Several years ago, a well-meaning boyfriend gave me a set of the “Rawhide Kid” mini-series published under Marvel’s MAX mature readers imprint. The comics were, unfortunately, fairly lousy. They had beautiful art from comics legend John Severin, and a fairly dumb script by Ron Zimmerman that seemed to solely exist to serve up gay double-entendres in the most painful way possible. It’s been so long since Zimmerman wrote comics, though, that I thought that maybe it would be worth giving him another chance. And with Howard Chaykin providing the art this time around, well, it would certainly look pretty.
To coin an old chestnut, “fool me twice, shame on me.” Zimmerman’s absence from comics doesn’t seem to have changed his writing at all. There’s a line about halfway through this first issue where the Rawhide Kid says to Annie Oakley, “No, sweetie, not everything I say is a euphemism.” You could have fooled me on that account, although I suppose the Kid’s dialogue is really divided into euphemisms and mincing. At its heart, this comic’s big message is that anything related to being gay is either worth pointing and laughing at, or in the case of one of Oakley’s lines, it will “probably make you want to upchuck.” Charming.
The one shining star (or in this case, worth half a star) is Chaykin’s art, which is usually a pleasure to see. Chaykin continues to draw strong-jawed men and beautiful women, with expressive eyes and grimaces. I do wish he wasn’t so blatantly re-using some panels and images, and the crowd scenes seems surprisingly stiff for Chaykin. Still, once it’s actually the Kid fighting people instead of people in the backgrounds, here’s a good enough energy about them that it makes you forgive the earlier, overly posed people. I’m less than crazy, though, about Edgar Delgado’s colors, which overly saturate and shine in a book that should probably have muted colors and come across as dusty rather than freshly laundered. There’s a time and a place for lens flare, and “Rawhide Kid” is unfortunately not it.
If “Rawhide Kid” was written with another minority in the lead and then having every single line of dialogue playing up on bad stereotypes (I’ll leave it to the reader to decide some of the more offensive ideas out there), there’s no doubt in my mind that Marvel would have declined to publish the comic. I wish the same had been true here. What a waste of Chaykin’s talents, and of the reader’s time. I won’t make this same mistake again.