Wednesday, September 5, 2012


When I was a kid, I watched a lot of western movies and series on
TV and I read lots of super-hero and science fiction comic books.
I didn’t read many western comics because I could watch westerns on
TV and I couldn’t watch super-hero or science fiction on TV, save
for reruns of The Adventures of Superman

I did read some western comics and the Rawhide Kid was my favorite.
Over the past several months, I’ve written about the Rawhide Kid
comics reprinted in Marvel’s Essential Rawhide Kid Volume 1.  Now,
thanks to a few purchases and trades, I can continue writing about
the Rawhide Kid for another ten issues or so.

There will be spoilers ahead.

The Rawhide Kid #36 [October 1963] has a remarkably busy cover by
Jack Kirby (pencils), who drew the first 16 issues of the Rawhide
Kid, and Dick Ayers (inks), who follows Jack Davis as the artist of
the feature.  Colorist Stan Goldberg makes clever use of grey and
white to highlight the Kid and his foes.  Cover copy is more than
likely by editor and writer Stan Lee.

“The Prisoner of Outlaw Town” (13 pages) begins kicks off with the
Rawhide Kid rescuing an elderly couple from owlhoots on the trail.
However, when he brings the men back to town, the Kid is arrested.
In the last election, the crooked Handlebar Harry was elected mayor
because his gang members represented more votes than those honest
citizens.  I suspect voter suppression.

Harry appointed one of his henchmen as town judge and the others as
sheriff and deputies.  The old couple were fleeing from the town as
had others before them.

The trial of the Rawhide Kid starts with the judge finding the Kid
guilty.  Though unarmed, our diminutive hero breaks free from his
captors, seeks out the mayor, and learns how crooked things are in
the town.  The cocky Harry makes a serious mistake letting the Kid
walk free, saying there’s nothing Rawhide can do.  Except maybe get
his guns back from the cowardly sheriff and ride off in the hope of
gathering the citizens to take back their town. 

The Kid meets with resistance, but, eventually he recruits a father
and his three sons.  A stranger, having heard what’s going on, also
joins them on the trail. The stage is set for an uneven showdown.

Mistaking the Kid for a federal marshal said to be in the region,
Handlebar Harry and his goons nonetheless reject the Kid’s request
they surrender peacefully and come out shooting.  Yes, I knew who
the marshal was as soon as he was mentioned and you, being clever
readers, have surely figured it out as well.

The Kid’s remarkable gun play and the courage of the stranger, the
father and the father’s sons carry the day.  The Kid dukes it out
with Handlebar Harry and tells Harry he’s not a marshal or lawman.
The scheming Harry figures he can work with that:

Then you still haven’t beaten me! All I have to do is find the
marshal and tell him how a stranger tried to take over a town from
the rightful mayor! No lawman will believe your story!  You’ll be
slapped in jail forever!

Cue the stranger:

You’re wrong, Handlebar! A marshal will believe that hombre!
Because I’m the federal marshal! The honest people whom you drove
from town sent for me! You didn’t think you could really get away
with having a band of outlaws take over an entire town, did you??

The Kid figures he should make tracks before the marshal suspects
who he really is.  However, the marshal’s closing thought balloon
and inspirational message of the day reveals the truth:

Happy trails, Kid! I knew who you were the first time I saw you –-
but now I know that the legends about you are true! I won’t give
away your secret! It’s because of men like you that the West will
some day be free of those who would destroy it!

Ayers does a nice job depicting Rawhide’s short stature, something
Davis never managed.  He can’t match Kirby’s knack for action, but
does a solid job getting lots of movement with lots of people into
the panels.  I liked Dick’s art from the first time I saw it in a
Marvel comic book and was thrilled to meet and work with him when
I went to work for the company.

Stan’s script isn’t quite as exuberant as his collaborations with
Jack Kirby on this title, but he was probably swamped with Marvel’s
new super-hero titles and still popular teen titles.  This month,
he wrote Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Kathy, Modeling with
Millie, Patsy and Hedy, Patsy Walker
, a Thor story for Journey Into
and Ditko-drawn shorts for Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense
and Tales to Astonish while also plotting the Human Torch, Iron Man
and Ant-Man stories in those titles and overseeing a Patsy and Hedy
Annual.  As the super-hero titles demanded more of Stan’s writing,
he would cut back on his work elsewhere.

Also noted is that Kirby more than likely co-plotted many of those
Rawhide Kid stories with Stan and that Jack’s drawings were likely
more exciting than those found in most other comics and just plain
more fun to script.  

“Bare Knuckles in Boonville” (5 pages) is this issue’s non-series
tale and it falls nicely into the category of “Stan Lee’s Hilarious
History.”  These are stories where the surprise ending is that the
protagonist is someone famous, often without regard to the actual
history of said protagonist.  Stan seemed to love them and, though
I made fun of my beloved former boss, I dig them as well.

“Bare Knuckles” is drawn by Jack Keller, best known for his lengthy
run on Kid Colt Outlaw and various hot rod and racing comic books
published by Charlton Comics. 

A stagecoach takes a rest stop in rough-and-tumble Boonville. One
of the passengers is a well-dressed “rosy-cheeked stranger” and the
town bullies immediately harass him.  The thugs are surprised when
the unarmed stranger fights back but, even without guns, he beats
the snot of them with his quick powerful punches.  The townspeople
are amazed by his fighting fury and proclaim: “...after we get thru
telling folks what happened today, we’re gonna make you famous!”

The stranger replies:

“Well, now, that’s mighty kind of you gents! But there are one or
two folks who’ve heard of me already...

“My name’s Corbett! Some folks call me ‘Gentleman Jim!” I happen to
be the heavyweight champion of the world!”

Corbett was the champ from 1892 to 1897.  A quick look at Wikipedia
shows title bouts in New Orleans and San Francisco.  While it might
be more likely he traveled by railroad, it’s definitely within the
realm of possibility that he rode a stagecoach sometime during his
career.  I’m gonna give this one to Stan.

The issue wraps up with “Afraid to Shoot,” a five-page Rawhide Kid
story by Lee and Ayers.  The Kid is broke, hungry and on the run.
He accepts the challenge of an entertainer in a traveling medicine
show who will give twenty dollars to anyone who can out shoot him.
But, when the Kid sees a couple of lawmen, he backs down for fear
of revealing his identity.  When the lawmen move on, he accepts the
challenge a second time and, this time, he out-shoots the performer
by a wide margin.  The Kid gets his money, keeps his anonymity and
the flustered entertainer decides to hang up his guns and go back
to sheep herding.  It’s a cluttered, unsatisfying story, not at all
what we usually got from Lee and Ayers.

The Rawhide Kid is going through a transition period and I’ll keep
exploring that in upcoming “Rawhide Wednesdays.”  In the meantime,
for more talk about western comics, check out my pal Barry Pearl’s
“Barry's Pearls of Comic Book Wisdom.”  It gets the Tony Isabella
Seal of Approval.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

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