The Rawhide Kid (real name: Johnny Bart, originally given as Johnny Clay) is a fiction cowboy in Marvel Comics' shared universe, the Marvel Universe. The Rawhide Kid was a heroic gunfighter of the 19th Century American West, who was unjustly wanted as an outlaw. He is one of Marvel's most prolific Western characters, rivaled only by the Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. He and other Marvel western heroes have on rare occasions guest-starred through time travel in such contemporary titles as The Avengers and West Coast Avengers. Beginning with a limited series in 2003, the character is depicted as gay.
The Rawhide Kid debuted in a 16-issue series (March 1955-Sept. 1957) from Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. Most of its covers were by highly acclaimed artists, generally either Joe Maneely or John Severin, but also Russ Heath and Fred Kida. Interior art for the first five issues was by Bob Brown, Jack Kirby's future successor on Challengers of the Unknown, with Dick Ayers on the reins thereafter.
After a hiatus, the Rawhide Kid got revamped for the ramping-up Marvel by writer Stan Lee, legendary penciler Jack Kirby and inker Ayers. Continuing the Atlas numbering with issue #17 (Aug. 1960), the title now featured a diminutive yet confident, soft-spoken fast gun constantly underestimated by bullying toughs, varmints, owlhoots, polecats, crooked saloon owners and other archetypes squeezed through the prism of Lee & Kirby's anarchic imagination. As in the outsized, exuberantly exaggerated action of the later-to-come World War II series Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Rawhide Kid was now a freewheeling romp of energetic, almost slapstick action across cattle ranches, horse troughs, corrals, canyons and swinging chandeliers. Stringently moral, the Kid nevertheless showed a gleeful pride in his shooting and his acrobatic fight skills — never picking arguments but constantly forced to surprise lummoxes far bigger than he.
Through retcon, bits of and pieces of the Atlas and Silver Age characters' history meshed, so that the unnamed infant son of settlers the Clay family, orphaned by a Cheyenne raid, was raised by Texas Ranger Ben Bart on a ranch near Rawhide, Texas. Older brother Frank Clay, captured by Indians, eventually escaped and became a gambler, while eldest brother Joe Clay became sheriff of the town of Willow Flats; neither were in the regular cast, and each died in a guest appearance. Shortly after Johnny's 18th birthday, Ben Bart was murdered; Johnny, an almost preternaturally fast and accurate gunman, wounded the killers and left them to be taken into custody. A later misunderstanding between the Kid and a sheriff over a cattle rustler the Kid wounded in self-defense led to the hero's life as a fugitive.
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