A Tribute to the of

Occasionally I find myself struggling a little bit with which issue to spotlight in this feature.  What with the continuing dearth of interview opportunities, sometimes the muse seems to be asleep at the switch.  I had occasion yesterday, though, to speak to the great Nick Cardy about an upcoming piece I'm writing for BACK ISSUE and then stumbled across something online this morning that helped me decide what to write about.  

As any Silver Age fan worth their salt already knows, in addition to be the go-to cover guy for DC comics for many years as well as the primary and primo artist for titles like Aquaman and the Teen Titans, Nick's Bat-Lash remains one of the perennial fan favorites from his drawing board.  So the tidbit I gleaned was that those moody house ads heralding this new character were apparently drawn by Jerry Grandenetti.  That was nearly as interesting to me as when Russ Heath confirmed to me that he was the artist behind those old toy Roman Soldier ads on the back of so many books.

With that, how about we take a peek at the very first appearance of Bat Lash in the Old West from the pages of Showcase #76  The book sports a publication date of August 1968.  Nick of course did the artwork on the cover and interior with a script by Sergio Aragones and editing by Joe Orlando.  

As with all the stories in the series, this one has no actual title, and it opens with the tinkling spurs of a cowboy making his way toward a rollicking saloon.  Rounding the corner, the figure discovers another cowboy and a woman in a passionate embrace.  Calling Bat Lash out by name and drawing on him, the amorous Lash quickly answers the draw, striking his antagonist in the wrist.  The young lady quickly explains he's just wounded her boyfriend, so Bat bids her adieu, thinking to himself that pretty girls and trouble seem to follow him wherever he roams, despite his peaceful and friendly demeanor.

The scene moves ahead to the town of Welcome, where a man is being shaken down for money.  Elsewhere, Lash is riding his horse, Daisy, when he pauses to literally smell the flowers, remarking that he can't tolerate violence when he abruptly kills a pheasant on the wing and anticipates a treat of pheasant in aspic.

As Bat and Daisy come upon the signpost announcing Welcome, he notes the exodus and notations on the sign indicating a rapidly dwindling population.  A local explains that a bad element has seized the town and the decent townspeople are departing.  

Bat, however, feels it's none of his concern and promptly enters the local dining establishment where he instructs in great detail how he'd like his pheasant prepared.  The other diners begin to mock the drifter, who removes the flower from his hatband and promptly cleans house.  Apologizing to the proprietress, he again implores her to begin preparations on his bird while he fetches ingredients toward that end from the General Store.

To Lash's dismay, the storekeeper is also packing up to leave.  Bat politely (at gunpoint) asks him to linger long enough to fill his order, when some of the troublemakers arrive.  Bat again removes his flower and dispatches the hombres before going in search of a good bottle of wine for his much anticipated feast.

Lash's pleasures must wait, though, as he finds himself in yet another altercation with a troublemaker who confronts him, inviting him to leave town.  A right to the gut is his reply and with his already demonstrated quickness, he gets the drop on another gunman.  "Mighty Pee-culiar town!!" occupies his mind as he makes his way to the liquor store.

As anyone could have guessed at this point, matters do not improve for the intrepid Bat Lash and he again finds himself dealing with hostiles.  As he defends himself he continues to exclaim that he hates violence.  Routing the latest ambush, he moseys onward.

Elsewhere a clandestine conference is held with some of the nefarious leaders in attendance.  An unseen ringleader tries to reassure them that their plans will go forward and that they'll manage this unforeseen appearance with an addition of poison to his pheasant dinner.

Lash has returned to the recently identified Miss Diane with the wine and begins to romance her when he hears the latest challenge called in from the street.  Once again he engages and triumphs.  Finally he's at the dining table he's been angling toward from the beginning, but when he offers the first bite to Miss Diane she reveals it's been poisoned.  He ultimately turns her into the authorities and rides off into the sunset, setting the course for future adventures of this lovable rapscallion.  

I suspect that the decision had already been made to give Bat Lash his own book as this was his sole appearance in the pages of Showcase.  That series began in October/November of 1968 when issue #1 hit the stands and ran until #7 in October/November of 1969.  Bat Lash was a short, but unforgettable series that continues to be enjoyed by fans all these years later.  Fun fare which was a tremendous display for the formidable artistic talents of the great Nick Cardy.  As my friend Clem Robins pointed out, who drew more kissable women or more seamlessly combined the realistic and the absurd?  A solid 9 on the 10-point rating scale.

Just for fun, I thought I'd share a little bonus in this book from the occasional series "The Wonderful World of Comics."  I'm still uncertain as to who authored these, so if any of our readers know, do tell:

One of the questions that I, Your Inquiring Fanatic (fandom's answer to the Inquiring Reporter), am most often asked is, "What is Carmine Infantino doing, now that he's no longer drawing The Flash?"  What is truly disturbing, however, is the fact that the place I would most often hear the question posed was in the offices of National Comics itself!  The inquiries I was receiving were really piling up, so I set forth to find out just what the heck Cap'n Carmine was doing now!

I started out by asking Julius Schwartz, editor of The Flash comic, "What's Carmine doing now?"  "He's the Editorial Director," came the reply.  I never could understand all those scientific explanations in Julie's books, so, slightly dazed, I drifted into the corridor.  Here, I immediately bumped into I.D., National's BIG BOSS, and posed him the same question.  "Spending too *%! much money," he shouted in gentle reply.  Having jumped some fifteen feet back, I now found myself in the production room.  Without thinking, I muttered the question that was on my mind, "What's Carmine doing now?"  Unfortunately, although many of them were highly ingenious, and some highly evocative in terms of imagery, none of the answers I got are the least bit printable.

lthough I should have known better than to continue, I have never been one to let good judgment stand in my way.  My next brainstorm was to seek the answer from the other DC editors.  The answers I got were singularly informative, if somewhat varied:

Jack Miller:  Well, he's not editing Wonder Woman!

Mort Weisinger:  Carmine who?

Dick Giordano:  His very best!

Joe Orlando:  I think he's out to lunch!

Murray Boltinoff:  Whatever he wants to do!

E. Nelson Bridwell:  What, me worry?

Joe Kubert:  He's in his office.  Why not go in and ask him yourself?

Well!  The truth shall make you free, as the wise men say! There it was as bright as day!  And all those other clichés that signify that the utterer of the cliché has finally realized the kind of fool he's been.

With no further ado, I marched into Cap'n Carmine's office, and marched right back out again because he was in conference. However, when my turn came, I finally did get the answer to my question, and now I'll pass it on to you.  Carmine Infantino is the Editorial Director of National Comics.  Basically, this means that he is the one who must comfort, cajole, and coax the many talented and creative artists and the writers at DC to produce the very best work they are capable of doing and then some.  And that, dear fans, is it!  So PLEASE!  No more questions asking, "Whatever happened to Carmine Infantino?"   

Keep that feedback coming in, dear readers.  My e-mail is at your disposal:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you again in about two weeks and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.

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