Warren Sattler’s Travels With El Chivito

« They’re drinkin’ red-eye, playin’ stud poker, and havin’ a high old time! I’ll just hang around awhile… »

In the mid-1970s, thanks to Pat Boyette’s connections in Texas, Charlton Publications found themselves able to affordably produce painted covers, a development that several members of their iconoclastic stable of artists took full and glorious advantage of. Tom Sutton, Don Newton and Boyette were naturals, but Warren Sattler often gets unfairly sidelined from that esteemed lot… perhaps because he rarely worked for Charlton’s ghost books. Each of his cover paintings was produced for the publisher’s western / martial art adventure series, Yang, House of Yang, and Billy the Kid. And he alone worked in that most unforgiving of media, watercolours, wherein, unlike oils or acrylics, one requires unerring confidence and dexterity if you’re aiming to come up with anything above a muddy mess.

Today, Mr. Sattler (born September 7, 1934, in Meriden, Connecticut, where he resides to this day) celebrates his eighty-fourth birthday. Let’s wish him all the best!

Over the years, I’ve become quite enthused with Charlton’s long-running Billy the Kid series (1957-1983!), which featured over the years the artwork of such luminaries as John Severin, Maurice WhitmanRocco “Rocke” MastroserioJosé Delbo and of course Mr. Sattler. As far as I know, Joe Gill just about wrote the entire series, which is one of its chief pleasures: over a hundred issues of consistent characterization of young Bill Bonney as a peace-loving, unprejudiced champion of the underdog whom his amigos in Old México fondly nicknamed « El Chivito ». I know, hardly the real-life Bill Bonney, but what could one expect under the Comics Code Authority‘s heavy thumb?

Several of Mr. Sattler’s cover paintings have, thank goodness, survived destruction. They have to be viewed in person to be fully appreciated. For the nonce, we’ll make do with mere digital reproductions.

For his first painted comic book cover (or second, Yang no. 7 appeared that same month), I believe Mr. Sattler got the proportions slightly wrong, so the cover art was cropped fairly tight horizontally, which still made for a striking, action-packed cover, but since we’ve got the original…
Two Billy adventures appear in this one: the cover-featured “The Good Life” and “The Spoilers!”
This one was featured as the cover of Billy the Kid no. 114 (Oct. 1975), illustrating Gill and Sattler’s “Killers in the Shadows!”
I’m sure Billy would be admiring the lovely light of dusk if he wasn’t being ambushed. Such a splendid and unusual (for comics) palette!
The printed version of this painting, which appeared on the cover of Billy the Kid no. 116 (Feb. 1976), lost quite a bit of its subtlety in translation, so I’m happy to show you the original. I love that bit of yellow in the clouds, echoed in the bushwhacker’s shirt. For the first time, a solo Sattler Billy the Kid tale, “The Treasure”.


Beautiful composition, and an effective and economical way to convey height and distance. Note the cattle horns in the artist’s signature.
This one’s mood and palette bring to mind the work of Doug Wildey. A good thing, you understand. Excellent use of the « dry brush » technique for texture.
After several issues’ absence from the insides, Mr. Sattler reunites with Joe Gill on “Three for the Money!”
One final painted cover before Charlton rode off into the sunset…. for the first time.


Mr. Sattler, a true prince of a man, created this piece especially for me a few years ago… without any request on my part! But you can bet I’ll always be grateful for this touching act of generosity and kindness.

As El Chivito’s many friends across the border would surely say, « ¡Que cumplas muchos más! », and thanks for everything!


6 thoughts on “Warren Sattler’s Travels With El Chivito

  1. Hugo Tausend September 7, 2018 / 08:46

    Beautiful work! The Charlton origin story relates how this is the cousin of the notorious Billy the Kid, with the same name, trying to redeem his family name after his outlaw cousin’s notorious deeds!

    Liked by 1 person

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