Wednesday, October 17, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 24
The Rawhide Kid - the one created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then
continued by Larry Lieber - is my favorite western character. So,
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 dozen issues of the title. Because
that’s what the Kid would have done.
If there was any doubt the Rawhide Kid was one of the new breed of
Marvel heroes, if readers weren’t convinced by his outsider status,
his brushes with authority, his battles against costumed villains,
then The Rawhide Kid #40 [June 1964] should have removed that doubt.
Emblazoned across a cool Jack Kirby/Sol Brodsky cover were blurbs
and banners heralding the first meeting of the Kid and the Two-Gun
Kid...Together for the very first time! It was...Another giant step
forward in this, the Marvel Age of Comics! And the cover promised
readers...Thrills! Suspense! Action!
“The Rawhide Kid Meets the Two-Gun Kid” (18 pages) delivered on its
cover promises. Written by Stan Lee and drawn by Dick Ayers, the
story fell into the usual “hero meets hero, hero battles hero, hero
teams up hero” pattern while remaining true to the both of the two
It opens with the Rawhide Kid riding up to the conveniently marked
“county line” and realizing he’s wanted in that other county. So
he decides to stay on the safe side of the line. I’ve asked this
question before and I’ll ask it again...were local governments so
independent back then that a wanted outlaw was safe in some towns,
counties and states despite crimes for which he was wanted in other
towns, countries and states?
However, when Rawhide hears gunfire and sees “one lone hombre” is
pinned down, he crosses the line to help the hombre. Who turns out
to be the Two-Gun Kid and who is knocked unconscious by a falling
rock before he sees Rawhide comes to his rescue.
Two-Gun’s assailant is a grizzly bear with a rifle. This doesn’t
faze Rawhide because he recently fought a trained ape with a rifle.
This would, however, scare the crap out of Stephen Colbert, who has
warned us that bears are godless killing machines. Oh, yeah, and
this rifle-touting grizzly attacked a Pony Express rider and stole
his mail sack. Godless. Killing. Machines.
The bear makes off with the sack. Before Rawhide can go after him,
our title hero finds himself surrounded by lawmen who assume he’s
the bad guy in this scenario. Unseen by the law, the Two-Gun Kid
comes to and, because he was unconscious, doesn’t know if Rawhide
is telling the truth about coming to his aid.
Rawhide escapes, figuring he must catch the bear to clear his name.
He runs into the Two-Gun Kid and they exchange the secret handshake
all heroes know. Nah, I’m yanking your chain. The two kids fight
for a few pages before they get around to talking out their issues
with one another.
The Two-Gun Kid convinces the Rawhide Kid to surrender, telling the
young man that attorney Matt Hawk (the secret identity of...oh, you
know) will defend Rawhide at the trial and get him cleared of these
based on circumstantial evidence charges. Which, though neither of
them seem to remember this, wouldn’t do jack spit for Rawhide being
a wanted outlaw in this county.
Rawhide turns himself in to the town sheriff. Gambler Ace Fester
starts stirring up the townspeople against the Kid, saying the Kid
is probably the one who trained the grizzly.
Ace stirs up the townspeople, but the sheriff breaks up the group
before it becomes a mob. Ace warns that the grizzly will return.
The trial starts that afternoon. Hey, half the town was already at
the saloon, so why not speed this thing up?
Matt Hawk puts on a great defense, possibly because there doesn’t
seem to be a prosecutor. However, before anyone can say anything
else, the apparently impervious-to-bullets grizzly crashes into the
courtroom and carries the Rawhide Kid away. Surprisingly, Ace isn’t
there to claim his “I told you so” accolades. Hmm...
The bear takes Rawhide to a barn and speaks with a human voice. He
plans to kill the Kid and leave his body for the sheriff to find.
Then folks will assume the grizzly turned on its master.
Rawhide fights back. This grizzly doesn’t move as fast as a real
bear, so the Kid catches him off-balance and manages to remove the
bear’s head. Yep, it’s a costume. Unfortunately, Rawhide doesn’t
get a clear look at the real robber’s face.
The Two-Gun Kid - How come we never see him and that attorney Matt
Hawk in the same place at the same time? - catches up with Rawhide.
He returns Rawhide’s guns to the Kid. The new buddies follow the
grizzly’s trail, but only find the empty costume.
“Here’s why the bullets didn’t hurt him!! Look how thick this armor
is! And look at all the pulleys and gears to help him move it from
Two-Gun thinks he knows the true identity of the grizzly. He and
Rawhide head for the saloon where they bluff Ace Fester - oh, like
that’s a surprise - into revealing himself. Ace draws down on the
Rawhide Kid. Rawhide shoots the gambler’s guns out of his hands,
the heels off the gambler’s boots and, just to totally diss the bad
guy, the belt off Ace’s pants.
The sheriff arrests Ace. The Kids ride off, parting company at the
border. Will they meet again? Only fate knows for sure.
Okay, fate and anyone who went to the Grand Comics Database for a
quick look at the covers of The Rawhide Kid, Two Gun Kid, and, for
good measure, Kid Colt Outlaw.
Spoiler. They meet again. Rawhide also meets Kid Colt. All three
Kids team up as well. All these team-ups will be covered in future
“The Rawhide Kid Meets the Two-Gun Kid” was a solid Lee-Ayers tale.
Good characterization, plenty of action and the impressive-for-the-
Old-West mechanized grizzly bear armor. The good qualities of this
story overcome the obvious revelation of the villain’s identity who
might well have gotten away with his crimes if it weren’t for those
This issue’s non-series story is “The Fastest Draw” by Stan Lee and
Larry Lieber. Stan is credited with the plot, Larry did everything
else. It’s a great story that really sneaks up on you.
Two friends arrive in the West, having relocated from, what else,
the East. Both are determined to make new lives for themselves in
this new environment. One wants to learn ranching from the ground
up. The other wants to learn how to use a gun.
Steve Foster may be a tenderfoot, but he works hard and works his
way up to ranch foreman. Larch Morgan bought a gun, then practiced
with it until he was the fastest draw in the West. Not that anyone
Larch comes to town to make his reputation. He thinks: “Men will
tremble at my name! Women will swoon at my feet! I’ll become a
legend in my own time!”
Before Larch can draw his gun, he’s surrounded by the town lawmen.
They take his gun. When he protests that he’s done nothing wrong,
the lawmen enlighten him:
“Where yuh been holin’ up this past year, stranger? Don’t yuh know
law and order have come to the territory! The day of the gunfighter
is past! Nobody except lawmen are allowed to carry firearms now!
I’m afraid yore in for a hundred dollar fine and a month in jail!”
Steve promises Larch a job when his friend gets out of jail, but he
cautions Larch he’ll have to start at the bottom. Larch accepts.
He has no trade, no profession. All he knows is shooting and that
doesn’t mean a thing anymore.
The final caption:
Thus, a ruthless career was ended before it began! The territory’s
fastest draw, Larch Morgan, was never to win a place in the
colorful annals of the Old West!
I had two reactions to this story. The first was that Lieber did
an amazing job with both the art and the script. It’s a powerful
tale with a more serious tone than that found in his brother Stan’s
The second reaction? Were civilian guns ever actually outlawed in
any Old West territory? I find that real hard to believe. But, as
I often do when I don’t know something, I ask my readers to share
So, this is your assignment, my bloggy friends. Answer my earlier
question about “safe” towns or territories for wanted outlaws and
answer this second on about gun restrictions in the Old West. I’m
eager to learn whatever you know.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella