Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The Rawhide Kid who first appeared in The Rawhide Kid #17 [August,
1960] is one of my favorite characters.  There was a different and
earlier Rawhide Kid who appeared from March 1955 to September 1957
in the first 16 issues of the title. 

The first Rawhide Kid was a rancher.  He was older, taller, and, in
addition to the usual six-guns, carried a whip.  He had a sidekick
named Randy.  I can hear the stupid double entendres going through
your minds even as I write this blog, so knock it off.  Because in
these here parts, an owlhoot by name of Ron Zimmerman is unwelcome.
We will speak of him no more.

When the Rawhide Kid title went to mostly reprints, some stories of
this earlier Rawhide Kid were republished with editorial additions
claiming he and the 1960 version were the same man.  They claimed
there was a time in the Kid’s life when he was able to settle down
for a while on his own ranch.  I never believed it.

Blogs are vehicles for self-gratification - STOP IT! - so I plan to
write about the Rawhide Kid every other Wednesday.  Well, at least
until I run through the issues reprinted in Essential Rawhide Kid
Vol. 1 [$19.99].  Continuing beyond that point requires Marvel to
publish an Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 2 - please - or my acquiring
the funds to start buying back issues of the title.  I don’t know
which is more unlikely.

There be SPOILERS AHEAD.  We begin.
Stan Lee wrote some powerful cover copy to accompany the frenzied,
grim images on the Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers cover of The Rawhide Kid
#17.  The cover captures the mood of two of the three Rawhide Kid
stories within this issue. 

“Beware! The Rawhide Kid” is the origin story. Johnny Bart is the
adopted son of former Texas Ranger Ben Bart.  They live on a ranch
outside the lawless town of Rawhide, Texas.  The older man teaches
Johnny about surviving in the Old West, including how to use a gun.
Before long, Ben proclaims Johnny is even better and faster with a
gun than he was.

Two lowlifes looking to make a rep for themselves ambush Ben while
Johnny is away getting supplies.  One of them claims he outdrew the
legendary ranger in a fair fight.  The evidence at the scene of the
murder tells Johnny a different story.  CSI Rawhide?

Johnny confronts the killers and gets them to confess.  After that,
he gets on his horse and rides away.  Without Ben, the ranch means
nothing to the young man.  He plans to honor his adoptive father by
using the skills Ben Bart taught him to fight bad guys wherever he
finds them.  The plan will go astray quickly.

Lee, Kirby, and Ayers go from the origin story to the surprisingly
lighthearted “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap!” When the Kid boards the
stagecoach, his presence unsettles the fearful passengers.  This is
the first but not the last time that, for no good reason I can see,
Rawhide will take the stage and leaves his horse...somewhere.  He
earns the admiration, trust, and some homemade cake from his fellow
passengers after he saves them from a trio of robbers. 

This tale is also the first example of the Kid being not just good
with his guns but absurdly good with his guns.  He shoots the masks
off the robbers without hitting them.  The X-Men should travel back
in time and sign this guy up.

“When the Rawhide Kid Turned...Outlaw!” is the story of how the Kid
ended up on the wrong side of the law.  Basically, after exposing
a rustler, he fled the scene when the sheriff showed up.  His big
crime was leaving the scene of a crime.  Even back then, some folks
went overboard with the “tough on crime” stuff.

However, as the series progressed, Rawhide would make more serious
errors of judgment, get framed for various crimes, and take the rap
for crimes committed by others.  Within a few issues, the “outlaw”
brand, undeserved though it might be, makes more sense.

The three Rawhide Kid stories in this issue are signed by Stan Lee,
Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers.  It’s a winning combination.  While we
don’t know for certain how involved Kirby was in plotting these, Lee’s
writing adds dramatic weight to Kirby’s dramatic drawings.  Ayers’
inks add a nice gritty feel to the art. 

“With Gun in Hand!,” the fourth comics story in the issue, is not
signed.  Don Heck is definitely the artist.  Stan Lee is credited
as the writer by the Grand Comics Database

This non-series tale has an element that occurs many times in the
Marvel westerns.  There are variations, but I think of them as the
“it takes a real man...” stories.  The heroes can be real men who
don’t carry guns, who stay on the right side of the law, who don’t
go looking for fights, who make a personal sacrifice, who are just
plain smarter than the badmen they face.

In this instance, two cousins have very different attitudes about
how to live their lives. One is the fastest gun in the region, the
other doesn’t even carry a gun.  After being challenged by trigger-
happy morons wherever he goes, the armed cousin pretends to lose a
gunfight and abandons his guns: 

“No one’s interested in fightin’ an unarmed man, so I reckon we
both got a heap of livin’ to do from now on!”

You’re snickering again, aren’t you?  Do not rile me.  I will shoot
the smirk clean off your face.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. Western comics were a staple of my boyhood; sadly, the myth of the West has very little resonance for people today. When you consider the (often staggering) amount of Western pop culture venues -- TV, movies, paperbacks, radio shows, comics -- its virtual disappearance is even more astounding!

  2. Because we've been discussing this sort of thing over at the GCD, how sure are you that Stan wrote the cover copy for #17 and why?

    the other tony

  3. Two things.

    One, who else would have written it? Marvel had a tiny staff back then.

    Two, I worked with Stan for years. The content of the copy, the style of the writing, and the placement of the copy all say "Stan did this" to me.

  4. Tony:

    I'm in total agreement with you regarding the jabroni who tried to retcon Rawhide Kid into something he really isn't. Of course, considering the obsessions with shock value, headlines, et al, under Joey Quesada and friends, well......!

    The first Rawhide Kid issue I ever read was one of those reprint issues from the 70's. I wish I could tell you the number, but it escapes my memory. Methinks I'll be hunting up those Essential volumes......


  5. This is the first but not the last time that, for no good reason I can see, Rawhide will take the stage and leaves his horse...somewhere.

    Duh. It goes in the secret pouch of his indestructible cape.