Having invoked Larry Lieber's Rawhide Kid two days ago, I feel the need to examine some of his work a little more closely - especially for the benefit of those of you who haven't read his Rawhide Kid stories; so, let's turn back time to 1971 and "Day of the Outcast," written and drawn by Larry Lieber.
Am I spoiling the journey by telling you right now, this book does not deliver?
The same Rawhide Kid who runs from the law every other issue doesn't think other outlaws deserve the same consideration? Even though he had no idea Rafe was running from the law in this instance? For all he knew, Rafe was being chased by a gang of thieves. It's a fairly common trope in these western hero books for the outlaw protagonist to convince another young outlaw to turn himself over to the law and avoid the same mistakes the hero once made, but in this case Rawhide is completely ignorant of the situation.
Parting thoughts: On the one hand, Rafe's distrust of white people is justified in that every white man we meet hassles him (or tries to kill him). On the other hand, his introduction to Rawhide at the start of the story - his utter paranoia preventing him from trusting Rawhide - paints Rafe in the wrong. Throughout, Rawhide Kid is never in the wrong; fair enough - it's his book. But the story doesn't challenge him or his beliefs in any way. He wants to be Rafe's friend; he wants to keep Rafe from running from the law; he wants to keep a mob from killing Rafe; he wants to prove Rafe innocent of murder. The aforementioned "Sign of the Serpent" milked some good drama from the Avengers reacting to racism, but Rawhide only cares to see Rafe receive his day in court. The racism of the mob and the killers does nothing to alter Rawhide's reactions. The Rawhide Kid is fine the way he is - it's Rafe who needs an attitude adjustment, as if he'd only been friends with the Kid he'd have presumably had an easier time in Paradise Flats.
Finally, there's the closing moment where the sheriff reveals he knew who the Rawhide Kid was. So, the sheriff arrests Rafe after two white men with reason to hate Rafe deliver an unlikely testimonial; but the notorious white man outlaw Rawhide Kid comes to town? Heck, he's no problem - he even helped the sheriff arrest Rafe! Just a good ol' boy.
Given Marvel Comics' track record with race at the time and how marginalized the western comic books had become by 1971, there was a real opportunity here to let something fly in under the radar - something a lot more explosive about race, given the real world time frame the story was set in (and real world events influencing popular culture). Ultimately, I'm afraid all the story seems to say is, "Racism is bad; but, uh, we're cool, right? You know I'm not racist, yeah?"