DC's Bat Lash

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(WoW OCT 07)

DC's classic Western hero Bat Lash returns this month written by co-creator Sergio Aragones and Western author Peter Brandvold, artist John Severin, and cover artist Walter Simonson. How did this new mini-series begin?

"I called up DC editor Michael Wright and asked him if I could pitch a western," says Peter Brandvold. "He talked to some other editors and said I should pitch Bat Lash, because that character, created by Sergio Aragones and Nick Cardy, hadn't had his own story since the early 70's. So I read a bunch of old Bat Lash issues and pitched an origin story. DC liked the idea and said, 'Hey, why don't we pair you with Sergio Aragones?' I was just a tad hesitant at first because I'd never collaborated before and wasn't sure if I could, but I'm glad I have. It's worked out great."

Aragones is happy to be working on Bat Lash again. "It's fun to be back after so many years. It's a very dear character to my heart.

"I was called by the editor, Rachel Gluckstern, from DC. She said there's a gentleman writing who's a very good Western writer, but he's never written comics. She said they decided they would like him to work on it with me. We talked a lot. We emailed back and forth and we started the process of writing a comic book."

 height=Working with Aragones turned out to be a positive experience for Brandvold. "There are all kinds of challenges in writing a comic vs. a novel. The cinematic vision is the same inside my head, but the way that translates to the page is very, very different. In the novel, of course, you do it with imagistic language. In the comic, you're using a series of drawn images in isolated panels. So you have to know which images you need to show to suggest the overall cinematic vision. I went in thinking it would be easy, but it's not. Not by a long shot. Sergio and Rachel helped enormously. Sergio helps by laying out the panels using my script and freely changing what needs changing, and Rachel translates those panels to written notes, adding her own suggestions. Sometimes I feel I should be sending those two checks for the invaluable primer I'm getting in comic book writing. My biggest challenge is having to realize that I'm not describing camera shots but dramatic moments in time that summarize the overall action of a scene. I'm still working at it, and it's enormously rewarding and just plain fun. And you couldn't ask for better tutors."

Aragones says that "there were a lot changes in the beginning, but now we're doing issue #4, so we're doing pretty good."

What can people expect from the series? "It's the earlier days of Bat Lash, so it's an established premise that happened already," Aragones responds. "But it's extended now into 6 issues. It's a more elaborate beginning of the Bat Lash saga. There's the bad guys, the girl - the love interest, and the parents of Bat Lash. The bad guys are the mean sheriff in connection with the father of the girl. It's a very nice plot. It's almost noir because of what makes him Bat Lash."

"The working title is Guns And Roses," adds Brandvold. "It's darker than the original series, but I think it retains much of the original series' charm and sense of humor. It wouldn't be Bat Lash without charm and a sense of humor. I say it's dark, but don't look for blood spilling all over the place and entrails unwinding like rope. I don't think Bat Lash would work well as a Vertigo story, for instance, anymore than Brett Maverick's story should be told by Rob Zombie."

The series is being drawn by veteran artist, John Severin. "I'm delighted that he's doing it," says Aragones. "It's just amazing to see the art of this old timer who loves Westerns so much. The love that is on the page is wonderful."

When asked if he'd like to do more comics work, Brandvold responds "Absolutely! I love it! It's new and different and a bracing challenge. I hope Bat Lash keeps going. He's a great character."

Aragones has more in the works. "I'm doing Groo of course. The new issue is coming out, the Silver Anniversary, September 5. We're working right now on Hell On Earth, a mini-series of 4 issues for Dark Horse. I just finished number 1 and I'm penciling number 2. And we have other projects after that one. We have a crossover between Conan and Groo. [laughter] Dark Horse has the rights for Conan. It'll be a wonderful 4-issue story and then we'll of course make it a graphic novel."

"This whole thing has been a series of fortunate accidents for me," concludes Brandvold. "Not only am I working with Sergio Aragones, the series creator, but the venerable John Severin is drawing it, with Walt Simonson illustrating covers. How many people do you know start out in this business surrounded by talent like that? I must be living much better than I think I am!"

And Aragones simply adds "The Bat Lash series is going to be wonderful."