Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 100

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 one-hundredth installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #114 [August 1973] has a cover by Larry Lieber with inks by Jack Abel. Inside, “Captured by the Comanches!” (14 pages) is written and penciled by Lieber, inked by George Roussos, colored by Linda Lessmann and lettered by June Braverman.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The story opens with Johnny Clay aka the Rawhide Kid riding through Comanche land to avoid lawmen and posses. Unfortunately, the Kid is spotted by a Comanche war party who shout stuff like “Death to the white eyes!” Sigh.

Digression. Western comics have always had a difficult relationship with indiginous people. Elements of stories like this, which didn’t bother me when I first read them, are difficult for me when I read them four decades later. Even the familiar “noble savage” trope is problematic. I don’t dwell on these elements because they are the product of their times. They are as they were in these old stories. What I take from them is the desire to do a better job if and when I write stories featuring such characters. End of digression.

The Kid falls to the overwhelming numbers of the war party and the shot that, grazing his head, knocks him from his horse. The braves are led by the vicious Yellow Wolf. He orders them to strip Johnny of his boots, gun belt, hat and shirt. They tie the Kid to stakes pounded into the ground and leave him to the heat of the sun. This will be a long and painful death.

BRAVE: How long will the white-eyes last beneath the head of the sun?

YELLOW WOLF: Long enough for him to pay for the sins of his people against ours!

The Kid is rescued by Sam Lomax. Years ago, “redskins” massacred his family and took his infant son away. Lomax has been searching for the boy ever since. Though Johnny doesn’t believe all “Injuns” are like those who attacked him and recognizes that Lomax’s hatred is all-consuming, he has little choice but to accompany the older man. But he cautions him...

RAWHIDE: Your son...even if you find him...by now he’s all grown and Indian.

LOMAX: He may be grown...but no flesh of mine can be Injun.
 
Rawhide and Lomax track the Comanches who stole his duds and horse. With Nightwind - Johnny’s horse - providing a distraction, the two men deal death to the braves. All except Yellow Wolf who decides to escape to fight another day.

Rawhide has a debt to pay to Lomax. He sticks with the angry man.

Meanwhile, at the Comanche camp, Yellow Wolf and brother Sky Eagle have a disagreement.

YELLOW WOLF: The foe I fought was no ordinary paleface! He is the warrior they call the Rawhide Kid!

SKY EAGLE: That will be of little comfort to the squaws of the braves slain in battle!

SKY EAGLE: My brother is a fool! The great wars are ended! The white man has defeated us! We cannot defy his superior strength!

YELLOW WOLF: Bah! Those are the words of a coward!
 
CHIEF: No! They are words of wisdom...and you will heed them! There will be no more bloodshed between the white-eyes and our people!

YELLOW WOLF: Bah! Always you favor Sky Eagle...though I am of your flesh and he is not!

CHIEF: You are wrong! I call you both sons! You both share my heart!

Gee...Sky Eagle doesn’t seem quite as red-skinned as his brother. Oh, well, it’s probably nothing.

Lomax and the Kid ride to a small distant outpost. Elias Drudd, the only man who survived the massacre, lives there. Drudd isn’t right in the head since he was caught by the Comanches. In response to their questions, all he can do is repeat the words “three spears” over and over again.

Lomax and the Kid then ride to the scene of the massacre. Johnny figures out what Drudd meant. He points to some peaks:

The raid took place at night! In the moonlight...to a half-crazed captive...those peaks would’ve resembled three spears! The Indians took off with your son in that direction!

The land beyond the peaks is Comanche territory, but the Indians at the massacre were Navajos. Johnny says Comanches sometimes ride with Navajos and suggests one of them might have made off with the Lomax infant. The two men decides a visit to the Comanche camp is called for.

At the Comanche camp, Sky Eagle is trying to convince Yellow Wolf to rid his heart of hatred and live in peace. Yellow Wolf is having none of that. Sky Eagle suggests his brother’s real foe is his own ambition and lust for power. Yellow Wolf says he doesn’t answer to any man, least of all one not Comanche born.

Lomax and the Kid ride into the camp with their weapons holstered. They are allowed to pass. Lomax tells the chief he is looking for his son. The chief says:

What Comanches take, they keep! Go, white-eyes.

That’s when Lomax recognizes the charm Sky Eagle is wearing. Which belonged to his wife. Sky Eagle is his son. The chief has something of an alternate opinion:

Yes, he is your son...but only my blood! It was I who raised him! I who taught him! And I who will keep him!

The Rawhide Kid says there is a Comanche law that all disputes can be settle by combat. He’ll fight any of the chief’s braves.

Yellow Wolf accepts the challenge. Since we’re on page thirteen of this story, it takes Rawhide four panels to beat the enraged brave. He turns his back on his foe.

Yellow Wolf grabs a knife and rushes towards Rawhide. Sky Eagle leaps towards his brother:

You will bring dishonor to our people by a foul kill!

The brothers battle. Yellow Wolf tries to kill Sky Eagle. But, in the struggle, it is Yellow Wolf who dies. The chief of the tribe is crushed by this turn of events:

The gods are merciless! For this day they take from me both my sons!

Lomax begs to differ. Though the Rawhide Kid has won the right for Lomax to take Sky Eagle back to his birth people, the man has had a change of heart.

LOMAX: He is with his people! I gave him life...but you gave him manhood! You taught him the meaning of courage and honor! You are as much his father as I am!

RAWHIDE: That’s quite a mouthful, for an Indian hater!

LOMAX: Ex-Indian hated! I misjudged and underrated red men all the way!

His debt repaid, Rawhide rides from the camp.

The problematic “Indian” stuff aside, this isn’t a terrible story. However, it needed more pages. For Lomax’s change of heart to make sense, there needed to be something about the Comanches maybe not being involved in the massacre but only its aftermath. The battle between the Rawhide Kid and Yellow Wolf needed more space. Likewise the battle between Sky Eagle and his brother.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
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This is another Rawhide Kid story that has never been reprinted in the United States. It was reprinted in black-and-white in a comic book from a Québec publisher.

Next is “They Strike By Night” (5 pages). The writer of this non-series story has not been identified at this time, but it’s drawn and signed by Al Hartley. Linda Lessmann likely colored this tale. From what I recall of my long-ago time in the Marvel Bullpen, when a title had more than one story, the same colorist would be given the entire issue.
                                                                           

“They Strike By Night” is from Western Outlaws #12 [December 1955]. The cover of that issue is by Joe Maneely.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The “Indian” problems continue with this mediocre five-page story. Ranch hand Yancy threatens to shoot Running Fox, despite the Navajo being a friend of ranch owner Murdock. Yancy gets smacked around, then fired.

Running Fox tells Murdock about how poor his tribe has become with no buffalo to hunt. Murdock figures there must be some way that he can help his friends.

Two nights later, rustlers make off with 60 head of Murdock’s best stock. A Navajo feather was left at the scene. Murdock rides over to the Navajo village - two hours away - and asks Running Fox who the feather belongs to. It belongs to Running Fox. Murdock slugs Running Fox. The friendship between them is over.

The next night, the rustlers strike again. But Murdock and his men are waiting for them. The rustlers are disguised as Navajo braves, but are really Yancy and his men, including one actual Navajo who had previously planted Running Fox’s feather.

Murdock figured it was Yancy, but didn’t let Running Fox know that. He wanted to make the breakup of their friendship look real and not tip off the crooked brave helping Yancy. He asks Running Fox if he will forgive him. Which Running Fox does.

MURDOCK: This west of ours is big enough for all men of every color who desire to live in peace.

RUNNING FOX: So shall it always be, quimo sabe!

Who wants to tell them about President Peepee Cheeto?

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER

                                                                                

In the middle of the above story, there’s a full-page house ad for Supernatural Thrillers #5 [August 1973], the first issue to feature “The Living Mummy.” The cover was pencilled by Rich Buckler, inked by Frank Giacoia and has alterations by John Romita. The 19-page story was written by Steve Gerber, penciled by Buckler and inked by Frank Chiaramonte. After one more Gerber story, I would write the feature for the next few issues.

The half-page Marvel Bullpen Bulletins was mostly plugs for Marvel black-and-white titles and various color comics. This time around, Vampire Tales gets promoted, as well as a color series starring the living vampire Morbius, the new “Monster of Frankenstein” feature in Monsters Unleashed, and extra summer issues of The Defenders and Marvel Premiere with Doctor Strange.

Artist Bob Brown is welcomed to Marvel where he’ll be drawing The Avengers and Warlock. Jim Mooney is drawing most issues of Marvel Team-Up. I got to work with both of them on other titles.

Two new comics series are teased. One is “The Mark of Satan,” which morphed into “The Son of Satan” before publication. The other was “Brother Voodoo,” which debuted in Strange Tales.

The rest of the page is a half-page ad for FOOM, the Friends of Ol’ Marvel fan club helmed by Jaunty Jim Steranko. I would follow Jim on the club’s FOOM Magazine for a couple of issues before turning it over to others.

The “Riding the Trail with Rawhide” letters column is a little less than half a page of very small type. Theresa Reynolds of Miami has trouble getting every issue of the Marvel westerns. The letter-answerer says Stan Lee is such a stickler for authenticity that he insists the comics be delivered by Pony Express. Which, as I think about it, is kind of a dick response.

Jimmy Cornette of Middletown, Kentucky wants a no-prize on account of Marvel got the Rawhide Kid’s real name wrong in the letters page for issue #109.

Randy Mikell of Prentiss, Mississippi, citing the same issue, wants to know why Civil War renegades are almost always depicted as big burly Southern soldiers with sideburns and then points out that, though wearing Confederate grey on the cover, the renegades in this story were Union soldiers. The letter-answerer admits to the cover error and then states the obvious. Maybe Confederate soldiers had no homes or lives to return to after their slaver nation lost the war. So they became renegades.

Confession. The completely accurate comment about the Confederate States being a slaver nation wasn’t in the original letters column. I added it. Because...you know...truth.
                                                                             

The rest of the page is a house ad for The Haunt of Horror, a prose digest featuring stories by Fritz Lieber, Harlan Ellison, Anne McCaffrey, Lin Carter, Ron Goulart and Dennis O’Neil.

The next issue of Rawhide Kid would feature the last new story to appear in the title, though the series would continue as a reprint title for several more years. I’ll be writing about that issue in next week’s installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.”

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of time the Kid's head was grazed by a bullet. Of all the times he was shot, the only bullet I remember him taking a bullet to the body was in "The Gun and the Arrow," and even then you never really saw where he was wounded. I guess the writers just figured scalp wounds allowed for a quicker recovery.

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