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Blaze Carson #1-5 (September 1948 - June 1949) continued as Rex Hart #6-8 (August 1949 - February 1950) continued as Whip Wilson #9-11 (April 1950 - September 1950) continued as The Gunhawk #12-18 (Nov. 1950 - Dec. 1951).

Whip Wilson was a heroic gunfightin' cowboy ("a man whose fame had spread the length and breadth of the West") who roamed the Old West with his "wonder horse" Bullet.Blaze Carson 04

Based on the character of an actor (like Reno Browne) in various Monogram westerns rather than on a real person (like Annie Oakley or Wyatt Earp), Whip Wilson's comic adventures were on the more serious side; perhaps because he was a man, Whip Wilson was written by Marvel as something much closer to their normal cowboy characters, like the Rawhide Kid, rather than being a figure to appear in comedic stories, like Annie Oakley and Arizona Annie. Whip Wilson, in the comics, works for "Governor Christy," wandering the West and cleaning up whatever towns he's sent to. He is the "man with the magic whip," and is very good with it. Of course, he's very good with his guns, too, but his ten-foot rawhide whip is his signature weapon, and he's faster on the draw with it than other men, even good shootists, are with their guns. He can snatch guns out of hands and holsters in a draw, catch thrown knives in mid-air with his whip, and even use his whip to throw the knives that he catches with his whip.

Wilson is also (of course) friends with the Native Americans, being particularly close to "Chief Gray Eagle." (I'm forced to wonder if there's a possible link in continuity between Whip Wilson and the Red Warrior, whose father was "Grey Eagle.") Like one or two other Western heroes, Whip, though good-natured, had a bit of an edge to him, and when a white man makes a practice of murdering Native Americans, especially those of the "Serrano" tribe, Whip, after capturing the murderer, turns him over to the Serranos, rather than handing him in to the white authorities.

In his spare time Whip is the featured performer in the "Whip Wilson Wild West Show," in which he performs various tricks with his whip to raise money for charities, such as the "Mexican-American border hospital." (Such good feeling towards Mexicans was, as you might imagine, quite rare in the real West, but not, I guess, on Earth-Marvel.)The gunhawk 13

Whip has no origin that I ever found, although he alludes to having been taught how to use his whip by a Mexican. He was evidently a crimefighter from an early age, capturing some notorious rustlers in Texas at age 19. It was then that he met Bullet, who was a wild stallion; Bullet's breaking took hours, but when finally tamed he was the steed of Whip's dreams. Whip also, interestingly, encountered villains the likes of which were usually reserved, in Atlas comics, for the Kid Colts and Rawhide Kids, rather than third-tier characters (albeit ones with media tie-ins) like himself. Whip clashed with The Hypnotist, whose hypnotic powers gave him a significant advantage over his opponents, and with Dr. Morrow, who produced enormous, monstrous animals, crosses between horses and bulls and other, less easily identified hybrids. Finally, Whip is not above executing killers himself, rather than waiting for the law to do it.

A red-headed cowboy wearing a yellow shirt, blue pants, and a blue hat, Red Larabee, "the Gunhawk", wanders the sage with his horse Blaze doing good deeds and the like. Unlike some of the other Atlas cowboys, the Gunhawk had some adventures that were more than a little bit out of the ordinary and verged on the fantastic; in at least one recorded adventure the Gunhawk ran across a lost tribe of Aztecs living in a village underneath the Sierra Madres in a live volcano, and in another adventure he took on zombies.

Red Larabee's origin, like that of so many other Atlas cowboys, comes from a family tragedy. James Hardwick, the "bravest man in Duro County," ran a mining interest there, but always took time out to teach his son Preston how to ride and shoot ("to be fair-to-middlin' with an Indian stopper"). Hardwick, originally from the East and with a good family name, was a good man in addition to being a good shooter, and so when he was backshot it came as a shock to everyone involved. Preston arrived too late from the East, where he was sent, some years before, to complete his education. When he returned to Duro County it was as a grown man, but one whose father had been killed.

Preston wanted to avenge his father's murder, but was cognizant of the promise that his father had gotten from him: "As long as my name was Hardwick I'd never let gunpowder besmirch the family repuation." So Preston, who as a grown man is changed so much that his father's best friend Doc Morgan does not recognize him, takes on the identity of "Red Larabee" and proceeds to avenge his father.

In addition to being a crack shot, the Gunhawk knows judo. He also wears a bulletproof steel vest underneath his shirt. This has helped him escape backshooting and a sure death on more than one occasion.

As occasionally happens with various Marvel characters (Golden Girl, Human Top,...), there are two distinctive characters both called "the Gunhawk." Originally I thought that they both might be the same, especially because this Gunhawk, the one who first appeared in Western Gunfighters, was very much a cipher. But after having actually read stories featuring the Gunhawks, and more importantly having read Blaze of Glory, I realized that the two are separate characters. So I'm calling Red Larabee "Gunhawk (I)," since he was the first Gunhawk, and I'm calling Lee Barnett Gunhawk (II)..

Also, a Punisher story recently had the Punisher comment that "Blaze" was the name of a "famous cowboy's horse." I somehow doubt, unfortunately, that the Punsiher was referring to Red Larabee.

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