NTS #4 – Bobcat

New Talent Showcase #4 (Bobcat)
Writer – Mike Tiefenbacher
Pencils – Stan Woch
Inks – Karl Kesel
Letters – Andy Kubert
Colors – Shelley Eiber
Edits – Karen Berger

Now, when I see a title like Bobcat… and the opening panel prominently features a woman, I’m immediately going to assume that she will be revealed as the titular character.  Is that sexist?  I hope that’s not sexist.

We open with little Davey Tresh having his mother put some Neosporin on his scrapes.  Ya see, this kid has been dealing with a serial bully named Billy Myers.  It seems like every day, Dave gets his butt whupped.  Telling his folks only makes it worse… because Dave’s dad calls Billy’s dad… and, lemme tell ya, that ain’t never a good idea.  All’at will getcha is more whuppins.  Davey is a fan of “big cats”… he’s not quite a Tiger King or anything, but he’s certainly a fan.  He play-acts beating Bully-Billy up with his cat models… breaking one in the process.  That night, Dave’s sister reveals that our boy Davey might’ve been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ this fine day… as she overheard him singing “I wish I was a Billy Myer’s wiener”.  Ouch!

That night, Davey hits the hay… and has a wonderful dream that he is a big cat… hunting down a Billy Myers-faced rat!

The next day at school, Dave learns that the Myers family leaves Billy home alone at night… and, somehow, this gives him an idea.  He still falls for the “Spell ‘I met’.” (I am E.T.) gimmick… which, when I was growing up was “Spell ‘I cup’.”… maybe it was regional?  Anyhoo, that evening, David puts his plan in motion… he uses his “Christmas Ink” to dye his little sweatsuit black… then practices acting like a big cat in the bathroom (with the water running to cover up his growls and grunts).

Davey heads downstairs to dinner… and gets the third degree from Mom.  She asks what he was doing in the bathroom all that time with the water running… which, I feel is a line purposely setting me up to say something perverted… but, I won’t.  Anyhoo, Dave pretends to start sleepwalking at around 7:30 and heads up to bed.  Upstairs, he “suits up”… and prepares to give Billy Myers Wiener the scare of his life!

And, well… he does just that!  Turns out Bill Myers actually is kind of a wiener… though, if I were in fourth grade and suddenly saw a glowing-eyed anthropomorphic cat beast howling in a tree in my side yard, I’d very likely have to change my drawers.  Hell, if I saw I regular critter howling in my tree I’d start sweating!  Anyhoo, it looks as though our Davey might have a little of the Catholic guilt in him, because he immediately decides to come clean… reveal to Billy that there’s no cat-beast outside… it’s just him giving him a fright.

Billy comes around pretty quick… and suggests that maybe they become friends.  He’s got an attic they can have all sorts of adventures in… which, ya know, sounds like how an after-school special might start.  Whatever the case, the kids decide to put their differences aside… and Davey is christened as: Bobcat.  He heads home… hootin’ and howlin’… and annoying some neighborhood dogs.

So yeah… this was not at all what I was expecting!  I had this pegged as some throwaway street-level deal with a lady (Davey’s mom) in a catsuit.  I couldn’t be happier that my hot-take was completely and totally wrong!

I had a lot of fun with this… it was a sorta silly coming of age bit, but I feel it did a lot of things right.  Having been a kid, not unlike Davey, I had my share of bullying done at me.  I remember having to plan alternate routes home to avoid certain blocks or houses.  I can definitely relate to what this character was going through.  Feelings of powerlessness, anger… and maybe being just enough of a smart-ass to sorta-kinda deserve a butt-kicking or two.

I really dug this… though, I must say… I’m not sure I’m really looking forward to where this is headed (if, in fact, it is headed anywhere).  This opening chapter just tapped into so many memories for me… simpler times, but when little things meant the world, ya know?  Feels like Davey’s entire world revolves around trying not to get beat up at school… which, sure, really sucks… but, at the same time, in the greater scheme of things, isn’t much more than a hiccup in a lifetime.

We met artist Stan Woch in an earlier NTS… but, Mike Tiefenbacher is a newbie.  There isn’t all that much I’m able to dig up about ol’ Mike… heck, his DC Wiki page doesn’t even list him as a writer on this story!  What I have found is that Mike wrote a handful of backup strips for DC Comics Presents… and also provided some pencils for the Funny Stuff Stocking Stuffer.  Of note, he was at one time the Executive Editor for the Comics Reader fanzine, of which I’ve actually happened across a copy or two in my travels.  Love coming across the ol’ zines.  It makes me nostalgic for a time that I didn’t even live through!

Overall, this was a fun little feature, and I’d love to see more like this.

Tomorrow: The Feral Man

3 thoughts on “NTS #4 – Bobcat

  • Dave-El

    When you began your reviews of New Talent Showcase, I was very much looking forward to your review of #4 and of the "Bobcat" story in particular. I bought this issue back in the day and remembered being very impressed with this story. For a story composed by "new talent", it reads very much like a professional effort. Right off the bat, one can see Stan Woch and Karl Kesel are destined for good things and they delivered on the promise of this story. I remember when Stan Woch would fill in for Steve Bissette on Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. While Karl Kesel has gone on to make his mark as writer, it's still his inking that stands out; there are few pencillers whose work can't be made better by having Kesel's inks.

    The "Bobcat" story is sweet and takes unexpected turns. None of my stories of being bullied as a child turned out as well as Davey's.

    "Bobcat" is a perfect distillation of how to tell a self contained comic book short story. Thanks for sharing it with us, Chris.

  • Matthew O'Hara

    Glad to see the NTS feature is back on the blog. Just thought I'd point out that Mike Tiefenbacher commissioned an original Bobcat cover from Woch and Kesel for COMICS READER #217. Kinda like the 1984 version of plugging your work on social media. I don't think any other NTS character got that kind of exposure.

  • Sam Kujava

    Mike Tiefenbacher is a noted comic book historian and long-time editor of The Comic Reader. There is, I believe, a second Bobcat story that appeared in a later New Talent Showcase.


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