Wednesday, January 30, 2013
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAY 31
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 cover of The Rawhide Kid #46 [June 1965] proclaims loudly that
“No gunfighter could match the speed of deadly Doc Holliday!” And
the dramatic Jack Kirby/Chic Stone drawing shows Doc outdrawing the
Kid. A second cover caption shouts that this is “One of the Rawhide
Kid’s greatest adventures!”
“The Deadly Doc Holliday” (17 pages) is written and drawn by Larry
Lieber and edited by Stan Lee. Although the Grand Comics Database
entry on this story lists Lee as a co-writer, that’s not what’s in
the credits of the actual comic book.
The story opens with the Rawhide Kid riding through the “sprawling
Southwest” when he spots a “lone jasper” being pursued by Apaches.
There’s too many for the Kid to shoot it out with, but he quickly
rides ahead to a nearby canyon. He starts an avalanche at exactly
the right moment so that falling rocks miss that “lone jasper” and
block the Apaches from further pursuit.
Thus Rawhide makes the acquaintance of the legendary Doc Holiday.
The former dentist has come to the West in the hope the dry air can
slow down the consumption that will kill him in just a few years.
Doc is a rude cuss, but he invites the Kid to ride to the nearest
town with him. The young gunfighter takes a liking to Holliday and
accepts the invitation.
Doc heads to the town saloon while Rawhide goes to the barber for
a haircut. Not wanted in this unnamed state, the Kid figures he’ll
rest up for a spell. That the town doesn’t have a sheriff is just
an added incentive.
Doc has barely gotten his drink on when Ox Carson and his gang ride
into town and order everyone from the saloon. Holliday, for whom
death elicits no fear, defies the owlhoots and insults them. Oh,
it’s on, baby, it’s on.
Holliday easily deals with the six members of the Carson gang who
are already in the saloon. But he has no time to reload when the
gang leader and the rest of his men arrive. Fortunately, Rawhide,
having been warned of the situation, arrives in time to take care
of the rest of the bad guys. The acerbic Holliday thanks the Kid
for the rescue, but, in wondering out loud who would win in a duel
between them, makes what sounds like a threat.
Lost in thought, Rawhide bumps into Frank, a local store clerk, and
quickly apologizes. The hot-headed Frank tries to pick a fight, but
his friends cool him off.
Frank has romantic problems. The woman he loves won’t give him a
chance. She wants “an exciting hombre, a real man of action” and
Frank doesn’t even carry a gun.
Julie Welles, the object of Frank’s desire, rushes into the saloon
at the moment. The beautiful young woman rushed over on hearing of
the gunfight. Doc Holliday takes a liking to her and vice versa,
much to Frank’s dismay.
Doc starts bullying the townspeople. He makes a man put his coat
over a mud puddle so Julie won’t get her fancy boots dirty. He may
or may not be cheating at cards, but his quick draw scares off any
player who calls him on it. Julie is fascinated by Doc, but also
a little repulsed by his manner. But not enough to turn down his
proposal of marriage.
The Rawhide Kid has taken a back seat to Doc in this story. While
the Kid relaxes, Lieber concentrates on the complicated Holliday.
This is as much a character study as it is an action-packed yarn.
A shipment of money en route to California is making a stop in the
town until it can be picked up by a westbound coach. Doc figures
on stealing it and spending his last years in luxury with Julie by
his side. However, hearing of the proposal, Frank becomes the man
of action he thinks Julie wants.
Frank gets his late father’s gun and goes looking for Doc Holliday.
The trail leads him to the express office where he bursts in on Doc
stealing the money.
In the meantime, a tearful Julie recruits the Rawhide Kid to save
Frank. He now realizes she loves the store clerk. Says the Kid:
Gals, bah! I’ll never understand ‘em!
Rawhide reaches the express office as Frank is preparing to draw on
Holliday. The Kid has to slug Frank to keep him from fighting Doc,
but Holliday figures this is as good a time as any to find out if
he’s faster than the Rawhide Kid.
Surprisingly, Holliday is faster. But a coughing attack messes up
Doc’s aim and he only wings Rawhide. The Kid shoots the gun out of
Holliday’s hand. That’s the difference between them. The Rawhide
Kid doesn’t believe in hurting an hombre any more than he has to.
“Foolish girl realizes she loves ordinary but stand-up guy” would
be a decent enough ending to this story, but Lieber doesn’t leave
it at that. He swings for the fences and delivers a truly poignant
conclusion to this tale.
He sets it up with Rawhide preaching to the converted about how a
gun isn't a toy, but a grim weapon of destruction that made him the
fugitive he is, keeps him running and separates him from other men.
He tells them men like him and Holliday aren’t glamorous, but are
lonely and unhappy. It’s folks like Frank and Julie that give the
West its true glamor:
The ones who settle down...marry...raise families! It’s you who are
building up this territory...you who are making this a land to be
Lieber kicks it up another notch. Since the town doesn’t have a
sheriff or even a jail, the citizens ask the Rawhide Kid to escort
Holliday out of town. And, while he’s at it, could the Kid move on
as well? Even well-meaning gunmen “always seem to breed trouble.”
The Kid agrees to move on.
Julie sheds some tears as Doc Holliday and the Kid ride out of the
town. Frank asks her about it. She responds:
I was thinking of Doc...doomed to die soon! And of the Kid, whose
life is so tragic! You and I have each other...and the future! But
they really have nothing...
...nothing but a few tears from an onlooker...a girl who’s watching
them ride out of town and out of her life...forever!
That’s how to bring a story home!
The Doc Holliday in this story is much closer to the real Holliday
than the one in the non-series “The Sheriff’s Star” by Stan Lee and
Gene Colan [Rawhide Kid #34; June 1963]. If you’d care to read my
comments on that earlier story, I wrote about it in my bloggy thing
for August 15, 2012.
Following the Rawhide Kid story is a full-page ad for Two-Gun Kid
#76 (July 1965). It shows the black-and-white title page for that
issue’s story - "Trapped on the Train of Doom!" - and suggests that
readers color the page themselves and then see how their coloring
compares to the published version. It’s a clever ad, but I’d bet
it was inspired by necessity and that the cover for Two-Gun Kid
wasn’t done at the time this Rawhide Kid issue went to the printer.
This issue’s non-series story is “The Warning!” It’s written and
pencilled by Alex Toth and unfortunately inked by Vince Colletta.
It could have been a special art job if Toth had inked it himself
or if he had been inked by someone more compatible with his style.
The story itself is pretty good. The sheriff of a New Mexico town
gets a telegram telling him that the feared Sundance Kid is coming
to town to settle their unfinished business. The sheriff plans to
leave town before the Kid gets there and the townspeople brand him
a coward and prevent his leaving.
Sundance shows up. There’s a gunfight. The sheriff wins. Then he
turns in his badge and tells the town to find a new lawman. He’d
planned to meet the Kid along the road in the hopes of finding some
other way to settle things. Instead, the townspeople forced him to
draw against...his own brother!
Next up is the (by now) usual full-page membership ad for the Merry
Marvel Marching Society...and that’s followed by “Ridin’ the Trail
With Rawhide,” the title’s letters page. The page commences with
Marvel patting itself on its own back:
Doc Holliday is a great off-beat character, isn’t he?? We have a
hunch we may be seeing more of him, from time to time, if you say
so! So let us know, hear?
I’m guessing the readers didn’t say so because Doc didn’t appear in
a Marvel western until the second Rawhide Kid mini-series by that
hack writer whose Rawhide Kid scribblings we forever ignore around
these here parts.
Two of the issue’s four short but full of praise letters are from
Texas, one from Oklahoma and the fourth from Jamaica, West Indies.
Almost half the page is occupied by “The Mighty Marvel Checklist.”
There were some pivotal comics that month, including Daredevil and
a powerless Fantastic Four going up against Doctor Doom, a brand-new
Avengers line-up, and, in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes, the
death of a beloved cast member. Make Mine Marvel!
Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella