Wednesday, April 13, 2016


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 73rd installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #88 [June 1971] is a mostly new issue with a cover by writer-penciler Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. Regular “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” readers know Tartaglione is my favorite of Lieber’s inkers on this title. Lieber and Tartaglione also team on this month’s Rawhide Kid Adventure. The story was lettered by Jean Izzo aka Jean Simek, daughter of the legendary Art Simek.

The cover’s two panels summarize the basic plot of the 14-page “Gun Fever!” The story suffers from its truncated length, which didn’t give Lieber enough time to fully develop the character of the young man who shares the cover with the Kid.


The story opens Jess Parker waiting with gun drawn to rob the next reader of his horse. That rider turns out to be Rawhide, who drops his guns and surrenders his steed Nightwind rather than gun down a boy. Of course, as Jess starts to ride away, the Kid whistles and Nightwind throws Jeff off. The frightened youngster tells Rawhide his tale.

The day before, outlaw Joe Slade had ridden up to the Parker ranch. Pa Parker invites him to supper, but, once inside, Slade robs the farmer and his son. Jess watches in horror as Slade shoots his dad in the back, killing him.

Jess buried his dad and took off after Slade, but his horse broke a leg and had to be shot. That’s why he needed Rawhide’s horse. To the lad’s credit, he did tell Rawhide he would leave his horse for him at the livery stable in nearby Sulphur Springs.

Knowing Jess is no match for Slade, Rawhide teaches the young man out to shoot fast and accurately. Apparently, Rawhide is one heck of a teacher because four panels and mere hours later, he and Jess are riding on Nightwind to Sulphur Springs.

Jess calls out Slade. Slade brushes him off, but Jess isn’t having it. Slade figures Jess for an easy kill. It’s the last bad choice of the outlaw’s life.

It takes four panels for Jess to turn into an asshole. He pushes a townsman down for walking in front of him. He challenges the rest of the men to see if they are fast enough to take down the man who killed Joe Slade. He bullies the proprietor of the town hotel into giving him and Rawhide free rooms. If the story had more pages, I’m sure we would have seen Rawhide go down to the front desk and pay for the rooms.

Jess’ bravado lasts as long as it takes Slade’s gang to learn about their partner’s death and drag Jess from his free hotel room. The four outlaws plan to lynch the boy. Rawhide sees the situation and, riding Nightwind, grabs Jess. They head for the hills to make their stand. Let the sound effects fly.

Jess is inexperienced and overzealous. He exposes himself and gets a bullet in his shoulder. Rawhide takes out the entire gang on his own, even nailing the outlaw who had made his way to the hill that overlooked Jess and the Kid. That leaves two panels for the message of this adventure.

JESS: I-I thought gunfightin’ was fun! But after this fracas...

RAWHIDE: You’ve lost your stomach for it!

JESS: Yeh, I reckon so!

RAWHIDE: That’s all I wanted to hear!
JESS: Where are we goin’?

RAWHIDE: To town, for a doc to look at your arm! Then home, boy. Home!
I’m guessing Rawhide stayed around for a spell to help Jess manage the farm, then rode off into his next adventure.  


A half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” ran after page six of this story. My picks of that long-ago month was the Avengers/Incredible Hulk crossover plotted by Harlan Ellison and the gorgeous debut of Kull the Conqueror. Also worth noting was Monsters on the Prowl #11 with a reprint of “I Was a Slave of the Living Hulk!” from Journey Into Mystery #62 [November 1960]. 
Alien criminal Xemnu was the Hulk  of the title, but was renamed the Titan - for obvious reasons - in the reprint. Xemnu would return in Journey Into Mystery #66 [March 1961] and enter fully into the Marvel Age when he went up against the Defenders in Marvel Feature #3 [June 1972]. He’s a favorite of mine and I once plotted a never-published Defenders story with him. I think Pat Broderick pencilled it.

The second half of the page advertises a “Super Poster Offer” from the Marvelmania fan club. Four posters for two bucks including the postage. The three-foot posters were drawn by Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Thor) and Howard Purcell (Black Knight).

“All in a Day’s Work” (5 pages) is written and drawn by the great Bill Everett. The non-series story originally saw print five years prior in Two Gun Kid #82 [July 1966].

The plot is pretty simple. Hard-as-nails stagecoach driver Jake has to contend with attacking Indians, a cloudburst that threatens to sweep the stagecoach away, a busted wheel and a band of stage robbers. As you can tell from the title, that’s just another day for Jake. What makes this story notable is Everett’s amazing art. So much detail and so many figures on every page. Whoever owns the originals to this tale could spend hours looking at these pages.    

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page follows the Everett story, but it lacks the pizzazz the page usually had. There are some results of readers finishing the sentence “Life is...” There’s a long section about artists shifting to different titles. There’s an item about Stan Lee working on a long-play album with Icarus and appearing on To Tell the Truth and Roy Thomas speaking on a radio show and on a college campus. The final item before “Stan’s Soapbox” is a shout-out to colorists Stan Goldberg, Mimi Gold, Sharon Cohen and others. The subject of “Stan’s Soapbox” is the relevancy of comics. Here’s a spoiler. Comics are relevant.

That brings us to the “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page. Reader Steve Nelson of Eugene, Oregon takes up most of the single page complaining about the Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt never managing to clear their names. It’s a justified complaint and I know I was not the only reader who felt it was time for a change in the status quo of the series.

A second letter is from James Rubino of Hollywood, Florida. He has nothing but praise for Rawhide Kid #83 [January 1971]. You can read my review of that issue here.

The final editorial material of the issue is a full-page house ad for Western Gunfighters #5 [June 1971]. The 68-page comic book had a cover by Herb Trimpe with inset figures drawn by Marie Severin, and 30 pages of new material. The contents:

The Ghost Rider in “The Time of the Gunhawk!” (10 pages) by writer Len Wein, penciler Dick Ayers and inker Frank Giacoia.

Gunhawk in “Gunhawk vs. the Range Lord!” (10 pages) by writer Allyn Brodsky, penciler Werner Roth and inker Dick Ayers.

The Renegades in “Deserters” (10 pages) by Mike Friedrich (writer) and Tom Sutton (artist).

Apache Kid in “Grey Wolf Strikes” (8 pages) with art by Werner Roth and reprinted from Apache Kid #2 [February 1951]

Black Mask (aka the Black Rider) in “Meeting at Midnight” (5 pages) with art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and George Klein (inks), reprinted from Kid Colt Outlaw #86 [September 1959].

Wyatt Earp in “Men Without Faces!” (5 pages) with art by Dick Ayers and reprinted from Wyatt Earp #13 [August 1957].

The Western Kid in an untitled story (5 pages) drawn by John Romita and reprinted from Western Kid #12 [October 1956].

I really liked this series of Western Gunfighters. It’s one of the titles I’d collect if I had the funds and the time to hunt down the run. I’d do the same with The Mighty Marvel Western, another one of my favorites from just before I went to work for Marvel.

Look for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday next week and the start of my report on the Gem City Comic Con tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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