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The Rawhide Kid (real name: Johnny Bart, originally given as Johnny Clay) is a fictional cowboy in Marvel Comics' shared universe. the Marvel Universe. The Rawhide Kid was a heroic gunfighter of the 19th Century American West, who was unjustly wanted as an outlaw. He is one of Marvel's most prolific Western characters, rivaled only by the Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. He and other Marvel western heroes have on rare occasions guest-starred through time travel in such contemporary titles as The Avengers and West Coast Avengers.
The Atlas versionEdit
The Rawhide Kid debuted in a 16-issue series (March 1955-Sept. 1957) from Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. Most of its covers were by highly acclaimed artists, generally either Joe Maneely or John Severin, but also Russ Heath and Fred Kida. Interior art for the first five issues was by Bob Brown, Jack Kirby's future successor on Challengers of the Unknown, with Dick Ayers on the reins thereafter.
The Silver Age of ComicsEdit
After a hiatus, the Rawhide Kid got revamped for the ramping-up Marvel by writer Stan Lee, legendary penciler Jack Kirby and inker Ayers. Continuing the Atlas numbering with issue #17 (Aug. 1960), the title now featured a diminutive yet confident, soft-spoken fast-gun constantly underestimated by bullying toughs, varmints, owlhoots, polecats, crooked saloon owners and other archetypes squeezed through the prism of Lee & Kirby's anarchic imagination. As in the outsized, exuberantly exaggerated action of the later-to-come World War II series Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Rawhide Kid was now a freewheeling romp of energetic, almost slapstick action across cattle ranches, horse troughs, corrals, canyons and swinging chandeliers. Stringently moral, the Kid nevertheless showed a gleeful pride in his shooting and his acrobatic fight skills — never picking arguments but constantly forced to surprise lummoxes far bigger than he.
Through retcon, bits of and pieces of the Atlas and Silver Age characters' history meshed, so that the unnamed infant son of settlers the Clay family, orphaned by a Cheyenne raid, was raised by Texas Ranger Ben Bart on a ranch near Rawhide, Texas. Older brother Frank Clay, captured by Indians, eventually escaped and became a gambler, while eldest brother Joe Clay became sheriff of the town of Willow Flats; neither were in the regular cast, and each died in a guest appearance. Shortly after Johnny's 18th birthday, Ben Bart was murdered; Johnny, an almost preternaturally fast and accurate gunman, wounded the killers and left them to be taken into custody. A later misunderstanding between the Kid and a sheriff over a cattle rustler the Kid wounded in self-defense led to the hero's life as a fugitive.
Kirby continued as penciler through #32 (Feb. 1963) — remarkably, while helping to launch The Fantastic Four, the Hulk and other iconic characters of the "Marvel revolution" — and drew covers through issue #47. Issues #33-35 were drawn by EC Comics great Jack Davis and some of the very last color comics he would draw before gaining fame at MAD Magazine and as one of the 20th century's leading caricaturists. After several issues by stalwart Ayers, followed by a single issue by longtime Kid Colt artist Jack Keller, Stan Lee's brother Larry Lieber — who'd previously scripted the first appearances of "The Mighty Thor", "The Invincible Iron Man" and other superhero features plotted by Lee — began his long, solid run as writer-artist of the much-liked, albeit minor series.
As superheroes become increasingly ascendant and sales of all companies' Western titles dropped, The Rawhide Kid became primarily a reprint title, though often bearing new covers by such top artists as Gene Colan, Gil Kane and Paul Gulacy. It ended publication with issue #151 (May 1979).
The Rawhide Kid reappeared in the four-issue limited series Blaze of Glory (2000), by writer John Ostrander and artist Leonardo Manco, and a 2002 four-issue sequel, Apache Skies, by the same creative team.
In contrast to character's standard look till then — a small-statured, clean-cut redhead — these latter two series found him grizzled, taller, with shoulder-length dark hair, and wearing a slightly less stylized, more historically appropriate outfit than his classic one. In fact, Blaze of Glory specifically retconned that the naively clean-cut Marvel Western stories of years past were merely dime novel fictions of the characters' actual lives.
A controversial 2003 limited series from Marvel's MAX imprint, the five-issue Rawhide Kid (the story itself titled "Slap Leather"), revealed him to be a homosexual. The series was labeled "Parental Advisory Explicit Content", and the story was written by Ron Zimmerman and veteran John Severin. Sales for the book were low although it was surrounded by a great deal of publicity for the orientation of the character.
Larry Lieber on The Rawhide Kid : "I don't remember why I wanted to do it, particularly. I think I wanted a little more freedom. I didn't do enough of the superheroes to know whether I'd like them. What I didn't prefer was the style that was developing. It didn't appeal to me.... Maybe there was just too much humor in it, or too much something. ... I remember, at the time, I wanted to make everything serious. I didn't want to give a light tone to it. When I did Rawhide Kid, I wanted people to cry as if they were watching High Noon or something."
"I'm a little unclear about leaving the superheroes and going to Rawhide Kid. I know that at the time I wanted — what's the expression? — a little space for myself or something, and I wanted to do a little drawing again."
- Alter Ego Vol. 3, #2: Larry Lieber interview
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Rawhide Kid
- Marvel Directory: Rawhide Kid
- International Catalogue of Superheroes: Rawhide Kid
- A Guide to Marvel's Pre-FF #1 Heroes: Rawhide Kid
- The Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
- CNN.com: "Marvel Comics to unveil gay gunslinger"
- The 4th Rail: Review of Rawhide Kid #1: "Slap Leather"
- Scifi Dimensions: Review of Rawhide Kid #1-3
- Gay League Profile