Welcome to Super Blog Team Up – Redemption.
If you are a fan of super heroes, last year was an amazing year. A wonderful Spider-Man game was released for the PS4. New superhero TV shows premiered. And, superheroes ruled the box office with Avengers: Infitinty War, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Black Panther, Aquaman, and Incredibles 2.
That hasn’t always been the case. After World War II, interest in super heroes dropped to the point that only a handful of characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America were being published. Believe it or not, most comics were romance, westerns, science fiction, or horror comics.
Comic books had gained a really bad reputation. There was a serious belief that comic books were a major factor in juvenile delinquency. This was such a serious matter that there were senate hearings about this issue. Thankfully, instead of banning the sale of comic books to anyone under 15, the senate recommended that the comic book industry create a Comics Code Authority to ensure that comic books were more kid friendly.
It was a bad time for comic books and super heroes.
DC Comics owned tons of super hero character that they weren’t using. They decided to try updating these characters and see if they’d sell. Since science fiction was popular, in 1956 DC Comics tried updating their old characters by giving them a sci-fi twist. The Flash ran so fast that he could travel in time and to other dimensions, the Atom shrunk to microscopic size and traveled in time, Green Lantern was a member of the Green Lantern Corp – a cosmic police force with hundreds of alien heroes, and Hawkman and the Martian Manhunter were from other planets. The comics were extremely successful and super heroes have been popular ever since.
Since it worked for DC Comics, Marvel Comics started focusing on super heroes as well. If you just looked at their characters, the new heroes that Marvel Comics created didn’t look that different for DC’s. They had monsters like the Hulk and the Thing, a Norse god who had adventures in Asgard and Earth, a scientist who shrunk to the size of ants and communicated with them, a war hero who was frozen in time and woke-up in a whole new world, and an inventor who built an amazing futuristic armor. But Marvel did something different, they focused as much on the person in the costume as they did on the hero.
This new style of Marvel hero began in 1960 with one of the best know origins of all time. I’m not doing to name the character because it should be obvious after a sentence or two.
The lead character is an teenaged orphan boy raised by his Uncle Ben. Our hero is a loner and has skills that other kids his age and even most adults don’t have. His beloved Uncle Ben is shot by a bad guy. The boy sets outs to bring Uncle Ben’s killer to justice. Our young hero defeats Uncle Ben’s killer. We end with our young hero deciding to keep fighting for justice and to assume a heroic identity.
Obviously this hero is none other than the Amazing, Spectacular, Superior…Rawhide Kid?
I kid you not.
In 1960, Atlas Magazines (which would soon become Marvel Comics) brought back an old western title that they hadn’t published in a few years – The Rawhide Kid. While the name of the comic book didn’t change, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a brand new hero as the title character. The origin story was 7 pages long and was called “Beware! The Rawhide Kid”.
Rawhide, Texas was a lawless town.
Johnny Bart, an orphan, lived outside of town with his Uncle Ben. To quote the story – “…The boy and his uncle spent their time together, farming, hunting, fishing, raising cattle, and most important of all, practicing the art of gunmanship…”
While Johnny is purchasing a month’s supplies in town, two gunman kill Uncle Ben. The reason they killed Ben? They think it will be easier for them if they have the reputation of killing the fastest gunman in Rawhide.
The birth of a hero
Johnny shoots the two men who killed Uncle Ben. He doesn’t kill them, instead he shoots their gun arms. I really like the bit where he shoots behind himself while looking in the mirror.
Johnny Bart becomes the Rawhide Kid.
This is a really good origin story. In fact, it is so good that two years later, Stan Lee used it again - this time as the origin of the Amazing Spider-Man. This is one of the rare cases where the sequel is better than the original.
This scene is the reason that Spidey’s origin is the better of the two. Stan Lee adds a twist where Spidey has the chance to stop the robber who later kills Uncle Ben. Peter doesn’t stop him and that decision haunts him for the rest of his life.
Spider-Man becomes a hero.
I don’t usually plug products in my posts, but I highly recommend this collection - Marvel Firsts: The 1960s. Not only does it contain the origins of Rawhide Kid and Spider-Man. It also contains the first appearances of Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and that’s only half of the stories in this collection. I purchased the digital version and love it.
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