Wednesday, June 6, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 13
The Rawhide Kid is one of my favorite comics characters. Inspired
by Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 1, which reprints Rawhide Kid #17-35,
I write about the Kid every Wednesday. There are spoilers ahead.
You have been warned.
The Rawhide Kid #29 [August 1962] has a gritty cover by Jack Kirby
and Dick Ayers, three stories starring the title character, and a fourth
non-series story. Though the Grand Comics Database has “?” for the
writer of the cover copy, that copy was almost certainly written by
editor Stan Lee. One of the three Rawhide Kid stories is a redone
version of an earlier story.
“The Trail of Apache Joe” (7 pages) leads with a great splash page
of a barroom bully terrorizing the patrons of said establishment.
Rawhide sends the bully running, but, while the other patrons are
thanking him, the town’s elderly sheriff gets the drop on the Kid.
The sheriff offers his prisoner a deal: bring in the dreaded Apache
Joe and the lawman will use his influence with the governor to get
the Kid a full pardon. The highly-motivated Kid does just that in
a short-but-exciting action sequence. But, when he brings Apache
Joe in, he learns the old sheriff has passed away without telling
the new sheriff about their deal. Rawhide manages to escape, but
there’s still a price on his head.
All three of the Rawhide Kid stories this issue are by Lee, Kirby,
and Ayers. It’s likely Lee and Kirby co-plotted them, but, absent
evidence, we can’t know for sure.
“The Little Man Laughs Last” (6 pages) is my favorite story in the
issue. It opens with the Rawhide Kid leaping from his horse to a
stagecoach because he doesn’t want to ride “a hoss all the way to
Abiline!” I assume Stan meant “Abilene,” either the city in Kansas
or the one in Texas. We’ve seen the Kid take a stage coach in the
past. Apparently, his horse just follows along in case he’s needed
in the last panel, as he is in this story.
Two imposing passengers - you can see them on the cover - get tough
with the Rawhide Kid, falsely accusing him of pestering the lovely
young woman riding with them. Before the confined brawl can really
get going, the stage is held up by outlaws. The passengers cower
before the bad guys, but the Kid takes on the gang all by himself.
He also slaps around the bullies a mite. Removing his hat, Rawhide
bows before the lady and says:
“Sorry for the rough house, ma’am! Sometimes it takes us small
fellas a little while to tame those big tough hombres! Anyway, I
reckon you won’t have to worry about them no more!”
The lovely lady plants a kiss on the cheek of the surprised Rawhide
Kid and says: It’s not them I’ll worry about, Kid! It’s you! How
will I ever get you out of...my heart??”
The startled Kid rides off as the woman reflects: “I fear I’ve
scared him off! It took the harmless kiss of a helpless female to
do what killers’ guns and fists could not accomplish! Farewell,
Rawhide Kid!! No matter what your size, you’re the biggest man I’ve
Next up was “Yak Yancy, the Man Who Treed a Town” (5 pages), a
non-series story by Lee and Ayers. I’ll get to that one in just a bit.
The third and final Rawhide story of the issue is “The Fallen Hero”
(5 pages). With a few changes, it’s the same plot as “The Defeat
of the Rawhide Kid” from issue #20 [February 1961].
Rawhide rides up to a farmhouse and asks for water for him and his
horse. The farmer and his young son Davey are glad to help even a
stranger. Davey recognizes the Kid and asks for an exhibition of
Rawhide’s shooting prowess. After a brief show, the youngster asks
his dad if the Kid can stay for dinner. To Davey, the Rawhide Kid
is a hero and he wants to be a famous outlaw just like him.
The Kid bullies Davey, prompting a facedown with Davey’s dad. The
Kid’s guns don’t scare the father and he proceeds to deliver unto
Rawhide a righteous beatdown. The “cowardly” Rawhide makes tracks
for the wide open spaces. But Davey’s dad knows what the Kid just
did for Davey and, when Davey is old enough to understand, he will
tell him what kind of a man the Rawhide Kid really is.
Rawhide pretending to be an actual outlaw is a frequent element of
these short tales. Once his stories got longer on a regular basis,
I don’t think it was ever used again.
Getting back to “Yak Yancy, the Man Who Treed a Town”...
This story is way too short for its plot. The title character is
an outlaw who tyrannizes his henchman Bull. When they come across
a small secluded town, Yak decides to take it over. He gathers an
army of thugs and does just that. He appoints himself mayor, fines
the bank whenever he feels like it, imprisons townspeople to make
it easier to rob their homes, ranches, and businesses.
A stranger comes to town, applying for a job as a deputy because he
plumb likes to fight outlaws. When Yak draws on him, the stranger
shoots the gun out of his hand. Yak orders his gang to shoot the
stranger, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the Cavalry.
The stranger is Colonel Carter of the Fifth Cavalry.
How did the cavalry know about Yak’s takeover of the town? Bull,
tired of being pushed around, got a message to them.
In its five pages, “Yak Yancy” seems cramped. More pages could’ve
shown more of the townspeople reacting to the situation and more of
Bull reaching his breaking point. As I see it, the basic story is
good enough that it could have been a long Rawhide Kid adventure.
Here’s how my version would have gone:
The Rawhide Kid is living peacefully in the town. When Yak Yancy
takes over, he tries to lie low, but he can’t stand seeing good and
decent people under the thumb of the outlaw. The Kid fights back,
but even he can’t beat a small army by himself.
Mayor Yancy tries the Kid for his “crimes” and sentences him to be
hanged. That’s when Bull, inspired by the little guy’s courage,
sends a rider to get the cavalry and organizes the townspeople to
fight back and save the Kid.
The townspeople fight back, the cavalry arrives, and now it’s Yak
and his men who are outnumbered. They surrender. Colonel Carter
tells Bull there’s an opening in his troop for a good man like him.
Pretending not to know who Rawhide is, he asks the Kid to go on a
quick ride to see if any of Yancy’s men got away. He tells the Kid
that if any of the outlaws reach the border - just a few miles to
the north, by the way - they would be out of his jurisdiction and
he’d be unable to take them in.
As the Kid rides off, Colonel Carter tells Bull he wishes he had a
dozen men like that little guy. However, in his thoughts, Carter
is wishing he had a dozen men like...the Rawhide Kid!
More Rawhide Kid excitement next Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella