MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERNS
By Ed Sanchez
Most of the world knows Marvel Comics as the group of costumed Super-Heroes created by storied editor and writer Stan Lee. It's no wonder that's the impression most have, with a movie opening every few months based on one of those same heroes. But the truth is that Marvel was much more than just a home for Stan Lee's heroic marvels. Marvel Comics is also the home of a number of highly entertaining Western heroes.
In March of 1948, The Two-Gun Kid became the first of Marvel's long-running Western titles. Two-Gun Kid, which pre-dated the Silver Age by a number of years and ran for more than 30 years, is probably the most fondly remembered of Marvel's Western heroes.
During the Golden Age, Two-Gun was singing cowboy Clay Harder who wandered the West doling out six-barreled justice. The Silver Age re-launched Two-Gun as Matthew Liebowicz, a Harvard educated lawyer from Boston settling in Tombstone. The Golden Age Two-Gun adventures were explained to have been dime store novel stories within the same universe and thus had never happened in Marvel continuity. The new Two-Gun was inspired by these stories to assume the costumed identity when legendary gunfighter Ben Dancer, who taught him how to shoot, suggested he keep his identity secret. Working under the name of lawyer Matthew J. Hawk, Liebowicz faced an assortment of costumed outlaws and desperadoes, also sharing adventures with the Rawhide Kid and Ringo Kid. Decades later, further adventures saw Two-Gun team up with the Sunset Riders (1995) against agents of foreign governments (Canada, Russia and Japan to name a few). The Sunset Riders were: Marcel Fournier, an African-Canadian trapper/spy; Hijiro Nguri, a Ronin who turned on his government employers for their dishonorable behavior; Running Fish, a Cibecue Apache whose tribe is killed by foreign agents. It was during these adventures that it was revealed that Two-Gun's wife Nancy died giving birth to their daughter, who died at age 4. The series also revealed that Two-Gun's longtime friend Boom-Boom Brown died of gangrene. At the end of that series Two-Gun is killed. Later, in Marvel Comics' 2000 series Blaze of Glory, it was revealed that his death was a ruse and that Two-Gun had settled in Montana, working as lawyer Clay Harder. In the end, Two-Gun meets his maker while defeating the Night Riders alongside the Rawhide Kid and the Outlaw Kid in Blaze of Glory.
Ringo Kid was the next of Marvel's Western Heroes, appearing first in February of 1953 in Wild Western #39. Ringo was the son of a white man and a Comanche princess and it was implied that he was a government agent cleaning up the West. Along with his Comanche sidekick Dull Knife, Ringo rode his horse Arab across the west fighting crime. Ringo teamed up with the Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, the Phantom Rider and even the Avengers.
The Outlaw Kid first appeared in September 1954 as Lance Temple, a Civil War veteran and lawyer who takes takes to fighting crime with his six-shooters when danger comes a'callin'. Outlaw's origin was also later revised to explain that Lance's father, now called "Hoot," had been blinded in an explosion during an ambush. What remained the same was Lance's reason for wearing a costume to fight crime: he was hiding his actions from his father, who did not approve of violence. Although the two characters are not the same, the Outlaw Kid and the Texas Kid (II) bear some striking similarities in origin and civilian name.
In March of 1955, the Rawhide Kid made his first appearance when rescued by Texas Ranger Ben Bart after his parents were murdered at the hands of Indians. Raising the child as his own and naming him Johnny Bart, Ben trained Johnny to be an expert shot. Ben was killed by two drifters and was avenged by Johnny, now the Rawhide Kid (Ben's ranch was in Rawhide Texas).
Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones were the Gunhawks, another of Marvel's Western heroes, this time a duo. Cassidy and Reno grew up together as best friends, respectively the son of a plantation owner and a slave on the plantation. The Kid and Reno roamed the West after Cassidy's father was killed and their plantation burned down during the Civil War. Cassidy died during the series and Reno was left to carry on. Blaze of Glory revamped the characters and instead had Reno seemingly gunning an embittered Cassidy down. Settling in Montana, Reno eventually became the Phantom Rider (IV), teaming up with Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid, the Outlaw Kid and Two-Gun Kid against the Night Riders, led by a very much alive Kid Cassidy (hey, where's the movie).
The owner of the Flying-C Ranch in Wyoming, Dan Colt wanted his son Blaine to grow up courageous and true. Gabby, the senior ranch hand, trained Blaine as a crack shot but Blaine was afraid that his skill with a six-shooter and his temper would lead to someone getting hurt. It's not until Lash Larribee guns Dan Colt down, that Blaine uses his skill to avenge his father and become Kid Colt Outlaw. It was later revealed that Blaine in fact did let his temper get the better of him, gunning down Larribee and his men while only suspecting they had killed his father after swindling Dan Colt out of his land. Kid Colt was another of the Western heroes who was involved in the defense of the town of Wonderment, Montana against the Night Riders and was killed during that adventure.
The Phantom Rider first appeared in 1948 in the pages of Tim Holt (#11) and has, over the years, also been known as the Ghost Rider and the Night Rider. When Carter Slade, a schoolteacher who had been gunned down, was nursed back to health by Comanche Shaman Flaming Star, he was given a cloak covered in phosphorescent dust and a wild horse. The dust came from a meteor Flaming Star has seen falling. Believing this was a sign from the heavens, Flaming Star collected the dust from the meteor and saved it for a time when a champion would be sent to him. Armed with the cloak and his horse Banshee, Slade bacame the Phantom Rider and stalked evildoers as a "supernatural" masked gunfighter.
Over the course of their adventures the Phantom Rider mantle passed on to several others including: Slade's sidekick Jaime Jacobs, inherited the identity after Slade was killed and was soon killed himself; Slade's brother, Marshall Lincoln Slade, inherited the costume after Jacobs was killed and eventually went insane; the granddaughter of Flaming Star became "Ghost Wind Rider"; and Reno Jones, killed defending Wonderment, Montana from the Night Riders.
Interesting to note is that the Ghost Rider is also originally a Western hero, the Spirit of Vengeance, a real supernatural vengeance entity. The first Ghost Rider featured in a story was Noble Kale, the son of a Warlock masquerading as a preacher in Patience, a North American town. During these adventures it is intimated that there have been many Ghost Riders over the centuries, the Knights of Zarathos having first taken on the task of avenging those wronged (hey, sounds like a TV show to me). Eventually, the supernatural entity was revealed to be the vengeance demon Zarathos, who has been alternately freed and imprisoned by Mephisto.
Any way you look at it, it's clear that the Mighty Marvel Age was responsible for giving us much more then Spider-Man and his friends. Over the years, Marvel has published entire lines devoted to everything from Romance to Horror. But that's another story. Until then I'll wait for that Blaze of Glory movie. See our stock on more Marvel Westerns below.
CLICK BELOW TO SEE LISTINGS OF COMICS FOR SALE ABOUT THIS TOPIC!
TWO GUN KID
KID COLT OUTLAW
GHOST RIDER - 1967
MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN
MORE ATLAS WESTERNS...
MORE MARVEL WESTERNS...
Would you like to write an article featured on MetropolisComics.com? If you think there is a pre-1975 comic book title, character or genre about which Metropolis' visitors would enjoy reading, please email a 3-4 sentence proposal about the article you'd like to write to [email protected]. Please note, Metropolis reserves the right to edit submissions.