As is true of many Western outlaws and gunmen, some of the tales that have grown up around Texan Bill Longley are exaggerated and false. Longley was a murderer, an army deserter, and all-around bad guy, but he was not saved from a lynch mob hanging by a stray bullet splitting the rope, as shown in this story from Desperado #1 (1948). I have said several times that “true” is a floating concept in crime comic books, and when matched up with legends, the legends usually take over. Much more visual, you know.
Longley killed people, but his own boastful nature, inflating his misdeeds, probably helped do him in. He was eventually sentenced to hang. The detail missing from the comic book version is more gruesome than anything shown. The gallows were built, but the sheriff miscalculated how long the rope needed to be. Bad Bill, a six-footer, hit the ground, then was dragged up and strangled by the noose. It took 11 minutes before a doctor could pronounce him dead.
The 1948 version, drawn by Fred Guardineer, was published decades before the eventual true outcome of Bill Longley’s story. His grave was located and his remains confirmed by DNA testing in 2001. That part of the story, with the science involved, is taken for granted by us nowadays, but in Bill Longley’s day would have been wilder and more improbable than any of the stories told about this Texan badman.