Wednesday, August 15, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 19
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.
When I wrote about Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963], I neglected to take
note of a major milestone. It was the first issue of the title to
feature the “Marvel corner box” on its cover. As I recall, Steve
Ditko came up with the notion and design of this cover element and,
in a career of good and even great ideas, I think this was one of
his best. I became a Marvel “true believer” in the summer of 1963;
Ditko’s box made it easy for me to find the Marvel comic books that
were my new passion.
Rawhide Kid #35 [August 1963] is another great multiple-panel cover
by Jack Kirby with inks by Dick Ayers. It’s the last multiple-shot
cover we’ll see on the title until 1971. But the much more notable
element of this cover is the blurb that reads:
MARVEL COMICS GROUP USHERS IN THE MARVEL
AGE OF COMICS!
“Make Mine Marvel” soon became my comics mantra. However, though
a new age was emerging, there was much familiarity in this issue’s
“The Raven Strikes!” (13 pages) was written by Stan Lee with art by
Jack Davis. In this his third and final issue on The Rawhide Kid,
Davis was still drawing the Kid taller than the model designed by
Kirby while drawing the horses too short, at least to my untrained
eye. Even so, there’s no denying Davis’ mastery of storytelling,
action, and expression.
Having fired his last shot escaping from Apache warriors, the Kid
is easy prey for the masked outlaw known as the Raven. Who has
remarkable eyesight because he claims to have seen Rawhide fire his
last shell when he was fleeing the Apaches.
The Kid is ambushed, robbed and battered by the Raven. The Raven’s
eyesight is so good he can see what’s not visible in the drawing.
Namely, our hero’s lack of height. During his brief struggle with
Rawhide, the beaked owlhoot remarks:
“You are stronger than I would have guessed from your size.”
When the town sheriff and his posse show up, Rawhide surrenders to
them. He is too tired to fight and run. But, at the town jail, he
strikes a bargain with the lawman. Turn him loose and he’ll bring
in the Raven. The sheriff opines the Kid has the look of a hombre
who always keeps his word and agrees to the deal.
On the street, the Kid makes the acquaintance of pretty Nora Trask.
There’s an immediate connection between the two young people, but
the moment is curtailed by Thorn Trask, Nora’s overprotective bully
of a brother. Nora breaks up the fight and tries to explain Thorn
to the Kid:
“Kid, you must forgive my brother! He’s a good man-–the best man
there is! But he hates outlaws so–-he doesn’t realize some men may
not be as bad as their reputation!”
These two kids are in love. Unfortunately, Thorn is having none of
it. He incites a mob to go after the Kid. Rawhide makes tracks.
He’s thinking about Nora, but he has a job to do: catch the Raven!
For the second time, the Raven gets the drop on our hero when the
Kid sets up camp for the night. At gunpoint, he takes Rawhide to
an abandoned mine. The villain plans to collapse the mine with the
Kid inside. But Rawhide won’t go down without a fight. He charges
the Raven and, in the ensuing battle, loose timbers fall and both
men are covered in rubble. The Kid survives. The Raven meets the
death he intended for Rawhide.
Rawhide unmakes the Raven as the sheriff enters the mine. To their
amazement - although, since this has happened to the Kid on a few
other occasions, he should have seen it coming - Thorn Trask is the
man behind the mask.
As he’s done several times before to protect the feelings of women
he loves or other innocents, the Kid sacrifices his own reputation.
He asks the sheriff to tell Nora that Thorn died like a hero trying
to catch the real Raven, trying to catch him. The sheriff agrees,
“It takes a heap of man to sully his rep more than he should, just
to spare the feelin’s of a girl, Kid! Reckon Nora Trask will never
know how you felt about her! Never know that only a man in love
would do what you’re doin” for her!”
The melancholy Kid responds:
“It’s best this way, Sheriff! I’m just a loner...reckon that’s all
I’ll be ‘till the day I die!”
I sometimes imagine a scene where, by happenstance, all the lovely
young women whose feelings the Kid has spared when their fathers or
brothers were secret outlaws get together and share their memories
of Rawhide. Would they think of him kindly or would they be angry
over the deceptions?
This issue’s non-series story is “The Sheriff’s Star” by Stan Lee
with art by Gene Colan. A stranger rides hurriedly into town. He
has been robbed and wants to report the crime to the sheriff. But
he soon learns the town has no lawman and that the men who robbed
him are the Jooks Brothers. The siblings are also the reason the
town doesn’t have a sheriff. No one is brave enough to take them
down. As if on cue, the Jooks ride into town and humiliate the man
they just robbed.
The stranger isn’t going to stand for that. He buys a gun, spends
all his money on ammunition and learns how to use the weapon with
uncommon skill. Then he takes the sheriff’s badge and goes after
the Jooks Brothers. He disarms them, they whine pitifully, the law
has come to Timberlane, Texas.
Why do I describe this story as familiar? Because it’s the latest
in Stan Lee’s series of tales where the big reveal is a character
is some noted historical figure of the Old West. In this case, it
turns out to be John Henry “Doc” Holliday, come to Texas for
health reasons. Asked his name, he says:
It’s Holliday! Some folks call me “Doc” because I used to study
medicine back East! I came out here on account of my lungs–-for the
sun and heat!
A townsman opines:
Well, Doc Holliday, I got a notion yore gonna make yourself a name
Doc Holliday lived from 1951-1887, dying at the age of 36. He was
never a sheriff, though he was a friend of Wyatt Earp. Nothing
in this tale jibes with the reality of the man, but his name has the
touch of legend so obviously loved by Stan.
“The Birth of a Legend” (5 pages) is a redo of “A Legend Is Born!,”
a classic Rawhide Kid story by Lee and Kirby. In a saloon, Rawhide
is enjoying a meal while the unknowing barflies discuss how big and
fierce the Rawhide Kid is. Town bully Crusher Cragg storms in and
takes offense at anyone thinking anyone is tougher than he is. He
attempts to bully the Kid, but, as you can imagine, ends up on the
losing side of that encounter.
Our hero pays for the damage to the saloon, identifying himself as
the Rawhide Kid before he rides out of town. Having heard gunfire,
the sheriff goes into the tavern and learns he’s just missed seeing
the Kid. When the barflies give him Rawhide’s descriptions, their
impressions are just as outrageous as they were before they saw the
real thing. It’s truthiness...Old West style.
The Rawhide Kid #35 is the final issue of The Rawhide Kid reprinted
in Essential Rawhide Kid Vol. 1, but today’s blog is not the end of
our “Rawhide Wednesday” series. I took a portion of my garage sale
earnings and bought issues #36-45. In the weeks to come, I’ll be
writing about five issues drawn by Dick Ayers, one by Jack Keller
and the arrival of the great Larry Lieber to the character he would
make his own. I haven’t read these comics in years and I’m truly
looking forward to sharing them with you.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella