In 1996, Sergio Aragonés wandered his pencil in Groo-like fashion across the DC Universe in "Sergio Aragonés Destroys DC." Now, more than a decade later, the living legend is back with the publisher for not one but two new projects that are sure to leave his fans drooling like a "mendicant." First, a re-imagining of one of his own creation's origin story in the six-part "Bat Lash" miniseries. Secondly, Aragonés is the new writer for his old friend Will Eisner's "The Spirit" ongoing series.
In Part 1 of a three-part interview, Aragonés spoke with CBR News from his home in Ojai, California about Bat Lash, the cowboy with a sense a humor he co-created in the 1960s for with Carmine Infantino, Joe Orlando and Sheldon Mayer.
Aragonés will serve as plotter and co-scripter on "Bat Lash," which debuts in December with art by John Severin ("G.I. Combat, "Incredible Hulk") and covers by Walter Simonson ("The Mighty Thor," "X-Factor"). Novelist Peter Brandvold ("The Thunder Riders," "Staring Down the Devil") is Aragonés' co-writer.
"I am co-writing because Peter Brandvold is a great novelist but has never written a comic," Sergio Aragonés told CBR News. "So based on my original plot, he writes a novel about it. He's very good. But now, we go back and forth, and his version is wonderful. It's a very good collaboration. He's a very talented man."
The original "Bat Lash" series ran only eight issues, but the character has appeared in other titles since the 1960s, most recently in "Jonah Hex" #3.
Aragonés admitted he was thrilled to have Bat Lash back in the saddle again. "I always thought he was such a good character and I wanted to continue writing stories about him. So when DC asked me if I wanted to participate [in this miniseries], I was delighted," explained Aragonés. "They have written stories about Bat Lash without me getting involved. Usually you feel, 'oh, well.' I would have liked to be involved in the other ones but now that they have asked me, I am delighted. He's like part of the family.
"Bat Lash is a character who needed to return because a lot of people don't know about him," continued Aragonés. "So now he is being re-told, his origin story, and if it does well, probably we will do some more stories."
Born in Castellon, Spain in 1937, Aragonés is a long-time fan of western films, specifically the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. "Cowboys are such an established genre for America, for the entire world," said Aragonés. "And it changes, sometimes, because of popular television trends. I think it will be a genre that will stay here forever. And for a while, it was neglected but I think it is coming back in movies and television and everything. So it will probably start to come back in comics too."
Because the genre is such a part of Americana, and his co-writer is so "perfect," Aragonés said there was no need to update the characters and situations of "Bat Lash" for the PS3 generation. "The gentleman who is writing, Peter Brandvold, is so perfect to fill every generational gap because he is such a good western writer,"declared Aragonés, who knows a thing or two about bridging generation gaps. "I don't think that it is written for any specific age. I think it is just keeping to the standards of good writing, good western writing."
Arguably the fastest cartoonist in the world, Aragonés has provided art for every issue of "Mad Magazine" but one since January, 1963, and that one miss was due to a Post Office screw-up.
Aragonés fleshed out Bat Lash for Infantino in 1968 after the then-DC Editorial Director had already come up with the character's name. The cartoonist said he's not sure if the cowboy's name was inspired by DC's other "Bat" character or not. "To tell you the truth, I don't know where his name came from," laughed Aragonés. "The name was created by Carmine Infantino, so the name was already there when I was told to create the character. No, I never really thought about that. I though it was a good name."
And while Aragonés may not know the origin of Bat Lash's name, he certainly knows what makes the character tick. "He's your classic western hero, but with a sense of humor," said Aragonés. "Through the years of him being alive, he's always discovering things that are from the better part of life, good cooking and other good things. He is like a man born out of place. He could have been born in another generation. You won't see this in this series because it is the beginning but my version of him, as I see it, is as a cowboy that is very smart, just perhaps, born out of place."
In the new series, Aragonés confirmed the story is a more extended version of what happened to Bartholomew Alouysius Lash in the original. "It's what happened to his family," Aragonés confirmed. "That was never told in the original series, except as passing-by. This is what happened:
"The original series featured a two-book origin arc, written by Aragonés, which revealed Bat Lash's family was cheated out of their farm, and his parents were murdered. [Sound familiar?] Bat had been forced to kill a deputy sheriff and, unable to prove it was self defense, was being hunted as a murderer.
"There are new characters that we didn't have in the original one because they are necessary," Aragonés further explained. "Sometimes, when you write a comic, you go 'well,' like in "Batman" where the bad guy kills the parents and that's all you knew until later when people start re-writing things for the movies, that's when you talk more about the bad guy."
Aragonés said he would love to see "Bat Lash" sell well and generate enough buzz to warrant an ongoing. "That would be great, so far it's been great," he remarked. "[DC] like the story and the direction the story has been taken but it all depends on the sales and we'd don't have any control over that. But if it is good and they like and they decide to do more, that would be great because then we can continue the saga that has been stopped."
Asked why readers should pick up "Bat Lash" #1 on December 12, Aragonés responded, "Oh my goodness, it's wonderful. We are working on #5 right now, and it is terrific. The artwork is terrific.
"But more than people buying is hoping that it gets liked, which I hope very much," said Aragonés.
Watch for Part 2 of Sergio Aragonés UnDestroys DC as Aragonés discusses his upcoming run on "The Spirit."
Now discuss this story in CBR's DC Comics forum.