Wednesday, April 16, 2014


The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 53rd installment of that series.

The cover of The Rawhide Kid #68 [February 1969] is by Larry Lieber (pencils) and Sal Buscema (inks). Costumed villain The Cougar is hanging from a tree and has apparently startled the Kid into almost falling from his horse Nightwind.

“When Stalks the Cougar!” (20 pages) is written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Buscema. Sal was new to Marvel, but quickly proving to be an indispensable addition to the company. He could ink as well or better than most. He could draw dynamic figures. He could tell a story visually in the same exciting fashion. Speaking from my own experiences, scripting pages drawn by Sal was always fun and easy. He brought out the best in many writers.

The Rawhide Kid didn’t face many super-villains during this era of his adventures, but the Cougar would have been a stand-out at any time. The masked train-robber wore massive paw-like gloves which could smash through a wall. He had special soles on his boots that allowed him to scamper up walls and afforded him sure footing even on top of a speeding train. But this story was much more than a hero/villain battle and one of my favorite Rawhide Kid thrillers.
The story opens with the Kid trying to relax in a saloon. But he’s not likely to sit still when a saloon girl and the dude she’d been sitting with are bullied by three goons. The dude doesn’t want any trouble. The goons are all about dishing out trouble. The Kid makes short work of the goons.

The dude is Wayde Garrison, the son of J.S. Garrison, owner of the railroad line. The elder Garrison is sore disappointed by the son he considers a spineless coward and a disgrace to the family name. We get a philosophical debate between Rawhide and J.S.

KID: Toughness isn’t everything! A man needs to be compassionate - to love other folks!

J.S.: Bah! That’s woman talk! The measure of a man is in his will to his uncompromising drive to overcome all odds! That’s how I built my railroad empire!

Despite the Kid being a wanted outlaw, Garrison wants to hire him to catch the Cougar and the villain’s gang. He offers to hire the finest lawyers to help prove Rawhide’s innocence. The Kid takes the job, but isn’t thrilled that Garrison wants “this worthless whelp” (Wayde) to work with Rawhide:

Nothing else has made a man of Wayde! Maybe fighting alongside the Rawhide Kid will do the trick!

Ed Dolan, the railroad security officer, isn’t thrilled with this hire. He says the Kid could be the Cougar. The Kid says the Cougar could be anyone, even Dolan. Hmm...

When Wayde goes missing for half an hour, Rawhide goes looking for him and finds him coming to. The young man says he was attacked by the Cougar. The Kid races through the cars and finds the villain in the engine car. The Cougar’s plan is to stop the train so his gang can rob it.

Rawhide and the Kid fight in the train and on top of the train, but the Kid is outmatched and, when the Cougar’s men surrounds the now-halted train, he’s likewise outnumbered. A stray bullet grazes the Kid’s scalp and takes him out of the fight.

Dolan is wounded. The Cougar and his men escape with the payroll. Rawhide and Wayde jump on their horses and go after the criminals. Wayde panics and alerts the outlaws.

Rawhide is outnumbered, but he’s on solid ground now. He clobbers the Cougar with a rock and out-shoots the rest of the gang members. Then comes the removal of the Cougar’s mask and a surprising moment for the Kid. Wayde is the Cougar.

KID: I’m plumb flabbergasted! But why? And how??

WAYDE: First, was easy! Two cougar costumes - one hidden on the train, the other in the mine!

WAYDE: I was able to change identities at will! I even pretended to have been attacked by the Cougar to keep you from getting suspicious!

KID: But why? You’re rich! So money couldn’t be the motive!

WAYDE: The motive was revenge - against the tyranny of a man whom I couldn’t fight any other way!

The father and son reunion isn’t a happy one. The elder Garrison has done some self-reflection, albeit it too late to do his child any good.

J.S.: I was a fool who never looked at you close up...who never saw what was happening to you! You’ve committed crimes, but none as bad as mine! I crushed your manhood...then ridiculed you for having none!

The Rawhide Kid is still a young man and young man can make really dumb mistakes. The Kid doesn’t want his well-earned pay.

KID: The money for those lawyers is soaked in too much sadness and grief! I couldn’t accept it! All I want it to push follow my own beckoning star...and forget how men can destroy their own and themselves!

Near as I can tell, “When Stalks the Cougar!” was never reprinted in the 1970s and hasn’t been reprinted since. That’s a shame.  It’s a story that deserves a new audience.

The issue’s other story is “Slap Leather, Lawman!” by Stan Lee and Don heck. Originally a four-page story when it appeared in Rawhide Kid #22 June 1961], it was cut to three pages for this reprinting.

It’s a mediocre four-page short wherein an aging sheriff has a gun fight with a rustler.  Though the much younger man draws first and hits the sheriff, the lawman doesn’t go down.  The sheriff disarms the rustler with a shot to the shoulder.

The townspeople are amazed. They all saw that the rustler’s bullet hit the sheriff first. The sheriff speaks only to his relieved wife and says: “I reckon it was only, fittin’, Marcy! I spent my whole life fightin’ for this tin badge...”

Marcy finishes her husband’s sentence: “And now it’s paid you back, saving your life!”

The sheriff holds his badge in his hand.  It has a dead-center dent where it stopped the rustler’s bullet.

Rawhide is literally a red-haired stepchild in the Marvel Universe of this period. His is the only original material western and will remain so until the 1970s.  The only other Marvel western is The Mighty Marvel Western, a double-sized title reprinting stories of Rawhide, Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid. In about nine months, Kid Colt Outlaw resumes publication, but it, too, comes back as an entirely reprint title.

Rawhide Kid #68 does not feature the Marvel Bullpen Page. It does not mention The Mighty Marvel Western, which seems like a serious oversight to me. The only Marvel house ad is for those inflatable plastic pillows of Spider-Man and Thor...and the Marvel super-hero t-shirts we’d seen many times before.

There is the usual “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters column. It features five letters from readers with no editorial responses to any of them.  This “no editorial response” was something Marvel tried out for several months. It was no popular with the readers. At the bottom of the letters column were the six “hallowed ranks of  Marveldom” and descriptions of each rank. As much a Marvel maniac as I was and despite that these ranks were more or less created by my dear friend Mark Evanier, I never cared for them.

I am not a rank. I am a free fan!

Going to the letters...

Kirk Robbins of Lancaster, Ohio wanted to see a modern-day Marvel character, preferably Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, or one of the Fantastic Four travel back in time to appear with Rawhide. He also wanted Marvel to try Civil War characters, Revolutionary War characters and characters of ancient history in its Marvel Super-Heroes title.

Willie B. Carson, a Marine serving in Viet Nam, enjoyed “Ride For Vengeance” in issue #65. If the Kid ever settles down, he wrote, it should be with Lucy Tanner from that story.

Jeffrey Avidano of Long Island, New York thought it “would be neat to team up Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid against some famous outlaws like Jesse James and Sam Bass.”

Darrell D. Wright of Hopkinton, Iowa also wanted to see Marvel do a comic about the American Revolution. He wrote, “You should have a warlock (male witch) as the hero.”

Finally, Bill Boyle of Kitchener, Ontario pointed out a error in a back-up story and requested a no-prize. Good luck with that, Bill. Despite my having fifty or more letters published in various Marvel titles, I never got a no-prize. Despite working at Marvel, I never got a no-prize. I didn’t get a no-prize until sometime in the early 1990s. I pitched some ideas to a Marvel editor and he mailed me a  no-prize in response. I chose to be amused.

That’s all for today. Come back next Wednesday for another Rawhide Kid adventure. Come back on Friday for other cool stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite Marvel covers ever. The Rawhide Kid was a big part of my early Marvel reading, potent stuff.

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