Writer: Ron Zimmerman
Artist: John Severin
Published: Marvel, 2003
Here we have another genre that I have shied away from. Having been raised in Selkirk, Manitoba has instilled within me an aversion toward all things “cowboy”. Cowboys in Selkirk were mostly dickhead posers who wished it was Dauphin Countryfest all year round. Just move to Calgary already. Sorry if you are a dickhead poser and reading this. Please “follow” my blog! :D
Anyway, the Rawhide Kid is a fictional Old West gunfighter who made his comic book debut in 1955. He was depicted as a small-but-formidable underdog who gave bullies and villains a taste of their own medicine across the wild frontier. Later, he became increasingly flashy and slapstick in his methods, perhaps in an effort to remain appealing in a market that was losing interest in Westerns and becoming more and more dominated by superhero titles. The last appearance of this original incarnation was 1985.
Fast-forward to 2000, and he is revamped in a couple of more historically accurate mini-series. Then in 2003: CONTROVERSY! The kid is once again revamped, this time as a gay cowboy. This mini-series is published by Marvel's “adult” imprint, MAX, and features a “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” label. Ooo!
So I got my sweaty little hands on the newly-fabulous Rawhide Kid trade paperback, entitled “Slap Leather”, and I will now process it for you fine folks.
In a small town called Wells Junction, there is trouble brewing. A notorious gang of bandits, led by Cisco Pike, shows up and starts a ruckus. The local sheriff, Matt Morgan intervenes, but he and his deputy are shot. Morgan survives – thanks to the sudden appearance of one Rawhide Kid – but his deputy does not.
The Rawhide Kid becomes Morgan's new deputy, much to the townspeople's relief, as Morgan has proven to be somewhat ineffective as a sheriff. Meanwhile, Pike's gang gains a few ethnic stereotypes eager to bag the Kid for a fifty-dollar bonus.
Actually, I now realize that the plot of this five-issue series is remarkable uneventful. I just described the events of the first two issues and the next three are simply an extended confrontation with the Pike gang. Ho-hum.
So, yeah, the Kid saves the day with his skills and wit and charm and impeccable fashion sense. They actually make him out to be a little TOO perfect, like they are overcompensating. “Look how tolerant we are! We made a gay character with zero flaws!” Yes, but flaws are what make characters interesting and relatable.
I wasn't a huge fan of the artwork. Too meat-and-potatoes for my taste.
The aforementioned ethnic stereotypes... it's just lazy writing, people!
The painfully unsubtle [and unnecessary] stab at George Bush II... is Marvel just going for extra left-winger points?
Enough cons for now, onto the pros. There were some legitimately funny parts, like the anachronistic pop culture references. The Laura Ingals reference is chuckle-worthy. Also, the Taxi Driver part was good. If you've seen Taxi Driver [and you really should], you know what I'm talking about.
The funniest scenes are probably when Pike and his gang get into arguments about a) his incomprehensible dirt-maps and b) the nature of God.
One thing that stood out amongst the crowd of stereotypes was the black lesbian outlaw... pretty sure that is not an established stereotype. Yet, they kind of sell her out at the end by making her switch sides and become Morgan's newest deputy. “We don't hate black lesbians! Black lesbians are good guys!”
Anyway, let us not continue to beat around the bush: what the hell, Marvel? “Explicit Content”? Sure, the comic is violent, but not anymore violent than the average issue of Wolverine. Sure, he's a gay stereotype.. nothing terribly offensive about that. After all, stereotypes are just an exaggeration of reality. But why the parental advisory? There is zero nudity, no cussing, some guns and blood. They say “rape” once or twice. Mostly, there are a bunch of lame double entendres.
I think this has to do with the ass-backwards North American tradition of being pro-violence but anti-sexuality. I'm not sure, but I would guess that violence is more detrimental to society than gay innuendo.
The good ol' boys over at Cracked have my back on this one: http://www.cracked.com/article_18502_the-5-most-unintentionally-offensive-comic-book-characters.html
I'm kind of wondering what the reaction of the average gay dude would be to this comic. I guess they have to deal with stereotypical depictions of gays in media all the time, and also with overtly politically correct folks constantly getting outraged on their behalf. So if you're gay, and you have an opinion, feel free to weigh in with a comment in the section below! Or, you know, if you're straight, too. I don't discriminate.
Anyway, to conclude, this comic has good intentions. However, good intentions don't make up for a dull plot, sub-par artwork, misguided messages and toothless “edge”.