Wednesday, October 24, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 25
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 more issues of the title. Because that’s what
the Kid would have done.
The Rawhide Kid #41 [August 1964] has another great Jack Kirby/Dick
Ayers cover. A downright inspirational Kid is leading prisoners in
a revolt against “The Tyrant of Tombstone Valley!” There are about
two dozen figures on the cover and, man, did it make me want
to read this comic. I’m pretty sure this is the first issue of The
Rawhide Kid I ever bought.
Written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Keller and Paul Reinman, “The
Tyrant of Tombstone Valley” (18 pages) starts out with tension and
action. Keno Barkerton, “leader of the deadly Barkerton gang” and
a friend of the Red Raven, spots Rawhide and sics his owlhoots on
the outnumbered Kid. The Red Raven was a costumed villain who the
Kid brought to justice three issues prior and a bottom-of-the-page
editor’s note directs readers to that issue. Continuity is in the
house and Rawhide is definitely one of the new breed of Marvel hero
taking comicdom by storm.
After two pages of furious fighting, a wounded Rawhide manages to
escape from the town. Though weakened from his injury, he bounces
back from what he describes as a “surface nick” and then sets out
to even the score with Barkerton.
Digression. There’s a house ad for Fantastic Four #29 and Amazing
Spider-Man #15 after page five of the story.
The Kid’s quest goes on for months and one can only assume he has
a few other unrecorded adventures along the way. When the search
leads to Tombstone Territory, he overhears a desperate woman trying
to get someone to save her husband who has been taken prisoner in
the dreaded Tombstone Valley. Clearly on edge because of his long
journey, Rawhide questions the manhood of the townsmen who refuse
to help the distraught wife. Three of them draw on him and their
guns are quickly shot out of their hands. As the trio flee, they
apologize to the Kid. Who says good manners were completely ignored
in the Old West?
Rawhide offers to help the woman. She sums up the situation in a
single dialogue balloon:
You’re very kind, Kid–-and very brave! But–-the valley is ruled by
the Tyrant of Tombstone Territory–-and nobody who enters is ever
allowed out again!
By the end of the page, Rawhide is in the forbidden valley getting
himself shot at. He surrenders, figuring that’s the quickest way
to get to the bottom of this. Unarmed, he’s taken “to the largest
wall ever seen west of the Rio Grande!”
The wall is enormous. Taller than the Great Wall of China, it is
made out of what appears to be poured concrete with a giant wooden
door in its middle. It would have taken years to construct, which
becomes all the more improbable when Rawhide learns the tyrant of
this valley is none other than Keno Barkerton, all decked out in a
gold crown and fur cape. It takes some doing, but, once you accept
these absurdities, the story is an exciting one.
Digression. What does it say about me that I can more easily accept
a flying outlaw (Red Raven) in the Old West than I can this amazing
feat of engineering and a thug strutting around under the hot sun
in a crown and fur cape? End of digression.
While looking for a hideout, the Barkerton gang found the valley.
They also discovered a huge gold nugget just lying around. It was
the biggest gold strike ever, too big for the gang to mine. Which
is why they started seizing “volunteer workers” who were forced to
work the mine and prevented from escaping by the wall and Keno’s
outlaws. The land and the gold belonged to the native Americans who
lived in the valley, but the gang drove them off.
Keno announces his revenge on the Rawhide Kid:
As for you, Kid–I ain’t gonna shoot you! But you’ll wish I did!
You’re gonna work in my mines–-and make me richer with every nugget
you did out for me!
Rawhide is taken to the mine. Before he lifts a shovel, he turns
the tables on his guards and disarms them. Inspired, the captives
join the Kid to escape from the valley.
Back, you mangy coyotes!! Nothing can stop men who are fightin’ for
Knowing they are outnumbered and out gunned, the Kid and his freedom
fighters build a bonfire to lure Barkerton and his main force into
position. Then the Kid uses dynamite and a bit of geography that
wasn’t shown to the readers previously...
This is more than a huge prison-–it’s a natural dam as well! Behind
that rock formation below, there’s a mighty river waiting to pour
into the valley!!
The “dam” is blown. Rawhide and his men are safe at the top of the
rocky peak. Keno and his men flee through the giant door to avoid
drowning...to find themselves surrounded by the former residents of
the valley. They are never seen again.
When the “raging flood waters subside,” Rawhide leads the men back
to town and their grateful families. Unnoticed by the crowd, the
Kid rides off. He stops only to return the wave of a boy who, with
his father, are riding a wagon into the territory.
The Kid thinks:
They look like new settlers in these parts! I’m glad I helped drive
out badman like King Barkerton and make this territory safe for
fine folks like that!
Alas, as the kid rides off...
FATHER: Son, I told you not to go wavin’ at strangers! We don’t
know anything about that hombre! This is dangerous country–-a man
alone can be an outlaw!
SON: I’m sorry, Pa! I reckon I shoulda known better!
FATHER: Always remember, son–-you can’t trust anyone! Least of all
those lone drifters with their guns hung low! I wouldn’t trust him
as far as I can throw him!
Stan Lee wraps it up with a final poignant caption:
Not always are men rewarded for their deeds! Sometimes, they are
misunderstood! Like the Kid! But still, his is the courage which
helped forge the West! His is the life of which legends are made!
Stan does his usual terrific job on the scripting. Fill-in artist
Keller doesn’t deliver the gritty atmosphere and energy of outgoing
artist Dick Ayers, but his solid storytelling and knack for western
comics carry the adventure well.
The issue’s non-series story is “The Winner” (5 pages) by Stan Lee
(plot) and Larry Lieber (script and art). Like their collaboration
in the previous issue, this one is also more serious than most of
Frank Dawson, the fastest gun in the territory, rides into a town.
The citizens are terrified of him, even though he does nothing to
justify that fear. It’s his reputation that has them cowering at
his presence. He reflects on his life:
That’s how it’s been since I became the fastest draw! All these
years I’ve been shunned by decent folks...treated like a vile
animal! But I’m not! I’m a person and I crave the companionship of
other people! But it’s hopeless! My reputation cheats me of
friends! And surely no woman will ever love me! I’ll never get
married...never raise children! I’ll die a lonely unwanted old man!
Arrogant and brash Rafe Collins decides to make his own reputation
by outdrawing Dawson. The older man tries to ignore him, but Rafe
keeps pushing Dawson. A gunfight ensues and, much to the surprise
of all, Collins beats Dawson. The triumphant youth takes his leave
of the wounded Dawson.
Dawson is amazed by the reaction of the townspeople no that he is
no longer the feared fastest gun. One man even invites him to have
dinner with him and his wife. Dawson thinks: They no longer fear
me! They’re even befriending me! My plan worked! I could’ve won
that gunfight, but I purposely lost it!
His thoughts continue into the next panel:
Now I’ll no longer be known as the fastest draw! My reputation was
a curse that deprived me of worthwhile human contact! But at last
I’m free!! I can have friends! Maybe some woman will even marry me!
My days of loneliness are over! After all these long years!
Now it’s Rafe Collins who carries that burden. The townspeople are
afraid of him and even his friends shun him.
By beating Frank Dawson, I’ve made myself an outcast! I’m the real
loser! I’ll be alone the rest of my days unless–-unless I can get
beaten in a gunfight as he did! But if I deliberately lose, I’m
liable to get killed–-not just wounded! I can’t take the chance!
I’ve got to go on this way! I’ve got to give up everything and
...the fastest draw!
With the next issue, Lieber takes over the scripting and art of the
Rawhide Kid stories. It’s the start of a decade-long run of fine
stories and, every Wednesday, I will be writing about them in this
here bloggy thing of mine.
Now it’s time for me to ride, my amigos, but I’ll be back tomorrow
with more stuff!
© 2012 Tony Isabella