A Tribute to the of

If you can believe it, 50 years ago this month, the Bat Lash series came to an end after a mere 7 issues of incredible Nick Cardy goodness. I suppose technically 8 issues if you count his debut in Showcase #76 [Sage #310]. Issue #7 aka the last in the line had an interesting change just above the cover logo. Instead of the typical, “Will he save the West—or ruin it?” it reads, “Wanted—dead or alive!” And as you’ll note on that beautiful Cardy cover, someone seems to have our lovable rogue dead to rights and is holding a wanted poster with Mr. Lash’s visage on it.

Before we jump into the untitled story, as they all were, let’s give proper credit where it is due. Joe Orlando is our editor with Sergio Aragones providing plotting and scripting by Denny O’Neil. Nick Cardy does the superlative artwork, both cover and interiors and the immortal Gaspar Saladino provided lettering.

The first four pages have just about zero dialogue with Nick Cardy’s panel work telling the story in fine fashion. I had to smile when I saw the splash page and noted the sign outside the saloon where Bat Lash is cavorting with a comely lady, telling about the performance by Miss Lada Edmund, world famous singer and dancer with none other than Nick Cardy on the piano. Nice work, Gaspar.

Outside on the boardwalk, a man in a sombrero and serape is observing Bat and his lady friend leaving the watering hole. After a quick verifying glance on the wanted poster in his hand, he follows the couple and is soon lighting up a smoke while watching profiles in the nearby window.

Meanwhile, Lash is working his way over to the figure from the rear and gets the drop on him, but it turns out he recognizes his friend Don Pasqual. After a happy reunion, Bat comments that Don, his father’s best friend, had taught him to ride and to shoot, but he thought he was dead. Pasqual replies that he survived where Lash’s family did not and proceeds to recall the awful incident.

It seems Don was tending to a newborn calf when the Lash homestead was attacked by outlaws who burned them out, looted and killed everyone except for Pasqual, who was concealed in the tall grass, but he was unarmed, so he could do nothing. He did, however, manage to save Bat’s younger brother, Billy and took him across the border to Mexico to be cared for by his aunt. The boy was so traumatized, that the doctor offered to adopt him and took Billy away to Mexico City.

In the meantime, Don was shot by bandits and spent a year at death’s door, finally returning to the Lash farm where he learned from neighbors that Bat had dealt with those who destroyed his family. Don Pasqual has been searching for Bat ever since.

Lash is delighted to learn he still has a surviving family member and he and Don Pasqual make preparations to go in search of Billy. Meanwhile, in El Paso, a familiar looking young man in a sombrero is picking up a wanted poster with Bat Lash’s picture and is beginning his own search.

As the young bounty hunter’s quest begins, he recalls how a Dr. Jiminez took him to the camp of the revolutionaries where he learned to handle weapons and was soon fully engaged in the cause to overthrow the Mexican tyrants controlling the country.

The revolutionaries were enjoying success and adding to their numbers when the treachery of traitors put an end to their efforts in an ambush. At least one survived, however, and the youth made it his mission to track down and repatriate for the betrayal. After having tracked down and killed the last of the traitors, he turned to bounty hunting. While he has no name or family, he hopes to do some good in the world with his death-dealing skills and now he’s on the trail of Bat Lash.

Bat and Don are at a cantina in the village of Encinitas where they’re being eyeballed by some locals, one of whom suggests that Bat is the bounty hunter who took in their father. One of the brothers remarks that he looks older and is dressed differently, and not carrying the sawed-off shotgun of the bounty hunter. The other will not be denied, though and just before he makes his move, Bat Lash makes one of his own, lashing out with a ferocious kick and advising them to keep their distance. Relying on the strength of numbers, they’re about to take on Bat and Don when the pair display their pistol skills, sending the Clinton’s scurrying out of the cantina, where they are startled to see the man they’d mistaken Bat Lash for.

The Clinton’s decide to conceal themselves on the street and take both men out, but then the grim bounty hunter advances on the cantina where Bat and Don have emerged and he tells Bat Lash that he’s gone as far he’s going to go. Bat is in no mood for being called out and suggests the stranger move along. The Clinton’s watch with glee as it seems half their work will soon be done for them. Just as the antagonists are about to slap leather, Don Pasqual realizes something they do not and jumps between the gunmen. Before he can finish his sentence, though, he is shot in the back.

The change in threats bring the two men into an alliance as they turn their attention and their guns on the Clinton’s, taking the four brothers down one by one. At the completion of the grim task, Bat and the bounty hunter have a new respect for each other, but the younger is determined to bring the wanted man in. Bat, in turn, has vowed to never again be locked up. Before things go any further, Don Pasqual cries out for them to stop, but before he can speak any more, he breathes his last. The bounty hunter says that the man was brave and seemed to believe Lash was worth saving, so for his sake, he’s letting Bat go.

The young man’s thoughts reveal that the encounter with Lash and Don Pasqual make them seem familiar, but he dismisses it. Bat Lash has his own thoughts about his former adversary, also feeling like there is a familiarity there, but he has a sad task to complete and does not dwell on it.

Soon, Bat has buried his friend with the bounty hunter discreetly looking on. Bat then rides away, regretting how death seems to follow him wherever he goes and seemingly no longer interested in finding his brother. Little did he know that he had done just that. This 22-page story then ends and consequently, the Bat Lash solo title also fades into the sunset.

Nobody drew characters like Nick Cardy and his work is always good for what ails. I miss Nick and marvel that he’s been gone from us for six years this November. I’ll always be grateful for the interview [Sages #271 & #272] and conversations I enjoyed with him. He truly was one of the good guys and I’m thankful that I can still enjoy his efforts. Bat Lash was a triumph and Nick Cardy a true gentleman.

This feature will return again, readers, on the 15th of October as we prepare for another Halloween. You know what to do. Direct your comments, questions and feedback to me at my trusty e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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