Wednesday, March 6, 2013
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAY 35
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.
If The Rawhide Kid #50 [February 1966] were published today, much
would be made of it being a “50th anniversary” or some such. Its
price would be higher, the page count might be padded out with some
reprint and there would be multiple variant covers. Still, by 1966
standards, this issue is fairly special. It has Rawhide’s second
meeting with Kid Colt and the return of the Masquerader, one of the
most dangerous foes our young hero has ever faced. Larry Lieber’s
the cover artist with Carl Hubbell on the inks.
“The Menacing Masquerader Strikes Again!” (17 pages) starts with a
symbolic splash page of Rawhide facing down two Kid Colts. That’s
the basic plot. The Masquerader is impersonating Colt, committing
crimes in that stolen identity and posing a greater threat to the
Rawhide Kid than ever before. The story is written and penciled by
Lieber and inked by Hubbell.
The issue’s action-packed yarn starts with the Masquerader stealing
Kid Colt’s clothes while Colt bathes. Whereas the Masquerader had
been a gun-for-hire in his previous appearance, he now figures on
committing robberies for which Colt will be blamed.
Cut to Willow Flats where Johnny Clay - aka the Rawhide Kid - has
come to town for the wedding of his brother Joe. The townspeople
aren’t too thrilled that their ex-sheriff’s outlaw kid brother is
there. New bride Kathy is even more upset. Outlaws killed her dad
and she doesn’t see any difference between those murderers and her
brother-in-law. Despite Joe wanting him to stay, Johnny figures he
should move on quickly.
Things take a dark turn when the Masquerader robs the Willow Flats
express office in the guise of Kid Colt. The clerk’s attempt to
stop the robber results in gunplay and that brings Joe running to
the scene. The town’s new sheriff hasn’t arrived yet and Joe can’t
turn his back on his fellow citizens.
The not-yet-departed Rawhide, thinking there must be some mistake,
gets between “Kid Colt” and Joe. The Masquerader fires a warning
shot to confuse the issue further, but the bullet strikes down Joe.
Joe is badly wounded, but he will pull through.
Kathy and the townspeople blame the Rawhide Kid. So does the Kid.
He’s going to track down the man he thinks is Kid Colt and make him
pay for hurting his brother.
The Masquerader disguises himself as an old farmer. He’s pleased
with himself for framing Kid Colt and even more pleased when he’s
able to send the Rawhide Kid after the real Colt. He figures the
two Kids will finish each other off and, because he’s a douche bag,
the villain follows stealthily behind Rawhide so he can watch.
Rawhide catches up to Kid Colt and they punch the crap out of each
other for a couple pages before they decide talking might be good,
too. Colt convinces Rawhide of his innocence by asking the Kid why
he - Colt - would be heading towards the town he just robbed if he
was the actual robber. That settled, Rawhide quickly realizes the
Masquerader was that actual robber and that the villain was the old
farmer who gave him directions.
The Kids split up to track the Masquerader. The villain ambushes
Kid Colt and leaves Colt for dead. Then, once again impersonating
Colt, he follows Rawhide and lures him into an alley to finish him
off. Which would have definitely worked if the real Kid Colt had
not shown up in time. If you’re getting the sense that Lieber went
big on action for this story, you’ve nailed it.
The citizens of this town are not pleased to see notorious outlaws
- one of them twins - in their little berg. They manage to delay
the Kids long enough for the Masquerader to reach his horse and hit
the trail. The Kids follow closely. It comes down to Rawhide and
the false Colt on the edge of a towering cliff overlooking a raging
river. Beaten, the Masquerader backs away, fearful Rawhide learn
his true identity. The villain loses his balance and falls with a
piercing scream, his true face still unknown.
Rawhide returns the express office payroll to Willow Flats. Joe is
recovering from his gunshot and accepts that the real Kid Colt is
innocent. Kathy isn’t so forgiving:
All right, so Kid Colt was innocent this time! But he’s still a
wanted outlaw! In the end he’ll be caught and bring grief to those
who care for him! And you’re riding the same trail, Johnny!
That’s why I want you to stay away from Joe and me! You spell
nothing but trouble...and we want no part of it!
Joe tells Kathy she’s being too hard on the Kid, but Johnny agrees
with her and rides off. It’ll be fifty issues before Rawhide sees
Joe and Kathy again.
And once again, the Rawhide Kid rides off into the lonely distance,
toward another adventure...toward a life he doesn’t want...a life
from which there is no escape!
Digression. To the best of my recollection, the Masquerader doesn’t
make any further appearances in The Rawhide Kid or any of Marvel’s
other westerns. While he looks like a goner at the conclusion of
this adventure, the Kids never see the body. He could’ve survived
the fall. Which brings to mind the question of who the Masquerader
really was. Given the Rawhide Kid’s wandering ways, there aren’t
any candidates...with one possible exception.
What if the Masquerader were really Frank Clay, the oldest of the
Clay brothers? Maybe Frank is every bit the outlaw that the world
wrongly believes Johnny to be. Just a thought I throw out into a
comics universe for your contemplation.
Following the Rawhide Kid story, Marvel brings us another page of
merry merchandise. There’s a Thor t-shirt with Jack Kirby art and
a six-foot high Spider-Man poster based on the art of Steve Ditko
and the Marvel stationery kit. The prices are $1.50, $1.99, and $1
apiece. Buyers must add fifteen cents for postage and handling,
but MMMS - Merry Marvel Marching Society - members will get a free
gift if they write their membership number on their order. I had
all three of these items back in the day and I really wish I still
had them. Sigh.
“Too Frightened to Fight!” (5 pages) is this issue’s reprint tale.
Written by Stan Lee and drawn by Paul Reinman, it originally ran in
Two-Gun Kid #65 [September 1963], just a bit over two years before
this reprint. Even back then, I wondered why Marvel was reprinting
such relatively recent stories and especially, in this case, such
an inferior yarn.
We’ve all read this story before. Fastest gun in the whole blamed
county/state/whatever. Weary of always being challenged by those
who seek to take his title. Feigns cowardice to escape this life.
Figures being sneered at is better than being dead.
And, after learning what Cob Nester had done, more and more battle-
weary gunslingers did the same thing -- as the dawn of a new age of
reason appeared over the Old West!
When I first typed that closing caption, I typed “funslingers” and
not “gunslingers.” I think we could use more funslingers in these
The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins!” page is next. Marvel explains why
its annuals are no longer completely new and include reprints. It
is because there aren’t enough worthy writers and artists to write
and draw all those pages without letting the regular comics suffer.
Also, it helps Marvel fans complete their collections, which is why
Marvel has launched the quarterly Marvel Collectors Item Classics.
Marvel was always thinking of us that way.
In other news...Roy Thomas has joined the Marvel staff. Letterers
Artie Simek and Sammy Rosen are kidded in the credits because they
are loved. Joe Sinnott is inking Fantastic Four. Marvel publishes
Monsters Unlimited and You Don’t Say, photo-humor magazines written
by Stan Lee. Most Marvel artists work at home. Jack Kirby comes
in once a week to deliver his pages. The names of 25 more MMMS
members are listed, but I don’t recognize any of the names as being
prominent fans or future professionals.
The Mighty Marvel Checklist also appears here. In Fantastic Four,
the secret of the Inhumans’ Great Refuge is revealed. The X-Men
conclude their battle with the Sentinels. Most of the remaining
plugs read like someone’s not sure what’s happening in the issues.
The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page brings two letters
from Canada, one from Thailand and one from a reader who lives on
Isabella Avenue in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. Nothing of note in
the letters or the answers.
Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella