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Includes Issues:Showcase 76; Bat Lash 1-7; DC Special Series 16; Jonah Hex 49, 51-52
Issue Dates:October 1968 – September 1981
Creators:
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This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

This was the first book we ever reviewed on this site. Now that I’m going through the DC timeline and have reached the westerns, I wanted to take the opportunity to rework this post, mainly to add some images to what was once an entirely image-free review. Which was totally boring, right?

Showcase Presents: Bat Lash. Lets get the facts right outta the gate: It’s small for a showcase volume, weighing in at 240 pages, which is about half of your average Showcase. On the flipside, it’s cheap – only 9.99 meaning you can probably find it for around five dollars.

I’ll say right at the top that I think it’s worth your money, be it full price or used. It’s an enjoyable little Western romp, nowhere near as brutal as Jonah Hex, good for quick evening’s read or a few short stories caught in your free minutes during the week. I won’t lie, I read it in the bathroom between all the other things I’ve been up to lately.

Each story, except for the last few, stands fine completely on its own – like most Pre-Crisis DC. However, being primarily Bronze Age material, it does build on itself and Bat Lash grows on you.

This might be surprising, because he’s not particularly fleshed out – written in that hamfisted catch phrase spouting way. In any given story, he’s going to either pull a flower from his hat or put one into it, or both. He’s going to admonish some roughneck for exposing him to violence, because he hates it, and then either kill them or beat them senseless. He’s going to kiss a lady and leave her standing there thinking about what a rouge he is… in that dashing way.

He’ll do all this with a smile on his face and greed in his heart and somehow remain likable, for a misogynistic bastard. Similarly, though the book is chock full of ethnic stereotypes and terribly written women, it somehow slides by because at 40 years old it’s practically a historical text. As a reader, I just had to smile and nod. “Yup, comics are awful. But fun.” It’s not as bad as plenty of its contemporaries – not to mention some really slimy stuff that would come years later.

There are some weird moments. Because the volume collects stories written over a large time range, the latter stories feel very different from the earlier ones. Bat Lash is less of a wanderer and more of a gambler in the last three – he’ll have the same phrasing and flower, but the rest of him somehow feels off. I think I prefer the earlier work, mostly by Sergio Aragones, to the stories written by Len Wein.

The art, however, doesn’t feel dated at all. The styles are obviously that of their era, but the work is excellent!

It doesn’t feel lacking for being black and white. In fact, the crisp linework is downright enjoyable. Nick Cardy rocks it out with expressions that are full of life and humor and the inked art never falls flat.

In fact, I was sometimes surprised by dynamic layouts and some very interesting artistic choices. I shouldn’t have been, seeing as many of the contributors were also featured in MAD Magazine. I was often reminded of some of my childhood favorites from that publication.

It’s not quite as rough as DeZuniga’s work in Jonah Hex, which makes sense – Bat Lash is a more cartoonish character – a dapper dandy compared to Hex’s tortured gunfighter.

To sum it up, the book was both what I expected and a pleasant surprise. I knew I was going to be reading a western, so I was prepared for a white-male-centric ode to violence, but the text on the back didn’t prepare me for the slapstick action and frolicking pacing.

Verdict:
3.5 out of 5 – Good! Not as deep or well written as the Jonah Hex stories, but reasonably priced and worth buying new. Don’t take it too seriously.

Essential Continuity:
No. Bat Lash isn’t ever a big character much elsewhere, and I’m pretty sure his presence doesn’t need much explanation.

What Should You Read First:
This volume stands fine on its own. It works as an introduction to DC Westerns of the period and doesn’t feature any characters from prior publications. I’d say it’s an excellent companion to Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex. The two shared publications at times and together represent a good sampling of the Bronze Age.

What Should You Read Next:
Probably the modern interpretation, Bat Lash: Guns and Roses, which I’ll be getting to soon as I work my way through,  or of course, Jonah Hex. Bat Lash does show up in later volumes.

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10 Comments Post New »

  1. avatar Marc wrote on at May 29, 2010 12:01 am:

    Great job on your first review…”mini” or not! You hit on all the major points I want to know about when I read a review, from the actual to content to how it affected you personally. And I like the idea of the “what to read first and next” sections. It’s definitely a big help!

    This is a book I’ve had my eye on ever since it was announced, but for some reason haven’t picked up yet. In fact, I’ve been interested in it ever since I read a two- or three-page article on it a while back in the first Collected Comic Book Artist collection. It had a brief interview with Aragones, which I found pretty interesting.

    I actually have never read any of DC’s western titles…how does Bat Lash compare to something like Jonah Hex? (The Showcase collections, that is — I’m sure Bat Lash is very different from the current Jonah Hex series, which I haven’t read either!)

    Also, on a completely unrelated note, I’m glad to see some Golden Age Archives being added to the Reading Order. I’m reading the first Legion of Super Heroes Archive right now, which is Silver Age, but after that I’m planning to read some Golden Age Starman and possibly Green Lantern.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on May 29th, 2010 at 1:25 am:

    Thanks Marc! Glad you enjoyed it. I’ve got some ideas for how to improve next time, so stay tuned :)

    Just like you haven’t picked up this one yet, I haven’t had a chance to grab the Jonah Hex Showcase. I’ve got a saved search for it, but if hasn’t come up for the price I want it for (I’m always looking to get so many comics so I’ve got to keep myself pretty strict when it comes to the price range I’m willing to go out of..)

    I’m really looking forward to being able to compare though, at some point soon.

    I haven’t heard of the Collected Comic Book Artist collection thing.. is it a recent publication? I’d be interested to read an interview with Aragones.

    On that last note – I’d love to get my hands on Starman and Green Lantern archives myself. I’m currently reading Golden Age Spectre, so that’s probably going to be my next review when I get a chance. Strange stuff! It’s the first archive I’ve actually had a chance to leaf through, so I’ll probably be dropping some thoughts on the general format. I did really enjoy the introduction.

    [Reply]

  2. avatar Marc wrote on at May 29, 2010 5:47 am:

    Cool, I’ll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Jonah Hex and how it compares to Bat Lash. Right now I’ve got a hunch that Bat Lash is probably the better one, simply because of Aragones, but you never know.

    DC really does a good job with the Archives now. They didn’t always…the Legion Archive I’m reading now was one of the first ones they did, and while the introduction is okay, it doesn’t have a table of contents, most of the original covers, or even any creator credits. Kind of disappointing, but hey…collected editions had to start somewhere, right?

    Comic Book Artist was a magazine published by TwoMorrows, much like their Alter Ego magazine except that it focused on the ’70s and ’80s rather than the ’60s. It ended a couple years ago, I believe, but before that the first few issues were collected into three decent-sized softcovers. You can see a lot of the third one for free on Google Books, but I can’t seem to find the first one on there. And if you’re going to be reading a good deal of Golden Age material, especially JSA, TwoMorrows’ All-Star Companion books are pretty good.

    I’m definitely looking forward to getting started on Starman. I really should read the Golden Age Spectre too…I always get his origin confused with Doctor Fate’s, so I should probably just read the Archives for both so I’ll finally get them straight!

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on May 29th, 2010 at 6:43 am:

    Read it along with Madame Xanadu – that’s in the same era at some points in the first trade, but a modern take, so it’s kinda fun.

    I saw those all star companion books on amazon recently. One day, when I’m “caught up” reasonably well with the timeline, I’ll have more budget freed up for reference books. I’ll probably pick them up then. Right now I got about 200 books to go to fill in the holes with archives (not including redundant ones that I’ve already got the showcase books of… I’ll probably want to get those at some point too, but I’m putting emphasis on completing the content for the readthrough first.)

    This feels more like a lifelong project every day ;)

    [Reply]

    avatar daemonicragnorak replied on November 23rd, 2010 at 8:33 pm:

    Firstly good review of my favourite showcase that I’ve read so far.
    I love the art of this collection and it reminds me that comics used to be all about fun for the reader.

    @Marc: I would say this showcase is better than the Jonah Hex, but all in all Jonah has a far better library, once you include the modern era material. But If you’re looking for a first western showcase to buy, this should be the one.

    [Reply]

    avatar Ian replied on November 23rd, 2010 at 8:38 pm:

    Personally I think I liked the Hex trade more, but maybe I’ve just got a slightly darker inclination. Not that either was particularly serious.

    [Reply]

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