Wednesday, September 7, 2016


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 86th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #100 [June 1972] celebrated that centennial issue with a cover penciled and inked by Larry Lieber. Inside the issue, “Gunfight at Fury Falls” (14 pages) reunited the Kid with both his brothers in a story written and penciled by Lieber with inks and probably colors by George Roussos.


With just 14 pages and a whole lot of territory to cover, Lieber’s story moves at a lightning pace. It starts with Johnny Clay, better known as the Rawhide Kid, practicing his gun skills. From there, we cut to brother Frank Clay, a professional gambler. He’s accused of cheating, but denies it:

For the record, I didn’t cheat you! I didn’t have to! Gambling is my trade and I ply it real well!

The sore losers follow Frank out of town with their guns blazing. Johnny spots the fracus and deals himself in. The losers decided to cut their losses and hightail it back to town.

Courtesy of Frank, we get the story of the Clay Brothers. I’ll try to summarize it for you...

A wagon train carrying the Clay family gets attacked by aggrieved Native Americans. The braves slaughter the adults, including Pa and Ma Clay. Oldest brother Joe panics and, making a run for it, does escape. Frank is captured. Baby Johnny is overlooked, but is found by Texas Ranger Ben Bart, who raises the boy as his own.

Frank escapes from his captors and grows up on his own. He becomes a gambler because it’s the only trade he appeared to have a talent for. Joe, consumed with guilt over deserting his brothers, becomes one of the bravest lawmen in the West. Johnny is trained in gunplay by Ben Bart and becomes the best there is at what he does. When he avenges Ben’s murder, it starts him on his current path. Though an outlaw in name only, Johnny is a wanted man.

The Clay brothers eventually found each other again. Each of them has the same birthmark: a five-point star.

Joe got married and quit being a sheriff. He has a spread outside of Fury Falls. Frank had been heading there for a visit and invites Johnny to come along.

Meanwhile, back at Fury Falls, Jason Murdock and his virtual army of owlhoots are riding into town. They aim to take the place over. Step one is killing the current sheriff.

Some townsmen ride to Joe’s ranch to ask for his help against the Murdock gang. Wife Kathy is against it, saying they have no right to ask this of her husband. Joe disagrees:

They do have a right, Kathy! They’re our neighbors and they’re in trouble.

Joe says that, as a former lawman, he’s “the only hombre in these parts with the know-how to take on Murdock.” Kathy cries that he’ll be one man against a whole gang. That’s when Frank and Johnny come riding up. They immediately agree to back Joe’s play.

Kathy doesn’t care much for her in-laws:

Darling, Frank is a gambler, and Johnny is an outlaw. They’re not dependable! When the going gets tough...

Frank responds:

They’re kinfolk, Kathy! When I need ‘em, they’ll be there. They won’t desert me!
The Clay brothers are spotted by one of Murdock’s gang as they ride towards town. The owlhoot recognizes the Rawhide Kid. Murdock sets up an ambush. However, when the brothers arrive, Johnny isn’t with them. The gang figured the Kid chickened out and on account of they never read any previous Rawhide adventures.

Frank and Joe are easily taken prisoner, but this was all part of the plan. A disguised Johnny frees them. They catch Murdock and his gang by surprise.

Pow! Krak! Ka-Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Sfat! Sfat! Pow! Pow! Pow! Murdock himself is the only badman left standing.

No...don’t kill me. I’m just a beaten old man! Without my hired guns, I’m no threat to you or anyone!
Inexplicably, the Clay brothers tell Murdock he can ride away. Or maybe they know what’s coming next.

Because you have read (or, at least, read about) other Rawhide Kid adventures, you know the old man has a hidden gun and tries to use it on the brothers. One more shot from Johnny’s gun sends Murdock to Hell.

With two panels left in the story, Kathy serves up a nice meal for Joe and his brothers. Joe says they should consider staying on for a spell. But Frank has a yen for the next card game and Johnny is still a fugitive. They ride away in the final panel:

And so, the Clay brothers again part, each to follow his own star, until fate one day brings them together.

“Gunfight at Fury Falls” could’ve easily been expanded to fill the entire issue. It’s a little too tight for its length, but still an excellent story. Sadly, it has never been reprinted in the United States. Hey, Marvel, we really do need that collection of The Best of Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid. I’d buy at least two copies.

The six-page “El Sombro” (“Mexico’s Ghost of Chapel Hill”) is this issue’s non-series reprint tale. The writer is unknown. The splash page was drawn by Joe Maneely and the rest of the story was drawn by John Buscema. It originally ran in Western Outlaws and Sheriffs  #62 [June 1950].


Juan Correo is the son of the Wolf, a violent revolutionary seeking to overthrow the government of Ramon Duro. The Wolf comes up with a plan to kidnap the governor’s wife and daughter. The bloodthirsty Dagger wants the job, but, because it requires brains, Juan is put in charge of the operation. He accept the job reluctantly.

Juan has his hands full keeping his men from slaughtering innocent people. When he learns Duro’s government is an honest one and that his father and the other revolutionaries are only seeking riches, he aborts this mission. Meeting the governor’s beautiful daughter Maria might also have something to do with this decision.

The Wolf is understanding and allows Juan to leave the territory. But Dagger is afraid the Wolf is going soft. He ambushes Juan and (he thinks) kills him. The grief-stricken Wolf launches even more violent attacks on the government.

Juan is not dead. Instead, he assumes the identity of E; Sombro, a ghostly figure who thwarts the revolutionaries at every turn. The brutal Dagger takes advantage of the doubts assailing the other men and murders the Wolf in cold blood...after telling the Wolf that it was Dagger himself who killed Juan.

Dagger takes command of the rebels. El Sombro leads the bulk of the rebels elsewhere so he can take his vengeance on Dagger. With that done, the revolution is crushed. Juan is pardon and marries Maria. He becomes governor. The story of the ghostly line gunman becomes the stuff of legends.


This one has me on the fence. The basic plot is okay, but Juan is too easily swayed by a pretty girl. That Duro is a honest governor seems too convenient. The story unfolds by the numbers with so-so writing and art. Not a classic.

There is no Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page or a letters page in this issue. But there is a house ad for Western Gunfighters #9 [July 1972]. Here’s the John Severin cover:

I almost certainly owned this issue at one time, but I don’t have any memory of the stories it reprinted. Fortunately, we can usually turn to the Grand Comics Database for such information. Here be the contents of the issue:

Black Rider in an untitled seven-page story drawn by the great Syd Shores. The story original appeared in Black Rider #19 [November, 1953]. Here’s the GCD synopsis:

Hatchet Haines impersonates the Black Rider, killing the man who makes the costume for him. When Haines kidnaps Marie Lathrop, the real Black Rider takes after him and throws him from a cliff.

You think I would remember a story where the hero throws a villain off a cliff. Not that I’m judging, mind you.

The Outlaw Kid in “Revenge of the Redmen!” (5 pages). Drawn by the great Doug Wildey, this story first appeared in The Outlaw Kid #19 [September, 1957]. The synopsis:

Stagerobber Darro riles up the town against natives for robbing the stages. The Outlaw Kid proves Darro is the true robber, using men dressed as natives.

The Apache Kid in “Spurs West!” (6 pages) with art by Tom Gill, who drew the Lone Ranger and many other comic books for Dell/Gold Key. This one is from Two Gun Western #13 [April 1952] and was printed a second time in Apache Kid #11 [December 1954}. The synopsis:
The Apache Kid drives off rogue Caguyas led by a white man.
The indexer notes “Surprisingly, the Apache Kid shoots an Indian in the back.”
That’s another story I think I would have remembered. Maybe I did not own this issue.

The issue ends with the Black Rider in “The Fangs of the Mad Wolf!” (4 pages), also drawn by Shores and is also from Black Rider #19. The synopsis:

Doc Masters treats a young Comanche who was infected with rabies by a wolf. When the Doc's vaccine is destroyed, he takes after the rabid wolf as the Black Rider and kills it to make a new vaccine from its brains. The boy is saved.

One more fascinating fact about this issue of Western Gunfighters. The cover and all the interior stories were colored by Steve Englehart, who would go on to become one of the best and most popular writers at both Marvel and DC. Hi, Steve!

That’s it for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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