Wednesday, November 14, 2012
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAYS 27
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 ten issues of the title. Because
that’s what the Kid would have done.
Jack Kirby’s cover for The Rawhide Kid #43 [December 1964] is inked
by Chic Stone. It’s a combination I’ve always liked and they work
especially well together on this striking image of the Kid grabbing
his just-wounded shoulder while surrounded by foes.
“Where the Outlaws Ride!” (18 pages) has several familiar elements
from earlier Rawhide Kid stories. The Kid prevents Patch Morgan’s
gang from robbing a stagecoach and, smitten by a beautiful blonde,
decides to accompany the coach to town. Unfortunately, said young
lady is the daughter of the town marshal and he recognizes the Kid
from wanted posters.
Rawhide is shot by the lawman while fleeing and forced to hold up
in a deserted barn. The Kid digs the bullet out of his shoulder.
The injury is never mentioned again, nor does it seem to impair the
Kid in the least throughout the rest of the story. This is further
evidence that the Rawhide Kid was one of Marvel’s earliest mutants,
complete with crazy healing powers.
Let’s pause for a moment to discuss this issue’s credits:
An epic western legend by: Stan Lee
Brought vividly to life by: Larry Lieber.
The Grand Comics Database credits Lee for the script and Lieber for
the pencil art with an uncredited Paul Reinman doing the inking.
I see a lot of Reinman in the art, far more than can be explained
by in-house touch-ups, so I agree with the GCD on this one.
When Lee and Lieber did giant monster and other stories, Stan would
usually come up with the plot and go over it with Larry, who would
then write a full script for Kirby and other artists. I’d thought
that was how they worked on Larry’s earliest Rawhide Kid stories,
but this story, at least, doesn’t seem to follow that method. It
has so many witty lines of the type found in so many Lee scripts,
there’s no doubt in my mind that Stan was the scripter. Add those
familiar story elements mentioned above - with more to be mentioned
soon - and it’s clear Lee also did the heavy lifting with the plot.
Still, Larry definitely brought the story to that vivid life touted
in the credits. A fine job all around.
In a cool twist, Patch Morgan and his gang gallop into town to rob
the local bank and run into the marshal and his armed posse. This
is a break for the Rawhide Kid, but not so much for the lawman. The
marshal gets gunned down by Morgan. In the chaos, Morgan’s gang
robs the bank. The Kid sees them and takes off after them, much to
the dismay of the marshal’s daughter, who thinks the Kid is riding
off to join the gang:
The Rawhide Kid was decent and honest, but Dad wouldn’t believe it!
Now the Kid feels everyone’s against him...that no one will listen
to him...understand him! So he’s living up to the false accusation!
He’s really...becoming an outlaw!
Rawhide catches up to the Morgan gang, but a gopher hole trips up
his horse and he hits the ground hard. When he wakes up, the Kid
is a prisoner of the vengeful Patch.
Patch is as stupid as any costumed villain. Instead of finishing
off the Kid, he decides he and his gang will fight Rawhide one at
a time. Until the Kid seems likely to beat them all. Then he is
knocked out and tied up once again. Hey, just because the Kid was
able to dig a bullet out of his own shoulder, escape from the law,
shrug off getting thrown from his horse and hold his own against an
entire gang of owlhoots doesn’t mean he’s got a chance of escaping
from this, right?
He does have a chance. He does escape. He beats up the owlhoots -
yes, I love that word - while unarmed. He beats up on Patch. He
gets one of Patch’s guns. He outshoots the gang. Then he beats up
on Patch some more. Lieber has clearly been studying Kirby’s work
because the action sequences are very well done.
The Rawhide Kid crawls into the recuperating marshal’s bedroom to
tell him he’s brought him the tied-up Morgan Gang and the loot they
stole from the bank. The marshal realizes he was wrong about the
Kid and wants to tell his daughter about this. That’s when the Kid
does something we’ve seen him do in several other tales:
She mustn’t learn the truth! Let her go on thinking I’m a bandit!
It’s better that way!
It could never work out between Lucy and me! I’m a hunted man! No
matter what I do, I’m always on the run! She’s too fine a girl to
share a life like mine!
Once again, as in earlier stories, the Kid allows someone to believe the
worst of him. The marshal agrees to go along with this:
Alright, Kid! I’ll let Lucy go on thinking you’re on the wrong side
of the law!
As for me, I’ve learned my lesson! Anytime I’m tempted to judge a
man too quickly again, I’ll stop and think...
...of the Rawhide Kid!
Cue the closing caption:
And so the Kid rides out of town, and another dramatic page is
written in the legends of the West!
What else was in the issue? A full-page advertisement proclaimed
“America’s 3 Greatest Westerns!” and showed the logos of Kid Colt
Outlaw, Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid. But the western comics field
wasn’t very competitive at the end of 1964. Charlton had several
titles of uneven quality while Dell and Gold Key published just two
or three fairly obscure series. I’d rare this advertising claim as
Jack Kirby penciled “A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up” showing the fast
draw of the Rawhide Kid. The GCD credits Paul Reinman as the inker
of the pin-up and that looks right to me.
“The Gunfighter They Called ‘Brass Buttons’" (4 pages) is a Lee and
Kirby collaboration with uncredited inks by George Roussos. It’s
a delicious tight little tale of an aging gunfighter challenged by
a brutish bully who wants to make a reputation as the man who beat
the famous Brass Buttons Kid. The thug isn’t concerned the Kid is
an old man who doesn’t even carry a gun anymore. He knows it will
be his victory and not the circumstances of that victory that will be
passed from town to town.
Lee is downright serious in his writing here. No clever quips to
dull the sense of doom and drama. Kirby does outstanding work even
by his own high standards and the Roussos inks compliment the art
perfectly. This one is an unheralded treasure.
The thug tosses a gun to the Brass Buttons Kid. The old man takes
it, so tired of running from his past that even being gunned down
doesn’t seem to bother him. But the sun catches the brass buttons
on the old man’s shirt and blinds his opponent. Though the bully
was faster, it’s the Kid who walks away from the fight. He tosses
the gun away:
By the time Blackie recovers, I’ll be gone...off to some other
territory...hoping to find a place...any place...where I can forget
the past...where nobody’s ever heard of...the Brass Button Kid!
The final caption:
And, so, the man who was once one of the most famous, one of the
most feared of all the western gunslingers, walks silently away
into the gathering darkness...into the oblivion he seeks...all that
he has left, after years of gunfighting, are...his brass buttons!
I love this story too much to bring up that the aging gunfighter
could probably save himself future grief just by buying himself a
new shirt. Because that would be snarky.
Wrapping up the issue is a full-page “Coming Soon...” announcement
that The Rawhide Kid will have a letters to the editors page with
the next “spectacular” issue.
It goes on to say: “So, all you hombres be sure to send us your
gripes and suggestions, hear?”
After giving the address for the letters, the page says:
And please be sure to either type your letters, or write clearly
with ink or a dark lead pencil...because the ol’ wranglers here at
the Marvel corral want to be sure to read everything you have to
say! We’re waitin’ to hear from you, pards, so let’s go!
Like the old wranglers at the Marvel corral, I’d love to read your
comments on this bloggy thing of mine. Don’t be shy about sending
them my way.
I’ll be back here tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella