Ringo doesn't always need to use his gun. Artist: Joe Maneely.

THE RINGO KID

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: unknown writer and Joe Maneely (artist)
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During the 1950s, the company that would later be known as Marvel Comics used practically any excuse it could find to add a new western to its line — i.e., any word or phrase that …

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… connoted a western trope, such as "gunsmoke" or "Dodge City" was liable to become part of a comic book title (e.g., Two-Gun Kid). The phrase "Ringo Kid" had such connotations, probably by virtue of having been used as the name of a John Wayne character a generation earlier, so The Ringo Kid became one of the company's western heroes in 1954.

For a character belonging to perhaps the most thoroughly-scrutinized comics company in the world, Ringo has rather a confused early publishing history. For example, it's widely reported that his first appearance was in Wild Western #26 (1953), which it was not. Those who correctly note that the "Ringo Kid" who appeared there was just a character in a non-series story, and had nothing to do with the Ringo Kid in question, generally say his first appearance was in #39, which it also was not — in fact, he wasn't in that issue at all, tho he was on the cover (which was split three ways, with Ringo, Kid Colt and The Apache Kid, who also wasn't inside, each receiving a portion). In fact, Ringo's first adventure in Wild Western was in the 38th issue (November, 1954), where he also had a portion of the cover. It's also reported that he was in only scattered later issues of Wild Western, whereas he was actually in every one from #40 on. The title lasted until #57 (September, 1957).

But Wild Western isn't where the character's first appearance was published. He had his own title, starting with a cover date of August, 1954; and that, two months before his series in Wild Western started, is where he made his actual debut. The writer isn't known, but the artist, both there and in his Wild Western series, was Joe Maneely, whom editor Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, X-Men etc. etc.) apparently considered his star artist at the time. Maneely's unique look was seen in The Black Knight, Speed Carter, The Yellow Claw and many other 1950s Marvels. Maneely would undoubtedly have had a profound impact on the company's 1960s explosion of new characters and concepts, if not for his untimely death in 1958.

Like the average Marvel western hero, The Ringo Kid was an outlaw, falsely accused (of course) but on the run anyway. In his case, his father, Rancher Cory Rand, was also believed guilty. Their innocence was known to some lawmen, but that didn't make it possible for Ringo to reclaim his father's ranch and give up his unsettled lifestyle. Ringo's mother was Comanche (or Cheyene — it varied), repeatedly alleged to be a princess of her tribe despite the fact that the very idea of princesses was alien to that culture, imagined by settlers of European extraction, projecting their notions of royalty onto the natives. Ringo was frequently joined by Dull Knife, who was of his mother's people, and whom Ringo regarded as "brother of my blood". Ringo's horse, Arab, was, like most western heroes' horses, the noblest steed that can possibly be imagined.

The Ringo Kid Western title was published regularly for 21 issues. In its last few months it doubled its frequency and a companion title, Western Trails (where "Ringo Kid starring in" appeared above the logo) was added. But Western Trails folded after only two issues, and both of Ringo's venues ended with their September, 1957 issues. In fact, Marvel's titles were being canceled right and left, as ongoing distribution problems began for the company. Among other things, this caused the near-demise of its western line, once the biggest in comic books.

The distribution problems were finally solved in the late 1960s, paving the way for Marvel to add titles reprinting its '50s work. The Ringo Kid #1 (January, 1970) was one of several westerns it experimented with, reprinting stories from 1956. With Maneely's art in every issue, it was the most successful of those reprint titles, lasting until #30 (November, 1976), including a two-year gap between #s 23 and 24. Despite the fact that no new Ringo Kid stories were written and drawn during the '70s, he established enough of a presence to become a viable part of the Marvel Universe, available for crossovers just like all the rest.

In fact, he had enough cachet that when several of the remaining western characters, including The Rawhide Kid and The Phantom Rider had a time-traveling adventure with The Avengers, Ringo was included. But in more recent years Marvel has neglected even its biggest stars in that genre, and The Ringo Kid has sunk with the rest into oblivion, lifted only on those rare occasions when Marvel decides to remind readers it once published westerns.

— DDM

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Text ©2007-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.