Wednesday, March 27, 2013
RAWHIDE WEDNESDAY 37
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 Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid stories had been western movies like
those I watched as a kid, I think they would have been my favorite
western movies of them all. I can feel a kinship to Johnny Clay I
never felt with Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy or any of the other
Hollywood cowboys. Every Lieber story had great roles for actors.
They would have made great movies.
Case in point: The Rawhide Kid #52 [June 1966]. The Lieber cover
- the Grand Comics Database lists Sol Brodsky as its inker - shows
rip-roaring action as the Kid takes on four owlhoots. But the eye
is drawn to the blonde woman standing in the doorway with a rifle.
Is she friend or is she foe? Turns out she’s both.
“Revenge at Rustler's Roost” [17 pages] opens with Duke Jordan and
a gang of rustlers looking down on a small ranch. Lieber is both
writer and artist on this one with Carl Hubbell providing fittingly
rugged inking to Larry’s pencils.
The Logans are older folks, no match for Jordan and his men. When
the rancher tries to stop them from making off with his cows, they
gun him down.
New ranch hand Johnny Clay is fixing a fence out in the field. He
hears the shot and comes running. The Logans have been good to him,
hiring him without questions and paying decent wages. If anyone
has harmed them...
Mr. Logan is still alive. Johnny and Nightwind ride to town to get
the doctor. The rancher is weak, but will recover from the wound.
Johnny wishes he’d been there when the rustlers came. Things would
have worked out different.
Mrs. Logan doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Johnny does
not carry a firearm. She’s surprised when he pulls his shooting
irons from a suitcase. She asks who he is and Johnny tells her:
I’m a fugitive from the law. I’m the Rawhide Kid! But there’s a
mile wide difference between me and muh rep! Try to believe that,
ma’am, if yuh can!
I don’t need to! I’ve seen you up close, Johnny Clay! I know that
you’re a kind, decent human being! No one will ever make me believe
Johnny is hellbent on revenge. He trails the rustlers to a small
town. The sheriff gets the drop on him when Johnny is questioning
saloon patrons about the owlhoots. He leads him to the town jail,
then holsters his gun.
The Rawhide Kid isn’t wanted in this county. The sheriff’s hoping
Johnny will help him nab these rustlers. They cook up a ruse that
has the Kid allegedly fleeing from a posse. Hiding in the hills,
the outlaws spot the fleeing Rawhide and drive the posse off with
Johnny is taken to “Rustler’s Roost” where he is recognized as the
Rawhide Kid by Jordan. Duke doesn’t think the Kid looks like much
and picks up a fight. Even when the other outlaws gang up on him,
Rawhide is holding his own.
The fight comes to an abrupt end when the blonde-haired Ruby enters
the house and fires a rifle in the air. Driven by her hatred for
the railroad company that cheated her family out of their land and
left them penniless, Ruby runs this criminal operation. She don’t
aim to die poor like her folks did.
Lots of tension in that room. Ruby is Duke’s girlfriend, but she
thinks the Kid is “kinda cute.” Duke has a fiery temper and seems
as much or more in control of the gang as is Ruby.
Ruby and the Kid share a moment. He tries to steer her away from
her life of crime:
Lots of folks get handed a rough deal! But they don’t turn to
crime! They overcome their hardships by honest hard work!
When Ruby says that was a “right impressive speech” coming from an
outlaw, the Kid says he’s “not a run-of-the-mill owlhoot.” Ruby’s
not buying it. She figures they’re “both the same seamy breed” and
accepts Johnny into her gang.
The gang’s next caper will be to rob the Sunset Falls bank where a
shipment of railroad money is coming in. Rawhide slips away in the
night to warn the sheriff. A trap is planned. In town, Duke and
the gang won’t have the advantage of the high ground. The sheriff
figures he can take them without losing any men.
Ruby always stays at the Roost - she does the brain work and leaves
the muscle to the “big men with fast guns.” Hmm...reading this
story again four decades after its first publication, I’m wondering
if Duke might not have been that great in the sack. But I digress.
The trap almost works. The Rawhide Kid and the gang ride into the
town and enter the bank...where every teller and customer gets the
drop of them. But Duke has a trick concealed in his spur, a smoke
pellet that explodes on contact. The smoke conceals the outlaws’
escape. They ride out of town and back to the Roost.
The Rawhide Kid goes after them, not waiting for the sheriff to get
his posse organized:
No! Innocent people would get hurt! Besides, I do this kind of work
best by my lonesome!
Back at the Roost, Duke realizes the Rawhide Kid was never on their
side. Ruby can’t believe the betrayal, not until Johnny busts into
the house and starts shooting:
This is for a couple of nice old folks whose cattle you rustled!
It’s down to the Rawhide Kid and Duke when Jordan surprises Johnny
by grabbing Ruby and using her as a shield. If the Kid won’t drop
his guns, Duke will shoot Ruby.
Duke prepares to gun down the unarmed Kid, but Ruby leaps between
them and gets shot instead. Jordan’s next shot goes wild and the
Kid grabs one of his gun. Johnny doesn’t miss. Then the anguished
young man races to the dying Ruby’s side, not understanding why she
sacrificed her life for his. She explains:
Couldn’t let him kill you...told you before that you’re too cute to
be hurt! Listen, Kid...money from our jobs...buried by boulder
behind house...you return it...start a clean new life...
The Kid tells her to save her strength, that he’ll get her to the
doctor. Ruby knows otherwise:
No...it’s too late...I wish it could have been different...I wish
I could’ve been like other gals! Now it’s too late...too late for
beaus and parties...too late for everything...
His head bowed, the Rawhide Kid gives Ruby a eulogy:
She was the leader of a gang of ruthless outlaws! But she was also
a woman! And in the end when it counted most...she was all woman!
Goodbye, gal! I’ll never forget you!
That’s how to end a story with a wallop! When you imagine a scene
like that on the screen and played by good actors, you can see why
I say Larry Lieber’s scripts could have been filmed. He packed a
lot of story into 17 pages of comics. Every time I read these old
gems, my estimation of my pal’s ability goes up a notch. He was as
good or better than almost any other writing riding the comics road
in the 1960s.
This month’s “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” was filled with news items
and other commentary. Marvel Tales would be joining the successful
Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics as an ongoing bi-monthly, annual-
size reprint book. There’s a list of “famous disc jockeys” who are
“full-fledged Marvelites” and a report on Federico Fellini’s visit
to the Bullpen.
The actual name of Sub-Mariner and Iron Man artist Adam Austin is
revealed. He’s Gene Colan! Meanwhile, over in Daredevil, Spider-
Man is guest-starring. As we now know, it was Stan Lee trying to
see if John Romita would be able to replace Steve Ditko on the web-
slinger if Spidey’s co-creator should leave Marvel.
The final item is the kind of thing that would later appear in the
“Stan’s Soapbox” feature. Some Marvel readers are concerned that
Marvel is openly criticizing its competition. This item explains
it’s because some competitors are now trying to imitate the Marvel
style and doing it so badly that they making the whole comics art
form look bad. I totally believed that in 1966.
Also on the page is “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” of comics on sale
this month and the names of 26 members of the MMMS (Merry Marvel
Marching Society). No future comics professionals among those 26
names that I could see, but I’ll keep looking.
This issue’s non-series reprint is “Yak Yancy, the Man Who Treed a
Town” (5 pages) by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers. It originally appeared
in The Rawhide Kid #29 [August 1962]. I wrote about it in my blog
for June 6, 2012. Check out my comments on it there.
The reprint is followed by a full-page ad for Marvel merchandise we
have seen before: the two-sided Hulk sweatshirt [$2.98], the six-
foot-high Spider-Man pin-up ($1.99), the super-hero stationary kit
($1) and an Avengers t=shirt ($1.50). I had them all, but they’re
long gone. On the other hand, I did recently find my MMMS card and
the two records the club issued. Score!
The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has four letters.
Earl H. Dill Jr. of Baltimore wants a western annual. Gail Worden
of Waterbury, Connecticut wants more romance for the Rawhide Kid.
Robert Liepa of Ottawa compares Lieber’s art - favorably - to that
of Jack Kirby and praises Larry’s writing as well.
The bizarre letter of the issue is from Berry Castillo of Hawaii.
She complains that Marvel portrays Jesse James in a negative light.
Chicks always did dig the bad boys.
Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella