Wednesday, October 12, 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 90th installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #104 [October 1972] was an all-reprint issue with a new cover pencilled by Dick Ayers with inks by Vince Colletta. I like the basic image. It’s got impact. But, once again, Colletta’s inking flattens the excitement. Vince used to be a better fit for westerns. He inked Larry Lieber’s cover for Rawhide Kid #63 [April 1968] and his work on that one was much stronger.

Both of the Rawhide Kid stories reprinted in this issue were first published in Rawhide Kid #63. I was surprised to see stories less than five years old being reprinted, which makes me wonder if their use was a deadline-doom situation with these tales simply being the closest material at hand.

“Shoot-Out at Mesa City!” (8 pages) was by Ron Whyte with pencils by Lieber and inks by Colletta. The second Rawhide Kid story - “The Gun that Couldn't Lose!” (7 pages) - was written and penciled by Lieber with inks by Colletta. I wrote about them in August, 2013. You can read about them here.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the story. Despite the previous month’s statement that “Stan’s Soapbox” would appear every month, it’s not here this month. The lead item claims new publisher and editorial director Lee was too talked out after last month’s double-length column and would prefer to devote this month’s page to items about “some of the nifty new artists, writers and phantasmagorical features” Marvel has lined up. That’s followed by shout-outs to the just-launched Doc Savage title, Frank Brunner, Barry Smith, Ralph Reese, Billy Graham, Mike Trimpe, Wayne Boring and George Alec Effinger. There is a small lettered box announcing The Claws of the Cat and a larger visual box plugging Doc Savage, The Gunhawks and Man-Thing that runs across the bottom of the page.

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” includes Journey into Mystery #1 and The Gunhawks #1. The plug for the former reads: Marvel’s newest voyage into the World of the Weird! And with titles like “Dig Me No Grave!” - “House!” - and “More Than Blood!” - how can any ghostly-tales-aficionado go wrong?

The plug for The Gunhawks #1: Reno Smith and Kid Cassidy - black man and white man - pitted against every owlhoot gun in the wild and wooly West!

Other listings: Fantastic Four #127, Spider-Man #113, Incredible Hulk #156, Conan the Barbarian #19, Fear #10 (with the start of an ongoing Man-Thing series), Thor #204, Avengers #104, Capt. America and the Falcon #154, Hero for Hire #3, Daredevil #92, Sub-Mariner #54, Iron Man #51, Jungle Action #1, Astonishing Tales #14 (with Ka-Zar), Warlock #2, Doc Savage #1, Defenders #2, Spoof #2, Marvel Spotlight #6 (starring the Ghost Rider) and Combat Kelly #3. Since I was still living and working in Cleveland, I could afford to buy them all. The nice couple who owned the convenience store I bought my comic books from used to set aside one of every new comic book for me. Which I could afford when comics cost twenty cents apiece. Imagine what an issue of every new comic book would cost you today. I can’t count that high.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appeared after the second Rawhide Kid story. There were three letters in the column, all of them by Robert A. Gillis of Elmsford, New York, also known as “The Gringo Kid.”

Gillis is a harsh critic. He didn’t think much of The Rawhide Kid #100, taking shot at its cover and inside art. He did like the plot of the anniversary story, which teamed the Kid with his brothers. At the end of the story, Johnny Clay rode off with gambler brother Frank. Gillis was hoping they would ride together for a while, but that was not - ahem - in the cards.

His second (shorter) letter complained about the redrawing of Joe Maneely Two-Gin Kid reprints to make the hero look like the newer super-hero version of the character. Marvel responds that they had already changed that policy.

The third Gillis letter complains about the Kid Colt reprints and, specifically, about Jack Keller’s art. I love the Marvel response to this:

We’ve answered this before, but it seems to us that Jack Keller’s art on KID COLT, far from being poor and simple, is actually a very crisp, clean style that tells a story directly and to the point. As anyone who has sat down to draw a comics story can testify, telling a story is essential. No matter how well you can do figures, horses or whatever - if you can’t make a page coherent, you’re nowhere. The Kid has survived for over 20 years simply because of that, since Jack drew him for the majority of those years. He let nothing stand in the way of making KID COLT stories solid entertainment and that’s what always claim out.

The Gringo Kid got taken to school. I tip my cowboy hat to whoever wrote that response. Maybe Roy Thomas?

The third and final reprinted story in this issue is the five-page “War In Chicamaw County” from  Frontier Western #1 [February 1956]. It was written by Stan Lee with pencil art by Bob Forgione and inks by Jack Abel.


Cattleman Wayne Grannock is a greedy son of a bitch who wants to be the cattle king of Chicamaw Country. He sets his sights on Warren Wilcox’s ranch. Young Don Grannock doesn’t want this because he’s in love with Nancy Wilcox. Started by Grannock, a range war leaves death and destruction it its wake. Though the Comics Code-approved art is wholesome enough, Lee’s captions reveals a staggeringly high body count. This is grim business.

The range war ends when the military arrives to bring law and order to the county. Grannock is shot and, though he will recover, he’ll never walk again. But the greater loss, one he shares with Wilcox,  is that their children have left them:

[Don] left...ran off with Nancy Wilcox...said they were going to California to be married! He’s going to study the law...doesn’t wanna be a rancher!

Grannock realizes his range war was all for nothing. The military governor of the territory confiscates his ranch as a penalty for starting the range war. Unable to walk, Grannock takes a job as the bookkeeper for Warren Wilcox’s ranch. The poignant last panel has the former enemies thinking about what they did.

GRANNOCK: Look at it...acres and acres of land! I used to think I wanted it more than anything...and now I’d rather have my son come home than have all the land in the world!

WILCOX: I guess we both learned a lesson, Wayne...too bad we learned it too late!


This is a terrific story. Stan’s script is tight and to the point. He takes the reader through the violence and then brings the story home with its poignant conclusion. The Forgione/Abel art is tough and equally focused. If I were doing a collection of Marvel’s non-series western stories, this one would make the cut.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with my review of Shin Godzilla. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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