Ridin’ the Rawhide Kid…HARD!

All Leathered up, with nowhere to go.

Backs to the walls, pardners, the Rawhide Kid is back in town. In March 1955, outlaw Johnny Bart swaggered into Atlas comics, and he didn’t leave the saloon for 151 issues. Better known as the Rawhide Kid, Bart tamed the west one outlaw at a time. With the arrival of the railroads, and superhero comics, the western heros galloped off into the sunset, and weren’t seen again. That was, of course, untill July 2002, when the old west heros were reassembled for one final huzzah, in Marvel Comics (Atlas comic’s grandson) ‘Blaze of Glory’. The classic Marvel western hero’s were given a new lease of life, and Johnny Bart was no exception, even achieving his own miniseries as a sequel to ‘Blaze of Glory’ a year later in ‘Apache Skies’. The no-nonsense Bart was last seen disappearing into a cloud of acrid gunsmoke at the scene of a colossal shootout and train crash. Was this the end of the Rawhide kid of legend?

Well, Yes….. and No. He wasn’t seen riding the plains untill late 2005, when he trotted back into the west in a big way. A Big, Fabulous way, in Slap Leather!, the western mini-series to end all mini-series. The Rawhide Kid had finally come out, he didnt just wear chaps for work, he wore chaps for pleasure too. The Kid was the first openly gay cowboy.  But don’t let that fool you into thinking he was a big softy! If you would so much as just look at him funny as he drank his chardonnay, and he would knock your teeth so far down your throat you would be rechewing yesterdays jerky.

And now he is back, in an all new mini-series, and he is painting the West a jolly pink colour! The Sensational Seven  series is a 4 issue story, focusing on Rawhide as he has to assemble a team of 6 ne’er-do-well’s (both real personalities from American history, and Marvel western characters) to rescue the Earp brothers who have been captured from the Town of Tombstone and held hostage by Cristo Pike in Fort Pecos! So with help from Anne Oakley, Doc Holliday, Kid Colt, the Two-Gun Kid, Ghost Rider and Red Wolf, Johnny Bart sets off to kick some ass and take some names!

Two issues down into the series, and it is an absolute thigh-slappin’ good time. Written by Ron Zimmerman, and drawn by Howard Chaykin, (who is rapidly becoming my favourite artist working at the moment), the story zips along at breakneck pace, while still allowing plenty of character moments to properly introduce each character properly. We get scenes of Rawhide taming the town of Tombstone since the loss of their sheriff Wyatt Earp, a clear 2 page intro to each of his new posse, and a nice little set up for the Earp brothers who are played as moronic feuding but very close brothers in their tiny jail cell.

Rawhide Kid’s sexuality, while known to his outlaw chums, still seems to be a bit of a mystery to the general populace, who all seem to marvel (pun pun pun!) at his terrific dress sence. (Quote “Honey, I was BORN well-dressed, and they’ll lay me in my GRAVE well-dressed”) But never is it taken as a source of mockery or gay-bashing. In fact, Mr Rawhide is leading the way in the bashing stakes, taking out a gang of cowboys without breaking a sweat. He actually punches a huge hulking thug of a man clean out of his boots, which remain floating in the air in classic Warner Brothers cartoon style. In fact, this fight scene begins with about the best pre-fight quip of all time: “Lets get this over with, I’m having my shirt buttons shined at two.” And it isn’t just Rawhide who gets his chance to bash some heads together, we also have Doc Holliday (my all time favourite western drunkard) shoot up a bar, and stab a thug in the head with a hairpin, all while smoking and drinking and dying of consumption.

The art work by Chaykin is note perfect for the western setting. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Chaykin is a follower if the Howard Pyle art school (and if you don’t know Howard Pyle, I suggest you google him immediately if not sooner, as he is a classic book illustrator of the early 20th Century) and it certainly shows in his panels. The Hero’s are all square-jawed and handsome, the villains all have sinister dark faces, and everyone is covered in a fine layer of dirt and grime as is fitting the dusty landscape and rough living of the Wild West. And by god the ladies are busty.