Wednesday, April 30, 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 55th installment of that series.

Why did it have to be snakes? The cover of The Rawhide Kid #70 [June, 1969] is penciled by Larry Lieber. The Grand Comics Database opines Lieber also inked the cover.

“The Night of the Betrayers” (22 pages) is a Western version of The Prince and the Pauper. Even the villains are European. The tale is written and penciled by Lieber with John Tartaglione on the inks. As with the other issue-length Rawhide Kid adventures of the era, this one has never been reprinted.

The fast-paced story begins with the Rawhide Kid stopping to assist magic elixir huckster “Dr. Druid” with a busted wagon wheel. Their initial conversation got a laugh out of me.

RAWHIDE: That medicine you’re sellin’–-does it really work?

DRUID: Not a chance! That’s why I need a wagon that does! I’ve got to keep on the move!

This is an ambush. Three owlhoots grab the Rawhide Kid from behind and chloroform him. When the Kid wakes up, he’s in an escape-proof room. It’s a nice escape-proof room, but the bars on the window and door detract from its charm.

Count Zamora, the “premier of the sovereign state of Koslavia,” is behind the kidnapping. The Kid is the twin of young Prince Stephen. Zamora plans to have Rawhide replace Stephen, allowing the premier to become the actual ruler of the country. Stephen is horrified by this betrayal by a man he thought was his most loyal subject. The Count explains:

Loyalty ends where opportunity begins! The opportunity to unseat a noble sovereign...and substitute a mere figurehead whom I can I never could you.

Turning to Johnny, the Count continues: 

You see, gunman, the crown will be yours–-but the power will be mine!

Rawhide doesn’t plan to go along with it. Zamora is surprised that the young outlaw has scruples, but is certain those scruples can be overcome. At gunpoint, the Kid and the Prince are forced to change clothes with one another.

Zamora tells his thugs to escort “the new Prince” to the cellar to be shown the price of defiance. That’s when Christina, daughter of the Count, bursts into the room. She’s not down with this scheme of her father’s at all.

Johnny takes advantage of the distraction to punch out the Count’s henchmen, only to be knocked out by a gas pallet. Zamora orders his daughter to her room.

When the Kid awakes, his hands are tied and he’s on a plank over a pit of rattlers. If Johnny doesn’t cooperate, the Count’s men will pull the plank out from under him. Our hero is left to consider his options while Zamora moves on to the next part of his plan.

Christiana, loyal to the true Prince Stephen, drops a flower pot on the sole henchman guarding the  Kid. She frees Johnny, then tells him her father’s plan to kill Stephen:

He’s been taken to town, dressed in your clothes! My father will turn him loose among your countrymen–-to be hunted down and slain as a fugitive.

The Kid sizes up the situation:

The Prince hasn’t the experience–-the savvy–-of a man on the run! He doesn’t stand a chance! I’ve gotta bust out of here and get to town pronto!

Things happen pretty fast. Prince Stephen wakes up in the town and is immediately spotted and mistaken for the real Rawhide Kid. He eludes capture for a few pages.

Back at the ranch, Christina distracts another guard to allow Rawhide to escape. Johnny punches out another guard, takes the man’s gun and heads for his horse.

The mob catches up with Prince Stephen. Fiscally conservative, the townspeople feels trials are long and expensive. The figure they’ll just lynch the man they believe is the Rawhide Kid.

Enter the real Rawhide, who rides into town on Nightwind, wings the guy holding the rope, scatters the rest of the mob and grabs up the Prince. The brave townspeople aren’t about to go up against two “outlaws” and decide to call it a day.

Rawhide and the Prince hatch a scheme of their own, knowing Zamora will be expecting the Kid to seek vengeance. They switch clothes. The Prince, pretending to be Johnny, knocks on the door. He tells Zamora Stephen is dead and, since the killing has already been done, he might as well profit from these events.

Zamora is impressed: Excellent! I admire a man who faces life’s realities-–and exploits them!  

While this mutual cooperation stuff is going on, Johnny sneaks his way into the house and gets the drop on Zamora and his goons. But one of the owlhoots sneaks up behind him. The Kid drops the rifle-toting henchmen easily, but, in that brief moment, Zamora and his men take cover and start shooting. The Rawhide Kid is pinned down.

Johnny leaps for a chandelier and swings down into the table some of his foes are hiding behind. The Count’s men are no match for the Kid’s guns. Zamora knows he’ll be next, but he’s counting on Johnny following him into a secret room.

The Count thinks: So come ahead, Rawhide! Come and see how your famed colts stand up against the blazing fire power...of a Gatling gun!

Pretty good as it turns out, but mostly because one last henchmen leaps at Johnny from behind. The Kid ducks and the thugs sails over him into the Gatling gun’s spray of bullets. The surprised Zamora loses focus for a second and, in the next second, the Rawhide Kid sends him into eternity.

Christina knows her father’s ruthless ambition “could only end in death for him...and disgrace for me!"

Prince Stephen will have none of that. Christina is a loyal subject of the realm, noble and untainted.

The Kid decides to push on. Asked to where, he answers:

Not “to,” but “away from!” Away from the sound of gunfire...and the memory of yesterday! Adios!

Digression. It’s a shame the Kid didn’t follow Christina and Prince Stephen back to Koslavia. My man Larry could have spun some mighty interesting yarns about an American outlaw seeking a new life far from the Wild West.

“The Night of the Betrayers” is another of my favorite Rawhide Kid stories. Lieber took the lessons he learned from creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s run on the title and added his own sensibilities. That made for great comics that were somewhat different from other Marvel titles. I like these isues   more with each rereading.

There are two half-page house ads in this issue. One is for Mighty Marvel Western #5, a 68-page comic book with a new cover by Herb Trimpe and reprints of Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw stories. The other is for the Spider-Man and Thor plastic pillows that have been around for several months now. The full-color items cost $1.50 each plus fifteen cents for postage.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has three missives from readers. Tim Snow of Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada bemoans the recent cancellations of Ghost Rider, Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. He suggests a bimonthly mag featuring all three of those heroes...and the Rawhide Kid.

The editorial response says such a magazine is in the works. Which was kind of sort of accurate. The Ghost Rider would return as one of several strips in Western Gunfighters. Kid Colt Outlaw and Two-Gun Kid would also return to regular publication but those titles would feature reprints of previous adventures.

Owen Mahon of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania gushes about Larry Lieber’s penciling. He suggests Larry take over Silver Surfer (drawn by John Buscema) or Sub-Mariner (drawn by Gene Colan). After a few jokes, the editorial response:

Larry’s just burstin’ with pride thanks to all the nice words you said about his talented pencils...but we doubt if anybody is big enough to take over the SILVER SURFER from Big John!

David Lomazoff of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is fairly critical of issue #68's “When Stalks the Cougar” but eventually concludes that it was a good story.

That’s “adios” for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday. I’ll be back on the morrow with more stuff.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Rawhide Kid was the first western comic that I enjoyed reading. I do have the pair of Marvel Masterworks and just a handful of Rawhide Kid comics. I was hoping Marvel Masterworks would continue w/ Rawhide Kid and also put out "The Mighty Marvel Western" w/ Kid Colt, 2 Gun Kid, Matt Slade, I only have about 6 books. Btw did Stan Lee also write those short stories that fell in between the Rawhide Kid stories? Enjoy your site.