Wednesday, March 13, 2013
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAY 36
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.
In The Rawhide Kid #51 [April 1966], Johnny Clay crosses the border
into Mexico for the first time in this title. The cover shows the
Kid battling Aztec warriors. Larry Lieber penciled this exciting
scene and maybe inked it as well. The lower cover blurb calls this
“the off-beat western to end all off-beat westerns,” conveniently
forgetting that Johnny has previously battled a giant living totem
pole and a rifle-toting gorilla.
“Trapped in the Valley of Doom!” (17 pages) credits Lieber with the
“script and art” for the story and Hubbell with “inking.” Marvel’s
credits aren’t always as exact as I’d like and, here, they suggest
someone else might have been involved with the plotting. I’m not
sure how much of a hands-on editor Stan Lee was during this period,
but this story feels like pretty near 100% Lieber to me.
Rawhide is riding across a south-of-the-border desert when he spots
a beautiful unconscious woman on the ground. He gives her water and
takes her to a nearby house whose owners nurse her back to health.
Her name is Anne Jameson and, when she’s able, she tells Johnny how
she got to this remote part of Mexico.
Anne’s archaeologist father is convinced the last remaining Aztec
tribe still lives in a hidden valley in Mexico. Hiring the shifty-
looking Link Larkin as guide, they go in search of these Aztecs and
find them...which doesn’t work out so well.
The Aztecs aren’t fond of foreigners. Chief Itzamu has the Prof and
his party taken to the dungeons until he decides their punishment
for trespassing on Aztec land. Xotoc, a bloodthirsty witch doctor,
thinks the chief is weak for not slaying the Americans immediately.
Larkin had hidden a gun in his saddlebags. Luring Xotoc to their
cell, he strikes a bargain with the witch doctor. In exchange for
his freedom and gold, Larkin will use his gun to back Xotoc’s play
to become chief of the tribe. Xotoc agrees.
Realizing he and his daughter are about to be abandoned, the prof
pushes his way out of the cell. Larkin shoots the older man in the
leg, but, at her father’s behest, Anne keeps running. Which is how
she ended up in the desert.
Anne wants to bring in the authorities, but Rawhide thinks such an
approach would cost the lives of Aztecs and lawmen alike. He says
this is a job best handled by one man. Riding off with him, Anne
is duly impressed. She thinks:
He’ll be facing impossible odds, yet he doesn’t show the slightest
trace of fear! He’s either a fool...or a breed of man I’ve never
What can I say? The ladies dig the Rawhide Kid!
Meanwhile, back at the “Valley of Doom,” Xotoc disguises Larkin as
Quatzoma, the awesome god of justice. “Awesome god of justice” is
what two of the chief’s guard call the masked Larkin. “Awesome god
of justice” sounds so cool that I may need to say it one more time
before I continue. Awesome god of justice.
With his gun hidden in a scepter, Larkin demands Itzamu hand over
the throne to Xotoc. When the guards try to defend Itzamu, Larkin
shoots and wounds them. Itzamu has little choice but to surrender
to the awesome god of justice.
At pretty much the same time, the Rawhide Kid and Anne are having
a friendly conversation with the outside temple guards. Okay, the
Kid’s guns are doing most of the talking as he shoots the guards’
spears out of the air. But, since our boy won’t shoot unarmed men,
he then starts slugging it out with the guards.
Xotoc and Larkin hear the outside gunfire and rush outside to deal
with this new matter. Xotoc grabs Anne, threatening to kill her if
the Kid does not surrender. Which he does.
Xotoc sentences Rawhide to a duel to the death with Konnu, a giant
of a man. They will fight blindfolded with axes over the serpent-
filled Pit of Death. Say what you will about Xotoc, he is clearly
the “tough on crime” candidate among the Aztecs.
Johnny is way out of his weight class here, but he outfoxes Kunnu
and then saves his giant foe from falling into the pit. The rest
of the tribe now joins Anne in being duly impressed with the Kid.
As they put it:
The young stranger spares Konnu’s life. None but a true champion
would show such mercy!
Larkin? He’s just a mite too nervous.
“Quatzoma” raises his scepter to unleash his “thunder-magic” on our
hero. Rawhide is a mite too quick, ducks under the shot and knocks
Larkin on his keister, exposing the owlhoot’s true identity.
Chief Itzamu sends Xotoc to the dungeons, but leaves Larkin’s fate
in the hands of the Rawhide Kid. Johnny gives Larkin back his guns
and challenges him to a shoot-out. Johnny’s just messing with him
now. He holsters his guns and then tells Larkin he doesn’t have to
holster his. Larkin gets cocky.
It takes only an instant for Link Larkin to lift his gun! But, in
that brief instant, another hand slaps, clutches and springs upward
in an unbelievably fast motion!
KA-POW! Larkin’s guns go flying as the Kid shoots them right out of
the man’s hands. Awesome god of justice, my ass.
Professor Jameson decides it’s best if the last Aztecs are untouched
by civilization. His quest for fame is not as important as the tribe’s
peace and security. Larkin ends up in jail. Anne makes with the
loving eyes at Johnny, but he knows this romance can never be:
Anne, we met here in Mexico, where I’m safe. But above the border,
it would be different!
I’m in trouble in the States and I don’t want you to buy a part of
it! You’d best forget me, Anne! Adios!
Anne cries that she’ll never forget the Rawhide Kid. I would like
to think that, eventually, Johnny realized he was safe in Mexico,
could have stayed there with Anne and started slapping his forehead
while yelling “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
This is another solid issue from Larry Lieber with Carl Hubbell’s
inking working well with his pencils. The more I reread Lieber’s
work of this era, the more I like it.
The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page comes next. Stan Lee is being
interviewed on the radio, in magazines and in college newspapers.
Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics gets a plug. Fan mail is running
in favor of continued stories. The first Dr. Strange at Marvel was
actually a villain in an early Iron Man adventure.
Stan Goldberg drew the art for a soft-drink ad and you could see it
on a Times Square billboard. Mickey Spillane used to write scripts
for Marvel and has suggested Stan jazz up a comic-book plot and pen
a novel. Bill Everett wants to rejoin the bullpen. Roy Thomas can
Marvel comic books are published all over the world, especially in
Mexico where the Hulk becomes “La Mole,” the Thing is called “El
Coloso,” Daredevil is called “El Dynamo” and Dr. Strange is dubbed
“Dr. Centella” or Dr. Spark. These Bullpen pages were gold to the
fans of my generation. We wanted to know absolutely everything we
could about our Marvel Comics favorites.
The page also contained “The Merry Marvel Checklist,” heralding the
return of Giant-Man and the Wasp to The Avengers...and the names of
26 more Merry Marvel Marching Society members. I didn’t recognize
any of those names this time around.
Once again, the issue’s non-series reprint is less than three years
old. It originally appeared in Rawhide Kid #36 [October 1963]. I
wrote about that issue last September and here’s what I had to say
about this story:
“Bare Knuckles in Boonville” (5 pages) is this issue’s non-series
tale and it falls nicely into the category of “Stan Lee’s Hilarious
History.” These are stories where the surprise ending is that the
protagonist is someone famous, often without regard to the actual
history of said protagonist. Stan seemed to love them and, though
I make fun of my beloved former boss, I dig them as well.
“Bare Knuckles” is drawn by Jack Keller, best known for his lengthy
run on Kid Colt Outlaw and various hot rod and racing comic books
published by Charlton Comics.
A stagecoach takes a rest stop in rough-and-tumble Boonville. One
of the passengers is a well-dressed “rosy-cheeked stranger” and the
town bullies immediately harass him. The thugs are surprised when
the unarmed stranger fights back but, even without guns, he beats
the snot of them with his quick powerful punches. The townspeople
are amazed by his fighting fury and proclaim: “...after we get thru
telling folks what happened today, we’re gonna make you famous!”
The stranger replies:
“Well, now, that’s mighty kind of you gents! But there are one or
two folks who’ve heard of me already...
“My name’s Corbett! Some folks call me ‘Gentleman Jim!' I happen to
be the heavyweight champion of the world!”
Corbett was the champ from 1892 to 1897. A quick look at Wikipedia
shows title bouts in New Orleans and San Francisco. While it might
be more likely he traveled by railroad, it’s definitely within the
realm of possibility that he rode a stagecoach sometime during his
career. I’m gonna give this one to Stan.
Next up is the usual ad for Marvel merchandise and, yes, I had all
of this stuff back in the day. The new items are a two-sided Hulk
sweat shirt ($2.98 plus a quarter for postage and handling) and an
Avengers t-shirt ($1.50 plus fifteen cents for P&H). The returning
items are the ever-present Marvel super-hero stationary kit ($1 and
15 cents P&H) and a six-foot-high Spider-Man pin-up ($1.99 plus 15
cents P&H). Do these things ever turn up on eBay?
Actual fan letters only take up half of the “Ridin’ the Trail With
Rawhide” letters page because the other half has the book’s annual
“Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.”
The most interesting of the three letters suggests the Rawhide Kid
clear his name and then become a lawman. That would have been an
interesting plot development and I sort of wish Marvel had tried it
for at least a few stories.
As for the ““Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation,”
those things always make me sad. The bimonthly Rawhide Kid was not
a huge hit for Marvel in 1965, but it was still selling an average
of 192,435 copies per issue...or a lot more copies than just about
every comic book currently being published today. Sigh.
Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella