Wednesday, November 15, 2017


RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 127th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #140 [July 1977] sports another new cover pencilled and inked by Gil Kane. It’s a cool cover, but it doesn’t illustrate a scene from either of the two Rawhide Kid stories reprinted within this issue. That becomes less surprising when, as reported by the Grand Comics Database, we learn Kane’s cover was “inspired” by the Don Spaulding painting that graced the cover of Dell’s Lone Ranger #88 [October 1955].

The issue reprints two Stan Lee/Jack Davis stories: “Prisoner of the Apaches” (8 pages) from Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] and “The Gunfighter and the Girl” (5 pages) from #33 [April 1963]. I wrote about these stories in 2012. Here are my comments on “Prisoner of the Apaches”:

“Prisoner of the Apaches” (8 pages) is what the Rawhide Kid becomes when a trigger-happy wagon master takes a shot at an Apache scout, wounding the young brave.  When the Apaches capture the Kid and the wagon master’s family, Rawhide takes the blame for the wounding of the scout who, more bad luck, is the son of the chief.

The wagon master attempts to rescue Rawhide and the two of them are soon surrounded by Apache warriors.  Their lives are spared because the scout is recovering from his wound and because Apaches respect courage.  The chief lets the Kid and the wagon master go in peace. The Kid rides off to find others who need his help.

Sad to say, this is a weak Rawhide Kid story.  It could’ve starred almost any western hero and, despite the dire circumstances the Kid finds himself in, there’s little tension to the proceedings.  Lee and Davis didn’t seem to click as a team and their collaborations would end after one more issue.

Here are my comments on “The Gunfighter and the Girl”:

“The Gunfighter and the Girl” (5 pages) is the second Rawhide Kid story in the issue.  Riding through an area where there aren’t any arrest warrants for him, the Kid stops by a ranch hoping to get a drink of water and some grub.  He meets and is quite taken by the rancher’s lovely daughter and the attraction is mutual.  The next days are described as the happiest of the Kid’s life.

The Kid figures on starting a new life with the girl and the girl’s dad is happy for them.  But a ranch hand who also loves the young lady reminds Rawhide he’s still a wanted man and that’s the life he might be visiting upon her.  So the Kid plays the bully, acts as if his main interest is in getting the ranch and deliberately loses a fight with the ranch hand.  All to make the young woman hate him. His plan works, though the girl’s father realizes what has actually happened here:

“Ride easy, son! Some day, I’ll tell Marybelle and Tom the truth about you! I’ll tell ‘em how it takes lots more courage to lose a fight than to win one!”

This is at least the third time in the title’s run that Rawhide has lost a fight to prevent someone from either following in his outlaw path or becoming romantically involved with him.  The number goes higher when you consider the times when the Kid takes blame for the crimes of another to spare that criminal’s family.  But, this time, it hurts worse than all the other times.

As was now usual for the Marvel comics of this period, they weren’t attracted higher profile advertising. This time around, the cream of the commercial crop were a half-page ad for Slim Jim smoked beef snacks and a back cover we’ll discuss later in this bloggy thing. Outside of the usual pitches for cheap novelty items, correspondent courses and body-building, we got ads from comics dealers and other comics-related vendors spread out over three pages of “classified” ads. There were 24 such ads, up two from the previous issue of The Rawhide Kid.
Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey had its usual full page of Marvel stuff. This time out, it was an assortment of “Marvel Superhero Patches.” The four-inch self-adhesive patches featured a variety of characters and logos. Choose any six for $6 (including postage and handling) or individual patches for $1.25. Also on the page, a set of four “Marvel Puzzle and Word” books for $3.79. You could order individual books for $1.25 each.

Next was a full-page advertisement for “Sky Heroes” from Marx Toys. These seem to be cardboard gliders with their own launchers. Four heroes were available from toy stores: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and Captain America. No price was listed in the ad.
There was an half page Marvel house ad for the company’s black-and-white magazines The Rampaging Hulk, The Savage Sword of Conan and Marvel Preview. Below that was a half-page ad for Crazy, the humor magazine that would outlast almost all of the other black-and-white magazines.

Repeated from the previous issue...The FOOM Fan Club shared a page with a Marvel subscription ad. Both were fairly generic.

Because the Rawhide Kid stories were only 13 pages combined, this issue also had a five-page, non-series yarn. “My Gun for Hire!” was originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #92 [September 1960]. The tale was written (and signed) by Stan Lee with art by the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

Gun-for-hire Blaze Wilson rides into the town of Largo where there are two warring factions. Cory represents the law-abiding citizens of the town. Lassiter runs a gang of owlhoots who find the town to be easy pickings. A showdown between the factions is coming. Both men offer Wilson a job, but Wilson goes with the money and signs up with Lassiter.

The Lassiter gang rides up on Cory’s Spinning-C ranch, figuring to make short work of its three ranch hands. Wilson knows something is off and he’s right. As a thunderous barrage of gunfire erupts from the ranch house, he realizes it’s a trap. The Lassiter gang finds itself ringed in from all sides. Wilson tries to flee, but is hit in the shoulder and falls from his horse. When he comes to, he’s in time for the story’s three final panels:

Gunhawks recognizing the error of their ways was a common Stan Lee theme in these non-series stories. This story has nice gritty art from Andru and Esposito, and some equally fine scripting from Lee. I liked it a lot when I first read it in its original appearance. Back in the mid-1960s, it was still possible to find these Marvel western comics for close to their original cover prices. I bought the old westerns whenever I came across them.

In the middle of the above story, there was a full-page ad for the Official Star Trek Poster Magazine. Each issue covered one of the U.S.S. Enterprises voyages. A 12-issue subscription would cost $10. A copy of just the “maiden voyage” was $1. For either offer, Trek fans had to pay an additional fifty cents “to cover intergalactic transporter and postage charges.”

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page also appeared in the middle of “My Gun for Hire!” The first page of the story was followed by one of the classified ad pages and the Star Trek ad. Then we got two more story pages followed by the Bullpen Bulletins page and an ad for Hostess Twinkies. Then we got the final two pages of the story.

Back to the Bullpen Bulletins...

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” was a less-than-spectacular installment consisting of plugs for previous Marvel triumphs leading into a plug for the new KISS magazine the company was publishing. This was followed by the usual news items.

ITEM! Star Wars, the coming science-fiction film from 20th Century Fox, would be adapted in six issues by Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha. Many have said Star Wars saved Marvel Comics at a time when the company’s sales were perilous.

ITEM! Marv Wolfman and Len Wein would be writing a Nova/Spider-Man crossover in Nova #12 and Amazing Spider-Man #171.

ITEM! Beth Bleckley was leaving editorial for the “hallowed halls of higher education.” Her replacement was Jo Duffy. Hi, Jo!

Martha Conway joined the Marvel staff as secretary to Stan Lee as John Romita came back on staff to do penciling and inking and more, including assisting John Tartaglione with art corrections.

ITEM! Captain Britain, created for a new British weekly, would make his American debut teaming up with Spider-Man in an upcoming story for Marvel Team-Up by Chris Claremont (who was writing the British series) and John Byrne.

ITEM! Summer annuals! Iron Man teaming with the Champions! Avengers in space with Warlock, Captain Marvel and Thanos! Howard the Duck teaming with Man-Thing! Plus an Invaders annual wherein Roy Thomas recruited some of the original Golden Age artists of the World War II heroes to draw those characters one more time! As I recall, it was a pretty good year for the Marvel annuals.
The Hostess comic-book-style ad was “Spider-Man and Madam Web” with pencil art by Ross Andru. Having rejected the love of a villainous Madam Web, Spidey was framed by her. He seduces her into clearing his name with the golden, cream-filled sponge-cake goodness that is Twinkies. Alas, the cops take Madam Web into custody before she is able to consummate her new-found love for snack cakes.
The back cover is a Jack Davis-drawn ad for Spalding autographed basketballs that features then current stars Rick Barry and Dr. J. The balls have a rubber cover that allows players to get a really good grip on them. Other basketballs feature the signatures of Wilt Chamberlain, Pistol Pete and Ernie D.

We have eleven more issues to go before The Rawhide Kid concludes its 151-issue run. Come back next week for another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.”

Come back on Monday for a special column honoring a trio of gentlemen whose work meant quite a lot to me as I navigated those rough waters between adolescence and adulthood. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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