Friday, January 29, 2016

Kid Colt, Westerns, and the MCU

Original Image Courtesy
Modified by author

Wow.  I completely missed something rather big in the last episode of Agent Carter, “Better Angels” (2x03).  Pretty early in the episode, Peggy and Jarvis visited Howard on the set of his latest movie, a Western.  While there, Peggy and Howard engage in a witty, fourth-wall-breaking repartee which would make the Merc with a Mouth himself proud.  Howard offers Peggy the part of the lead’s love interest, a hard-drinking barmaid (the actress was too drunk to film that day), but Peggy says she’d rather be the one with the gun.  Howard comments that while he’d love to see that, he doesn’t think the world is ready for a female-led movie (*wink wink*).  Peggy comes back in disbelief that the world would really be interested in a movie based on a comic book (*wink wink*), but Howard retorts that the subject, Kid Colt, was a real person (making this a historical drama), and that if it fails he can write it off in tax season!

In my review, I noted the fourth-wall-breaking, but I neglected to comment on the fact that Kid Colt is actually a character from the comics whose stories are set in the Wild West of the 1870s and 1880s.  Kid Colt is an outlaw, but not exactly a criminal; he works outside the law to help people, even in situations where the law is in the wrong.  Though the character isn’t actually based on a real person, Howard Stark certainly claims that Kid Colt really exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—which evidently means that he was a real historical figure in the MCU!  This puts him in the same category as Captain America:  a real hero whose exploits were also published in comic books.

So what does this mean for the MCU?

For one thing, this expands the history of the MCU back much further, showing that there was at least one vigilante cowboy active in the late-1800s.  And potentially this opens the door for Kid Colt—and other Wild West heroes—to appear/be referenced elsewhere in the MCU.  This is certainly what ScreenRant suggests:  Marvel should capitalize on this to make a Western movie.

Personally, I think that would be absolutely awesome!  For now, I want to go through a few of the Wild West heroes on Marvel’s roster who could potentially appear in a Western Marvel movie.  However, at the end I will lay out my proposal for an MCU-set Western, either a Netflix series or a future movie.

Kid Colt
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Kid Colt

Blaine Colt began his career as Kid Colt when he was forced to flee his home a wanted fugitive after the deaths of some of his family members.  Kid Colt would use his status as an outlaw to infiltrate outlaw gangs in order to stop their criminal activities and bring them down from the inside.  He could also stop corrupt sheriffs from hurting the people of the towns he passed through.  Among other things, Kid Colt also joined Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid in fighting a T-Rex summoned by Kang the Conqueror in 1873—because really, who doesn’t want to play “Cowboys and Dinosaurs”?

Two-Gun Kid

I discussed Matthew Hawk, a.k.a. Two-Gun Kid, in a previous article.  He is a time-traveler from the Wild West who was brought forward in time and joined the Avengers after helping them defeat Kang the Conqueror (including fighting that T-Rex).  Though he attempted to become a lawyer at the same firm where She-Hulk worked, he realized he was too out-of-touch with the modern legal system and became a bounty hunter instead.  Eventually it is revealed that Two-Gun Kid was one of Hawkeye’s great inspirations for becoming a superhero.  He also inspired the World War II hero Thomas Halloway, a.k.a. the Angel, after returning to his own time period following his modern-day superhero career.

Rawhide Kid

Jonathan Clay, a.k.a. Rawhide Kid, has a story which shares a few beats with Spider-Man:  He loses his family, is raised by a surrogate father he calls “Uncle Ben,” and takes to crime-fighting to honor/avenge Uncle Ben’s murder.  However, Rawhide Kid is much more dynamic than that, fighting outlaws and cattle rustlers all over the Midwest.  As mentioned above, Rawhide Kid fought a dinosaur summoned by Kang the Conqueror in 1873 alongside Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid.

Carter Slade, a.k.a.
Ghost/Phantom Rider

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Ghost Rider/Phantom Rider

Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Ghost Rider, is rather well-known thanks to the (in)famous Nicholas Cage movies.  Slightly less well-known is Carter Slade, the first Ghost Rider (who also went by the name Phantom Rider), who received his abilities from an American Indian medicine man.  Carter Slade created/received a costume that made him glow luminescent and used other tricks to make himself appear to be an actual spirit.  After his death, he really gained spectral powers which he bestowed on his great-great-great-nephew Hamilton by overshadowing him, making him the modern Phantom Rider.  As an interesting side note, this whole “inhabiting his descendant’s body” thing started after Carter’s brother Lincoln kidnapped Bobbi Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird, while the West Coast Avengers were time-travelling to the Wild West.  Bobbi allowed Lincoln to die by falling off a cliff, so Lincoln’s spirit took over Hamilton first to gain revenge on Bobbi in the present, which was why Carter’s spirit got involved in the first place.  Isn’t time-travel-meets-ghosts fun?


There were several characters who went by the name “Gunhawk,” but I’m going to focus on Reno Jones, a former slave who fought alongside the first three characters in this article and briefly assumed the mantle of the fourth.  During the Civil War, Reno Jones’ love was captured and taken away by Union soldiers, prompting Reno and his master’s son, Kid Cassidy, to go after them (Reno for love, Cassidy for revenge).  However, Cassidy turned on Reno, forcing him to shoot Cassidy in self-defense.  He eventually became a hero and fought alongside a number of other Wild West heroes.  Among other weapons, he favored the buffalo gun (which is a massive rifle!).

Apache Kid
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Apache Kid

The first Apache Kid was the son of a white man and an Apache woman and went by the name Aloysius Kare.  As someone who stood on both sides and neither side between the white men and Indians, the Apache Kid worked toward peace between the two sides.  After Kare’s death at the hands of a railroad owner’s son, his wife Rosa (the daughter of a white woman and an Apache man) took up the Apache Kid alias to get revenge.  After killing the murderer, she teamed up with the Rawhide Kid to rescue a group of Apache children kidnapped to be “reeducated” by the whites.

Red Wolf

I’ve also talked about Red Wolf on a couple of occasions already.  The first recorded Red Wolf was Johnny Wakely, an American Indian whose tribe was slaughtered by U.S. Cavalry.  Johnny was rescued, however, and given to a white family to raise—and his adoptive family, the Wakely’s, were murdered by renegade Indians.  After losing two families to opposite sides of the conflict, Johnny decided that he had to promote peace between the whites and Indians.  He was imbued with the powers of the Red Wolf by the Indian god Owayodata at the tomb of his ancestor Wildrun, the first Red Wolf.  Eventually he became disillusioned with the white men and fought against them alongside the Indians, though he did help a group of heroes (including Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, and Reno Jones) to defend the largely-African-American settlement of Wonderment, Montana.

Outlaw Kid
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Outlaw Kid

Lance Temple, a.k.a. Outlaw Kid, was raised by his blind father, who made him promise not to resort to violence, as violence had caused his blindness—a promise which made Temple appear weak and cowardly to those around him.  However, Temple was unable to keep this promise and created the Outlaw Kid persona to allow him to fight evil without his father’s knowledge.  When his father discovered his dual identity, the shock tragically killed him.  This caused Temple to suffer a mental breakdown, with the Outlaw Kid emerging as a split personality whom Temple blamed for his father’s death.  Temple would spend the rest of his life hunting for the Outlaw Kid, not realizing the Outlaw Kid was his own split personality.

Possible Movie

So how could these characters fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe of today?  I suppose the meta-answer is for them to appear in Howard’s movie on Agent Carter!

As far as introducing the characters themselves, the obvious answer is to go with time-travel:  Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, and Phantom Rider are all associated with time-travel-based stories (Two-Gun Kid more than the others).  And in the MCU the obvious option for time-travel is the Time Stone, which still hasn’t made its appearance yet—or “still won’t have been making its appearance”?  Time travel is confusing…

However, I don’t think that bringing any of these characters into the modern day is completely necessary, or at least not at first.  Instead, I think it would be cool to see a movie with some or all of these characters fighting against the villains of their day—both outlaws and crooked lawmen.  If they are well received and people want to see more of them, time travel could become a possibility, perhaps with Hawkeye traveling back to the Wild West to find out who the best marksman in the MCU really is!

As far as an initial appearance, I’m thinking of something along the lines of a Suicide Squad or Guardians of the Galaxy movie, in which a group of disparate characters, some with shady backgrounds, are forced to work together to fight a common enemy.  The one story I’ve found which brings most of these characters together centers around the previously-mentioned attack on Wonderment, Montana.

Doesn't this look like a
Western movie poster?

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In this movie (I’m giving it the title Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride, after the comic book it’s taken from), Clay Riley (an enemy of the Carter Slade—I’m going to go with “Phantom Rider” as his codename at first, though he will be connected to any modern MCU incarnation of the Ghost Rider) hires Kid Cassidy (an enemy of Reno Jones) and his gang of outlaws called the Nightriders to help him take over Wonderment (a town settled by freed slaves that gives refuge to American Indians) to build an ore refinery.  Reno Jones convinces the townspeople to fight back and puts out a call to all the heroes he knows to join him in fighting off the outlaws.  Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid, and Outlaw Kid (let’s just call them the Kid Brothers for grins) all answer the call, along with Ghost Rider, who was drawn by news of his former enemy’s presence.  Flaming Star (the same medicine man who gave Ghost Rider his abilities) sends for Red Wolf to join them, along with the Apache Kid (Rosa).  These eight cowboys/heroes must work together to defend the town from the outlaws.  In the end they succeed, but several of the heroes are killed in battle—Kid Colt, Outlaw Kid, Red Wolf, and Phantom Rider (who in death transforms into the first Ghost Rider).

One definite benefit of a movie set in the Wild West is the grittiness of it:  you don’t expect it to be terribly flashy, and what “flash” there is comes from fancy shooting, rather than a guy in a suit of armor flying around.  Even the Ghost Rider of this time period isn’t as “flashy” as the later iterations of the character, as Carter Slade’s “abilities” are mostly illusions meant to scare criminals—though if he is going to be connected to the future Ghost Riders they might want to tweak that and make him a little more powerful.

Another benefit is the freedom to be liberal with the body count.  Given how unlikely it is that any of these characters will appear in future movies, there’s no reason that half or more of the characters couldn’t be killed in battle (as they are in the source comic).  Considering the complaints about the lack of “permanent deaths” by heroes in Marvel movies, this would be a rather welcomed change!

Following this movie, Marvel could do any number of things with the surviving heroes, including spinoff movies and time-travel adventures set in modern day.  Alternatively, Marvel could take pretty much this exact premise and turn it into a Netflix series, which would actually let them explore the characters in far more depth.

Who says the Western is dead?  Perhaps all it needs is a comic book movie to breathe new life into it!

Do you want to see Marvel tackle a modern Western?  Which is your favorite Wild West comic book character?  Let me know in the comments!

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