I can’t say this is a genre that I think has seen many of comics’ great peaks – some of the best comes in bits and pieces here and there: old stories in comics by various publishers by Alex Toth and Jack Kirby and the like. Frankly, even then the stories are mostly inconsequential, and they aren’t terribly easy to find.

I’m not a big fan of Moebius’s SF, but I do like his art on the Lieutenant Blueberry series (pictured). It’s written by Jean-Michel Charlier, and drawn under Moebius’s real name, Jean Giraud, and the feel is more like a classy late Clint Eastwood than any earlier US or European westerns. The angle is interesting: our protagonist is a Southerner who fought for the North in the Civil War due to his conversion to anti-racist beliefs, and the stories focus on this. They are compelling and muscular, and Giraud’s art matches this – none of the flash of his SF, just superb comics art. There are lots of volumes in English – the series names are varied (Lieutenant, Marshall, Young…), but the word Blueberry is your clue.

When DC started its Showcase reprint series, I was kind of surprised that Jonah Hex was one of the first they announced, and I almost didn’t buy it. That would have been a mistake, as it’s among the most consistently excellent collections. The character is a deformed and angry wanderer, not that long on morality, but still ending up on the heroic side. The art, mostly by Tony DeZuniga, is suitably grainy, particularly well drawn in a realistic style.

I’m also quite fond of occasional Hex artist and co-creator of Jonny Quest Doug Wildey‘s western work. He was in his ’60s when he did a few volumes of a western character called Rio in the 1980s. The drawing is lovely, the storytelling fluent, and it has some of the best use of zipatone I’ve ever seen. The style is a little more dated than the other two series I’ve mentioned, but it’s classy work by a veteran craftsman.

Showcase Presents Jonah Hex should be pretty easy to find, but I’m less sure about the Blueberry and Rio books. Having checked Amazon, Blueberry books are pricey, Rio volumes are cheap. You’ll be lucky to find any of these in libraries, but you never know.