Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The Rawhide Kid - the one created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then
continued by Larry Lieber - is my favorite western character.  I’m
not inclined to accept substitutes, so I ignore the version which
appeared a while back because a couple giggling juveniles at Marvel
thought it would be funny.

Inspired by Essential Rawhide Kid Volume 1, which reprinted all the
Lee/Kirby issues and then some, I’ve been writing about the Rawhide
Kid most every Wednesday.  When I ran out of the issues reprinted
in the book, I tracked down some owlhoots, brought them in and used
the reward money to buy the next ten issues of the title.  Because
that’s what the Kid would have done.

The Rawhide Kid #37 [December 1963] has a great cover by Kirby and
inker Sol Brodsky with cover copy almost certainly written by Lee.
Kirby’s western comics covers almost always had a lot of characters
on them, all in motion. 

“The Rattler Strikes” (18 pages) is “by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers,”
which could mean Lee co-plotted the story with Ayers.  Certainly,
the pacing is somewhat different than in Lee’s collaborations with
Kirby and there are a couple quirks near the story’s end.  This is
a fun story with super-hero overtones.

The story opens with the familiar bit of Rawhide being recognized
by lawmen and running for his freedom.  One of the lawmen insists
that “He won’t escape us! We got ‘im surrounded–-and the Kid’s only
I’m not so sure about that.

On the second page, the Kid jumps over one of the lawmen whose gun
is empty.  The lawman exclaims “He timed his move just right! My
gun’s empty!”
Spider-Man and Daredevil would be proud.

Rawhide also has an uncanny bond with his horse Nightwing.  Maybe
I can believe a normal human could train his horse to remain ready
for a quick escape, but, a few panels later, to throw off those
pursuing him, the Kid dismounts his trusty steed and tells Nightwing
that he should “keep a’runnin’ and then circle back here!"  Which
Nightwing does.  Maybe it’s time for a new X-Men spin-off.

The Kid gets into a brief fight with an acrobat at the circus where
he’s hiding.  Nightwing returns and then escape the lawmen.  Things
don’t get much better though.

When the Kid reaches a town where he’s not wanted, which seems odd
from my modern perspective, the sheriff nonetheless tells him
to get out of town.  With no civil rights lawyer in sight, the now-
bitter kid moves on...but not before the sheriff tells him about a
costumed criminal called the Rattler.  This super-villain moves and
reacts with the speed of his namesake.  The sheriff thinks the Kid
might be the Rattler.

Later, when the Kid crosses paths with the sheriff and posse trying
to catch the fleeing Rattler, the sheriff realizes he was wrong to
judge the Kid as he did.  He asks the Kid to join him in catching
the Rattler, but the Kid turns his back on him.

For one page.

Coming across a family who have just been robbed of their savings
by the Rattler, the Kid returns to town and is duly deputized.  He
vows to bring the Rattler to justice.

The action scenes that follow are exciting and well-done.  Reading
this story for the first time in decades, I liked that the Kid was
able to beat the Rattler at his own acrobatics and that the Rattler
wasn’t the obvious suspect.  The only weak element is how the Kid
figured out the identity of the villain and that the “how” came out
of nowhere.  Still, it’s one down note in an otherwise entertaining
tale of western action.

The Kid doesn’t remain in the town where, presumably, he could’ve
continued on as deputy.  But he learned a lesson:

“I learned that it takes a heap of patience and courage to be a
lawman–-to face all kinds of dangers in order to protect the
innocent from killers like–-the Rattler!”

From here on in, longer Rawhide Kid stories are the norm for this
title.  But each issue also includes the text stories I never read
as a kid or an adult and a short non-series comics story.

“The Mob Strikes” (5 pages) is drawn by Gene Colan and written by
Lee.  A man is arrested for murder and the citizens don’t want to
bother with a trial.  The mob breaks into the jail to get the man
when they are stopped by the victim’s widow.

Her husband was cleaning his gun and it went off accidentally.  The
accused tried to help but the sheriff - just passing by - thought
he was trying to rob the dead man.  So he arrested the man on the
spot.  Without even talking to the grieving widow.  Sheesh!

“And so the mob drifts away-–silently–-slowly–-shamefully!
Individually, they are ordinary, average people...but when they
gather together, they become one of the most dangerous, most
unreasoning things a man can face...a mob!”

This isn’t one of the better Marvel western shorts.  Stan manages
to kick it up a notch with the last panel, but neither he nor Colan
seem particularly inspired here.

But, hey, there’s always next issue, right?  Which I’ll be writing
about in one short week.

In the meantime, I’ll be back tomorrow with other stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I love Rawhide, and those Kirby covers with him are always at the top of Kirby's game.

    Must say, I thought the gay take on the character was interesting and funny, and well within the *broad* character strokes. I really thought it had a good start on clever and rip-roarin', and then it just jumped. -- Might have been a good idea to have a gay writer on call, just to slap the sh^t out of them when they got too into "I'm subliminally defending my heterosexuality" territory.

    Unfortunately, a series that I'd planned on sending to my gay friends fell completely apart by the end and became embarrassing, descending *way* into the giggly juvenile range you sited. -- and could there *ever* have been a better artist than John Severin to walk the serious-with-tongue-in-cheek line!?