In the introduction to the first Marvel Masterworks edition of the Rawhide Kid, Stan Lee suggested that the Kid was a superhero prototype. When the series debuted about a year before the first issue of the Fantastic Four, it seemed that Kirby and Lee were indeed getting in the zone. Compared to the run of the mill Western heroes, the smoldering young Kid certainly felt like a superhero in his skin tight, ink black outfit. He was supernaturally fast on the draw and a real scrapper in a fight. Next to Kirby’s steely eyed six footers, the Rawhide Kid was a bantamweight, a wiry little black leopard.
As he did with the good Captain, Kirby put the Kid through his paces, pitting him in brawls against multiple foes twice his size. Throughout his career, Kirby’s fight scenes had always taken advantage of the sequential continuity of panels on a comic book page, using a certain degree of follow through motion from one frame to the next. The lithe black silhouette of the Rawhide Kid inspired Kirby to really explore the limits of kinetic continuity. The positioning of the Kid’s negative shape was like an anchor for the eye, a naturally spotted black to give contrast and motion.
Black spotting is by some considered to be a mysterious art trick and is often not well understood. In reality it is a reasonably simple concept. It is essentially about the contrast between light and dark. A black shape or dark shadow placed behind or next to another object will push that object fore ward or better define it. In this case, it is the Kid’s black costume that makes him the focus of attention when he is strategically positioned in relation to other figures. This page from Rawhide Kid #32 is one of the best composed of the series run.