Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 128

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 128th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.

The Rawhide Kid #141 [September 1977] has another great new cover pencilled and inked by Gil Kane. Like the previous issue’s cover, it doesn’t illustrate a scene from either of the two Rawhide Kid tales reprinted in this issue.
                                                                               

The first of those stories is “The Deadly Draw of Mr. Lightning!” by Stan Lee and Jack Davis from Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] Here’s what I wrote in my bloggy for August 8, 2012:

“The Deadly Draw of Mister Lightning” (10 pages) is a plot-by-the-numbers story.  It begins with the Kid fleeing a small posse; this is the only time in the issue his outlaw status is mentioned.  He hides out in the crowd at a traveling carnival where he watches the fastest juggler in the world and reckons it’s good the performer is not a gunfighter because no one could out-draw him.  Foreshadowing in the days of the Old West.

Mister Lightning is dissatisfied with his meager earnings.  Another carnival worker suggests he takes up gun play.  The juggler is swift to master that art and becomes a gun-for-hire.  Spotting Rawhide in a town where the Kid is apparently not wanted, Lightning calls him out. The Kid doesn’t want to engage in gun play for no reason and that, along with his foe’s speed, allows the former juggler to out-draw and wound our young hero.

Rawhide figures this is his lucky break.  Now that he’s no longer the fastest gun around, he thinks people will leave him in peace. Alas, building on his rep at the guy who outdrew the Rawhide Kid, Lightning has turned to crime.  With only four pages to go, an old Native American chief and friend of Rawhide tracks him down to tell him of Lightning’s reign of terror.  The Kid figures he has to do something about this.

Mister Lightning and the Kid face off at the bottom of page eight. Lightning is still faster, but Rawhide’s steely-eyed courage makes the juggler nervous.  He out-draws the Kid, but his shot misses by a mile.  He fires a second time, but, this time, the Kid fires as well and aims so expertly that the two bullets collide in mid-air. Mister Lightning soils himself, at least that’s how I see it, and vows never to use a gun again.  The local lawman takes the juggler into custody and leads us out of the story with the mini-sermon of the day:

“There are many ways to use a gun, but the Kid’s is best of all - not in anger, not for gain, just to help the cause of justice!”

Mutant gun skill is not new to the Rawhide Kid’s adventures, but I think this pushes it. I’m fairly confident we saw this amazing feat again in other Marvel westerns of the era.

An artistic note: Maybe it’s me, but the horses look pretty tiny in Davis-drawn Rawhide Kid stories.  Their human riders appear larger than the steeds in places.  Was Davis rushed or was he reacting to the low Marvel rates of this era?  Though his storytelling works just fine and his facial expressions and figures are dramatic, the small horses kept taking me out of the stories.

As has been the case with the Marvel comic books of this time, they didn’t attract the most high profile advertisers. Not counting the back cover - which we’ll discuss later today - the biggest names in the paid ads were Daisy (rifles) and Hostess with an ad offering three free baseball cards with specially marked boxes of Suzy Q’s, Twinkies, Cup Cakes and other snacks. In other words, no comic-book style, single-page story in which the Man-Thing defeats the Swamp-Drainer with a delicious treat.
                                                                            

Pacific Comics of San Diego took out a half-page ad offering their 100-page catalogue for a buck. There were two pages of “classified” ads, down from the usual three. On those pages, we got ads for 19 mail-order comics outfits, down from last issue’s 24. Also on one of the pages was an ad for John Buscema’s New York class in comic-book art and a new course on comics writing with Stan Lee as guest lecturer.
                                                                               

Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey had its usual full page advertisement, offering “Mighty Marvel Book Specials!” The only new book was The Superhero Cookbook which sold for $4.45 including the usual postage and handling.
                                                                              

Next up was “Shoot-Out with Rock Rorick!” from The Rawhide Kid #31 [December 1962]. The seven-page story was written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby and inking by Dick Ayers. I wrote about the tale in my bloggy thing for June 20, 2012:

Rorick is a rancher who has blocked the water to other ranchers to force them to sell their land to him.  When Rorick’s thugs harass the ranchers in the saloon, Rawhide sends the bullies packing.  A highlight of the fight is when one thug exclaims in disbelief: “You can’t be the Rawhide Kid! From what I heerd tell of ‘im, he must be most ten feet tall and wide as a barn!”

The ranchers beseech the Kid to help them against Rorick, but he’s busy enough just keeping one step ahead of the law.  But when his path out of town takes him past the ranch of an elderly couple who have been targeted by Rorick, Rawhide sees red.  He takes the fight - and what a wild fight it is - to Rorick’s spread and takes down the rancher and all his thugs.  He forces Rorick to sell all of his land to the Kid, who promptly restores it to its rightful owners.  Rorick’s pleas to the townspeople fall on deaf ears.  The tale ends with Rawhide relaxing in the saloon.  Obviously, the Kid can’t stay there for long, but he gets a momentary respite from the life of a wanted man.

In the middle of the above story, we got a half-page ad for a trio of Marvel annuals - Amazing Spider-Man, Invaders, Howard the Duck - topping the usual subscription ad.

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page leads with a long “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” in which the Man talks about his recent appearance at the University of Alabama, heralds the return of the legendary Carmine Infantino to Marvel (which is a stretch given Infantino had not drawn anything for Marvel since the 1950s), and announces the debut of the Howard the Duck newspaper strip. This was followed bu the usual news items.

ITEM! Marvel would publish bonus-size, one-issue movie adaptations of movies, timed to hit the newsstands about the same time as the movies. First up was The Island of Dr. Moreau by Doug Moench with artist Larry Hama.

ITEM! Other movie adaptations in the world included The Deep, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also hinted at: a James Bond adaptation.

ITEM! Jack Kirby was developing an exciting new feature. Was that really news? I mean, the King was always developing new features!

ITEM! Summer annuals! Besides the already-announced Amazing Spider-Man, Invaders and Howard the Duck, there would be annuals for Thor, The Eternals, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Many of these would feature short back-up stories said to showcase new Marvel talents.

ITEM! The final item announced the premiere of The Human Fly, based on a real-life daredevil, and a Conan Treasury Edition filled with stories by editor/writer Roy Thomas that had never previously appeared in color. Artists included John Buscema, Barry Smith, Neal Adams and Gil Kane.
                                                                               

There was one more editorial page in this issue and came as quite a surprise. It was a pin-up of the Rawhide Kid by Gil Kane that is thought to have been an original illustration. Cool.
                                                                               

The back cover of this issues advertised Dino De Laurentiis’ Orca. An angry thunderbolt of terror explodes out of the ocean’s depths! In the 1977 movie, a hunter battles a killer whale seeking revenge for the death of its mate and child. Starring Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling, the film was originally panned by critics and fans due to both its crass similarities to Jaws and its less than stellar performances. Oddly enough, it has attained something of a cult following in more recent times.

That’s it for this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” We’ll have another for you next Wednesday.

Come back tomorrow for either a special Thanksgiving bloggy thing  or some other stuff. It’s hard for me to be thankful for the many blessings of my own life when so many people are being harmed and persecuted by the Dumpster and its vile allies in the Republican Party and the alt-right Nazi movements. Which alt-right movements are Nazis? All of them. So you can see where I might have a little difficultly with the whole “thankful” business.

See you tomorrow.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #234

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Pre-Code Classics: Jet Powers/Space Age Volume One with art by Bob Powell and Al Williamson; Marvel's Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters; and Fresh Romance Volume 2!

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 11/21/17

                                                                             
The Black Lightning TV series debut on Tuesday, January 16, on the CW at 9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. On Friday, January 19, there will be an encore presentation. After that, the show will air every Tuesday night until its 13-episode first season is completed. Needless to say, I’m excited.

Though Sainted Wife Barb will be off on a cruise - and believe me when I tell you she feels terrible about that, but her plans can’t be changed - our kids Eddie and Kelly want to have a watch party at Casa Isabella. We’re still figuring out the logistics of that. I’m also thinking I might have some sort of encore watch party at some other location. We’ll see.

Some cool news also announced last week is that Cress Williams, the fine actor who plays Jefferson Pierce in the series, is getting a statue from DC Collectibles. Sydney Bucksbaum from The Nerdist website wrote:

Months ahead of his onscreen debut, the star of The CW’s upcoming superhero drama Black Lightning is already getting immortalized as a collectible statue, and Nerdist has your exclusive first look at the 12-inch figure from DC Collectibles. Modeled off of Williams’ titular hero Jefferson Pierce from Greg Berlanti’s next big DC TV series, the statue is dressed in the full Black Lightning super suit, mask and all. It’s so badasshe’s even got blue lightning bolts coming right out of his hand. Talk about being battle-ready!
 
Williams told Nerdist:

“Wow that is amazing! I’m excited and extremely honored to have a statue in my likeness. It’s very surreal and a bit overwhelming at the same time.”

The statue is available for pre-order at Dccollectibles.com and it will officially go on sale July 2018 for $130.

My thanks to Bucksbaum for the above information and for including in the piece that Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden. It really only takes one more sentence for such stories to credit the comic-book writers and artists who created characters. It’s a simple way to show respect for those creators. I applaud The Nerdist for getting this.

There have been so many articles, news stories and reviews on the Black Lightning TV series and Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 that I can’t link to them all, much less comment on them all. I’ll get to as many of them as possible today.

Author Ed Gosney wrote about Black Lightning and the Akron Comicon on his page. He gives good commentary and shares some photos of the event with his readers. Speaking for myself, though I’m sure Trevor von Eeden feels the same way, I enjoyed talking to Ed and wish I’d been able to appear on his comics nostalgia panel. You can read his convention and comics report here.

Vaneta Rogers interviewed me for Newsarama. I thought it was a good and honest interview, though, of course, it raised the hackles of a few readers. This is why I must resist reading comments even more than I do now; they seldom offer any constructive criticism or anything positive. My suggestion is that you ignore the reader comments and just read the interview.

Chancellor Agard of Entertainment Weekly interviewed artist Clayton Henry and me for the magazine’s website. I thought it was a really good interview. You can read it here.

Jordan C. of Mass Appeal interviewed me for that website. All these reporter are making me look good. I especially liked answering his question as to who were my top five female comic-book characters. I wish he had asked for six because I didn’t include a character I really should have included. Here’s the link.

Eric Cline reviewed Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 for the Adventures in Poor Taste website. Cline was less than enthusiastic than most reviewers - he gave the issue a six out of, I presume a possible ten - and inspired several jokes about the website’s name. But, though I disagree with some of his statements, I’m not going there. Instead, I’ll suggest you read his review here.

Aaron Young of Comicsverse was a lot more positive about the issue, but wrote that “the reader never gets a great idea of who Jefferson Pierce is.” Personally, I feel I gave the readers everything they needed to know about Jeff for this issue. I figured today’s readers are able to fill in the minor details, based on how much said fans speculate about what’s going to happen in the comics, in the films and on the TV shows. Each issue will give you a little more info on Jefferson Pierce, his super-hero identity, his allies and the city in which he lives. Having him explain every single part of who he is was never going to be on the table for me. I find a plethora of introspection slows down the story. Heck, you’re not even going to get a new origin story in these six issues. Though, if the series sells well enough to continue, that’s one of the future stories I want to write. But I do appreciate Aaron giving the issue so much thoughtful coverage. You can read his review here.

Over at SyFy Wire, Adam Pockross gave some nice coverage to Black Lightning’s January CW debut and mentioned the six-issue comic-book series as well. Just for the record though, the official credit is “Black Lightning created by Tony Isabella with Trevor von Eeden.” There might be a slightly different credit on the show itself, but it’s also a credit I signed off on. You can read Pockross’s piece here.

And because I never get tired of this.

Here’s a long podcast/radio show I did. I haven’t listened to it, but I had great fun doing it:

Brad at Graphic Policy recorded and posted on YouTube what might be my favorite review of Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. Though Brad says at the beginning of the review that he doesn’t know much about Black Lightning, he nails what I was trying to accomplish in that issue. Watch his review here.

Charles Pulliam-Moore of io9 interviewed me. If you’re realizing I did a bunch of interviews in the lead-up to Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1, you are correct. I think this one is one of the best ones I did. You can read it here.

Comic Chronicle interviewed me and you can listen to it here.

This has nothing to do with Black Lightning, but I feel we need a bit of variety. Prepare to have your heart melt when you watch this Macy’s commercial.

One more link. Corrina Lawson has this cool article at the GeekMom part of GeekDad. Read it here.

Whew! I don’t think I’ve ever included so many links in one of my bloggy things. I probably missed a few articles and reviews, but I tried to avoid too much repetition.

When next “Black Lightning Beat” appears, it will have annotations for Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1. You’ll get to see what I was thinking as I wrote the script and maybe discover some cookies and Easter eggs you missed. I expect the annotations on the issue to run maybe two or three installments. I hope you enjoy them.

Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” as we ride like the night wind towards the end of the Kid’s long-running comic-book series. See you when the sun comes up.
   
© 2017 Tony Isabella


Monday, November 20, 2017

IN MEMORIAM

Three men whose work meant a lot to me when I was a kid and, later, when I was a young man in my 20s, passed in August and September. I’ve been meaning to write something about them, but one thing or another got in the way of that. Fortunately, I finally have a few minutes to express my thanks for what they did in their lives and how that enriched my life.

Haruo Nakajima (January 1, 1929 – August 7, 2017) played Godzilla in the original Gojira (1954) and went on to play him in a dozen consecutive movies, up to and including Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). He also played other giant monsters in other kaiju films. He was a noted stunt actor who had small roles in many other movies as well.

When I first saw Godzilla on the small screen TV in my Peony Avenue home in Cleveland, I already knew the differences between the stop-motion animation of King Kong and the “man in suit” performance of Godzilla. What I didn’t grasp until I was older was how much acting was involved in portraying those giant monsters. These days, when I watch those old favorites, I am frequently impressed by how much actors like Nakajima were able to bring to their roles despite having no dialogue and with their own features completely obscured within their costumes.

Nakajima’s other monster roles included Rodan, Moguera (the robot from The Mysterians), Varan, Mothra’s larval form, Maguma (Gorath), Baragon, Gaira (in War of the Gargantuas), King Kong (in King Kong Escapes) and various monsters in various Ultraman episodes. That’s dozens upon dozens of hours of entertainment.

From the moment I saw Godzilla for the first time, I was hooked on the big guy. A good share of that is due to Nakajima. I honor his memory and thank him for the joy he brought to me.
                                                                                   

Watching TV legend Ernie Anderson hosting late-night monster movies as his character Ghoulardi lifted those monster movies to my next passion after comic books. From January 13, 1963 through December 16, 1966, Anderson’s Shock Theater was what almost every Cleveland kid would be talking about on Monday. It was not a huge step from watching Ghoulardi to buying Famous Monsters of Filmland as often as I could scrape together some extra money after buying the comic books I loved.
                                                                                 

Basil Gogos (March 12, 1929 – September 13, 2017) painted the best Famous Monsters covers in the 1960s and 1970s. His Gorgo portrait is one of my all-time favorite giant monster images, but he never painted a cover that was less than excellent. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can see those covers. If I then open my eyes at a cool enough convention, I might see big displays of prints and t-shirts with those same images. Gogos lives on through his art.

I met him once - briefly - at a Pensacon. He was a gracious man and appreciative of how much his fans loved his work. I wish I had been able to spend more time with him. He was scheduled to appear at an Akron Comicon - where I would have interviewed him for the fans - but had to cancel because his traveling companion came down sick. And then Gogos was gone. He lived a full life for sure and did so much great work, but, with a talent as amazing as his, you always want just a little more.

There are many great monster illustrators and I love their work as well. But Basil Gogos will always be special to me.

                                                                                  

Playboy publisher and editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner (April 9, 1926 – September 27, 2017) is someone whose work became very important to me in many ways. While recognizing that some people consider him to have exploited women and profited from their sexy images, I have a more nuanced and complicated view of him.

I was not one of those horny kids who would take every opportunity, when an issue of Playboy came into their hands, to lust after the centerfolds and other models. The women were gorgeous, but I found it uncomfortable listening to the crude remarks of my classmates. They weren’t my friends, but I had to learn to survive being short and smart and a favorite of most of my teachers. I moved among them and they accepted me, especially when they desperately needed some tutoring.

The first time I ever read anything in Playboy was when I asked my father to buy me an issue that had a Jules Feiffer article about Golden Age super-heroes. Dad bought the issue, cut out the article (which was all I wanted) and that was my introduction to the fine writing that could be found in the magazine.

When I was old enough to buy Playboy myself - most stores would let me buy it at 18 - I bought it from time to time. I’m not going to claim I didn’t enjoy the photos, but I actually did buy Playboy for the articles and cartoons.

Hefner’s role as a social activist was commendable. His support of cartoonist and other worthy causes pleased me. That he was also a playboy with multiple sexual partners didn’t mean anything to me. It wasn’t the sort of lifestyle that appealed to me. Before I was married, I rarely dated more than one woman at a time. I liked the one on one relationship. However, since I may run for office before long, I’m not going to tell you how many consensual relationships I have had in my life. Vote for me.

The writing in Playboy knocked me out. At times, I aspired to write something for the magazine. I was always so busy with the writing I was already doing that I never had the time to devote to trying to sell to Playboy. I regret that.

I subscribed to Playboy for many years because the renewal fee was always incredibly cheap. But the unread issues became a pile and, with my kids and the neighborhood kids hanging around the house, I felt uncomfortable having the magazine around. Sometime long before that, the models went from being my age or older to all being much younger than me. So I stopped getting the magazine.

In his older years, Hefner creeped me out a little with his dalliances with multiple women decades younger than him. But I never lost my respect for what he had accomplished, the stands he took, the good causes he championed and the quality of the writing and the art in his magazine.

I never got to meet Hugh Hefner. I wish I had. For me, Playboy was a positive influence. The handful of Playboy models I have met over the years share that opinion. I don’t question the truth that, for some women and men, it was not a positive influence. Sometimes you just have to go with what you think.

Haruo Nakajima. Basil Gogos. Hugh Hefner. Today’s bloggy thing is dedicated to them with admiration and respect. I’m glad they were part of my life.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ON THE ROAD AGAIN IN 2018

Black Lightning - the TV series - will make its debut on the CW on Tuesday, January 16, at 9 pm EST. I suspect I’ll be asked a whole lot of questions about it at my convention and other appearances in 2018. Before we get to that list of appearances, let’s talk a bit about what it takes me to get to a convention.

In 2018, most conventions I drive to will have to provide me with the following: travel expenses, hotel expenses, a per diem of some sort for meals and an appearance fee. If a convention is flying me in, it will have to provide airfare for me and a companion. I’m not a cheap date, but I am a fun-within-reason date.

When a convention meets my conditions for an appearance, I will not charge for either photos or signatures. Unless the convention wants to hold some sort of special event to recoup some of the expense of bringing me to its show.

I’m always happy to do panels and presentations at conventions as long as they aren’t back to back and have been cleared with me in advance. There are panels I won’t do simply because I have seen how easily they can degenerate into unpleasantness.

Obviously, there will always be conventions exempt from paying my appearance fee. You don’t know to need which ones they are. That’s between me and them.

However, I have announced that I will not charge an appearance fee for conventions in New York City proper. My goddaughter Kara lives in New York and my “other daughter” Giselle - my daughter Kelly’s best friend since kindergarten - is moving there later this year. There’s been some confusion about this and there are conventions in locations that are not exactly New York City that might get a pass because of the confusion. Still, going forward, the "no appearance fee" thing will only apply to conventions in New York City proper.

On the other hand, if your convention is in some city I really want to visit, if it’s in a warm place when my home town isn’t warm and if you’ll cover a few extra days of lodgings so I can actually have a mini-vacation, I’m open to waving my appearance fee.

There will be those who criticize me for charging this appearance fee. There will be conventions who won’t have me as a guest because of this. I’m not going to be debate this over and over again. But, just this once...

I’ll be 66 years old on December 22. I’m in relatively good health and intend to keep writing until they pull my keyboard from my cold dead hands. However, in my field, there is never a guarantee of a next job after the job you’re working on. I’m working to put money aside for my retirement or any health problems that arise. So, yes, I am charging an appearance fee. Indeed, in the unlikely event I end up at some convention that hasn’t met my conditions for my appearance, I will be charging a nominal fee for autographs.

We live in a convention world where “Zombie #3" gets paid to come to conventions. I’m not asking for the kind of money a convention will pay for a bonafide movie or TV actor. But the money they would pay “Zombie #3"? Yeah, they can pay me that, too.

If you’re a convention promoter I haven’t scared off, or somebody who would like me to speak at a library or school, you can e-mail me to start the process going. I do hope to keep my appearances to two a month, but that’s not carved in stone.

One more thing. There’s always a slim chance that I will be needed elsewhere on a weekend when I have scheduled an appearance. My first loyalties are alays going to be to Black Lightning, DC Comics/Entertainment and the CW. If I do have to cancel an appearance - something that most conventions are familiar with because they deal with actors whose schedules can change quickly - I will do my best to make it up to that convention as soon as possible.

That said, here is my still-in-progress 2018 convention schedule. I’m looking forward to all of these events:

February 18: Action Windsor

February 23-25: Pensacon

March 9-11: Cleveland ConCoction

April 27-29: announcement pending

May 5: The Toys Time Forgot (for Free Comic Book Day)

May 19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

July 13-15: G-Fest

July 19-22: Comic-Con International (This one is just a maybe right now, but I’m leaving the dates open.)

August 17-18: TerrifiCon

August 19: NEO Comic Con

November 3-4: Akron Comicon

November 9-11: announcement pending

If you would like to see me at a convention or other event in your area, please have the promoter of that event contact me directly. I’ll respond as quickly as possible.

My regular bloggy things will resume on Monday.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 127

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 127th installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” columns.
                                                                               

The Rawhide Kid #140 [July 1977] sports another new cover pencilled and inked by Gil Kane. It’s a cool cover, but it doesn’t illustrate a scene from either of the two Rawhide Kid stories reprinted within this issue. That becomes less surprising when, as reported by the Grand Comics Database, we learn Kane’s cover was “inspired” by the Don Spaulding painting that graced the cover of Dell’s Lone Ranger #88 [October 1955].
                                                                             

The issue reprints two Stan Lee/Jack Davis stories: “Prisoner of the Apaches” (8 pages) from Rawhide Kid #34 [June 1963] and “The Gunfighter and the Girl” (5 pages) from #33 [April 1963]. I wrote about these stories in 2012. Here are my comments on “Prisoner of the Apaches”:

“Prisoner of the Apaches” (8 pages) is what the Rawhide Kid becomes when a trigger-happy wagon master takes a shot at an Apache scout, wounding the young brave.  When the Apaches capture the Kid and the wagon master’s family, Rawhide takes the blame for the wounding of the scout who, more bad luck, is the son of the chief.

The wagon master attempts to rescue Rawhide and the two of them are soon surrounded by Apache warriors.  Their lives are spared because the scout is recovering from his wound and because Apaches respect courage.  The chief lets the Kid and the wagon master go in peace. The Kid rides off to find others who need his help.

Sad to say, this is a weak Rawhide Kid story.  It could’ve starred almost any western hero and, despite the dire circumstances the Kid finds himself in, there’s little tension to the proceedings.  Lee and Davis didn’t seem to click as a team and their collaborations would end after one more issue.

Here are my comments on “The Gunfighter and the Girl”:

“The Gunfighter and the Girl” (5 pages) is the second Rawhide Kid story in the issue.  Riding through an area where there aren’t any arrest warrants for him, the Kid stops by a ranch hoping to get a drink of water and some grub.  He meets and is quite taken by the rancher’s lovely daughter and the attraction is mutual.  The next days are described as the happiest of the Kid’s life.

The Kid figures on starting a new life with the girl and the girl’s dad is happy for them.  But a ranch hand who also loves the young lady reminds Rawhide he’s still a wanted man and that’s the life he might be visiting upon her.  So the Kid plays the bully, acts as if his main interest is in getting the ranch and deliberately loses a fight with the ranch hand.  All to make the young woman hate him. His plan works, though the girl’s father realizes what has actually happened here:

“Ride easy, son! Some day, I’ll tell Marybelle and Tom the truth about you! I’ll tell ‘em how it takes lots more courage to lose a fight than to win one!”

This is at least the third time in the title’s run that Rawhide has lost a fight to prevent someone from either following in his outlaw path or becoming romantically involved with him.  The number goes higher when you consider the times when the Kid takes blame for the crimes of another to spare that criminal’s family.  But, this time, it hurts worse than all the other times.

As was now usual for the Marvel comics of this period, they weren’t attracted higher profile advertising. This time around, the cream of the commercial crop were a half-page ad for Slim Jim smoked beef snacks and a back cover we’ll discuss later in this bloggy thing. Outside of the usual pitches for cheap novelty items, correspondent courses and body-building, we got ads from comics dealers and other comics-related vendors spread out over three pages of “classified” ads. There were 24 such ads, up two from the previous issue of The Rawhide Kid.
                                                                            
  
Superhero Merchandise of Dover, New Jersey had its usual full page of Marvel stuff. This time out, it was an assortment of “Marvel Superhero Patches.” The four-inch self-adhesive patches featured a variety of characters and logos. Choose any six for $6 (including postage and handling) or individual patches for $1.25. Also on the page, a set of four “Marvel Puzzle and Word” books for $3.79. You could order individual books for $1.25 each.
                                                                            

Next was a full-page advertisement for “Sky Heroes” from Marx Toys. These seem to be cardboard gliders with their own launchers. Four heroes were available from toy stores: Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and Captain America. No price was listed in the ad.
                                                                                   
 
There was an half page Marvel house ad for the company’s black-and-white magazines The Rampaging Hulk, The Savage Sword of Conan and Marvel Preview. Below that was a half-page ad for Crazy, the humor magazine that would outlast almost all of the other black-and-white magazines.
                                                                               

Repeated from the previous issue...The FOOM Fan Club shared a page with a Marvel subscription ad. Both were fairly generic.
                                                                               

Because the Rawhide Kid stories were only 13 pages combined, this issue also had a five-page, non-series yarn. “My Gun for Hire!” was originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #92 [September 1960]. The tale was written (and signed) by Stan Lee with art by the team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

Gun-for-hire Blaze Wilson rides into the town of Largo where there are two warring factions. Cory represents the law-abiding citizens of the town. Lassiter runs a gang of owlhoots who find the town to be easy pickings. A showdown between the factions is coming. Both men offer Wilson a job, but Wilson goes with the money and signs up with Lassiter.

The Lassiter gang rides up on Cory’s Spinning-C ranch, figuring to make short work of its three ranch hands. Wilson knows something is off and he’s right. As a thunderous barrage of gunfire erupts from the ranch house, he realizes it’s a trap. The Lassiter gang finds itself ringed in from all sides. Wilson tries to flee, but is hit in the shoulder and falls from his horse. When he comes to, he’s in time for the story’s three final panels:
                                                                                
                                                                                 

Gunhawks recognizing the error of their ways was a common Stan Lee theme in these non-series stories. This story has nice gritty art from Andru and Esposito, and some equally fine scripting from Lee. I liked it a lot when I first read it in its original appearance. Back in the mid-1960s, it was still possible to find these Marvel western comics for close to their original cover prices. I bought the old westerns whenever I came across them.
                                                                              

In the middle of the above story, there was a full-page ad for the Official Star Trek Poster Magazine. Each issue covered one of the U.S.S. Enterprises voyages. A 12-issue subscription would cost $10. A copy of just the “maiden voyage” was $1. For either offer, Trek fans had to pay an additional fifty cents “to cover intergalactic transporter and postage charges.”

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page also appeared in the middle of “My Gun for Hire!” The first page of the story was followed by one of the classified ad pages and the Star Trek ad. Then we got two more story pages followed by the Bullpen Bulletins page and an ad for Hostess Twinkies. Then we got the final two pages of the story.

Back to the Bullpen Bulletins...

“Stan Lee’s Soapbox” was a less-than-spectacular installment consisting of plugs for previous Marvel triumphs leading into a plug for the new KISS magazine the company was publishing. This was followed by the usual news items.

ITEM! Star Wars, the coming science-fiction film from 20th Century Fox, would be adapted in six issues by Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin and Steve Leialoha. Many have said Star Wars saved Marvel Comics at a time when the company’s sales were perilous.

ITEM! Marv Wolfman and Len Wein would be writing a Nova/Spider-Man crossover in Nova #12 and Amazing Spider-Man #171.

ITEM! Beth Bleckley was leaving editorial for the “hallowed halls of higher education.” Her replacement was Jo Duffy. Hi, Jo!

Martha Conway joined the Marvel staff as secretary to Stan Lee as John Romita came back on staff to do penciling and inking and more, including assisting John Tartaglione with art corrections.

ITEM! Captain Britain, created for a new British weekly, would make his American debut teaming up with Spider-Man in an upcoming story for Marvel Team-Up by Chris Claremont (who was writing the British series) and John Byrne.

ITEM! Summer annuals! Iron Man teaming with the Champions! Avengers in space with Warlock, Captain Marvel and Thanos! Howard the Duck teaming with Man-Thing! Plus an Invaders annual wherein Roy Thomas recruited some of the original Golden Age artists of the World War II heroes to draw those characters one more time! As I recall, it was a pretty good year for the Marvel annuals.
                                                                                  
   
The Hostess comic-book-style ad was “Spider-Man and Madam Web” with pencil art by Ross Andru. Having rejected the love of a villainous Madam Web, Spidey was framed by her. He seduces her into clearing his name with the golden, cream-filled sponge-cake goodness that is Twinkies. Alas, the cops take Madam Web into custody before she is able to consummate her new-found love for snack cakes.
                                                                             
The back cover is a Jack Davis-drawn ad for Spalding autographed basketballs that features then current stars Rick Barry and Dr. J. The balls have a rubber cover that allows players to get a really good grip on them. Other basketballs feature the signatures of Wilt Chamberlain, Pistol Pete and Ernie D.

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 on Monday for a special column honoring a trio of gentlemen whose work meant quite a lot to me as I navigated those rough waters between adolescence and adulthood. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #233

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Thor: Ragnarok, latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; The Flintstones Volume 2 by Mark Russell with artists Steve Pugh, Rick Leonardi and Scott Hanna; and The Usagi Yojimbo Saga: Legends by Stan Sakai!