BAT LASHMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1968
Creators: Sergio Aragones (writer) and Nick Cardy (artist)
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"Will he save the West or ruin it?" read the advertising copy heralding the approach of the only western hero DC Comics launched during the 1960s. To many fans of the genre, accustomed to
incredibly skilled gunslingers whose loutish exteriors covered altruistic hearts, he ruined it. He had the incredible skill, all right, but tried to avoid using it in non-peaceable ways. He also bathed regularly, had an appreciation for the finer things in life, and was far more interested in self-indulgence than seems consistent with any great degree of altruism. He usually had a flower tucked in his hatband. Worst of all, tho the scrapes he got into were serious enough, he had a well developed sense of humor.
Bat Lash (no relation to real-life cartoonist Batton Lash, who created Supernatural Law) got far better advance PR than Johnny Thunder, The Wyoming Kid or any other western DC had published before him. His much-anticipated debut occurred in the 76th issue (August, 1968) of Showcase, the comic book series DC had been using for years, to introduce such new concepts as The Atom, Space Ranger and Rip Hunter, Time Master. The story was written by Sergio Aragones (Mad marginals, Groo the Wanderer) and drawn by Nick Cardy (Aquaman, Lady Luck).
He may have been ruinous from the point of view of a traditional western fan, but comic book readers really took to him. DC immediately moved him out into his own comic, with a first issue cover date of Oct-Nov, 1968. Cardy continued doing the art, and wrote some plots, but most of the scripts were by Denny O'Neil (Green Lantern, Batman).
Unfortunately, DC had given him his own series without waiting for the sales reports, a mistake they also made with The Creeper, Anthro, and a couple of other late '60s Showcase alumni — and it turned out the audience's size was not commensurate with its enthusiasm. Within a few months, the Bat Lash title was foundering. With its sixth issue, they dropped most of the light-hearted stuff. Aragones returned to write a two-part story filling in some of the character's background. It seems his family had been cheated out of their farm, and his parents murdered. Bat had been forced to kill a deputy sheriff and, unable to prove it was self defense, was being hunted as a murderer.
But the change in direction was too late. The seventh issue (Oct-Nov, 1969) was the last.
Since then, the closest Bat Lash has come to having a series of his own was a handful of appearances in Jonah Hex's back pages during the early 1980s. But he's been spotted from time to time, a prominent recent instance being Guns of the Dragon, a 1998 mini-series by Tim Truman (Grimjack, Airboy), set in the 1920s, when (accompanied by a couple of other DC characters likely to have been alive then) he set out for Dinosaur Island.
And his fans, tho perhaps not numerous enough to sustain a regular comic book, remain faithful.