It’s not what it looks like.
Awhile back, fellow SBC columnist J Hues and I united to perform an extensive and exhaustive review of DC/Wildstorm’s The Resistance #1. The beta version of ‘behind the panels’ tested well enough, but hyperactive, perpetually unsatisfied scribe that I am, I’ve sworn that if the format ever returned from the brink, it would only be with a revitalized flavor. And nothing provides flavor like a bit of controversy.
Marvel’s Rawhide Kid has finally seen release, following a flood of media coverage and industry commentary, and we’re here to tell you if it’s any good. J Hues of Rolling With The Punches fame once again visits Ambidextrous to go ‘behind the panels’.
Brandon Thomas: I guess we should start with this cover J. Despite the obvious sexual connotation of the whole thing, it is Dave Johnson, and you really can’t go wrong with Dave Johnson.
J Hues: Well normally I’d say you’re right, but it kind of saddens me that Marvel is so blatantly focusing on the ‘hype’ around this title than the actual content of it. Sneak peeks of future covers show that this condition only worsens. Despite that, Johnson is a consummate artist, as is John Severin on the inside.
Thomas: True, but I wonder if this piece would raise as many eyebrows if this series wasn’t previously advertised as “MARVEL’S GAY COWBOY.” If someone passes by this title on the stands, with none of the established baggage, do they even notice?
Hues: Oh, I’m sure they don’t. And that’s why Marvel made sure that everyone knew this was the gay cowboy series. The cynic in me wonders if the gay angle wasn’t employed to encourage a boost in sales, but I’m sure that’s not it. What’s interesting appears to be that they’re absolutely determined to make Ron Zimmerman a superstar in this industry. Since his previous projects have either had a lukewarm reception or been soundly reviled, perhaps a little hype was necessary to draw readers into a project bearing his name. Westerns are hard sells in general, but getting a living legend like Severin to draw it is certainly a step in the right direction. The question is, does Zimmerman have the chops to keep up and live up to all the hype?
Thomas: Zimmerman starts out well enough considering that the plot begins in an entirely traditional fashion with a gang of wild outlaws blowing into town to kick up shit. The interior monologue he utilizes for the narrator is pretty fluid. His pace is relaxed, he’s not trying to accomplish too much too fast, and allowing Severin to showcase his considerable skills. When the sheriff heads into the saloon to confront the newly arrived assholes, I’m anxious to see what comes next. The confrontation within played out a bit unexpectedly I thought.
Hues: Well, if by unexpectedly you mean way over the top, I just might have to agree with you. I am astonished at the ineffectiveness of this sheriff. I thought the Old West lawmen were supposed to be forces to be reckoned with. But while we’re here, I want to address the thing that annoyed me the most here. Anyone who knows me and my own column knows that I’ve ridden Zimmerman pretty hard by masking awkward writing with substantial name-dropping. I had hoped by writing a piece outside of the modern era he would be stifled, but not ten pages into this saga we’ve gotten mention of the Ingalls from Little House fame, the boys from Lonesome Dove, as well as every real Western mythical character Zimmerman could come up with. The fictional characters especially were just annoying and distracting from what is supposed to be the set-up to an original story.
Thomas: I’ll give you that, it’s almost as if Zimmerman is attempting to drive home the point that Rawhide Kid is indeed a Western by dropping the name of any relevant character that’s ever appeared in the genre within the margins of the script. On the other hand, I suppose it does aid in creating an atmosphere where all these towns and characters are somehow interconnected. And the sheriff was dropped pretty quickly, but I took that as an indication that perhaps Old West lawman isn’t this guy’s true calling. I’m suspicious that this entire scene was merely the catalyst for the true theme of this story, a boy losing respect and admiration for his father. Then the Kid comes along, and scares everyone shitless. I dug that.
Hues: I did like the confident swagger he utilized. I wondered about everyone else applauding his ‘snappy’ dressing style. How important was this really to the people of the Old West? Severin is in fine form here, with the first full page shot of the Kid followed by a three panel page with no script as the Kid confronts the ‘outlaws.’ It’s all there. The confidence. The cockiness. The sly smirk. This guy knows he could waste these losers with both hands tied behind his back. An excellent page of storytelling.
Thomas: Yeah, nice entrance by the title character. Should I have laughed at the commentary about the Kid’s ‘snappy’ clothing?
Hues: I think we were supposed to laugh at a lot of this. The Bill & Joe Hype Machine were touting this as hilarious and the breakthrough work for their boy Zimmerman. Maybe we just don’t have senses of humor. Speaking of funny, the scene where the sheriff is in bed recovering and having his ‘heart to heart’ with his son, I think I was supposed to laugh here as well. The problem I had was that the kid seemed to be detached from emotion. He wasn’t passionate about his shame of his father, just matter-of-fact. He’s light-hearted and grinning as he tells his old man that he’s going to have to run away from home in shame. The whole scene read like someone trying to have the sharp snappy dialogue of a snappy sitcom and utterly failing to capture the charm and wordplay. Am I being too harsh here?
Thomas: Perhaps…but I don’t think there was enough emotion displayed either. Earlier the boy seemed horrified at watching his father completely embarrassed by the outlaws, but here, where it needs to be driven home exactly what this story is about, the sarcasm, the sense of disconnectedness, kills it. There was a way to make this scene both slightly humorous and powerful at the same time, but Zimmerman tries to do it all with one panel. Remember what I said about the relaxed nature with which he rolled out this story? He’s going too fast and it isn’t coming out just right. But I’m willing to stick with him for a bit, because Severin’s storytelling is so solid.
Although I’m hesitant to believe that the Kid is sleeping rough in the forest and doing sit-ups before bed with no pants on, which is how the final sequence begins…
Hues: I’m assuming this is done to paint a picture of him as a homosexual (thus presuming that the writer thinks homosexuals, regardless of trade or profession, are always dressed to the nines and notoriously spend their evening time in skimpy skivvies). Unless that’s just the way this guy is. The more important question is where the Kid was able to shop to get those nice tight leather briefs, considering that briefs were mostly unknown at this time. And even his robe matches his daytime outfit. I’m sure he has tons of different pairs of shoes for each outfit too.
So the town kids track down the Kid so he can regale them with tales of his exploits and run-ins with more (insert name drop here). This wasn’t a terrible scene, but as the grand wrap-up for the first issue it was lacking that magical something that’s supposed to have me salivating for the next issue.
Perhaps Zimmerman, by again dropping a plethora of names, is commenting on society’s obsession with pop culture; or at least his own. Perhaps he’s making a brilliantly satiric point and I’m just too dumb to see it.
Thomas: That could be it, but a group of kids meeting a famous gunfighter and grillin’ him about his exploits isn’t completely out of pocket. I’m going to ignore the matching accessories for now and just chalk it up to a plot convenience though. I refuse to drop a title after one issue unless it’s completely terrible, which this book isn’t, but I do admit that it lacks that gut punch that would guarantee next month’s purchase. It’s entertaining and all, but I don’t know exactly where Zimmerman is going with this. As long as the boys don’t end up mutating into some bizarre boy harem, than I’ll pick up the next one. Severin shows off rightfully, and Zimmerman plants enough seeds to lead things in some potentially interesting directions. Will the sheriff’s son take a liking to the Kid at the vocal disapproval of his father? Though I guess that would play into stereotypes and prejudices that Marvel swore wouldn’t become a central focus.
What you think Hues…hit it or quit it?
Hues: Well considering we’re given nothing about where this story is going, unless it’s going to be the story of this kid’s lost faith in his father, I don’t know. The plotline is vague and the characterizations are inconsistent with absolutely zero of these people making me care about them. What brings me back is the curiosity of whether or not the Kid’s homosexuality will become anything more than body language and politeness and of course the spot-on work of Severin. Can you believe this guy is in his mid-eighties! So how about a ‘despite the weakness of the storytelling and lack of apparent direction or passion,’ the intrigue and art are enough for me to hit it again. I guess the Marvel Marketing Machine pulled this one out after all. Without them, it would just be another pretty yet dumb book.
Thomas: Yeah, they got me for another one at least. Are we gonna do this again next month? I think issue two is the one with the big cock on the cover…
Hues: Somehow I doubt there’ll be enough NEW to warrant a full-out look at it, but I’d be game for a shorter follow-up piece to see how it’s progressing. Plus, man, we’re gonna have to find some way to collaborate on SOMETHING over in my neck of the woods. Just practice being a whiney bitch and you’ll fit right in!
Thomas: No doubt. Next time we take this shit to Rolling With The Punches (which you should be reading anyway every Wednesday on this very site). What did you guys think about the book? Both of us have message boards that even we’ve forgotten about. Post and contribute your own brilliance, and tell us whether or not we should ever do this again. Thanks for reading. Say peace out J.
Hues: Peace. Out.
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