Wednesday, November 16, 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 91st installment in that series.
The Rawhide Kid #105 [November 1972] had a cover by Larry Lieber and Frank Giacoia. “The Sinister Sons of Ma Morgan” (14 pages) was an all-new story written and penciled by Lieber with inks and most likely colors by George Roussos. At this time, we are less than a year away from the very last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in this title.


The tale opens with one of “The Sinister Sons of Ma Morgan” robbing an express office. The Rawhide Kid has just ridden into the town. Not seeing a sheriff’s office, Johnny figures he’ll be safe for a few days while he rests. Except “Sonny” kills the express office’s clerk and clubs the curious Rawhide on his way out. The townspeople figure Rawhide for the robber-killer, despite his just getting up from the ground when they arrive on the scene and despite his not having the stolen money from the office.

While the Kid tracks the robber, we learn that Ma Morgan’s husband  lived honest and died poor. She and her four boys aren’t going to carry that tune. They are all about the robbing.

Rawhide hides up the house. Ma tells she hasn’t seen any riders in ages. She invited him in for a home-cooked meal. He is overwhelmed by her kindness...up until the drugged hot chocolate he is drinking knocks him out.

When the Kid wakes, he’s surrounded by Ma and her sons. Ma tells him he’s going to ride with them...because having a top gun like Rawhide in their gang will put them in the big time. The Kid isn’t flattered. Fisticuffs break out. Rawhide is holding his own until Ma fires some warning shots.

Ma lays it out. The Kid rides with them - his guns empty - or they will drop him on the doorstep of the nearest lawman. After robbing a bank with the Morgan boys, Rawhide tries to escape. They shoot at him and they think they’ve killed him. In reality, they missed the Kid and he’s pretending to be dead in a conveniently nearby river. He breathes through reeds until they leave.

The last three pages go by fast. Rawhide clobbers the son standing guard outside the Morgan home. He shoots it out with the remaining three sons, killing them. The fourth son tries to shoot the Kid in the back. The Kid ducks and fires. The fourth son goes to join his brothers and mother. The shot that missed the Rawhide Kid killed Ma Morgan. The Kid reflects on the carnage:

Men or women--it don’t make no never mind! The greedy and the ruthless always come to the same end!

Johnny returns the stolen money to the express office and the bank with a note explaining his innocence. But he remains an outlaw and a fugitive.


“The Sinister Sons of Ma Morgan” isn’t one of Lieber’s better ones. There’s some good dialogue and some great action panels, but Ma and her boys don’t have much depth to them. But I remained a huge fan of my pal Larry’s Rawhide Kid adventures. Once I started working at Marvel, I always made sure to grab a make-ready of every issue that had a new Lieber story. Outside of my own work, I don’t think I did that with any other Marvel title.

Ten comics-related classified ads ran in this issue. Eight of them had run previously. The two new ones were for buyer/seller J. Hunt of Kenmore, New York...and, from Cleveland, Tennessee, a very small ad for something called The Comic Book Price Guide. I wonder if it  that guide ever amounted to anything.
The issue’s reprint was a five-page Western Kid story - “Stampede” - that was drawn by John Romita and which first appeared in Western Kid #10 [June 1956].


Tex Dawson aka the Western Kid and “his fighting pals” Whirlwind (horse) and Lightning (dog) help stop a stampede, not realizing the stampede was caused by Larkin, the man they thought they had been helping. It’s some sort of rustling scheme of Larkin and a guy name of Stone. Truth be told, I lost interest in this tale by the end of page two. Anyway...

Larkin frames Dawson for the stampede. The law tries to arrest the Kid and his fighting pals. The Kid escapes. He lays low until he’s able to prove Larkin and Stone were the real criminals. Which - get this - the sheriff knew all along. He just wanted to see how things would play out. It’s an Old West dick move. How nice.


The Western Kid and his fighting pals are pretty cool. The Romita art is interesting, but not as good as what he was capable of even this early in his career. Whirlwind’s legs look spindly in a couple panel and there’s a gun drawn so badly it looks like two pieces of square wood nailed together.
The Western Kid story is followed by a full-page house ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #164 [November 1972}. The otherwise all-reprint issue has an action-packed cover by Dick Ayers and Frank Giacoia. My pal Dick was always at his best with westerns.

Inside the issue, we get three short Kid Colt stories and one non-series stories. The Kid Colt stories are:

“Draw Or Die, Mister!” (6 pages) by Stan Lee, Jack Keller (pencils) and Dick Ayers (inks). From Kid Colt Outlaw #92 [September 1960].

“Flames Along the Border!” (5 pages) with art by Keller. From Kid Colt Outlaw #56 [January 1956].

“Trail’s End!” (5 pages) with art by Keller. From Kid Colt Outlaw #56 [January 1956].

The non-series reprint story is unusual because it’s not from one of Marvel’s western comics. “The Iron Giant!” (5 pages) first saw print in Journey into Mystery #69 [June 1961]. It’s drawn by Paul Reinman and the Grand Comics Database opines that Stan Lee plotted it and Larry Lieber scripted. Here’s the GCD synopsis:

A train conductor in the Old West, who loves his locomotive, is robbed by bandits and left in the wilderness to die. But the bandits are chased to justice by the suddenly-animated locomotive.

It’s not the weirdest western story from Marvel - the Rawhide Kid once fought a giant alien totem pole - but its placement in a Kid Colt reprint issue this late in the game is noteworthy.

Next up was the “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page. “Stan’s Soapbox” discusses his recent lectures and eschews “beating the drums for Claws of the Cat, Journey Into Mystery, Jungle Action, Gunhawks, Night Nurse, Doc Savage or Shanna the She-Devil.” He’s not going to mention them, nor is he going to mention Wyatt Earp, Gothic Thrillers, get the idea.

The next Bullpen Bulletins section plugs Claws of the Cat...Linda Carter, Night Nurse...and Shanna the She Devil, three comic books  written by Linda Fite, Jean Thomas and Carole Seuling. This early attempt at diversity in Marvel’s writing staff wasn’t successful, but it did start the process, however long it would end up taking the comics industry to be more open to women writers.

The next item plugs Chamber of Chills (where my first Marvel comics story would appear, Journey into Mystery and Gothic Thrillers, which would undergo a name change to Supernatural Thrillers before publication. Promised were adaptations of stories by such literary greats as Robert E. Howard, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Bloch.

The final item welcomed new creators to Marvel: Irv Wesley (alias for Sam Kweskin), Craig Russell and Jim Starlin.

The “Mighty Marvel Checklist” for comics on sale included Amazing Spider-Man #114 (Doc Ock and Hammerhead), Thor #205 (Mephisto); Captain America and the Falcon #155 (with Cap’s secret origin) and  nearly two dozen other issues.

The issue closes with the “Ridin’ the Range with Rawhide” letters page. There are three letters.

Howard J. Tockman of St. Louis, Missouri thinks western comics are a waste of the medium, but he did enjoy “I Shot Jesse James” in The Rawhide Kid #101.

Wayne Springer of Evansville, Indiana wrote about several western titles and picked up a no-prize for spotting a word balloon error.

Brian De Lorenzce of Paseto, Pennsylvania found discrepancies in different versions of the Rawhide Kid’s origins. Marvel copped to the situation and responded:

The story in Rawhide Kid #91 is the correct one. Rawhide outdrew two sidewinders [who murdered the man who raised and trained him] in a fair fight and was later blamed for their murders.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with something. I just haven’t decided what I want to write about. Come back tomorrow and we’ll both be surprised.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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