Monday, April 20, 2009

Single Issue Review: Two-Gun Kid #70

Looks like Stan decided to give Two-Gun Kid the supervillain treatment here.

Although it is commonly forgotten, the 1950s were when Westerns reigned supreme, both on TV with Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Davy Crockett, and in the movies with major stars like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. The comics quickly followed suit, and the 1950s featured an abundance of comics dedicated to Western themes. DC, for example, published almost 300 such comics with titles such as Tomahawk (yes, arguably more of a revolutionary war comic, but with many Western features), Western Comics, All-American Western and Hopalong Cassidy.

But the bloom was definitely off the yellow rose of Texas by the time the 1960s came along. DC slashed their Western titles in favor of the rapidly growing WWII segment, publishing fewer than a third of the total they had in the 1950s.

Marvel (publishing then as Atlas Comics) also put out an enormous quantity of Westerns and other 1950s fad titles. I don't have a complete list of the 1950s Atlas westerns but it would not surprise me terribly if they didn't put out as many or more as DC did in that decade. Two-Gun Kid was one of the rare series that lasted from the Atlas era to the Marvel era.

Although these multi-panel covers are somewhat rare, I would guess that a lot of them have the same idea: Introducing a character with a unique power. For example, consider Amazing Spiderman #4:

So the idea is not new but the execution is above average and pretty interesting. Two-Gun Kid breaks up a train robbery. When Harry Cane, the leader of the gang tries to escape, TGK chases after him. They get caught in a twister but the leader survives and happens on a shaman:

Lightning. Hits a bunch of chemicals. And gives the nearby person super speed. Where does Stan come up with these ideas? ;)

That aside, this actually turns out to be an interesting story. Stan illustrates that the kid has no chance against the villain he's facing:

And indeed the Hurricane shoots him down before the Kid can even draw. But the wound is not fatal and the Kid decides to track him down over time:

Despite Hurricane's rapid speed he's unable to pull away from the Kid and so the stage is set for a showdown:

Hurricane tries to get away again, but this time he twists his ankle in a gopher hole and must call for help from Two-Gun Kid or die out in the desert of starvation.

The story ends on a very odd note. The Two-Gun Kid, in his real identity of Matt Hawk, defends Hurricane in court (just as another lawyer named Matt would often defend the criminals he brought to justice as Daredevil). And the frontier justice turns out to be pretty forgiving:

Say what? The guy pulls off numerous robberies, attempts to kill Two-Gun Kid and an unfortunate clerk, and he only gets probation?

Comments: Entertaining story; according to Wikipedia Hurricane returned to face the TGK again. The art by Dick Ayers is above average.

An aside: I am sure that a lot of young men reading Marvel in the 1960s remember this advertisement:

Quinn certainly does not look like anybody was going to accuse her of being skinny. Now here's the rather odd bit; Quinn O'Hara did indeed have a long career in Hollywood, appearing on many TV shows and in several movies. But oddly, she does not appear anywhere in the credits for The Caretakers. It's possible her part was so minor that it was uncredited, but then it seems hardly worth mentioning in this ad, right? According to O'Hara's own home page, she was a nurse in the film.

The backup story is interesting as well. Jeb Walker is an honest merchant who has accumulated a fair amount of money with his store. Three crooks decide to rob him. He battles them but they get away with the dough by virtue of a trick:

He has one bullet left and he resolves to chase the robbers and kill one of them for stealing his money. But then he sees one of them doubling back to his store. Is the crook going to kill him to make sure that Walker cannot describe the men who robbed him? He has the opportunity to shoot, but won't kill the man in cold blood. And it turns out that the crook has had a change of heart:

An interesting, if somewhat unlikely twist. Art by Larry Lieber (Stan's brother).

Update: See also Booksteve's excellent post on the Two-Gun Kid's supervillains, including Hurricane and a couple others I have not seen before.