Red Larabee

First Appearance: Wild Western #15 (April 1951).
Appearances: Wild Western #15-22.
Years Active: 1870s.

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.

Notes: As occasionally happens with various Marvel characters (Golden Girl (I) and (II), Human Top (I) and (II)), 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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