Earl by M. C. Tin Star 1992(?) – 2024(?)

Earl (originally Ranchin’ with Earl) by M. C. Tin Star seems to have ended its run earlier this year.

Wally Badgett has the typical cowboy cartoonist background – ranch hand, rodeo star (at one time ranked #8 world wide in bull riding), rancher, deputy sheriff, rodeo coach, and doodler since childhood. A 1991 back injury got Wally to invest more time in his cartooning when he created Earl.

From the March 10, 1995 Fallon County Times:

About three years ago, due to a back operation, Badgett found himself indisposed for two months so he spent the recuperation time drawing “Earl.” Shortly after, the Broadus newspaper began publishing his cartoons and now he says there are about 30 publications across the United States that carry “Earl.”

And that’s as close as we can get to the start date for Wally’s Earl cartoon panel. We know the mishap occurred in 1991 and The Times article from early 1995 puts it “about three years ago.” That puts the bad back happening in late 1991 and “shortly after” Earl began appearing in The Powder River Examiner, that “Broadus newspaper.” So Badgett’s Earl began in 1992? 1993? Until we can access the Powder River Examiner from those years that estimate will have to do.

Via newspapers.com we first see an untitled Earl in The Fallon County Times dated October 27, 1994 (above). The following week the weekly panel is titled Ranchin’ with Earl (below) and begins a long sponsored run in the newspaper. Wallace Kirk (Wally) Badgett, born May 11, 1952, is signing the cartoon with his nom de toon “M.C. Tin Star” a nickname he earned while a deputy sheriff serving Miles City, Montana.

Soon (that nebulous time frame) Badgett would be issuing prints, calendars, books, and more featuring Earl under Wally’s self-owned Magpie Enterprises, and it is very possible the self-syndicated Earl was distributed under that operation. (A magpie would be featured in all Ranchin’ with Earl cartoons.)

Meanwhile, in the Texas Panhandle, Jody Logsdon is founding her Laid-Back West Syndicate in June 1996. Her one feature is popular enough to persuade her to expand and she has got Wally Badgett’s Earl under her roof. An October 2, 1997 Billings Gazette item quotes Wally as saying, “I began (pursuing) marketing myself, then last year Laid-Back West began syndicating the cartoon. They’re sending out my portfolio to all kinds of different publications – everything from magazines to newspapers.”

In the Spring of 1997 saw some changes. The panel is retitled “Earl,” the cartoon is now framed with barbed wire, and the elongated horizontal panel is shortened a bit (after September 19, 1997 the sponsorship would end).

above: The Fallon County Times May 23, 1997

below: The Fallon County Times May 30, 1997

There were never any syndicate slugs during the Magpie Enterprises/Laid-Back West Syndicate years as far as it was seen in The Fallon County Times. That changed on July 10, 2009 when Wally Badgett’s self-syndicating outfit Big Dry Syndicate appeared in the cartoon (below).

And so it went.

The past few years I have followed Wally and Earl on the Tri-State Livestock News comics page … until February of this year. The last time Earl was updated was TSLN’s February 23, 2024 page (below).

The Tri-State Livestock News site maintains an archive with years of Earl cartoons.

Throughout the “Earl” run Wally proudly displayed his Cowboy Cartoonists International membership – the CCI under the star in his signature.

His daughter informed Allan Holtz that the Cowboyin’ with Earl books have been/ are being remastered.

Earl (originally Ranchin’ with Earl)

by Wally Badgett as M. C. Tin Star

1992?1993? – February 23, 2024 (Tri-State Livestock News date)

weekly panel

Magpie Enterprises/Laid-Back West Syndicate/Big Dry Syndicate