Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

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.

Larry Lieber’s cover for The Rawhide Kid #54 [October 1966] has a
dramatic shot of the kid and all sorts of action going on in both
the background and the foreground.  Not counting the Kid, I spotted
a dozen figures shooting at Johnny Clay, running from the gunplay
or sprawled on the ground.  Not to mention the flames coming from
guns, bullets striking the ground and gun smoke drifting across the
background.  Now that’s a western comic cover!

“The Last Showdown” (17 pages) credits Lieber for “script and art”
with inking by Vince Colletta.  Stan Lee is the editor, Artie Simek
is the letterer and yours truly is the reader enjoying this action-
packed with a dash of romance tale.

The story opens with Rawhide washing off trail dust at a stagecoach
station.  A stagecoach arrives, a lovely young woman disembarks to
stretch her legs and two oafs hit on her.  When the jerks continue
to harass her, the Kid commences to beating on them for two pages.
Linda Barlett, the young woman, is ever so grateful.  Johnny is all
happy to be of service and mysterious.

Linda: I’m Linda Bartlett! Are you a cowboy, Johnny?

Johnny: No! Just a drifter!

Linda: How forlorn-sounding! Where do you drift?

Johnny: Away from trouble, when I can!

Linda gets on the stage and expresses her hope their trails cross
again.  And, of course, they will.

Miles away, the plot thickens as Monk Dawson is released from jail
after several years.  He’s determined to get revenge on the lawman
who put him behind bars, which, naturally, is Ben Barlett, sheriff
of Serenity Falls and the uncle of the lovely Linda.  Uncle Ben is
due to retire at the end of the month, having grown old in service
to the citizens of his town.

A quick digression.  Coincidence plays a large role in this story
and, indeed, in many if not most stories of the era.  Yet because
of the storytelling skill of Lieber and other practitioners of the
comics craft, it never bothered me as a young reader.  Though I may
be more aware of the coincidences now, they still don’t bother me.
I’m just enjoying the story.  End of digression.

While the effervescent Linda tells Uncle Ben about the wonderful
young man who rescued her from the bullies and the sheriff finds it
unusual that he’s never heard of this Johnny Clay, the Rawhide Kid
is feeling “the stirrings of his heart.”

Risky though it might be for a wanted man, Johnny wants to see Linda.
He moseys into town, keeping a low profile.  He spots Linda at her
hotel and she introduces him to her uncle who recognizes Johnny as
the infamous Rawhide Kid.

Johnny tries to make a clean getaway, but he can’t fight an entire
town without hurting some innocent citizen.  Sheriff Barlett takes
him into custody.  The lawman barely has the Kid in a cell when he
learns Monk Dawson is heading to town.

Linda and the townspeople all think the sheriff should get himself
out of town.  But Uncle Ben can’t shirk his great responsibility as
sheriff.  If he did that, if he dumped his problem onto the lawman
who replaces him, he’d be worst off than if he were dead.

“Yuh see, honey...a man can get by without most anything except the
very quality that makes him a man...his honor!”

The Kid offers to back Sheriff Ben’s play, but the lawman will not
trust someone he considers a ruthless outlaw.  As Monk Dawson and
his gang rob the bank, Barlett goes out to face them alone.  He’s
outnumbered and surely doomed.

Linda is torn.  Johnny rescued her at the stagecoach station, but
he’s a criminal.  How can she trust him?  But, given the odds her
uncle is facing, how can she not?

Sheriff Barlett is astonished to see the Rawhide Kid is as good as
his word.  Just hearing the Kid’s name puts the fear into Dawson’s
men.  We get four pages of gunplay and fisticuffs, including a bit
of karate Johnny picks up from Captain Cragg, an outlaw he fought
in two previous stories.

The victorious Kid asks the sheriff if there is unfinished business
between them.  Barlett doesn’t think so.  Rawhide could’ve escaped
when he was set free, but he didn’t.  He saved the lawman’s life.
Johnny has earned a break.  Even so, he shouldn’t hang around the
town in case Barlett changes his mind.

Lieber goes for a sad romantic ending.

Linda: Where will you go, Johnny? What will become of you?

Johnny: I don’t know! Maybe it doesn’t much matter what happens to
a fugitive!

Linda kisses him tenderly.

Linda: It matters, Johnny...from this day on, it matters...

Chicks dig bad boys.  Even when they’re not really bad.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page follows the Rawhide Kid story.
The page led with the announcement of the Marvel Super-Hero Show
featuring adventures of Captain America, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, the
Hulk and Thor...cobbled together from actual comic-book art.  That
was followed by a second announcement of the many Marvel products -
paperback books, record albums, costumes and more - that would be
available in stores.

The page continues with plugs for the Thor Special and the Marvel
Super-Heroes Special, for subscriptions to Marvel titles and for an
upcoming issue of Fantasy Masterpieces with a cover penciled and
inked by Jack Kirby.  Further down is Stan’s thank you to Princeton
University for the warm welcome he received when he spoke there, a
cute item about new Marvel writer Denny O’Neil being upset because
he hasn’t been mentioned in the Bullpen Bulletin, and the result of
a “poll” on whether or not Marvel should continue to take potshots
at its competitors.  The voters split 50/50 on the important issue.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” completed the page.  Fantastic Four
featured the Silver Surfer and the Thing having at it.  Spider-Man
battled the Rhino for the first time.  Sgt. Fury presented the tale
of how Sgt. Fury, Dum-Dum Dugan and Captain Sawyer met.  The afore-
plugged Marvel Super-Heroes King-Size Special reprinted the origin
of Daredevil, the Avengers’ first encounter with the Space Phantom
and a 20-year-old battle between the Sub-Mariner and the original
Human Torch.  When I read the story in 1966, it seemed so ancient
to me.  Today, I marvel at my having worked in the comics industry
for over 40 years.  Time flies.

For the first time in several issues, the non-series story is not
a reprint.  “The Passenger” (5 pages) has quite the pedigree.  It’s
penciled by Don Heck, inked by Bill Everett and written by a young
Denny O’Neil.  It’s one of those weird “alternate history” stories
of which Stan Lee was so fond.

Legendary river man Mike Fink is annoyed by a “dude newsman” who’s
taken passage on his flatboat.  He taunts and bullies the newsman,
who looks exactly like Gene Barry in the Bat Masterson TV series of
the era, complete with his signature cane.  When pirates strike,
they steal Fink’s cargo, seize the dude and leave Fink and his crew
tied to a barrel of TNT with a lit fuse.

The dude gets hold of a gun, outshoots the entire gang of pirates
and shoots out the fuse of the TNT.  After the outlaws are jailed,
a grateful Fink hands the dude’s fancy cane back to him.

Fink: Say, if’n you don’t mind me askin’...where’d a fancy-pants
news hawk like you learn to do that kinda shootin’?   

Dude: Before I got into the newspaper business, I used to be a
sheriff in Kansas!

Dude: You may have heard my name!  It’s Bat...Bat Masterson!

Fink: Wal, I’ll be...

Here’s the problem with this story as summed up by an indexer note
on the Grand Comics Database:

Major anachronism: features both legendary Ohio River keelboater
Mike Fink (ca.1770-1823) and western lawman W. B. "Bat" Masterson

Mike Fink died thirty years before Bat Masterson was born.  Despite
that goof, this is an amusing little tale.

A house ad follows.  The top half of the ad page promotes Kid Colt
#130 [September 1966], a “Super Special All Request Issue.”
The next two issues of the title will also be 68 pages, but with a
new story in each of them.  Those two new stories will be the last
Kid Colt stories drawn by Jack Keller.

The thin middle section of the ad page lists 26 more members of the
Merry Marvel Marching Society.

The bottom section is an ad for the double-sided Thing sweat shirt
drawn and signed by Jack Kirby.  It sells for $3.15 plus 25 cents
for postage and handling.  According to the ad, this is “positively
the last time you will feast your eyes on this breathtaking display
of the result of Marvel’s sneaky venture into the garment business
because we won’t be advertising it anymore!”

That piques my interest.  I’d love to learn about the ins and outs
of these Marvel t-shirts and sweat shirts.  Were they successful at
all? Did sales start strong and fizzle out? Beyond supplying art,
were any of our Bullpen buddies involved in the venture? Any info
would be appreciated.

Topped by a ad for the Merry Marvel Marching Society, the “Ridin’
the Trail with Rawhide” letters column has four letters.  Three of
them are against the notion of the Kid being a lawman. The fourth
wants to see Rawhide, Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid teaming up in an
ongoing title and also wants to see Rawhide on TV.  That gives the
uncredited letter-answerer a chance to plug the Marvel Super-Hero
show mentioned in the Bullpen Bulletins.

That’s all for now, my amigos.  Happy trails to you until our next
exciting edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow
with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. That's a great cover, from the layout to the lettering.

    He spots Linda at her hotel and she introduces him to her uncle who recognizes Johnny as the infamous Rawhide Kid.

    It occurs to me, not for the first time, that Johnny might've done well to change his clothes and maybe grow a mustache instead of wandering around in the same ol' togs exactly as he looked in Wanted posters.