Wednesday, June 1, 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 78th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #92 [October 1971] was a 52-page issue, which cost a quarter and was one of two months of 52-page comics published by Marvel. With the December issue, Marvel went back down to its usual 36-page comics, now priced at twenty cents. DC Comics also went to the larger size, but stayed with it much longer. A friend of mine is convinced that this “dirty trick” of Marvel’s is why the company gained sales ascendancy over DC. As much as I enjoyed getting those extra pages from both companies, my explanation for Marvel’s sales dominance is less conspiratorial. With rare exception, the Marvel titles were simply better than the DC titles. It would take years before DC realized this and upped their game. Despite any number of savvy creators trying to explain it to them. DC was, after all, the company that wanted Jack Kirby to draw like everyone else.

The cover of this issue was penciled by Larry Lieber and inked by Frank Giacoia. It’s a busy cover with the Rawhide Kid shooting at hitting four owlhoots while a fifth fires at him from the rooftop and the lawman cowers in his office. There is also a lot of copy on the cover and, for some strange reason, I find myself wishing that we could occasionally see this kind of busy, wordy cover on today’s comic books. I like to mix things up.

Written and penciled by Lieber with inks by John Tartaglione, “The Frightened Gun” (14 pages) centers around an old sheriff too scared to do his job properly and too poor to quit it. He’s meant to be a sympathetic character, but, as you will see, that’s difficult for 2016 Tony Isabella to accept.


The story takes place soon after Rawhide’s two-issue team-up with Kid Colt. He’s thinking how peaceful things are when he sees Laura (the sheriff’s beautiful blonde daughter) being chased by renegade Indians. He comes to her rescue and quickly dispatches her trio of attackers, two by gun and one with his own knife after the Kid had tried to spare the man’s life. Rawhide accompanies Laura to town, where he meets her lawman father.

The sheriff is obliged to the Kid and is convinced our young hero doesn’t mean to cause any trouble. There’s no warrant on Rawhide in this territory, but the townspeople think the sheriff is just too old and scared to face the Kid.

My eternal question: With so many territories in which the Rawhide Kid was not a wanted man, why didn’t he settle down in one of them? The usual answer is he was afraid he’d bring trouble to any town in which he put down roots. That gets a little hard for me to accept after so many issues.

The Kid has dinner with Laura and the sheriff. He compliments the lawman on his nice town. Laura says the town was wild and dangerous before her dad tamed it.

Their meal is interrupted by the sound of a saloon brawl down the street. The sheriff says the men aren’t doing any serious damage and declines to intervene. Rawhide notices the sheriff’s trembling hands and recognizes the old lawman is scared.

The Kid moves on. As he leaves, ruthless gunslinger Rafe Yorby and one of his crew ride into town. The two men bully their way around the saloon. When one man fights back, Yorby shoots him dead in cold blood. One of the townspeople runs to get the sheriff.

The trembling sheriff grabs a shotgun and, on his short walk to the saloon, convinces himself that he must take Yorby by surprise. The gunslinger’s back is turn to the lawman. The sheriff gives him no warning whatsoever. He just shoots him in the back.

Maybe I’m putting my modern-day sensibilities on a story that takes place in the late 1870s and was written in the early 1970s, but I take serious exception to the sheriff’s actions. The sheriff would have been within what I see as his rights if he told the killer to drop his guns and then, if Yorby failed to do so and turned toward the sheriff, to shoot that man dead. Even a cold-blooded killer has rights and the law must protect those as well.

Sidebar. The Joker is the exception to this. If anyone at any time sees the Joker, they are within their rights to shoot him as many times as it takes to turn his head into a stump, to reload and fire into the stump, to cut up the Joker’s body into many tiny pieces, and to ask Superman to drop those pieces into the sun. No asylum or prison can hold the Joker. He always gets out. He always kills more people and ruins more lives. It is self-defense to kill the Joker as soon as you see him. Now you know what my first Batman story is should DC Comics ever ask me to write Batman.

Back to “The Frightened Gun”...

Rafe Yorby has a brother Jed, who will certainly come to town with his gang when he hears of his brother’s killing. The townspeople won’t stand with the sheriff. Laura rides after and catches up with the Rawhide Kid. Our hero races back to town.

The sheriff is too old and scared to fight. The Kid says he’ll take care of the gang by himself. He’s doing okay, but he’s outnumbered. Laura beseeches her father to help him, but the sheriff says he’s spent. His nerve is gone.

But the Kid -- he’s young, and he’s good! Maybe he can take those polecats!

One of Jed’s gang gets behind Rawhide and shoots the Kid. Despite his wounded shoulder, the Kid keeps fighting. Finally, the sheriff grabs his gun and gets into the fight. The Kid and the old lawman finish off the gang.

Though there’s a sizeable reward for the outlaws, the sheriff can’t claim it. It will go to the Rawhide Kid:

Okay! But when I collect the money, I’m taking your daughter to New York City and starting a comic-book publishing company.

Just kidding...

Okay! But when I collect the money, I’m turning it over to you and Laura! It’ll give you a chance to get a fresh start in a safer line of work! I figure a man who’s put in your time keepin’ the peace deserves that much!

The Kid goes off to find the town doctor to tend to his shoulder.


This story has never been reprinted in the United States, but was reprinted in Norway and the Netherlands.

Because of the expanded page count of this issue, Marvel included 25 pages of reprints, all from The Rawhide Kid #18 [October 1960]. Here’s the line-up:

“At the Mercy of Wolf Waco”/“The Rawhide Kid Strikes Back”, a two-chapter, 15-page story by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers;

“A Legend Is Born” (5 pages), perhaps my favorite Rawhide Kid tale of all time, by Lee, Kirby and Ayers; and

“The Midnight Raiders” (5 pages), a non-series story by Lee, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

I wrote about the three stories on February 15, 2012, in my second installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. Rather than copy my comments in today’s bloggy, I direct you to the original bloggy thing, which I think you’ll enjoy.

The half-page Mighty Marvel Checklist appeared in the middle of “A Legend Is Born.” Some but not all of Marvel’s titles had ramped up to the larger size. Most of them filled their additional pages with reprints, but not all of them.

Astonishing Tales #8 had three stories: Ka-Zar (11 pages), Doctor Doom (10 pages) and the introduction and only appearance of which I’m aware of the “Brothers Link” in a 10-page story plotted by Mike Friedrich, scripted by Len Wein and drawn by George Tuska with inks by Mike Esposito. My memory of this story is foggy, but here’s what the GCD says about it:

While Damian Link is trying to stop a robbery he and his twin brother Joshua Link are somehow linked together by experimental rays. Later when his gang tries to kill him Joshua is able to summon Damian to help him. While helping Joshua Damian finds himself with new powers when Joshua's energy enters his body.

It’s hard to believe that no Marvel writer has used the characters in the past 35 years, but that does seem to be the case. Since I’d like to read the story again, I’ll be looking for an inexpensive copy of the issue as soon as I have a few extra bucks to spend on my comics-reading habit.
The rest of the page advertises “2 More Triumphs From Marvel” that are “Now on Sale”: Thor Annual #4 and Marvel Feature #1. The first is an all-reprint annual containing the 16-page Thor stories from Thor #131 [August 1966] and #132 [September 1966] and “The Boyhood of Loki,” a five-page Tales of Asgard from Journey into Mystery #113 [February 1965]. The creative team for all three reprinted stories is Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta.
Marvel Feature #1 has a Neal Adams cover proclaiming the coming of the Defenders, the new super-team of the Hulk, Sub-Mariner and Dr. Strange. Their 19-page introductory adventure is by Roy Thomas and Ross Andru with inks by Bill Everett. The issue also has:

“The Sub-Mariner and the Icebergs” (7 pages) by Bill Everett, which originally appeared in  Sub-Mariner Comics #40 [June 1955] and the all-new

“The Return!” (10 pages) by Thomas, Don Heck and Frank Giacoia. I’m guessing this was originally prepared for one of the double-series books Marvel was planning. The GCD synopsis:

Stephen Strange becomes Doctor Strange again to stop Baron Mordo.

That’s all for this week’s “Rawhide Kid Wednesday,” but you and I will be riding the range again in seven days. Come back tomorrow for May’s “My Other Bucket List” items, followed by the start of my multi-part trip report on the 2016 East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. Thanks for stopping by. 

© 2016 Tony Isabella


  1. Great comics history, you sure know your stuff. I have only a few RK so I bought a digital collection to do the same thing, read every Rawhide Kid and Atlas western some day (when I retire probably, not too many years from now)

  2. Tony,

    Your reference to Joshua & Damian Link sparked a memory.

    Josh Link became the villain Gemini, part of the original Zodiac, and had appeared in Avengers before the Astonishing Tales story you referenced. He would be in a prolonged storyline with Ka-Zar at the end of the latter's run in AT (issues 15-20). I know this because I bought those issues via back issue acquisitions in the 80's.

  3. I’m close to having a full set of Astonishing Tales – but I’m missing #8 and so never knew about this “Brothers Link” story. Glad you mentioned it – it does sound intriguing…Hobbyfan’s above note adds some clarity here as well. Makes me wonder too, if Roy and/or Len Wein didn’t reuse the concept yet again when the Brother Voodoo character was launched in the revived Strange Tales a few years later.