Wednesday, April 15, 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 64th installment in that series.

Larry Lieber both pencilled and inked the cover of The Rawhide Kid #79 [August 1970} and signed it as well. However, that’s his only contribution to the issue.

“Legion of the Lost” (17 pages) was written by Archie Goodwin with art by Werner Roth (pencils) and John Tartaglione (inks). From the first time I saw Goodwin’s name on a story, I knew I could always count on him for a solid story. This one is no exception, though  the script doesn’t have the lyrical and profound qualities Lieber often brought to his Rawhide Kid yarns.

“Legion of the Lost” starts with Rawhide escaping from a posse and into the hands of a gang of outlaws. Outnumbered by “every hardcase and wanted man in the territory,” the Kid is taken for a face-to-face with the gang’s leader:

Colonel Travis Ramm, of the Confederacy!
Ramm refuses to accept Lee’s surrender at Appomattox and, indeed, considers Lee and all who surrendered to be traitors who sold out his beloved Confederacy:

But I’ve kept the faith! Spending the years rebuilding a new army, preparing to launch a new war!

The cray-cray Colonel has gathered the worst owlhoots and gunslicks he could find. He calls them his “Legion of the Lost.” He offers a choice to Rawhide. Join or die.

Trapped in a natural fortress with only one pass out from it, the Kid still refuses to join. He breaks free, grabs the guns from one of the bad guys and commences to shooting the guns out of the hands of other bad guys. This impresses Ramm. He wants Rawhide alive and at his side:

You’re a fighter, suh, and a fine one...of the calibre my legion needs! As Quantrill had Jesse James, so I could use you! Why die for nothing? Reconsider.

Playing for time, Rawhide walks with the Colonel into a cave packed with enough guns and ammunition for an army. The Kid doesn’t think Ramm can recruit enough men to use all that firepower. That’s when Ramm directs our hero to look who is coming through the pass even as they speak.

Apaches. Ramm is offering to supply with arms any braves willing to fight their mutual enemy. Knowing this would unleash a blood bath, Rawhide fires his own guns at the ammunition and blows up the cave. Ramm is pissed. He wants the Apaches to slay the red-haired one” for robbing them “of the chance to retake the land that is yours!
The Kid tells the Apaches Ramm is a madman who would goad them from the path of peace. Ramm still wants the Apaches to kill our young hero real good. Rawhide counters with a demand of his own: a trial by combat to prove who is the more trustworthy man.

Ramm, who, by the way, is insane, goes for this idea. Since he was challenged, the Colonel’s choice of weapons is sabers on horseback. The Kid is nervous: The only experience I’ve had in this line is carvin’ a steak! But the Apaches will be on me in a second if I try to crawfish or complain!

Ramm has the experience with this sort of duel, but the Kid has the reflexes that made him an unbeatable gunfighter. He keeps doing the unexpected, even after he is knocked from his horse. Rawhide pulls the Colonel to the ground and punches him out. He snaps his foe’s sword in two to put the finish to this mad plan:

His war was over years ago...let it stay that way!

The Apaches won’t let Ramm’s men harm Rawhide and, by the way, they want those mother-fucking owlhoots off their mother-fucking plain. The bad guys make tracks.

Going a mite further on the crazy trail, Ramm starts waving around his magically-healed saber and starts to rant as the Kid rides off  through the pass.

You people come back here! I command it! I’ll have you shot as deserters! Didn’t you hear me, suh? I must be obeyed! My legion will conquer the territory, conquer the whole west! Come back here! Come back!

Followed by a caption:

Slowly, the Kid rides on...and soon the commands of Colonel Ramm reach only the vast, empty sky...

The Roth/Tartaglione art for this story is outstanding. The splash page truly conveys both the excitement and desperation of a man on the run. There is no colorist credit, but the lettering is credited to “Sherigail,” a pseudonym of Morrie Kuramoto combining the names of his daughter and wife. “Legion of the Lost” was reprinted in The Rawhide Kid #138 [March 1977].

I get the feeling this issue was rushed through production a little faster than usual. The half-page “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” is the same as the one that ran in the previous issue. The Marvelmania International membership pitch is the same as well.

The half-page ad for Steranko’s History of the Comics runs again. The line-up of comics-oriented advertisers is also the same: Grand Book, Comic Sales, Howard Rogofsky, Richard Alf, F.L. Buza, Passaic Book Center, Robert Bell and a young Gary Groth’s Fantastic Fanzine Special.

This issue also has a non-series story. “Inside the Cave” by Stan Lee and Al Williamson is a four-page reprint from Kid Colt Outlaw #59 [April 1956].

Prospectors Jeb and Abner are looking for gold. A pair of men who watch them head out wonder why Jeb is willing to partner with the younger man:

That young no-good is as shiftless as a rattler!

Abner is a wanted outlaw who is using this prospecting gig to hide out from a posse. He doesn’t believe Jeb will find gold.

Days later, while Jeb digs in a cave, Abner sees a smoke signal in the distance. His criminal partner Ben is letting him know that the coast is clear. The posse has given up its search for him. Now it’s safe for Abner to leave the county.

Abner knocks Jeb on the head and drags him into the cave, thinking he can seal the cave and no one will find Jeb for years. But, when he moves a boulder, the cave wall collapses and kills Abner on the spot. Jeb has better luck. There’s enough room for him to crawl out of the cave. Talking with a lawman, Jeb feels sorry for the man who tried to kill him.

JEB: He’d have been rich, just like he always wanted. It was his discovery, too...because he told me to look in the cave!

LAWMAN: And you found the biggest gold pocket ever seen in these  parts! Well, that’s life, eh, old-timer.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page finishes off this issue. There are three letters and responses.

Aaron Potter of Roxbury, Massachusetts commented that, in every one of Marvel’s western comics, the title character is said to be the fastest gun alive. He wanted to know which of them was the fastest. In responding, the anonymous Marvel letter-answerer countered with the fact that, in the Old West, reputations grew and shrunk at the latest rumor. The only way to know for sure which Marvel gunslick is the fastest would be for them to face each other in a shoot-out and, not surprisingly, Marvel didn’t want to do that.

Tim White of San Leandro, California wanted to know why the Rawhide Kid always seem to get out of fights without a mark on him. Not a black eye or anything. Leandro also suggested a scenario in which the Kid, pursued by Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and the Long Ranger, wires the Ringo Kid, the Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt and the Ghost Rider to help him out. Marvel’s response:

That fight would be so hot, it would probably burn the pages right out of this here magazine! Now, you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?

Finally, David Lomazoff of Philadelphia deemed Rawhide Kid #75 to be, at most, average. But he had lots of suggestions:

Have the Kid head out East.

Meet some of the grandfathers of some of Marvel’s modern-day super-heroes.

Publish some tales of the Kid’s early life.

Bring back costumed villains like the Scorpion.

Lomazoff also asked what happened the Ghost Rider, whose comic book had been cancelled. Marvel responded the Ghost Rider would return in Western Gunfighters #1.

That’s all for today’s bloggy, pardners. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

No comments:

Post a Comment