Wednesday, July 25, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 16
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 #32 [February 1963] marked the end of Jack Kirby’s
run on the title, though he would still draw covers and return for
one memorable non-series story. This issue’s cover was penciled by
Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers. While I don’t dispute that inking
credit, I can’t help but nod in agreement with comics historian and
Tony-friend Nick Caputo when he comments “there is little of Ayers’
heavier lines evident.” It’s a dramatic cover, but not as strong
as it could have been with those heavier lines.
“Beware of the Barker Brothers” (13 pages) is packed with Rawhide
Kid action and plot. Our young hero arrives broke and hungry in a
rugged frontier town. When he tries to sell his saddle blanket, he
is tossed out of the local saloon and set upon by the town bullies.
By now, we should all know how bullies fare in such confrontations
with the Kid.
Impressed by the Kid, Blade Barker offers him a job on his ranch.
Despite a warning from one of the townspeople, Rawhide accepts the
job. Hair-trigger is an apt description for the Kid’s temper right
now. The first thing he does on arriving at the ranch is to take
down another bully.
Surprisingly, Barker has Rawhide working in the house itself. But
it’s part of Barker’s regular scam. When the Kid knocks over what
is said to be an expensive vase, he’s told he has to keep working
at the ranch until he’s paid it off. This is how Barker keeps men
working for him and his equally slimy brothers.
A digression about Blade Barker. He’s a ringer for a now-disbarred
lawyer I knew. When I reread this story, I made the connection in
an instant. Kirby and Ayers capture the man’s character perfectly.
The Kid leaves the ranch and goes to the town’s sheriff. But the
sheriff is related to the Barkers and won’t believe they are doing
anything illegal without proof. Not wanting to get in trouble with
the law - this story must take place in a territory where Rawhide
isn’t already wanted - the Kid returns to the ranch...and quickly
learns Barker and his brothers are selling rifles and ammunition to
the Apaches. Unfortunately for the Barkers, the Apaches decide to
use their new firepower to attack the ranch.
What follows is one of the most thrilling climaxes in Kirby’s run
on the character. The Kid leads everyone in a daring escape right
through the attacking warriors, who nonetheless manage to blow the
ranch to bits with Barker’s vast supply of gunpowder. The sheriff
comes on the scene, gets a confession from one of Barker’s men and
arrests the pack of them. He tells the Kid his debt to the Barkers
is “washed off -— real clean.”
As he rides off on his horse Nightwind, the Kid thinks: “Well, I’m
as broke as ever —- and a heap more tired now! But I got me a full
belly and a clean conscience –- and I reckon a man can’t ask for
much more’n that!”
The published credits for this story and the issue’s second Rawhide
Kid story are as follows:
Stan Lee teamed with Al Hartley for “The Judge,” the issue’s non-
series story. Judge Harper Bates comes to Tornado, a town so wild
the sheriff takes prisoners to the next town to be tried. Bates is
determined to change that. The local owlhoots disrupt the Judge’s
makeshift courtroom, but Bates is packing under his black robe and,
with the sheriff’s help, he quickly restores order to his court and
“For that was the breed of man who tamed the west...Judge Harper
Bates and the countless others like him! Dedicated men –- honest
men –- courageous men –- who proved that a steady gun hand and a
fighting heart are also weapons on justice!”
Hartley isn’t known for his work on adventure comics, but he does
a nice job with this one. I especially like the shocked expression
on an owlhoot’s face when the Judge shoots the gun right out of the
“No Guns for a Gunman!” (5 pages) is the last Rawhide Kid story to
be drawn by Kirby and it’s a wild one. An exhausted Rawhide checks
into a hotel. He’s clearly made a few bucks since the end of the
Barker Brothers adventure.
Two owlhoots - I love the word “owlhoot” - recognize him and sneak
into his room while the Kid sleeps. They remove the bullets from
his guns. The next day, hoping to make the reputations as the men
who beat the Rawhide Kid, they call him out in the street.
The Kid out draws them easily, but instantly realizes his guns are
empty. As an editorial note explains:
“The one thing Grizzly didn’t figure on is the sensitivity if the
trained gunfighter’s touch!”
Hey, if you can’t believe Stan and Jack...
The Kid dodges and weaves through the gunfire and proceeds to beat
the ever-loving crap out of his cheating opponents. When buddies
of the owlhoots look to intervene, Rawhide deals with them just as
violently. In this issue, the Kid definitely has some major anger
issues and he definitely works through them.
The tale ends on a somber note. The townspeople cheer the Rawhide
Kid for dealing with the local bullies. However, as our young hero
walks away, he realizes:
“The cheers of the crowd – it don’t mean a thing! Sooner or later
I’ll stop hearin’ those cheers - the first time I lose!”
Look for another Rawhide Wednesday next week as the Kid gets a new
and surprising artist. But I’ll also be back tomorrow with other
stuff. I blog, therefore I am.
© 2012 Tony Isabella