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More Deja Vu with Sal Amendola and the Night of the Stalker

by  in Comic News Comment
More Deja Vu with Sal Amendola and the Night of the Stalker

I’ve made no secret of the fact that “Night of the Stalker,” from Detective #439, is one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. A couple of months ago, my various columns about it came to the attention of the primary architect of that story, Sal Amendola, and he was kind enough to share his memories of it with me and even let me share them with you all, here. But there’s more.

It turns out that Mr. Amendola was enjoying the reminiscing– especially, getting to set the record straight at last– as much as I was. We struck up a little bit of a correspondence after the original column went up and not too long ago he sent scans of the original notes he’d made for “Night of the Stalker” to accompany the art sent to Steve Englehart, who was doing the actual dialogue and captions. I was completely nerding out over this find, naturally, and he very graciously granted permission for me to reproduce the scans here for you.

So here’s the original plot for “Night of the Stalker,” along with some additional notes at the end for Steve Englehart. Below these scans you’ll find a few more footnotes and afterthoughts from Mr. Amendola, from the email that accompanied the scans.

Sal Amendola has this to add:

I kept the notes I wrote to Steve when it looked like Julie was going to accept the story (but then didn’t). They were in a plastic envelope… but still oxidized, and there was some crumbling away of a bit of the first page. I wrote them on tracing paper; especially susceptible to drying out and turning brown.

In these notes, I defined one of the bad guys as “Mortellaro” or “the Mortellaro guy.” Steve knew who I meant. He was someone who worked up at Marvel. Did production work, and inked a lot of backgrounds (you could tell his backgrounds. He always took it upon himself to insert a lot of newspapers swirling in the wind). I tried to draw him from memory (the words in my notes: “Well, I tried, anyway.” The drawings did not look like him).

I mentioned “Darvin.” Leonard Darvin. He was the guy in charge of the Comics Code. Hated by a lot of artists and writers, but he was a good guy, who had a job to do and honored the responsibility; and worked as hard as Carmine, Julie, Neal and Denny to “modify” The Code (in advance of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow anti-illicit drugs issues).

The note about the “WUP” sound effect burst in the shape of a bat: I did that a lot in Batman stories. You could tell what Batman stories I did the backgrounds for by that bat symbol burst. The reference to people getting mad at me: I wrote a Batman story about organized crime. I put “WOP” in the sound effects. I figured, being Italian, I could do that. They actually noticed, and were not amused. Julie rejected THAT story, too (same reason, “No plot”).

There’s a mention in the notes about Batman beating some teeth out of the first killer. They had Dick give the guy instant “implants.” – Another censorship: I had to redraw the little boy between his mother and the guy shooting her. We could not have an uninterrupted path between a gun being shot and the person being hit. That’s what I meant in my account by “…silly, hypocritical censorship…”.

I had hoped Johnny Costanza would letter the story, and either Neal, Tatjana Wood, or I would color it (I sucked as a letterer, but was a good colorist).

At one point, in the original thumbnails (long gone, along with the original typed outline) I changed the boy in the story to a girl. Dick asked why? I said, “Too much coincidence with the Waynes.” I thought something should be different. Dick said no, better to keep it a boy. I decided he was right.

I came across your posts on Bob Kane/Bill Finger. To my relief, your (and the majority) opinions were right and logical, just as I came to understand them. The insights I remember in the posts comparing/contrasting Stan Lee with Kane were pretty accurate, too (Stan did do things like write his name on artwork done by someone else, but he didn’t deny the artist’s part in the story if asked). I had glimmers of the true history as I got into the business, but it was Nelson Bridwell who first gave me much of the details. Your quotes of Dick were the same as what he’d told me (the legal constraints against DC telling the truth). Carmine taught at the School of Visual Arts, as I did. In the school cafeteria, one day, he told me just how deep-down stupid he thought Kane was, but that Kane had (I believe Carmine said) an uncle who was an aggressive lawyer. I met Kane once. He came into my Talent Coordinator office once to admire a giant poster of The Batman, done by Neal.

Anyway, you’re the first person to see these attached notes, since Steve and Archie, all those decades ago.

*

And now you’ve seen them too, because all this is too cool not to share. My heartfelt thanks to Sal Amendola for letting us all see this stuff. I hope you all get as big a kick out of learning this history as I do.

See you next week.

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