Wednesday, September 21, 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 88th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #102 [August 1972] has a cover by Larry Lieber that illustrates “Guns of the Comancheros” (14 pages). Lieber wrote and penciled the story with inks and likely colors by George Roussos. Before we get to that story, a little history lesson, courtesy of a quick visit to Wikipedia.

The Comancheros were primarily Mexican traders in northern and central New Mexico Territory who made their living by trading with the nomadic Great Plains Indian tribes, in northeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Comancheros were so named because the Comanches, in whose territory they traded, were considered their best customers. They traded manufactured goods (tools and cloth), flour, tobacco, and bread for hides, livestock and slaves from the Comanche. As the Comancheros did not have sufficient access to weapons and gunpowder, there is disagreement about how much they traded these with the Comanche.

Save for an outlaw who refers to this issue’s damsel in distress as  “señorita” one time, the comancheros in Lieber’s story don’t seem to be Mexican or traders. They are a criminal gang who don’t really show up until page eight of the story.


The Rawhide Kid is resting by his campfire when he sees a girl who has apparently lost control of her horse. He rides after her. But, when he stops what he thought was a runaway stallion, he feels the lash of Cathy Cameron’s ire.

CATHY: My horse was under control...and I was perfectly safe!

KID: You mean you were deliberately riding at breakneck speed?

CATHY: Of course! I always ride fast!
KID: Fast? Lady, you were riding that horse into the ground!
CATHY: I was not! And it’s none of your business what I do with my horse!

KID: Wow! You’re a real charmer!

CATHY: And you’re an ill-mannered and offensive oaf, whom I hope I’ll never have the misfortune to run into again!

KID: I’ll miss you, too!

Later, the Kid comes across a railroad construction site and gets a job lying track. It’s tough work, but a lot safer than fighting gunslicks and dodging posses.

Cathy’s dad is the railroad president. Spotting the Kid among the workers, she tells her father he’s rude and impossible. Dad thinks he seems like a nice sort.

You know who’s not a nice sort? The comanchero who’s watching Cathy from a nearby hillside. He’s waiting for the moment when Cathy is not with so many people. This is foreshadowing, your sign of quality comics writing.

At the end of the day, with the workers planning to go to town and have some fun, one slimy fellow name of Frank decides Cathy will be his fun. He puts hands on her, despite her protests. The Kid tells  Frank to back off. Frank punches Rawhide, knocking our young hero to the ground.

Frank wants more. Rawhide obliges him, head-butting the roughneck in the gut. The Kid then throws three punches and knocks Frank to the ground. According to Frank, nobody knocks him off his feet and lives. He draws his gun and fires.

Rawhide ducks under the shot, drawing his gun at lightning speed. He shoots Frank in the bully’s shooting arm. Mr. Cameron, who saw the whole thing, fires Frank on the spot. But the Kid’s identity is now revealed:

Only one man can dodge gunfire and toss back lead that fast! Y-you’re the Rawhide Kid!

Digression. Depending on what marvelous western comic book you were reading, this same claim could have been applied to Kid Colt or the Ringo Kid or the Outlaw Kid get the idea.

Cathy is now interested in the Rawhide Kid. Chicks always dig those bad boys. The Kid spurns her breathless advances. All he wants is peace and quiet. The young woman does not take this well.

Cathy decides to make Rawhide pay for humiliating her publically by framing him for stealing a diamond brooch, She hides the brooch in his bunk, which is the first one searched because the Kid is known to be an outlaw. Rawhide returns to the bunkhouse right after the brooch is found.

Knowing he’s being framed and also that there’s no way to prove his innocence, Rawhide leaps through a window. He jumps and his horse and rides away. Cameron sends his men after him.

Cathy gloats to herself. She’s fixed the Kid good and proper. She is a horrible person.

Who know who else are horrible people? The comancheros who, seeing the crew ride after the Kid, realize Cathy is only guarded by her father. They grab the still-gloating Cathy, knocking her dad to the ground. She sure could use a coincidence right about now.

The Rawhide Kid has shaken his pursuers. Just in time to see Cathy being held hostage by the comancheros. Realizing she’s the one who framed him, the Kid knows he has to rescue her so she can clear his name. But he can’t attack the kidnappers head on or they might kill her. He comes up with a plan.

We get a few panels of Cathy being harassed by the bad guns and a shot of her dad reading the ransom note. The kidnappers want fifty grand for Cathy. My inflation calculator only goes to 1913, but, in  today’s money, that would be probably be over two million dollars. Dad doesn’t hesitate to wire for the money.

The Kid rides into the comanchero camp and is instantly recognized because:

That outfit! Those twin colts! He’s the Rawhide Kid!

We pause to contemplate what the Kid’s life might have been like if he only owned a second pair of clothes.

The Kid joins up with the comancheros. Scullery maid Cathy thinks he will rescue her, but he says he wouldn’t lift a finger to help her. Of course, it’s all a ploy.

That night, Rawhide knocks out Cathy’s guard and frees her. Spotted by the kidnappers, he must shoot it out with them. He outguns the entire gang, but the gang leader grabs Cathy from behind. He tells the Kid to drop his guns or Cathy buys it. The gang leader aims his gun at the disarmed Rawhide. Cathy bites her kidnapper on the wrist, forcing him to drop his gun. The gang leader dies of rabies.

Just kidding. Rawhide leaps at the gang leader. They fight on the edge of a convenient cliff. The gang leader falls to his death and Cathy learns an important lesson:

CATHY: I was spoiled and spiteful! I’ll never deliberately hurt anyone again! I know how it feels to be a victim! I just learned it the hard way.

KID: I reckon sometimes that’s the only way! 


This was an entertaining story. Like many of Lieber’s Rawhide Kid yarns, it has never been reprinted. This is where I make my nigh-weekly plea for Marvel to publish The Best of Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid. I would buy two copies right from the get-go.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page runs after page 6 of the above tale. There’s no “Stan’s Soapbox” this time around because Stan Lee was on vacation in Miami Beach. The lead item teases that the next Bullpen Bulletins will herald a new era for Marvel.

In other items...the current issue of Marvel Spotlight debuts the new, modern-day Ghost Rider by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog. The “mad, mod, mystic hero who straddles both the world of motorcycles and the supernatural” takes the place of Werewolf by Night, which is graduation to its own ongoing title.

Marvel writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart addressed a comics course at Indiana University and appeared on TV there. A few months earlier, Stan spoke at the “prestigious” University of Puget Sound in Washington and visited the local zoo. This is where he got the idea for the Gibbon, the somewhat less than prestigious Spider-Man villain.

The news section wraps with The Defenders and Warlock getting their ongoing titles and the launch of Doc Savage in comic-book form. It was, indeed, an exciting time for Marvel fans.

Close to thirty titles are listed in “The Mighty Marvel Checklist,” a roster that includes a great many super-hero titles like Spider-Man and Avengers, sword-and-sorcery (Conan), war (Combat Kelly and Sgt. Fury), monsters (Fear), westerns (Kid Colt), romance (Our Love Story), teen humor (Harvey), kid humor (Li’l Kids), and, of course, Millie the Model and her frenemy Chili. What with most comic books costing twenty cents and me having a decent-paying newspaper job, I bought them all.  

The second story in this issue was “The Man Who Couldn't Be Killed” with art by John Romita. The six-page story originally appeared in  Western Outlaws and Sheriffs #70 [December 1951]


Rotten person Lem Clyde sells guns and ammunition to the Wahnooki tribe, which appears to be a fictional tribe created by the as-yet-identified writer of this story. I couldn’t find any reference to it online.

Clyde incites the tribe to violence against the white man. Though the townspeople fight them off, Clyde keeps selling more guns and ammo to the Wahnooki. He figures on taking over after all the white men have been killed. But he doesn’t much care who dies. He sells blanks to the Wahnooki to increase his profits. The unsuspecting chieftain is so pleased with the “good white man” that he’ll make Clyde a tribe idol.

The sheriff comes after Clyde, but is caught by the Wahnooki. The lawman is tied to a post to be executed by a tribal firing squad. But, no matter how many times the braves shoot at him, the sheriff is unharmed. They’ve been shooting him with blanks.

The Wahnooki kneel before this new white god, renouncing the false leader they had worshiped. The sheriff calls for peace between the tribe and the white man. The chief agrees, but refuses to let the lawman have Clyde:

Wahnooki cannot give Lem Clyde! Him belong to tribe now! Him behind great father!

The sheriff looks at the top of the totem pole behind him:

Grinning down hideously from the top of the Wahnooki totem pole was the shaven head of Lem Clyde! By ancient Wahnooki custom, the honored place on their totem pole was reserved for the head of an idol! Thus, Lem Clyde’s dream of playing “god” to an Indian nation was all too ironically realized!

Today, on a government reservation in western Oklahoma, stands the musty skull...a grisly symbol of one man’s untamed greed...and the costly price he paid for it! 

I found this story less believable than Marvel creating a gibbon-based super-villain. Clyde’s plan doesn’t seem to make much sense once he impedes the Wahnooki’s chances of wiping out the white men by selling them blanks. The Wahnooki are offensively stupid. Plus: I can’t write “Wahnooki” without giggling.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page appears after the first page of the Wahnooki story. Six readers were represented on the page.

Robert K. Gillis of Elmsford, New York, didn’t like George Roussos’ inking and wanted to see John Tartaglione back on the Rawhide Kid. He didn’t get his wish.

Howard Leroy Davis of Pitman, New Jersey commits on the Rawhide Kid and Two Gun Kid reprints in The Mighty Marvel Western #17. The old Rawhide Kid stories featured the pre-Johnny Clay version with some editing and redrawing. Davis was ok with that. But the editing and redrawing on the Two Gun Kid reprint was jarring. That story came from the pre-masked hero version of Two Gun, a yarn in which no one seemed to notice the hero was wearing a mask. Honestly, that’s what made those reprints fun for me and why I’ve just started collecting The Mighty Marvel Western. In any case, Marvel said they would stop adding the mask to Two Gun Kid reprints from that time.

Dennis Sellers of Huntingdon, Tennessee wanted to see more of the characters introduced in the originally all-new Western Gunfighters title. After a plug for the new Ghost Rider, Marvel said it would try to use them as guest stars in titles like Red Wolf and Outlaw Kid. The Gunhawk did appear in that month’s Outlaw Kid.

Arnold Brown of Taylorsville, Kentucky had nothing but praise for the Dick Ayers art in Rawhide Kid #96. Marvel responded that there would be more Ayers in the upcoming months, though Lieber would be the regular writer and artist.

Steve Kahn of Sudbury, Massachusetts didn’t like Rawhide Kid #96. He also didn’t want to see the Kid meeting other gunfighters. As he saw it, the comic should be about the Rawhide Kid and just the Kid. Marvel asked the readers what they thought. This is Letter Column Answers 101. When you don’t have a good answer, toss the question to the readers.

George K. Wagner of Memphis, Tennessee thought Rawhide Kid #96 was one of the best issues ever and praised the characterization. He promises to keep buying Marvel’s western until “they start showing Gene Autry and Tim Holt movies at the local theater on Saturday afternoons.” In Marvel’s response, John Wayne and Johnny Mack Brown are also mentioned.

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

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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