Johnny Bart was born Johnny Clay, but his family was quickly devastated during an Indian raid. His parents killed and one brother taken hostage, the other fled entirely, Johnny was adopted by his uncle Ben. It is uncertain, however, whether or not Ben was actually related, as he has been referred to as both "Uncle Ben" and "a lonely ranger"; despite this, Johnny regarded him as a father and deeply cared for him.
Living on a spread of land outside of Rawhide, Texas, Johnny learned gunplay from Ben, who was one of the fastest draws in the area. Ben hoped that Johnny would never have to use what he had learned, and Johnny intended only to use his skills for self-defense, if at all.
One day, however, tragedy struck. A pair of gunslingers named Hawk and Spade drifted through Rawhide with the intention of proving something. While Hawk confronted Ben and forced him to draw, Spade then called out from behind Ben, distracting him. Hawk then shot him dead for the bragging rights and the prestige he thought would come from it.
Johnny found Ben upon his return and buried him, with a vow to avenge him. He soon found the two men in Rawhide, boasting of their accomplishment. Johnny confronted Hawk and Spade and outdrew them both, shooting each of them in the arm before they could fire. As they were taken away by the sheriff, Johnny left Rawhide to fight men like Hawk and Spade, taking the name of the Rawhide Kid so that no one would forget Ben Bart and what happened in the town that was once his home.
He later came across a rustling ring in a town called Arrow Pass, where a rancher named Clay Rockwell was having trouble with his cattle being stolen. The Kid quickly figured out that Rockwell's neighbor, Sam Barker, was the rustler, easily altering Rockwell's Big-R brand into a Circle-B. When Barker attempted to draw on him, the Kid shot his arm to stop him, just as the sheriff rode up.
The overzealous sheriff misunderstood the situation and branded the Kid an outlaw, despite Rockwell telling him what really happened. Johnny rode off on Nightwind before he could be arrested.
John Bart made his first appearance in Rawhide Kid #1. He was created by Stan Lee and Bob Brown, and revamped later by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He was later also significantly developed by Larry Lieber. More recently, he was reinvented by Ron Zimmerman.
Major Story Arcs
The Rawhide Kid
Originally, the Rawhide Kid was blond and rode a horse named Apache. He may have been named for the rawhide whip he carried and used regularly, rather than the town of Rawhide. After fighting two men who killed a rancher named Jesse Clayton, the Kid was confronted by the rancher's son, Randy. He rode off after distracting the excited young man, not wanting him to make the wrong decision in a fit of grief. However, Randy's uncle Cash had designs on the ranch and had been the one who had Randy's father killed. But the Rawhide Kid was a step ahead of him and spoke to the local sheriff, figuring out the plan and finding Randy and Cash. After a brief fight, Cash was killed and Randy alone. Rather than stay with the ranch, Randy decided to ride with the Kid as his sidekick.
Silver Age Return
The familiar Johnny Bart, raised by his uncle Ben, rode the West on his horse Nightwind. Although his actions early on marked him as an outlaw, the nature of the frontier and its inhabitants meant that he was not sought everywhere he went; if he had committed no crime in a region, he was often left alone. However, he tended not to stay in one place for too long and rarely grew attached to most people.
He later discovered that his family was not all wiped out as he had previously thought. When he stopped in a small border town, a girl at a saloon recognized a star-shaped birthmark on the Kid's neck and told him that another stranger had ridden through with one. The Kid rode north to find the man, and he finally found Frank Clay, a gambler with his mark on his wrist. He told Johnny about their other brother, who had fled during the Indian attack, and the two parted ways.
When the Kid was approaching a small town called Willow Flats, an apple farmer recognized him and went to warn the sheriff, who set a trap for the Kid using his fiancee. She claimed that she had been robbed of a family heirloom and the Kid was ambushed by the sheriff in the alley. When he woke in the jail and saw the man being tended to by his fiancee, he spotted the birthmark and confronted Joe Clay, his brother, with his cowardice. However, Joe had been tormented for years by what was just the panic of a very young boy. He released the Kid and the two parted ways amicably.
The Rawhide Kid continued to defend the weak and helpless and to battle criminals. Among the most notorious or unusual of his many adversaries were the Cougar, the original Red Raven, the Ape, the Tyrant of Tombstone Valley, the Masked Maverick, Marko the Manhunter, and the strange alien called the Living Totem. The Rawhide Kid sometimes joined forces with other legendary gunfighters, including Kid Colt, the third Phantom Rider, and the Two-Gun Kid. The Rawhide Kid even allied himself with members of the hero team Avengers who visited his time period on two different occasions.
Rawhide Kid (v2 from 1985)
In Laramie, Wyoming, in the late 1800's, the Rawhide Kid rode into town. A young man from the railroad, fascinated by him, started to follow him around, witnessing a bar brawl that his own indiscretion began. The sheriff, a man named Sam and an acquaintance of the Kid, took him to the jail to rest, to protect him from the people assuming the worst about the Kid. However, the young man broke him out of the jail, even though he was never a prisoner.
The misunderstanding forced the Kid to ride with his new understudy out of town, due to more misunderstanding on the part of the townspeople. The two stopped at a graveyard outside of town, so that the Kid could put a rose on the grave of a young gunfighter he shot early in his career, a young man with plenty to prove who would have killed him. The understudy quickly learned that the Kid lived with a great deal of regret and guilt.
After finding his bank account with nothing deposited, the Kid continued onto a train with the understudy, whose name was Jeff Packard...and who was being pursued by Pinkerton agents from Chicago named Miller and Mayberry. Orphans, Jeff and his sister had gone to work at a meat packing plant where the foreman molested his sister with the promise of getting them out of there. When he went back on his promise, Jeff confronted him with a cleaver, and the man fell into the sausage pit. Jeff had come to the West to flee the murder charge and to learn gunfighting, if he could, and take his sister away from there.
The two came to an abandoned Wells-Fargo building and accidentally disrupted a rehearsal of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. Bill invited the Kid to join the show, and he accepted. For a while, the Kid and Jeff found themselves at peace. The Kid reunited with a few old friends, such as Grey Bear, chief of the Oglala Sioux, and Annie Oakley. He also ran into Ned Buntline, the writer who profited from the Kid's name but had not paid him for the use of it for some time. When Bill found out about this, he made Ned pay the Kid all he was owed.
Eventually, Miller and Mayberry found the Kid and Jeff, and they were again forced to flee. This time, they were set upon by a black bounty hunter who had been hired by Mayberry. However, they escaped to a town called Emancipation, a town of former slaves who had been beset by a group of racist gunmen called the Nightriders. When the bounty hunter caught up to them, he was changed by the Kid's willingness to put his life on the line to help the people of Emancipation, and instead of taking them in, he stayed in Emancipation, to help the people there.
Further tormented by his troubled memories and nightmares, the Kid found himself in Diablo Wells. The Pinkerton men were ready for the two of them, and although Jeff thought he was ready to face them, the Kid told him that he wasn't anywhere near ready. Jeff sucker-punched the Kid and went out to face the men, but he was overwhelmed and murdered by them. Still groggy and hallucinating from the punch, the Kid experienced visions of his old foes mingled with reality. However, at the end of it all, he had avenged his understudy and wiped out the men pursuing them, riding off into the sunset with Jeff over his horse.
Blaze of Glory
By the late 1870's Johnny allied himself with the Apache Kid during the Railroad Wars. Then by 1885, Johnny had run out of wars to fight, so he started to work for the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. There his old friend Reno Jones enlisted his help along with other western legends to help protect his town called Wonderment in Montana against a band of mercenaries known as the Nightriders.
This was a gang of racist cowboys who threatened to kill everyone in town. Rawhide Kid asked his allies the Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, Ringo Kid and the Phantom Rider to join him in hopes of bringing the evil and racist Nightriders to justice and to save the people of Wonderment. A brutal battle erupted in witch the gunslingers managed to defeat the Nightriders. It however came with a price; Johnny's close friends Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid died heroically in battle. Rawhide Kid was devastated with the loss of his close allies and friends. He honored his friends with the vow to bring justice to the West for the rest of his life. Beside losing a couple of friends during this war, he also gained a new one in the guise of a man called Caleb Hammer. These events took place in the Blaze of Glory story arc.
In 1886, Johnny learned that his old friend and ally the Apache Kid was murdered. He teamed-up with the Apache Kid's wife Rosa, who now called herself the Apache Kid out of respect of her late husband, to take down the murders and save a group of Apache children. They both brought the children to the town of Wonderment. It is not yet known about what happened to Johnny Bart after this event.
The following stories are of unknown canonicity and it has not been stated exactly where they fit into the character's canon, if at all. They may take place on alternate Earths, but no statement has been made as to which.
The character of the Rawhide Kid was retooled and updated in many ways, for a relaunch in 2003. In this series, Slap Leather and the Sensational Seven, he was made gay. This however is not the 616 Rawhide Kid.
Matt Morgan, sheriff of Wells Junction, widower and father of a boy named Toby, was beset by a band of thugs led by the outlaw Cisco Pike. After Matt's deputy was killed by Pike in the saloon, Matt was saved by the arrival of the Rawhide Kid, who intimidated the men away from the sheriff. Toby was disappointed in his father's cowardice, though the schoolmarm Laura Ingulls carried a torch for Matt. The boys of the town came to find the Kid, who went to talk to Pike's gang and rode off in disgust after putting them in their place.
Under pressure from corrupt mayor Walker Bush and the upcoming election, Matt desperately looked for a new deputy. At last, the Kid presented himself for the job and was hired immediately. While the Kid lunched with two wealthy and eligible Cartright brothers, Matt ate with Laura, interrupted by Red Duck, Pike's second-in-command. Red Duck told Matt about Pike's plan to raid the town again, threatening him openly in front of all the schoolchildren. After a brief scuffle, Matt was left seriously injured and the Kid furious that he had to break his lunch date to deal with a thug.
When Toby's constant complaints about his father's perceived cowardice and ineptitude finally hit home with the Kid, he recalled his own abusive father. His resolve set, he summoned the townspeople and told them to leave so they don't distract him or get themselves killed. Laura insisted on remaining, so the Kid sent her to busy herself preparing for the gang's arrival while he talked to Toby about appreciating his father.
Eventually the Kid and Laura seemed to resolve their differences. Pike's gang came to raid the town, and the Kid quickly dealt with all of them, except for Catastrophe Jen, an extremely libidinous lesbian who apparently distracted herself with the whores in the saloon. Le' Sabre attempted to force himself on Laura and freed Red Duck, but the Kid and Matt arrived just in time to save her.
Finally, Matt and the Kid confronted Cisco Pike and the rest of his gang. When Pike himself was the only one left, the Kid drew against him and was apparently shot. Matt shot Pike, winning Toby's admiration not for killing a man, but for trying not to. However, it was then revealed that the Kid actually had hidden an iron skillet in his coat and a Derringer in his sleeve that he used to kill Pike. Laura helped him hide them from Matt and Toby, and he bid farewell to the town after Matt and Laura's wedding, leaving him a new deputy in Catastrophe Jen.
The Sensational Seven
A few years later, the Kid rode into Tombstone, to find the place in chaos. After discovering his friend Annie Oakley in the jail -- she had locked herself there to protect herself from the overactive townspeople -- he also learned that the Earp brothers had been captured by Cristo Pike, Cisco Pike's brother. Wyatt and Morgan Earp, prisoners at Fort Pecos, constantly fought in Pike's cell, goaded on by an awful, drunken old man. Meanwhile, calling himself General Pike, Cristo planned to have the Earp brothers hanged, knowing that it would bring the inevitable rescue attempt.
The Kid made plans to ride out with Annie after pacifying Tombstone's inhabitants, leaving the town in the hands of an old friend, the original Ghost Rider. They headed to Deadwood, where the Kid is treated as a hero, and recruited Doc Holliday, Kid Colt, the Two-Gun Kid, and later Red Wolf, with his wolf partner Lobo. Red Wolf also mentioned the Kid's name amongst his tribe: Dances-Naked-With-Glee. The group later came across a crass, ignorant gunfighter calling himself Billy the Kid. Sensing that they might need a disposable distraction, the Rawhide Kid gives Doc the assignment to be Billy's chaperone.
At Fort Pecos, Morgan, finally driven to breaking point by the constant fighting with his brother and the goading of the old man, joined Cristo Pike's forces. On the way, the Rawhide Kid and the others took a break and chatted, while Doc again had to teach Billy a lesson. The Two-Gun Kid again told his single interesting story of teaming up with the Avengers, from the future. Later, Two-Gun and Rawhide had a heart-to-heart, where the Rawhide Kid told about his unhappy childhood and abusive, drunken father. After being goaded to learn gunfighting, which he did not particularly want to do, Johnny left home at a young age and trained around the world. His mother later apparently died from a self-inflicted injury by stepping on a rake, while his father simply vanished.
Lobo later arrived to tell the group that Pike had assembled a group of villainous counterparts to each of their seven: Le Saber Kid, the Lone Ninja, Bloody Ivan, Kid Cabo, Grizzly Johnson, Honey Bee, and Kid Dead. The Rawhide Kid decided that they need a dramatic name themselves, so he dubbed them the Sensational Seven.
Morgan briefly became more enchanted with the villainous lifestyle, but then he quickly became fearful for his life and attempted to leave Fort Pecos...at exactly the time the Sensational Seven arrive. He was knocked unconscious by the door, and the Seven faced off against their counterparts. Naturally, the Seven were victorious. The Two-Gun Kid was especially delighted at banking "adventure number two", so that he would have something other than his adventure with the Avengers to talk about.
Cristo Pike, however, was not so easily taken and emerged holding Wyatt Earp on one side and the horrible old man on the other. Thinking this would be his safe way out, he was sure they would not harm either of the hostages. However, he was wrong; the Rawhide Kid shot them both, just winging them enough to drop them. As far as he was concerned, his father was dead long ago. Pike drew and the Rawhide Kid blew him away.
Doc Holliday dragged the Kid's father off to teach him a lesson, the Earp brothers made up, and the Seven rode once more again, with the Rawhide Kid off to catch a boat to Hong Kong.
Powers and Skills
The Rawhide Kid was one of the most accomplished gunslingers in the American southwest. It is possible that he may have been ambidextrous, as he was able to wield two Colts simultaneously with equal degrees of accuracy. His marksmanship was so precise that he could shoot a weapon from an opponent's hand, without causing any physical harm to his target. Although gun slinging was the Kid's specialty, he was also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant. In some cases, Rawhide even preferred defeating his opponents through physical force, rather than through the use of his six-shooters.
In his prime, the Rawhide Kid possessed the normal human strength of a man of his age, height, and build who engaged in intensive regular exercise.
The Rawhide Kid rides a horse named Nightwind, who is highly intelligent and responsive.
The original Rawhide Kid rode a horse named Apache.
The Rawhide Kid carried twin Colt revolvers.
The original Rawhide Kid also carried a rawhide whip that he used frequently, and which may have been his namesake. However, the later character does not seem to use this weapon.