Wednesday, August 1, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 17
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 #33 [April 1963] has something new and more than a
few things old. Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers deliver a terrific cover
for this issue, even if the title’s hero is darn near the smallest
figure on it. It’s so striking it would have worked just as well
without the speech and thought balloons. But subtle never seemed
to be an approach either publisher Martin Goodman or writer/editor
Stan Lee considered back then.
“The Guns of Jesse James” (13 pages) is the first of three issues
drawn by the legendary Jack Davis of EC Comics fame. Davis draws
the Rawhide Kid as average in height, which isn’t on model for the
more diminutive hero portrayed by Kirby. However, other than that,
Davis does a splendid job. His storytelling is clear, his ability
to draw Marvel-style action is impressive and he draws interesting
faces and expressions. A different look for my favorite western
hero, but it had a lot going for it.
Stan Lee’s story is another “bad judgment” episode for the Rawhide
Kid. The story opens with the Kid rescuing a stagecoach from some
owlhoots, only to be fired upon and wounded by the coach’s driver
who thought Rawhide drove off the other robbers because he wanted
to rob the stage himself.
After digging the bullet out of his shoulder, Rawhide decides that
if he’s going to be treated like an outlaw then he’ll be an outlaw.
Soon thereafter, he joins the Jesse James gang which, conveniently,
had an available position. Says James, “I’m one man short right
now–-that’s why we’re holed up here! But with you ridin’ with us,
I won’t haveta hide out no more!”
James convinces Rawhide that he and his gang are peace-loving men
who rob from the rich, give to the poor and don’t hurt anyone when
they rob them. A train robbery soon proves otherwise and the Kid
ends up taking on the whole James gang and earning the admiration
of a railroad station agent.
The Kid’s bad judgment continues. When he’s called to by the town
sheriff, he shoots the lawman’s rifle out of his hands and flees,
never realizing the sheriff wanted to do him a good turn:
“The station agent told me what happened, and I wanted to take yuh
to the governor, to see if I could arrange a pardon for yuh! But,
it’s too late now, Kid! Mebbe it’s always been too late!”
This issue’s non-Rawhide Kid story is “There’s a Shoot-Out Comin’!”
(5 pages) by Lee and artist Sol Brodsky. A big brutish Confederate
soldier who lost his brother in the war lives to avenge himself on
Yankees, especially those in saloons. Since he doesn’t know which
Yankee “murdered” his kin, he hates them all.
One of the barflies manages to escape to get the town sheriff and
Rebel Rand sees it as an opportunity to shoot another Yankee. The
angry man fires as soon as he hears the lawman’s voice, his bullet
grazing the sheriff’s head. Then Rand gets his first good look at
the sheriff. It’s his brother, who, it turns out, lost his memory
at a result of his war wounds and didn’t know who he was or if he
had a family. Better yet, the bullet that grazed the sheriff has
restored his memory:
And that was the way of it! The long arm of coincidence had reached
out to save a life and unite two brothers–-and to dampen the fires
of hatred which had been burning in the heart of a man.
As these non-series tales go, this is not one of the better ones.
The “long arm of coincidence” reaches too far for my sensibilities.
The art, while it tells the story and offers some nice action shots
along the way, is mostly stiff. Amusingly, though, one of the men
in the bar looks like Brodsky, who was one of my first bosses when
I went to work at Marvel. Sol was a terrific artist. Heck, he was
terrific at everything he did, but this story’s art is far from his
“The Gunfighter and the Girl” (5 pages) is the second Rawhide Kid
story in the issue. Riding through an area where there aren’t any
arrest warrants for him, the Kid stops by a ranch hoping to get a
drink of water and some grub. He meets and is quite taken by the
rancher’s lovely daughter and the attraction is mutual. The next
days are described as the happiest of the Kid’s life.
The Kid figures on starting a new life with the girl and the girl’s
dad is happy for them. But a ranch hand who also loves the young
lady reminds Rawhide he’s still a wanted man and that’s the life he
might be visiting upon her. So the Kid plays the bully, acts as if
his main interest is in getting the ranch and deliberately loses a
fight with the ranch hand. All to make the young woman hate him.
His plan works, though the girl’s father realizes what has actually
“Ride easy, son! Some day, I’ll tell Marybelle and Tom the truth
about you! I’ll tell ‘em how it takes lots more courage to lose a
fight than to win one!”
This is at least the third time in the title’s run that Rawhide has
lost a fight to prevent someone from either following in his outlaw
path or becoming romantically involved with him. The number goes
higher when you consider the times when the Kid takes blame for the
crimes of another to spare that criminal’s family. But, this time,
it hurts worse than all the other times.
Lee’s final caption of the story:
And the Kid rides on–-never looking back–-but leaving a little
piece of his heart behind him–forever!
While there are only two more issues reprinted in Essential Rawhide
Kid Vol. 1, I have managed to acquire issues #36-45 of the title.
So we’ll be riding the range with the Rawhide Kid every Wednesday
for several weeks to come.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella