Wednesday, April 1, 2015


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 62nd installment of that series.

The Rawhide Kid #77 [June 1970] has a cover pencilled and inked by Larry Lieber, the issue’s writer/artist. I’m not 100% convinced my pal Larry inked the cover, but that’s how the credit reads on the Grand Comics Database. Me, I think I see John Tartaglione’s inks on the cover, which would make sense given that Tartaglione inked the interior story.

“The Reckoning” is 20 pages long if you count the two half-pages on the centerspread as two full pages (as Marvel did) or 19 pages long if you’re me. If memory serves me correctly, this configuration was standard in Marvel’s comics for a month or two.

“The Reckoning” is one of Lieber’s best stories of this period. It is one of the most dramatic of his run with the emotional content resonating with this reader more than the action.

The story opens with the Rawhide Kid stopping a stagecoach robbery. Sam Logan, the robber, forces the Kid to fire on him, which results in Logan’s death. One of the passengers tells the Rawhide that they are much obliged to them. The Kid’s grim response: Don’t be...don’t ever be obliged for bloodletting.

The stagecoach brings Logan’s body to town. The sheriff knows Logan was working a small spread east of the town. When asked if the dead man had any kin, the sheriff says: Just his son, who’s young enuff to be hurt..and big enuff to be trouble!

Davy Logan take the news poorly. He says his dad was desperate for money. But, no matter what his dad did, the Rawhide Kid had no call to kill him. In Davy’s eyes, the Kid is an outlaw who has broken every law in the book.  He vows:

But he ain’t gonna get away with this! If the law won’t make him pay for murderin’ muh pa, then I will! S’help me!

The sheriff hopes Davy will come to his senses, but we know that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Davy buries his dad, telling him this won’t be finished until he’s avenged his death by killing the Rawhide Kid.

Davy sees this as an achievable goal. He’s young with a steady hand and razor-sharp reflexes. He’s been practicing gun play for months. He will find the Rawhide Kid, call him out and kill him. It takes the angry young man a page of traveling from town to town before he tracks the Kid to the slumbering town of Beaver Falls.

Rawhide tells Davy that the elder Logan gave him no choice and begs the young man not to make the same mistake. Davy insults the Kid. He slaps him across the face. Our hero realizes the only way to convince the grieving son of the foolishness of this vendetta is to give him the gunfight Dave demands. The outcome isn’t the least bit surprising:

Yuh--you shot the gun right outta muh hand!

Davy still won’t listen to Rawhide, telling the Kid that was just the first round. Some shady-looking gunhawks befriend Dave before Rawhide even walks out of the page. The Kid knows this association will not end well for the lad.

The next day, Rawhide tries again to talk some sense to Davy. That afternoon, Davy and his new pals ambush the Kid in an alleyway, but  the law shows up before the owlhoots can kill our hero. They take off. Davy goes with them. He has to live up to his part of the deal he made with these murderous thugs.

Meanwhile, back in Beaver Falls, the Rawhide Kid is getting no love from the law. When he asks why the sheriff didn’t go after the bad guys, the lawman says:

I would have, if they had worked over a respectable citizen! But, you’re a gunhawk! The same as them! And I figure a fight between gunslicks is none of my business!  

The leader of the gang sends Davy to scope out another town to see if said town has a lawman. When the gang learns the sheriff is out of town, they decide the place is right for robbing. Here is what they didn’t count on...

Rawhide doesn’t want Davy to end up a wanted fugitive like him. He tracked the boy to this town and arrives in time to stop the gang from robbing it. He disarms and wounds three of the four bad guys, but there’s a fourth outlaw with a drawn gun pointing at the Kid’s back. Davy sees the gunman and knows the man will gun Rawhide down without giving him a chance.

Davy yells out a warning to Rawhide, who spins to face the would-be back shooter. The outlaw points his gun at Davy: You stupid squirt! You’ve ruined it! But you’ll never do that again, sonny...’cause yore gonna get the lead that was meant for the Kid!

Not gonna happen. Rawhide shoots the gun out of the outlaw’s hand. He then punches the bad guy a couple of times for trying to ambush him and for turning a youngster into an outlaw. For trying to gun down Davy, the outlaw is punched through a window.

Rawhide lets Davy ride free. The townspeople aren’t at all pleased with this. Rawhide says he saved the town’s money and put four bank robbers out of business. They should be satisfied with that.

The Kid tells Davy to head for home as he covers the lad’s escape. He then meets up with Davy as the Logan homestead.

DAVY: I don’t understand...I was your sworn enemy, yet you risked your neck to help me! Why?
KID: I took from you, Davy! And, somehow, I had to give it back to you, to square the account!
DAVY: You did! You took my pa’s life, but you gave me back mine! You stopped me from becoming a criminal! You gave me a second chance!

The two part as friends.

Veteran readers of this blog know I consider Larry Lieber to be one of the most underrated writers of the era. He could handle action and human drama with equal skill. In this particularly story, he deftly understates the Rawhide Kid’s desire to save Davy from the life on the run that is the Kid’s existence. It’s a satisfying tale and, like the rest of Lieber’s work on this title, really deserves to be collected. This story has never been reprinted in the United States. That’s darn near criminal.

This month’s “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” shares a page with the usual Marvelmania International membership pitch. Jack Kirby is the only creator mentioned by name for his cover story in the anthology title Chamber of Darkness.

This issue’s comics-related classifieds ads include “Nobody Loves the Hulk (a “great new rock song”), The Comicollector (fanzine) and comic-book dealers Howard Rogofsky, Robert Bell, Grand Book Inc., Passaic Book Center, Comic Sales Co. and Clint’s Books. Are any of these dealers still active?

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page has the largest type I recall seeing for this feature. There are plugs for Captain Marvel by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Conan the Barbarian by Thomas and Barry Smith, Stan Lee and Jim Steranko’s collaboration for Our Love Story #5 and the new titles Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales. There is also a mention of the rock band Country Joe and the Fish paying a visit to the Marvel offices.

“Stan’s Soapbox” is only one paragraph long and directs readers to a survey that takes up over half the page. The survey is written in a painfully “hip” manner with these questions:

[Who are] Marvel’s best pencillers and inkers?

Hey, man, these are my favorite types of plots:

These are the kind of yarns that turn me off:

Wow! These are the type pf mags you should do more of:

If I were Stan, these are the changes I’d make at Marvel:

I’m guessing the deadlines were particularly pressing this month. Because this page looks like it was thrown together at pretty much the last minute.

The issue also had a full-page ad for The Ringo Kid #3 and Kid Colt Outlaw #146, both of which were all-reprint titles. That brings us to the “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters column...

Norm Severud of Durango, Mexico wants Rawhide to do more planning and work before he wins his battles and not just out-shoot all of his foes. As usual, the anonymous letter-answerer says Severud may have a point and throws the question to the rest of the readers of this title.

Matt Holtzman of Birmingham, Michigan praises Larry Lieber’s art. He spots a panel in issue #74 where Herb Trimpe did a little touch-up on the Kid’s face.

David Drucker of Brooklyn, New York wants to see Rawhide go south of the border more. The letter-answerer directs him to Rawhide Kid #76, but the answer makes it appear said answerer doesn’t know the issue has already been published.

Finally, Bob Finkel of North Hollywood, California, who enjoys all Marvel’s western titles, wants the company to bring back the Ghost Rider. This is a request that pops up in almost every Rawhide Kid letters column. I’m beginning to suspect someone at Marvel wanted to see Ghost Rider’s return as much as the readers.

That’s all for today, cowboys and cowgirls. “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” will appear most Wednesdays.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Who else besides Steranko was getting sole writer/artist cred at the time at Marvel? Lieber is an unheralded "cartoonist" in the true sense, even though his artwork never really rang my bell.