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Tuesday Q&A

Tuesday Q&A: Ron Zimmerman

The writer loads his gun and takes aim once more at the Western heroes of the Marvel Universe in THE RAWHIDE KID

By Kevin Mahadeo

Saddle up, pardner, because this June writer Ron Zimmerman and artist Howard Chaykin look to take readers for a ride across the Old West with some of the biggest heroes of the time in THE RAWHIDE KID.

The new limited series brings together what Zimmerman refers to as the Marvel Universe's very first hero team, who unite after the kidnapping of Wyatt Earp and his brother Morgan. The book includes a mix of actual, real world Western heroes and ones from Marvel continuity, such as the titular Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Billy the Kid, Doc Holiday and Annie Oakley. The series, whose first issue hits stores June 9, follows thematically from Zimmerman's previous 2005 run with the Kid; however, the book stands very much on its own.

Between bringing together his magnificent super seven, Zimmerman took some time to talk about RAWHIDE KID, the world's love of the outlaw and who he sees as the fifth smartest person in the Old West.


THE RAWHIDE KID #1 preview art by Howard Chaykin
Marvel.com: Looking at this book, it seems to be an homage to the great Western film "The Magnificent Seven." Why'd you decide to take that approach?

Ron Zimmerman: It's a pretty thinly-disguised satire of that movie. For anyone who read the [2005 Rawhide Kid series], they might have realized that was a thinly-disguised satire of "Shane." The whole relationship between the father and the son and how the son wants to be a gunfighter and so on and so on. That to me is part of the fun of the whole thing-turning these classic stories that have been redone in every different way. Clint Eastwood did "Shane" in that movie "Pale Rider." "Star Wars" is like a Western. Gene Roddenberry's favorite quote about "Star Trek" was that he wanted to do "Gunsmoke" in space.

Marvel.com: There are a number of characters in this story from both actual history and Marvel comics history. Why did you decide to combine reality and fiction into one for this story?

Ron Zimmerman: I wanted to try to blend in a certain sense of reality and [with] my story,  besides being a satire of "Magnificent Seven," I wanted it to also be a satire of fame and being a celebrity in this day and age. The reality is that back in the Old West, the gunfighters were the celebrities of the day. Nobody cared about plays. There were a few writers, a few actors and actresses, but what really caught people's imagination in that time were the gunfighters. They were the Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt of the day. You'll see that in the book when you read it, there is a lot of satire about fame from each character. I use The Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid the most as my avatars of what it is to be famous. I think with [Rawhide] I did it in a way that I'm hoping that people will find funny. The Two-Gun Kid is the one Western character that they've had interact with the contemporary Marvel Universe. So, I have a lot of fun with that-with him having hung out with the Avengers and that he knows these celebrities that won't be born for another 100 years. He doesn't really get that nobody cares that he's talking about people that haven't been born yet and nobody has heard of.

THE RAWHIDE KID #1 preview art by Howard Chaykin
Marvel.com: Between all the seven characters, who was your favorite to write?

Ron Zimmerman: Well, I love writing The Rawhide Kid, obviously. But I also loved writing Red Wolf. I always loved that character and feel like that is a character that never really caught on. Nobody has ever quite come up with a take on him that really works to make him a so-called star, if you will, in comic books. So, I approached that character from an angle that I've certainly never seen before. I can't say for sure if anybody's ever done it, but I don't think anybody's ever done it. I like that he's a Native American who is very, very well-educated. And also possibly a mutant based on his relationship with Lobo, which I don't want to spoil, so I'll leave that. But he has a very interesting relationship with the wolf. But I like that he's running around with this wolf, but he's probably-as they like to say in contemporary Marvel comics-one of the five smartest men in the world. And his relationship with The Rawhide Kid, because of that, is very different than anybody else.

Marvel.com: A lot of the historical characters you're using in this book are very famous and well-known in the public eye, but also actually skilled gunfighters. In the Old West, most people were horrible shots because the weaponry was so shoddy.

Ron Zimmerman: Horrible. That was why I picked the people I picked. Originally, I had Buffalo Bill be a part of it, but historically, Buffalo Bill was well-documented as a huge liar that didn't do most of the things that he said he did and who couldn't shoot for [crap]. To make the action [better], I wanted people that were documented as being very good shots. The only reason I didn't use Wild Bill Hickok, who along with Annie Oakley and Doc Holiday was probably one of the greatest actual shots, was that I thought it bumped into The Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt too much. More so Kid Colt because I painted him the way I would have painted Wild Bill Hickok. We wanted to use some [Marvel characters], and I felt that I might be able to have fun with these characters. And the fans would recognize them easier than, like, Black Bart. And Doc Holiday, who I also

THE RAWHIDE KID #1 preview art by Howard Chaykin
enjoyed writing a lot, how could you not include him? If you ever saw "Tombstone," Val Kilmer's Doc Holiday-he did Doc Holiday so great that they should just retire that role. Nobody is ever going to do Doc Holiday and not have people go, "Eh, Val Kilmer's is better." [Laughs] If you saw "Wyatt Earp," the [Kevin] Costner movie that came a little bit after "Tombstone," Dennis Quaid did Holiday and he was really great, but Val Kilmer just pulled a [Marlon] Brando and Stanley Kowalski.

Marvel.com: What do you think is so appealing about the Western hero and the Old West to audiences? A lot of it has been romanticized over the years, from the terribly made guns to the people themselves, in film and fiction.

Ron Zimmerman: I think, again, because they were the celebrities of the day. But also, people are fascinated by outlaws, whether it's John Dillinger or Michael Corleone. In America, look at the mob, from Al Capone all the way to the Sopranos; people just love their gangsters. Everybody loves bad boys. And guys like Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, they all got the idea to do what they did from these guys in the Old West. Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang, the James-Younger Gang, they were gangs and people have always been fascinated by that. I think it's just human nature. People do tend to relate to the darkness. It's much easier to relate to one's own darkness than the light. We tend to celebrate the darkness. There's a book I read a while ago called "The Strange Trial of Mr. Hyde" that affected me a lot. A psychiatrist wrote it and proposed that if the Hyde personality took over completely and was put on trial, would he be convicted or acquitted? Ultimately, from a psychological standpoint in the book, he was acquitted because everybody has that dark side to them. To convict Mr. Hyde is to convict yourself, and nobody wants to do that. So in the book, Hyde gets off.

Marvel.com: One last question to wrap this up: would you say that if you were an Old West character you'd be more the Billy the Kid? Basically, the dark side character who did anything to survive, even stabbing people in the back.

Ron Zimmerman: I write Billy the Kid, having researched Billy the Kid, historically as he was, which was a completely psychotic, murderous, insane person. That's really a character that has been over romanticized. The fact is that Billy the Kid was completely nuts. So, I write him that way. He serves a purpose, but he's crazy. So, to answer your question, no. [Laughs] I would not be somebody like that. I tend to think I'll probably fall into the Doc Holiday area, which is a mixture of the light and dark and an awareness that I had both.


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      ceacked.com listed the last Zimmerman "Rawhide Kid" as the #5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Character Ever Created. I wholeheartedly agree, and I think it's downright shameful that Marvel has given him license to run even more of their western characters into the ground. I am a longtime Marvel fan, and have loved its western genre books in the past, but quite honestly I wouldn't read this if the Kid himself held a sex-gun shooter to my head. Nuff Freakin Said.