Wednesday, December 28, 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 95th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #109 [March 1973] has a new cover by Larry Lieber with George Roussos inking. Inside, the 14-page “The Vengeance” was written and penciled by Lieber, inked by Roussos, colored by Dave Hunt, lettered by June Braverman and edited by Roy Thomas.


As we might have said in the 1970s, “The Vengeance” was one heavy story. The Rawhide Kid rides into the small town of Boulder Bluff. The town has no sheriff and the Kid figures he can rest there for a few days. But the townspeople had spotted him coming. They ambush him, capture him and prepare to lynch him.

Leading citizen Sam Rathmore stops the lynching. He says the Kid’s past shouldn't be held against him and offers our young hero a job on his ranch. Rawhide gratefully accepts and enjoys this new peaceful life of his.

Things aren’t peaceful for Rathmore. He’s having nightmares. When he cries out in his sleep, Rawhide rushes into the house to see what’s going on. The rancher and his wife tell the Kid it was just a bad dream, but it’s more than that. Mrs. Rathmore thinks the Kid can help, but her husband says nobody can help them.

The Rathmores have been receiving threatening letters from a group of ex-Union soldiers. These soldiers want revenge on Rathmore for something. They move from sending letters to poisoning cattle and stealing steers. They set the barn on fire.

Rathmore says these are just accidents, but Rawhide knows better. He tracks the soldiers to their camp, only to be caught by a trap. The Kid tries to fight them, but they have him outnumbered. Captain Langley, the leader of the soldiers, admires Rawhide’s loyalty and courage, but says the Kid has enlisted in the wrong cause.

The soldiers leave Rawhide tied up and go to finish their business with the rancher. Nightwind, the Kid’s horse, finds his master and frees him by chewing through his bonds. Finding the Rathmores gone from their ranch, Rawhide rides into town and arrives in time for the big finale.

Langley has seized Rathmore and his wife. He wants to put Rathmore on public trial...and then kill him. The townspeople protest, but Langley drops a truth bombshell on them:

This innocent looking old man was the commandant of Huntfield Prison! 
The townspeople are aghast. Huntfield was the most infamous prison in the South during the Civil War. It made Andersonville seem tame by comparison.

Langley recounts the horrors of the camp. The hunger. The disease. Rathmore tries to defend himself:

Yes, conditions at Huntfield were terrible, but it wasn’t my fault! Everyday I begged for more personnel, food and medicine! But the South was losing the war, and they couldn’t spare men or supplies!

Rathmore has told this to the prisoners, but his words could not cure the dysentery or stop the starvation. Langley vowed vengeance and is determined to pass judgment on Rathmore.

Rathmore pleads for his life. After the war, he was tried and found innocent of wrongdoing. Langley says he was not tried or found innocent by his victims. The soldiers find Rathmore guilty and sentence him to death.

Rawhide says they have to go through him first. The soldiers draw on him and the Kid has no choice but to dispatch them.

Langley is the only one left standing. He grabs his sword and runs over to Rathmore. Langley doesn’t make it. He’s shot in the back by Rathmore’s wife:

I am a woman...and all my life I have hated the violence wrought by men! But I guess even a woman will kill when there is no other choice.

Rathmore and the Kid agree. Rawhide says:

Langley was suffering from an incurable disease! A disease that poisons the soul...and destroys humanity...a disease called “Hate”!

Rathmore will know peace, but the Rawhide Kid is moving on, always in search of his own peace and tranquility.


This never-reprinted story haunted me for a long time after I first read it and still does. With Rathmore serving as an officer of an evil empire of slavers and Langley’s men serving a man driven mad by his need for revenge, it can be seen as a cautionary tale about following bad leaders. It definitely resonates with me as my nation faces an administration that does not bode well for the majority of its citizens.

Backing up the lead is the non-series “Man of the West” (5 pages) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. The story is reprinted from  Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] and is a favorite of mine. You can read what I had to say about it here.

“Man of the West” is followed by a full-page house ad for Kid Colt Outlaw #168 [March 1973]. The Grand Comics Database isn’t sure who pencilled the issue’s new cover, putting forth both Alan Weiss and Rich Buckler as guesses while being more certain that the pencils were inked by Frank Giacoia. Inside the all-reprint issue are three stories of the title hero and one non-series story...

Kid Colt: “Durk Drago, the Man Who Beat Kid Colt” (6 pages) by Stan Lee and Jack Keller. From Gunsmoke Western #55 [November 1959].

Kid Colt: “Fury At the Circle-R” (5 pages) by Lee, Keller and inker George Klein. From Kid Colt Outlaw #87 [November 1959].

“The Meeting” (5 pages) by Lee and Bob McCarthy. From Western Kid #4 [June 1955].

Kid Colt: “Mark of the Outlaw” (5 pages) by Lee, Keller and Klein. Also from Kid Colt Outlaw #87 [November 1959].

This issue’s “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page leads with a “Stan’s Lee’s Soapbox” teasing the arrival of FOOM without identifying that FOOM is the company’s new fan club. That’s followed by news items of varying lengths:

Artist Herb Trimpe and writer Linda Fite got married.

The tabloid newspaper Monster Times devoted an entire issue to the Amazing Spider-Man with a large spread on John Romita. Meanwhile, The New Yorker featured a full-length piece on new Spidey scripter Gerry Conway. I’d love to see both.

“Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria” made its debut in Creatures on the Loose. Based on the prose novels by Lin Carter, it’s written by George Alec Effinger and drawn by Val Mayerik.

The deluxe Marvel Origins has been delayed, but it’s still in the works. Release date to be announced.

Roy Thomas and then-wife Jeanie Thomas, along with Jim Steranko, thanked the New England Comics Convention for making them guests of honor at the event.

Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema have been laying the groundwork for some shocking developments in Captain America.

Don McGregor has joined the Bullpen as an editorial assistant. He will be working with Steve Gerber.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page is condensed to fit the annual, almost too small to read “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.” Thanks to a magnifying glass, I can tell you the average total paid circulation of The Rawhide Kid was 161,577 per issue.

There were three letters from readers. The pseudonymous Gringo is on hand to - gasp - praise Rawhide Kid #105's ““The Sinister Sons of Ma Morgan”. Myself, I was less impressed with that one.

Tony Wright of Decatur, Georgia is incensed at the lack of corpses in Rawhide Kid and other Marvel westerns, what with so many of the heroes shooting guns out of the hands of their opponents. Marvel’s response is that the heroes don’t like killing people. My response is that Wright hasn’t been reading the comics closely. This issue’s Rawhide Kid story, for example, has five gun deaths.

Preston Wayne Cox of Bassett, Virginia asks the eternal question of whether the Rawhide Kid’s name is Johnny Clay or Johnny Bart. The Marvel letter-answerer doesn’t get it right.

For the record, the Kid’s real name is Johnny Clay. But, as he was raised by an ex-lawman with the last name as Bart, he went by the name Johnny Bart until he reconnected with his brothers.

That’s it for this installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more characters I’d like to write.
© 2016 Tony Isabella

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