The Brave and The Bold Index Part 2
Blazing Adventures Part 2
Continuing my index/history of the greatest comic magazine… 😉
Just from observing the covers, it would appear the Silent Knight was the star attraction. Including #1, he appeared on eleven of the first fifteen covers and again in issues #18 and 20. Only Batman appeared on the cover of B&B more times.
And with good reason: the Silent Knight feature was certainly the most colorful and energetic of the features in this period. Bright red and blue hoods and capes abounded in the days of Camelot; as young Prince Brian Kent was trained in the ways of knighthood and leadership until he could ascend the thrown on his eighteenth birthday. In the meantime, wicked Sir Oswald controlled the kingdom. To help the oppressed, young Brian assumed the red mantle of a knight, but as he stated in every issue, “Now I must remain mute, lest my tongue reveal my true identity!”
With the aid of his trusty horse and falcon, Brian fought brigands, Oswald’s henchmen and even some Knights of the Round Table to keep the peace. Ever attracted to the fair lady Celia, she had eyes only for the Silent Knight (this plot devise long a comic staple). At times it seemed very superheroic – Brian had to sneak away to change into the Silent Knight. Often Celia tried to prove Brian and Silent Knight were one and the same, only to be fooled into thinking otherwise. Lois Lane and Clark Kent – no relation to Brian (how did DC miss that obvious plot twist?) – had been going round and round with this plot devise for seventeen years by this point!).
Silent Knight appeared twenty-two times in Brave and Bold; as many as the more popular Viking Prince. The stories were written by Robert Kanigher and sometimes by Bob Haney and were drawn mostly by the legendary Irv Novick (a few stories were drawn by Russ Heath). Novick’s art style fit the feature perfectly – as clean and brightly colorful as the Cinemascope movies “Ivanhoe” and “Robin Hood” from which Silent Knight was inspired. Scale armor was painstakingly detailed as were the weapons of the period. Later stories focussing on dragons and magical beasts did not dampen the spirit of the comic. One could almost hear the orchestra swelling during the jousting and hand-to-hand combat scenes.
As beautiful as the art was, the strip seemed to suffer from … sameness. A brief synopsis of the stories published show some of the flaws:
1. His father “accidentally” killed by Sir Oswald, our Brian is ordered by Oswald to train in knightly ways. Brian impresses his teachers with his skills. Brian accidentally releases the falcon Slasher; and while recovering it, Brian discovers the mysterious armor, helmet and sword held floating mysteriously in the forest. He defeats brigands and is given the name Silent Knight.
2. Prince Brian has to protect fair lady Celia (who was delivering jewels) from the Robber Baron.
3. Cedrick the Black storms the castle. With all other knights away on missions, the castle’s only defenders are old Sir Grot, evil Sir Cedrick, and Brian!
4. How can the Silent Knight defeat the Robber Baron, when the Baron uses a shield as tall as a horse?
5. Brian defeats the twin “Hooded Terror”, who blocks a bridge demanding a toll; then on to the Tournament of Roses to defeat Sir Edwin’s knights.
6. Evil Sir Edwin hires a fake Silent Knight to lure the real hero into his clutches.
7. Ala Cinderella’s slipper, everyone must try on a replica of Silent Knight’s suit of armor. Will Brian be revealed as the Silent Knight?
8. Evil Sir Oswald (Edwin and Oswald are apparently interchangeable) orders Brian to capture the Silent Knight!!
9. To appease the wrath of a knight, Alvin the kitchen boy must capture the Silent Knight.
10. Evil Sir Oswald orders our Brian Kent to deliver the Sun Ruby to Sir Duncan through the Forest Perilious. How can the Silent Knight save him from bandits when he is the Silent Knight?
11. Tana the Stallion and Slasher the Falcon compete to see who Silent Knight needs and relies on the most!
12. Sir Brathe plots to capture the Silent Knight and take him to Camelot to ensure his membership in the Round Table.
13. In a series of continuing story lines, Sirs Galahad and Lancelot woo fair Lady Celia and battle the Silent Knight.
14. Tricked into going to Camelot, the Silent Knight bests Galahad and Lancelot in a two-to-one joust.
15. Guinnevere states that only the bravest knight could challenge the Silent Knight and make him speak! Galahad and Lancelot accept the challenge!
16. Silent Knight meets the challenge of the Triple Thunderbolts (evil knight triplets!) to save Camelot.
17. Sir Edwin tries to drown and then burn the Silent Knight to make him reveal his identity.
18. As tall as a mounted knight, evil Sir Hawk torments all who enter the Forest Perilous! When he kidnaps the fair Lady Celia, the Silent Knight must best Sir Hawk in combat!
19. Silent Knight loses to Morgan La Fay’s champion – an empty suit of armor! To win his freedom, Brian must retrieve a golden apple and a necklace guarded by, respectively, a dragon and a giant sword-wielding arm!
20. A horse (Tana) only responds to Brian, will it also respond to the Silent Knight and expose his secret identity?
21. The Silent Knight rescues a giant eagle from a dragon. The eagle returns the favor in rescuing the Knight and Celia from the vengeful ghost of a haunted castle.
22. Russ Heath draws the final tale of the Silent Knight. Brian must accept the three challenges of the Queensof Dread or England it doomed! 1) Cross the KnifeEdgeMountains, 2) defeat the Knights of the Clock (mechanical knights) and 3) defeat a Queen of Dread in hand-to-hand combat without touching her (as no knight can touch a lady)! Editorial: One small problem with this story is that Silent Knight falls before completing his crossing of the KnifeEdgeMountain! He is attacked and thrown off the mountains by Bird Men and is saved by landing on and taming a griffin. But he never crossed the mountains! He failed in his first task! But that fact is gleefully overlooked!
The similarity in storylines is particularly evident while reading several stories in sequence. Truly unique plots (such as the competition between the horse and falcon) were too few. When the limitations of the premise became evident the stories began to focus more on magic and mysticism – for example, King Arthur and Merlin appeared more frequently. By this time, though, most of the energy of the strip had gone. Silent Knight began losing more and more cover appearances and his last tale, drawn by Russ Heath, adopted the darker tones of Heath’s other features.
But the twenty-two adventures of the Silent Knight were still fun to read, which was the whole point, wasn’t it?
Issue #1 also featured the first of five appearances of the Golden Gladiator, and was his only cover appearance. Robert Kanagher and Bill Finger wrote individual stories with the art on all five stories by Russ Heath. The equal in skill to Irv Novick, the style was completely different. The lines were darker, the motion less fluid and the colors more muted. The characters were also beefier and more muscular than any other feature.
National was obviously trying to cash in on the success of Hollywood’s sandal epics (“The Robe”, “The Silver Chalice”, and oh yes, “Sparticus”). A former slave wins his freedom in the arena and makes his name with his fighting powers and honorable demeanor. Wearing armor made of solid gold gives him his name (and very likely a backache – how could he defend himself? Gold is among the softest and heaviest of metals, not a good idea for armor). Some of the storylines were as follows:
1. In the origin tale, a shepherd boy named Marcus is framed for the attempted murder of a praetor; he is made a slave, but wins his freedom in the arena.
2. The Golden Gladiator battles Attila the Hun – stealing the Hun’s sword and ensuring peace for Rome!
3. Marcus returns to his home village, only to find that, while the men are away fishing, the town is under attack by Cassius the Conqueror! The only aid he can find come from the town’s children!
4. Captured by a collector of all things gold, the Gladiator had to fight his way to freedom.
5. While stationed in Egypt, Marcus fails to protect the Banner of Peace from being stolen; can he recover the banner before dawn when the desert tribes will attack?
Golden Gladiator never was as successful as his B&B mates. Perhaps the premise was too limited; perhaps the writer and editor could not come up with any further stories to tell. After four issues, he was dropped. Although he appeared again in issue #6, the Golden Gladiator’s time was gone. He was replaced by one of the most famous heroes of all time!
Robin Hood is such an obvious choice for B&B’s format one wonders why they bothered with anything else. Maybe it was because Quality Comics was already publishing a Robin Hood comic at the time. Perhaps that’s why Robin Hood only appeared on the cover of B&B three times — #5 (his debut), #12 and #14.
The premise is well-known: while King Richard fights in the crusades, evil Prince John takes the thrown and oppresses the masses. Prince John destroys the lords of the land loyal to his brother, including Robert of Lockesly. Hiding in the woods, Lord Robert adopts the name Robin Hood who, with his band of Merrie Men, combat the machinations of the evil Prince John.
Kanigher again wrote, Heath again drew. Perhaps in their eagerness to make room for a Robin Hood strip they gladly ousted the Golden Gladiator. Heath’s art again is dark and thick – perfectly reflecting oppressive times. Colors were forest green and maroon compared with the Silent Knight’s bright inks. Even while Robin Hood laughingly thumbs his nose while escaping Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham and their minions, the costumes and colors remained muted and dark; as if telling us the evil of Prince John will return next time. Joe Kubert drew a few issues, doing his usual competent job, although nothing spectacular as was the case elsewhere in those issues. In his first few issues, Robin Hood appeared more like Errol Flynn – fair skinned with light brown hair and a goatee. Later he appeared more muscular, with dark hair and eyes.
Surprisingly considering the well-known plot, the sameness that plagued Silent Knight did not happen in this strip. Although Prince John always plotted and Robin always won out, the stories were unique and well done:
1. Prince John captures the Merrie Men, and Robin must perform three tasks: capture the Golden Stag bare-handed, defeat a giant on a bridge over a ravine, and snuff out a candle with an arrow while blindfolded.
2. Prince John’s trained boar attacks Robin. Later, King Richard is rescued by kites flown over Prince John’s castle.
3. Robin Hood rescues Little John and is pursued through Sherwood Forest – how is Prince John tracking him so easily?
4. A court jester helps Prince John try to capture Robin Hood through various games and challenges.
5. Can Robin Hood fight twenty swordsmen, rescue his merry men and save Maid Marion with only three arrows?
6. At Prince John’s behest, King Trident’s colossal floating fortress smashes King Richard’s supply ships. Robin Hood vows to stop the pirate!
7. An amnesia-stricken Robin Hood is duped by Prince John into capturing the Merrie Men!
8. Robin Hood faces three challenges (spend the night in a haunted castle, steal a black eagle’s egg and shoot an arrow through a solid oak tree) to win a golden apple from Prince John. Is this the same golden apple the Silent Knight retrieved for Morgan La Fey?
9. Robin Hood is crowned king for one day. His duties: collect unfair taxes, imprison knights loyal to King Richard and (gulp!) capture the Merrie Men!
10. Three fake Robin Hoods loot the Village of Tynesbury.
By issue #15 (January 1958), National had bought out Quality’s line of comics, cancelled Plastic Man and kept publishing Blackhawk and GI Combat among others. That also included the Robin Hoodcomic. There was no longer any reason to keep Robin in B&B, so he packed up and moved into his own National magazine – the first feature from B&B to obtain his own magazine!* Robin’s adventures in B&B and his own magazine were reprinted in the several issues of DC Super Stars in the 1970s, sharing the bill with the 3 Musketeers.
With Robin Hood’s departure, B&B changed format slightly to feature only two stories per issue. Silent Knight was still going strong, but the star of the comic was obvious from issue #16 on.
copyright (c) 2012 Michael G. Curry
* The first of eight features that debuted in Brave and Bold to move on to star in their own magazine. The others were the Justice League of America, an updated version of the Suicide Squad (some 25 years after their B&B debut, but it still counts!), Hawkman, Strange Sports Stories, Metamorpho, The Teen Titans and the Outsiders.