Wednesday, May 6, 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 66th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #81 [November 1970] has a cover by Larry Lieber - pencils and inks - and a new Rawhide Kid story, written and drawn by Lieber with inks by John Tartaglione. As I’ve mentioned before, Tartaglione is one of my favorite inkers for Larry.

“Range War!” is a 19-page story posing as a 20-page story by virtue of pages 12 and 13 being half-page pages. This was something Marvel was doing at the time, though I don’t recall it lasting for very long.

The story has some familiar elements. It opens with Rawhide heading into an area he’s never been before. As he has done in other tales, the Kid wonders if this can be a new start for him:

It’s cow country! Maybe I can hire on at one of the spreads! Maybe this time I can finally hang up my guns for good...and live a life of peace and quiet!

Cattle rancher Garrison is surprised the Kid doesn’t wear guns, but hires him as a wrangler. On his way to the bunkhouse, Rawhide meets Kathy, his new boss’s beautiful, flirtatious daughter.

KATHY: Hi! I’m Kathy Garrison! What’s your handle?

RAWHIDE: Clay! Johnny, to my friends!

KATHY: Well, I surely do hope that I will soon be a member of that fortunate group!

RAWHIDE: Keep smiling like that...and you’ll win a lifelong membership!

Johnny is pretty happy about the situation. He has a honest job and there’s a girl who has taken a fancy to him. He’s worried someone will recognize him as the infamous Rawhide Kid, but figures that’s tomorrow’s problem.  He’s wrong.

Tomorrow’s problem is that One-Percenter Garrison is mighty peeved over the “squatters” (farmers) who have settled on free range land given to them by the government. Garrison considers that land to be his land and plans to run the new settlers off. When Kathy tries to talk him out of this, her father tells her not to fret her pretty over this. He knows what he’s doing.

That evening, Johnny and Kathy are talking when Garrison sees the two of them together. He storms downstairs and tells Johnny that he was hired to work on his spread and not to sweet-talk his daughter. Kathy objects to no avail. Johnny walks away.

The next day, Johnny and some of Garrison’s men ride the range to a nearby farm whose owner is putting up a fence:

If there’s anything a cowpoke hates, it’s the sight of barbed wire!

Garrison’s thugs order the farmer to take down his fence. The man states his legal right to the land. The thugs threaten the farmer, who goes for a rifle some distance from the fence.

The thugs get ready to gun the farmer down. Johnny rides into the men and prevents that.

The thugs aren’t so brave when facing a farmer with a loaded rifle pointing at them. They leave and make two promises. One...they’ll be back. Two...they’ll “settle accounts” with Johnny when they get back to the Garrison ranch.

Garrison figures Johnny needs to be taught a lesson. Unarmed with guns trained on him and being held by the cowhands, Johnny is helpless when foreman Buck comes at him:

BUCK: Yuh see, when I work a guy over...I don’t miss a trick!

We don’t see the beating, but we do see the aftermath:

An hour later, an unconscious Rawhide Kid is dumped in a lonely meadow beyond the ranch!

The Kid is spotted by a farmer and his son. They take care of the angry young man who vows vengeance on Garrison.

RAWHIDE: I owe him plenty...and the Rawhide Kid pays his debts!

The farmer doesn’t want that:

Look...we’ve a range war on our hands...and a professional gunman like you can only make things worse! If you go up against Garrison, he’ll bring in other fast guns and peace will never come to these parts!

Johnny agrees. He’s not thrilled with it, but he’s gonna call it a day and ride out of the area.

Garrison isn’t at all adverse to a range war. He has already hired gunslinger Duke Dawson. Johnny spots the Dawson gang riding toward the Garrison spread and heads back to the farmers.

At the Garrison spread, one of the gunslicks gets fresh with Kathy and almost draws on Garrison when he pulls the thug away from his daughter. Dawson steps in. He and his men came there to do a job. They want to get on with it.

Rawhide warns the farmers, telling them to contact him at the first sign of any trouble. Dawson and his men wound a farmer and burn the farmer’s house to the ground. The Kid rides to the Garrison spread to confront him.

The owlhoots recognize Johnny as the Rawhide Kid and open fire on him from the house. Johnny lassos the chimney and swings into the house through a window. He shoots down all of Dawson’s men without breaking a sweat.

Dawson grabs Kathy to be his ticket out of the fracus. Garrison is helpless. Rawhide rides after Dawson. He rescues Kathy, knocks Duke down with one punch and then shoots Dawson when the gunslick tries to shoot him in the back.

Garrison is grateful for the safe return of his daughter. We get a nice finish with a familiar last panel.

GARRISON: I’m luckier than I deserve to be! You saved my daughter’s life, Kid! Name your price! Anything!

RAWHIDE: Peace! Stop fighting with the homesteaders! Let them be! This country is big enough for everyone!

[Yes, it’s true. The Rawhide Kid is a commie socialist Muslim who wants to destroy our country.]

GARRISON: Okay! It’s finished! You’ve my word on it! The range war is ended!

KATHY: What about Johnny? Won’t you stay?

RAWHIDE: When I was just Johnny Clay, I could have stayed!

RAWHIDE: But now that folks know I’m the fugitive Rawhide Kid, I’d best move on!

RAWHIDE: ...for my own safety, and yours!


“Range War” is a good story. Maybe not one of Lieber’s best, but a  good story all the same. Like most of Larry’s Rawhide Kid work, it has never been reprinted.

This issue’s “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” takes up less than one half a page. Amazing Spider-Man #90 announces the unexpected death of one of Marveldom’s greats (Captain George Stacy). Daredevil #69 teams DD with the Black Panther. Sub-Mariner #31 has Triton, Sting-Ray and Attuma. The other 23 titles include six super-hero reprint titles, three “horror” comics, four westerns, a romance comic and Mad about Millie #18.

The rest of the page is an advertisement for Marvelmania Magazine (a sample issue that comes with the club catalog). Both could have been yours for fifty cents.

Various back-issue dealers have space on the classified ads pages: Howard Rogofsky, Passaic Book Center, Robert Bell, Grand Book Inc. and Clint’s Books. You could also order “100 stick-on stamps of the scariest Movie Monsters” for $1. A sample copy of the fanzine The Comiccollector could also be yours for a buck.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page touted the company’s victories in fandom’s Alley Awards. Fantastic Four won Best Adventure Title. Roy Thomas was Best Writer. Neal Adams was Best Artist...probably not just for his Marvel work. Tom Palmer was Best Inker.  Captain America #113 was named the Best Cover of the Year. Silver Surfer #5 was the Best Feature-Length Story. “At the Stroke of Midnight” from Tower of Shadows #1 was the Best Short Feature Story. Spider-Man got Best Adventure Hero, Dr. Doom got Best Villain and Rick Jones got Best Supporting Character. There was also a shout out for Dick Giordano’s winning Best Editor.

Other items reported Gene Colan taking over the art on the Black Widow in Amazing Adventures...Marvel publishing a slew of king-size reprint special at a quarter each...Sgt. Fury writer Gary Friedrich co-writing The Pocket Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll 1950-1963 with Len Brown...Joe Sinnott inking Neal Adams on Thor...the Spider-Man artistic team of Gil Kane and John Romita...and John Verpoorten inking Romita on Fantastic Four. Whew!

In “Stan’s Soapbox,” our fearless leader announces the formation of the Academy of Comic-Book Arts, which he saw as a counterpart to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Alas, though ACBA was still around when I got into the industry a few years later, it didn’t last much longer than that. As I recall, many members hoped it would become a comic-book industry union of sorts. That didn’t happen. Not then and not in the decades since.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page is followed by a full-page ad for two other Marvel westerns: Western Gunfighters #2 and Kid Colt Outlaw #150. Both are cover-dated October 1970.

Western Gunfighters #2 has a cover by Herb Trimpe that features the Ghost Rider with three inset panels at the bottom. The inserts are from reprint tales drawn by  Al Williamson, Joe Maneely and Werner Roth. The issue is 68 pages and sold for a quarter.

The lead story is a brand-new Ghost Rider story by Gary Friedrich with art by Dick Ayers (pencils) and Tom Sutton (inks). It runs 10 pages. That’s followed by the first of two Apache Kid stories drawn by Roth and reprinted from Apache Kid #13 (April 1955). Each of the stories is 6 pages in length. From the same issue of Apache Kid, we get the Joe Kubert-drawn “Pony Express” (5 pages).

The remaining stories first appeared in Quick-Trigger Western #13 (July 1956). “The Man from Cheyenne” (7 pages) is drawn by Maneely. “When the Sioux Attack” (6 pages) is written by Stan Lee with art by Gene Colan. “The Wild One!’ (5 pages) is likewise written by Lee with art by Matt Baker.

Kid Colt Outlaw #150 has a new cover by Trimpe. It features three Kid Colt reprints from issue #68 (January 1957) and one Colt story from issue #76 (January 1958).

“A Desperado at our Door!” is also from issue #68. The four-pager was written by Lee and drawn by Maneely.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page kicks off with a  negative missive from “Western fan” Richard Durham of Geneva, New York. He doesn’t care for the current stories and the off-familiar situation Rawhide finds himself in. He does offer a bunch of good suggestions, including having the Kid get involved in a range war.

Jim Cook of Missoula, Montana points out that one recent story had a reference to the Boy Scouts at least two decades before the Boy Scouts were founded.

Ernie Sazton of Bethal Park, Pennsylvania had a terrific idea for a story that I will totally steal if I ever get to write a Rawhide Kid series:

“The Kid lives in a period of time when Hawaii was first being settled. He could be blamed for a serious crime and be forced to feel the country. He could then take refuge on Hawaii for a few issues.”

Finally, Calvin Hardy of Starr, North Carolina points out that the villain on the cover of Rawhide Kid #75 is standing over our hero with a smoking pistol. Inside the story, he shoots Rawhide with a rifle. Hardy gets a no-prize for this.

Look for another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” next week.

I’ll be back as soon as possible with other stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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