Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing...

The Rawhide Kid - the one created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then
continued by Larry Lieber - is my favorite western character.  So,
inspired by Essential Rawhide Kid Volume 1, which reprinted all the
Lee/Kirby issues and then some, I’ve been writing about the Rawhide
Kid most every Wednesday.  When I ran out of the issues reprinted
in the book, I tracked down some owlhoots, brought them in and used
the reward money to buy more issues of the title.  Because that’s
what the Kid would have done.

The Rawhide Kid #49 [December 1965] is another first of the title.
It’s the first half of a two-issue continued story as the Kid goes
up against the Masquerader.  The Grand Comics Database identifies
writer/artist Larry Lieber as the pencil artist of the cover with
inks possibly by Carl Hubbell or Lieber himself.  I think the GCD
is at least partially correct on this. 

The cover’s three background images are all taken from the story,
which was inked by and credited to Hubbell.  As for that dramatic
figure of Rawhide charging at the readers with guns drawn, I can’t
be sure if Lieber inked the figure as well - it’s a possibility -
or if there’s another artistic hand on the inks.  I want to suggest
Sol Brodsky, but that’s more a hunch than even an informed guess.
Anyone want to posit another inker?

“The Menacing Masquerader!” (17 pages) opens with a quick rundown
caption citing the foes the Rawhide Kid has bested in recent issues
and has a symbolic splash of the Kid facing the title villain with
some of the Masquerader’s disguises swirling around said faceless
villain.  It’s an effective come-on to the story.

From there we go to the Masquerader’s clandestine meeting with his
new employer, the powerful Fats Larson.  That wealthy varmint owns
most of the territory and wants it all.  He’s hired the mysterious
gunslinger to frighten those who have refused to sell to him.  In
two mostly shadowy pages, we learn Fats’ plan and the Masquerader’s
modus operandi:

I sit in darkness to conceal myself...for I allow no man to see my
true face! Not even you! 

It is by hiding my features - by remaining a man of mystery - that
I have reached the top of my perilous profession! For what foe is
as fearsome and dangerous... a gunfighter who cannot be recognized!!?   
The story cuts to a scene we’ve seen many times. The Rawhide Kid’s
quietly entering a saloon hoping to get a meal before someone spots
and recognizes him.  Alas, as we’ve also seen many times, the local
bully decides the short-of-stature young man will be an easy target
for his amusement.  The bully soon learns the error of his ways and
the brief altercation ends with the bully’s face making spectacular
contact with the sturdy bar.

The Kid is recognized, but, this time, it’s by an old friend from
his boyhood home. Packrat Pete, a typical “old codger” has struck
gold.  Naturally, Fats Larson wants his gold mine, but Pete ain’t
selling. Enter the Masquerader in his disguise as clothing salesman
Abner J. Throtmorton.  Lieber loved coming up with names like that,
something I learned from him first hand while I was working in the
Marvel Bullpen back in the day.

“Abner” convinces Pete that the prospector needs clothing worthy of
his high station in life.  He lures him into an alley and a quick
gunfight.  Pete is gunned down, but survives.  The Masquerade makes
a quick disguise switch and walks right by the townspeople running
to the alley.  However, the arrogant Masquerader leaves a business
card for Rawhide to find.  His reasoning:

Now that I’ve let the Kid know who he’s up against, I don’t think
he’ll trouble me further! 

After all, the young squirt must realize that he doesn’t stand a
chance against a foe with a thousand faces! An unknown enemy who
can assume any identity by a careful arrangement of false features
and different costumes!

How can anyone hope to overcome an adversary who appears totally
harmless...until the sudden moment when he choose to strike!?

The Masquerader continues his work with other landowners who refused
to sell to Larson.  The townspeople turn to the Rawhide Kid to help
them in their time of need.  The Kid comes up with a plan to catch
his wily foe.

Packrat Pete sends word to Larson that he’s now willing to sell his
gold mine.  Suspecting a trap, Larson decides to send Masquerader
in his place.  The master of disguise poses as the Mexican “Manuel”
to talk to Pete, but the prospector refuses to do business with an
underling.  Tensions escalate and Pete reveals that he knows Manuel
is the Masquerader.  Once again, it’s time for a gunfight.  Except,
this time, Pete outdraws and outshoots the Masquerader with ease.
Because “Pete” is really the Rawhide Kid!

The Kid orders the Masquerader to remove his disguise so he can see
his real face.  But the gunman has a derringer concealed in his hat
and manages to graze Rawhide, rendering our hero unconscious.  One
stick of dynamite and a cave-in later, our hero is trapped in the
mine with precious little air to spare.

The Kid finds a small hole and risks building a small fire so that
he can send out smoke signals.  The townspeople see the smoke and
free Rawhide from the mine.  The angry young man is determined to
put an end to the “polecat” who tried to kill him and rides to the
home of Fats Larson.

The Masquerader has disguised himself as an old butler.  He sneaks
up on Rawhide while the Kid is questioning Larson rather severely,
but the gunhawk can’t resist boasting that he has the drop on the
Kid.  Rawhide ducks as the Masquerader fires and Larson gets shot.

Rawhide wings the Masquerader, but then turns his attention to the
dying Larson in the hopes of saving Larson.  The Masquerader makes
his escape while the Kid’s attention if focused elsewhere:

The Masquerader! He’s gone!! He must’ve high-tailed it while I was
trying to save Larson! But we’ll meet again soon! I can feel it in
my bones! And when we do...

...I’ll make that side-winder pay for his crimes–-in full!

The closing caption hypes the continuation of this story:

Don’t miss our next thrilling issue when the Rawhide Kid again
encounters the menacing a gripping tale that will
include the return appearance of Kid Colt! For the ultimate in
western action, pardner, just ride the trail with the Rawhide Kid!

Lieber’s focus is on the Masquerader more than the Rawhide Kid in
this story.  The master of disguise is a cut above most villains in
Marvel’s 1960s western comics.  Lieber’s art and storytelling are
top-notch.  Whatever the genre, Larry worked hard on his stories,
but he had a special fondness for his Rawhide Kid efforts. 

Hubbell’s inking is a good fit for Lieber’s pencils.  He adds some
grit without overwhelming Lieber’s drawings.

The lead story is followed by a full-page house ads for the “now on
sale” Two-Gun Kid #78 and Kid Colt Outlaw #125, in which the most
sociable Blaine Colt meets Two-Gun.  I wrote about Kid Colt #125 in
last Wednesday’s bloggy thing and, as I recently acquired a copy of
the Two-Gun Kid issue, you can expect to see my writing about that
one in the near future.  

This issue’s non-series reprint is “The Sheriff's Star” by Stan Lee
and Gene Colan.  It was originally published in the Rawhide Kid #35
[August 1963].  Here’s what I said about the story when I covered
that issue in the bloggy thing:

This issue’s non-series story is “The Sheriff’s Star” by Stan Lee
with art by Gene Colan.  A stranger rides hurriedly into town.  He
has been robbed and wants to report the crime to the sheriff.  But
he soon learns the town has no lawman and that the men who robbed
him are the Jooks Brothers.  The siblings are also the reason the
town doesn’t have a sheriff.  No one is brave enough to take them
down.  As if on cue, the Jooks ride into town and humiliate the man
they just robbed.

The stranger isn’t going to stand for that.  He buys a gun, spends
all his money on ammunition and learns how to use the weapon with
uncommon skill.  Then he takes the sheriff’s badge and goes after
the Jooks Brothers.  He disarms them, they whine pitifully, the law
has come to Timberlane, Texas.

Why do I describe this story as familiar?  Because it’s the latest
in Stan Lee’s series of tales where the big reveal is a character
is some noted historical figure of the Old West.  In this case, it
turns out to be John Henry “Doc” Holliday, come to Texas for
health reasons.  Asked his name, he says:

"It’s Holliday! Some folks call me “Doc” because I used to study
medicine back East! I came out here on account of my lungs–-for the
sun and heat!"

A townsman opines:

"Well, Doc Holliday, I got a notion yore gonna make yourself a name
out here!

Doc Holliday lived from 1851-1887, dying at the age of 36.  He was
never a sheriff, though he was a friend of Wyatt Earp.  Nothing in
this tale jibes with the reality of the man, but his name has the
touch of legend so obviously loved by Stan.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins!” page makes its Rawhide Kid debut in
this issue.  The packed-with-prose page announces the return of Joe
Sinnott to Marvel (inking Fantastic Four and “Nick Fury, Agent of
Shield”); teases readers on Sub-Mariner penciler Adam Austin’s real
identity; plugs Monsters Unlimited and You Don’t Say, Stan’s photo
humor magazines; reports that fans want to see Jack Kirby’s inking
of his pencils with the pledge that Marvel will try to get him to
ink a special pin-up page in one of this year’s annuals; and asks
readers what they think of this page.

There’s a shot of a “mysterious mailing tube,” which holds Marvel’s
next “mail order bombshell.” If I recall correctly, the tube holds
a huge Spider-Man poster.  Can anyone confirm that?

“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” is also on the page.  This month, the
Fantastic Four are learning more about the Inhumans, Peter Parker
is meeting his new college classmates, the X-Men are fighting the
Sentinels, Wally Wood writes an issue of Daredevil, Thor has at it
with the Absorbing Man and Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes
get leave in the USA.  Did our soldiers really get to fly home to have
leave during World War II? I suspect not.

There’s a small ad for a Hulk t-shirt ($1.50 plus fifteen cents for
postage and handling) and Marvel’s official swinging stationary kit
($1 plus 15 cents postage and handling). If buyers include their
MMMS membership number with their order, they will receive a bonus
gift with each order.  Do any of my bloggy thing readers remember
what that bonus gift was?

The page concludes with the names of 25 more MMMS members.  None of
the names are familiar to me, but, in other Marvel comics of this
era, you can occasionally spot the name of a future comics writer
or artist.  I get a kick out of that.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page wraps up the issue
and, as it’s no longer sharing its space with the checklist, we get
more letters and just a couple plugs for other Marvel comic books
and merchandise.  The most notable letter is from future retailer
and mail-order legend Bud Plant who writes:

No! No! No! Don’t take super-heroes back to the time of the RAWHIDE
KID. What western villain could stand up against them???!

Marvel responds:

We’ll never know until we try, will we, Bud? But don’t worry, amigo
–- we’re not planning to introduce any super-heroes in our cowboy
classics! They’ve got their own mags –- and that’s how it’s gonna

To which I add:

Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. I really look forward to these reviews of the Kid each week. I'd love to have you review some of the other Marvel western titles, as you have a few times before, once your run of this title ends.

  2. Tony, have you ever read Ostrander's Blaze Of Glory?? It's sort of a bookend to the Marvel western characters. Probably not cannon, but it was a solid read. If you haven't had the chance, give it a try.

    --Tom Hunter

  3. I loved Blaze of Glory and the later Apache Skies (also by Ostrander). As you say, I don't think they are canon, but unlike some writers John clearly respects the characters.