Wednesday, October 5, 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 89th installment in that series.
The cover of The Rawhide Kid #103 [September 1972] was penciled by Gil Kane with inks by Vince Colletta. I wasn’t keen on this cover when I first saw it and time has not improved it for me. The basic layout is interesting and maybe it looked much better in the pencil stage. But the Colletta inks flattened the image and sucked all the excitement out of it. Colletta did good work in several genres, but westerns was not one of them.

The cover illustrates “The Town Tyrant” by Larry Lieber (story and art) and George Roussos. The 14-story was likely colored by Roussos as well. It was lettered by D. Vladimer (Denise Wohl) and edited by Roy Thomas.


I’ve been dreading reaching this issue because “The Town Tyrant” is my least favorite of all the Rawhide Kid stories by my friend Larry Lieber. It takes the concept of Johnny Clay being an honorable man and distorts it to an absurd level.

Three escaped convicts come across Rawhide washing the trail dust off himself by standing in a creek and pouring water from his hat over his head. While fully dressed. The convicts decide they want the Kid’s clothes and horse.

The Kid’s horse - Nightwind - warns his master of the approaching criminals. The convicts shoot first. The Kid shoots better, taking down two of the cons. The third, sneaking up on the Kid, gets off a shot before Rawhide shoots him down. But the Kid has been hit in the shoulder. He passes out and rolls down the slope of the hill.

Hours later, creepy prospector Jud Dawson comes across the shoot-out and finds Rawhide still unconscious but alive. Recognizing the Kid, Jud thinks this is his lucky day. He takes the Kid to his high country cabin and tends to his wounds. When the Kid awakes is when the story goes off the rails...

RK: You know my name!

JUD: More’n that...I know yore rep! Yore an hombre who pays his debts...and I expect to be paid for savin’ yore skin!

RK: What’s your price?

JUD: All muh life I’ve been a nobody! Dirt poor and friendless! But things are gonna be different, ‘cause now I’ll have the fastest gun in the territory backin’ me up!

RK: That sounds like a steep price!

JUD: You wanta welsh?

RK: No! I owe you, and I’ll pay you!

Riding into a peaceful town without a lawman, Jud proceeds to first bully and then steal from the townspeople. He doesn’t pay for the meals he and the Kid have. He has Rawhide demonstrated his shooting speed and accuracy to intimate them.

Jud doesn’t pay for his new clothes. He cheats at cards. He wants to be paid for “running” the town. Rawhide goes along with it all and thinks to himself:

I must make Dawson realize how wrong he much agony he’s causing...before it’s too late...before something tragic happens!

Good luck with that. Rawhide tells Jud the townspeople won’t stand for much more of this, that Jud needs to back off. An angry Dawson tells the Kid not to tell him want to do, reminding Johnny that he would be dead in a field if it weren’t for the prospector. The Kid owes him!

The townspeople hire professional gunmen to take Dawson down. Three of the four gunslingers surround Jed while their remaining partner clobbers the Rawhide Kid from behind. The Kid comes too in time to save Dawson and kill the gunslingers. Then he tells Jud his debt is now settled. Apparently the price of Rawhide’s honor is murdering four men. Maybe not innocent men, but still...

TOWNSMAN: Did you hear that? The Kid’s thru protectin’ Dawson! And without that protection, Dawson is finished as the town bully!

TOWNSMAN: Dawson, you’ve got just enuff time to pack yore gear and ride! If yuh ever set foot in this town again, we’ll bury yuh!

Jud slinks away...with the clothes he didn’t pay for and the money he stole. If this were 2016, he’d be the Republican candidate for president. But I digress.

The Rawhide Kid ponders these events:

Dawson thought that my gun and rep would make him a big man! But each time he bullied these folks, he grew smaller and smaller! For a gun and the violence it brings never was...and never will be the measure of a man!


Like many of the Rawhide Kid stories written and drawn by Lieber, all of them better than this one, “The Town Tyrant” has never been reprinted in the United States.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the story. “Stan’s Soapbox” takes up two-thirds of the page. Stan shares the reasons he is no longer doing much writing for the company. He is spearheading Marvel’s continued growth in the comics industry and beyond. He announces the promotion of Roy Thomas to editor, praises the Marvel writers. He announces the hiring of Frank Giacoia as the assistant art director. He heaps well-deserved accolades on Marvel production manager John Verpoorten. But, he adds, he will continue to write “Stan’s Soapbox” every month.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist,” which takes up the rest of the page, lists 21 titles: Fantastic Four (with the return of the Mole Man), Spider-Man, Thor, Avengers, Hulk, Captain America and the Falcon, Daredevil, Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror (with a plot by John Jakes), Marvel Team-Up (Spider-Man and the X-Men versus Morbius), Captain Marvel, Amazing Adventures (starring the Beast), Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, Marvel Feature (Ant-Man versus Egghead); Marvel Premiere (Doctor Strange), Creatures on the Loose (with a new Gullivar Jones story), Sgt. Fury and Red Wolf. I bought them all, the benefits of being single with a decent-paying job in the early 1970s.

The issue’s second story was “Branded” with art by Joe Sinnott. The six-page story originally appeared in Western Outlaws #6 [December 1954]. It’s not a particularly good story.

Rustler Caine Johnson steals cattle by putting his brand over the existing brands. Which he saw in about a zillion western movies and TV shows. Everyone knows he’s doing this, but the sheriff says he can’t do anything without proof and Johnson is too smart to leave evidence behind. And, as we all know, there’s no way an angry mob of cattle owners would ever go outside the law. You should be able to sense my problems with this story.

Johnson’s thugs are more than a match for the ranchers. Young Kim Waring, whose mother’s cattle was stolen by Caine, challenges the rustler to a duel with branding irons. Caine charges at Waring with a glowing branding iron in hand. Kim sidesteps the charge. Johnson falls face first onto the branding iron. Which, by the way, was a letter “R”...for rustler. Caine is scarred for life.

That was the last of Caine Johnson, rustler, and his gang! The men took to the hills! The ranchers took back their stolen cattle and all was peace again in the valley of the moon...

And there was nothing to fear from Caine Johnson any longer, for wherever he went, he carried, for all to see, the mark of the rustler, with which he had been branded!

And the brand was “R” for rustler!

Oh, well, at least Sinnott’s art was nice.


The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appears after the first page of “Branded!” Three western readers were represented on the page.

“Name and address withheld” is a girl who noticed the letters page seems to have only letters from boys. She says girls enjoy TV and comic-book westerns as well. She asks for a special book giving the origins of Marvel’s western heroes and closes with a request Marvel not print her name and address; she is afraid of being teased.

The Marvel response ignores her request for the origins volume and, while granting her request for anonymity, tells she should instead worry about “the thousands of idolizing people who would fall at your feet if they knew you had a letter printed in a Mighty Marvel comic book.”

I had dozens of letters printed in Marvel comic books and no one ever fell at my feet. Unless I tripped them.

Reader Hank Higgins puts forth the interesting theory that Rawhide is a mutant, which explains his speed and accuracy with a gun. He ponders if there’s a descendant of the Kid in the modern world all primed to become a super-hero.

Marvel thanked Higgins for his kind words, but dismissed the idea of Rawhide being a mutant.

The Gringo Kid of Elmsford, New York presents an interesting mini-essays on whether or not the Rawhide Kid should receive amnesty for his past crimes and live free. He concludes the Kid shouldn’t get amnesty. I disagree, but Gringo makes good points.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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