crisis.
Since it began life as an anime, Sendol Arts’ style for the series is especially fitting. It looks very much like a manga without overlying on some of the exaggerated details of some manga (such as “chibi forms”) with a lot of detail put into the technological designs. The leads are all young and attractive, and all three leads so far have blue eyes! The Star Sheriff armors and the robot horses all look incredible (recognizable yet redesigned), with a major shout out in the issue’s last page. In terms of the writing, Mairghread Scott does a great job of offering a fast paced adventure which allows her to introduce the main cast and the central premise without bogging things down in exposition. Colt seems to steal every scene he’s in, and he has amusing banter with both Joshua and April. Josh comes off as a fairly straightforward lead hero, while Scott does a good job of establishing April as an intelligent and high ranking team member as well as making her fun and humorous in the issue’s last act. A train robbery is about the most stereotypical Western plot there is, but it fits for the tone that the series is seeking to establish. From pink horses to laser pistols, it owns all of the conventions of the series without trying to make it seem “edgy”.
This issue is just the beginning, with more substantial stuff coming later on. Fans of the series are in for a treat as their favorite space cowboys are recreated in a new and exciting way, and even those who are unfamiliar with the franchise will get a fun space cowboy adventure. It continues the era forged by other publishers of quality licensed comics being available for readers of all ages. Lion Forge has produced comics based on other franchises such as “Madballs” and “Knight Rider”, and if this debut issue is any indication, “Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs” will be leading a posse of quality in the very near future!