Wednesday, November 8, 2017


RESOLVED: The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  This is why I’ve written over a hundred columns about him. Something about his short stature, but large courage, honor and fighting skills speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I decide to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them. We’ve reached the title’s extended twilight.  We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the now-bimonthly reprint series. This is the 126th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #139 [May 1977] has a new cover pencilled and inked by Gil Kane and it’s terrific. “The Guns of Jesse James” hails from issue #33 [April 1963]. The Grand Comics Database has Jack Kirby as penciller and inker of the original cover, but I’m skeptical about the inking credit. Unfortunately, since I don’t own that particular issue, I can’t offer a better guess on the inks. I wrote about this story back in August of 2012:

The Rawhide Kid #33 [April 1963] has something new and more than a few things old.  Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers deliver a terrific cover for this issue, even if the title’s hero is darn near the smallest figure on it.  It’s so striking it would have worked just as well without the speech and thought balloons.  But subtle never seemed to be an approach either publisher Martin Goodman or writer/editor Stan Lee considered back then.

“The Guns of Jesse James” (13 pages) is the first of three issues drawn by the legendary Jack Davis of EC Comics fame.  Davis draws the Rawhide Kid as average in height, which isn’t on model for the
more diminutive hero portrayed by Kirby.  However, other than that, Davis does a splendid job.  His storytelling is clear, his ability to draw Marvel-style action is impressive and he draws interesting faces and expressions.  A different look for my favorite western hero, but it had a lot going for it.

Stan Lee’s story is another “bad judgment” episode for the Rawhide Kid.  The story opens with the Kid rescuing a stagecoach from some owlhoots, only to be fired upon and wounded by the coach’s driver who thought Rawhide drove off the other robbers because he wanted to rob the stage himself.

After digging the bullet out of his shoulder, Rawhide decides that if he’s going to be treated like an outlaw then he’ll be an outlaw. Soon thereafter, he joins the Jesse James gang which, conveniently, had an available position.  Says James, “I’m one man short right now–-that’s why we’re holed up here! But with you ridin’ with us, I won’t haveta hide out no more!”

James convinces Rawhide that he and his gang are peace-loving men who rob from the rich, give to the poor and don’t hurt anyone when they rob them.  A train robbery soon proves otherwise and the Kid ends up taking on the whole James gang and earning the admiration of a railroad station agent.

The Kid’s bad judgment continues.  When he’s called to by the town sheriff, he shoots the lawman’s rifle out of his hands and flees, never realizing the sheriff wanted to do him a good turn:

“The station agent told me what happened, and I wanted to take yuh to the governor, to see if I could arrange a pardon for yuh!  But, it’s too late now, Kid! Mebbe it’s always been too late!”

This issue doesn’t have the higher profile advertising we’ve been seen in recent issues. The non-Marvel ads are the usual comic-book pitches for a variety of cheap products and suspect educational opportunities. We get the usual three pages of “classified” ads featuring 22 ads from comics dealers, up one from the previous issue.

Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey has a full page ad that leads with a Hulk Flying Fist Launcher and a Captain America Shield Shooter. Each is $2.78 (including postage). A Stan Lee-signed copy of Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man is $6. The Art of Neal Adams is $3.50. Finally, you can get a copy of the Marvel-Con ‘76 booklet for $2.50.

The FOOM Fan Club shares a page with a Marvel Comics subscription ad. Both are fairly generic.

“The Man Who Couldn’t Quit” (4 pages) is from Kid Colt Outlaw #81 [November 1958]. The writer is unknown, but the non-series story is drawn by George Woodbridge, better known for his many years drawing for MAD Magazine.

Fate deals each one of us one hand, and we must play it the best way we know how! Fate decrees that one man shall be big and strong, another man weak and cowardly! Fate gives one man exceptional skill with a plow, another man a way with wood or steel! Fate put a very fast gun in Jim Bender’s holster!

That’s how this fairly simple and straightforward story begins. Jim Bender, lightning fast and supernaturally accurate with a gun, is fated to go from town to town, taking up the badge and taming said towns. He meets his future wife and settles down with her and, a year later, their son to what he thinks will be a life of ranching. But when the town’s elderly sheriff needs his help, his wife tells him he has to go help the lawman. She’s a brave woman. Jim makes short work of the badman threatening the town, which leads to this wordy final panel:

Straightforward though it is, this is a well-written, beautifully-drawn story. I missed seeing this non-series stories in the back of Rawhide Kid.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page - Yabberings and Yeddings from Yeoman Yarnspinners to You! - marks the exit of Assistant Editor Scott Edelman, whose job included coming up with the alliterative headings for the page. He’ll be moving on to full-time freelancing on Captain Marvel and other assignments. His replacement is artist Ed Hannigan.

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” leads with the announcement of the creation of Captain Britain to headline a new British weekly. Marvel’s very one “Traveling Stan” also reports that he has Grand Marshal of Northern Illinois University’s Homecoming Day Parade and that he has other future speaking engagements at SUNY in Buffalo, the University of New Mexico in Alburquerque and Orange Coast College in Costa Misa, California.

The first news item heralded the end of a Marvel softball season in which the Bullpen team finished second in the Publisher’s League. Mentions were made of “production potentate” Lenny Grow, Happy Herb Trimpe, Sturdy Stu Schwartzberg, Marie Severin (who drew special awards for the above) and team captains Irene Vartanoff and Jim Novak. The annual team banquet was put together by Nelson Yomtov.

After the notice of Edelman leaving staff, the page announced that Steve Gerber had been added to the roster of Marvel’s consulting editors and would be editing a special KISS comic book.

The penultimate item hints at Marvel’s signing a deal to produce Godzilla comic books. Fun fact: Before I came to work at Marvel in 1972, I had suggested to then Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas that the company get comic-book rights to Godzilla. That was being worked on while I was at Marvel with the plan that Godzilla would be one of our black-and-white magazines with yours truly writing the stories and, among others, Dave Cockrum drawing them. The negotiations hit a bump in the road and, by the time they resumed, I was no longer at Marvel. Sigh.

The final item was how Marvel sometimes had to cancel titles, but would always try to tie up any loose ends. The saga of Deathlok was mentioned as being concluded in Marvel Spotlight and Marvel Two-in-One. Whatever the circumstances, though, Marvel loved all of its characters too much to leave them off the stage for long.

“Captain America and the Sore Sin’s Apprentices” was this issue’s wacky Hostess ad. Pencilled by Sal Buscema, the title villain was never seen in this one-page “story.” However, his marauding minions were tamed by Hostess Cup Cakes.

“A Marvel Masterwork Pin-Up” of the Rawhide Kid ran three-fourths of a page. Taken from the cover of Rawhide Kid #21 [April 1961], the image was pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers with alterations by Marie Severin. The remaining one-third of the page was the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation required by the government.

As best I can tell with the ad of a magnifying glass, the average total paid circulation of The Rawhide Kid was 108,622 copies per issue, down from the previous year’s 143,972. For the single issue nearest to the filling date, the title sold 104,171 copies, down from the previous year’s 129,305. It has widely been suggested that these numbers were often made up on the spot. I wouldn’t doubt it.

The back cover was a paid ad for three complete fishing outfits - 411 pieces - for just $12.95 plus $2 for postage and handling. The ad from Nirsek Discount Sales of Chicago was typical of the less-than-lofty advertising comic books usually attracted.

We have eleven more issues to go before The Rawhide Kid concludes its 151-issue run. Come back next week for another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.”

Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on the big news just hitting the comics industry. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I don't recognize the name of George Woodbridge in association with MAD Magazine, but Jack Davis did work for MAD for a number of years, and also drew covers for TV Guide and some advertising bits.