The Brave & The Bold Index Part 15
Team-ups: The Long Goodbye Part 1
June 1979 – July 1984
The inmates are running the asylum! Or more accurately, the fans have taken over the comic book company!
By July of 1979, uber-fan Roy Thomas has been editing at Marvel for over a decade. Joe Staton, whose letter to Justice League of America #9 slamming Wonder Woman and praising Green Lantern reverberated for months in that comic, is now drawing those characters! B&B letter-writers Bob Rozakis, Bob Rodi, Keith Griffen and others are now in comic books on the first page instead of the last.
No more will fans suffer under the boot of the Moltinoff-Haney junta! Rise up, fellow fans! We have nothing to lose but more Wildcat team-ups! Guest stars who were laughed at or ignored are starting to appear: Supergirl, Superman, the Legion of Superheroes, the Guardians, Firestorm, Black Lightning, etc.
As many new team-ups appeared in these last fifty issues (23) than in issues #50 – #100! (Thirty heroes appeared total in issues #50 – #100, but only twenty-two with Batman). The fans were finally getting what they craved!
But why weren’t they happy? Part of the reason is because Bob Haney left, leaving a succession of writers to finish the series. Jim Aparo drew less and less frequently – he was now considered THE Batman artist, and his work appeared everywhere! Was there a cover he didn’t draw in the late 1970s and early 1980s (with apologies to Ernie Chua!)? So much demand was on his time something had to give. It was issues of Brave & Bold. Fans were back to B&B’s early team-up days – various artists and a rotating roster of writers contributing stories that ranged from classics to just plain bad. There was no sense of continuity – you weren’t sure what the next issue would bring. Paul Levitz admitted the same in his letter column.
Fans were no longer eagerly anticipating the next issue of B&B, which meant they started looking elsewhere.
Back to the fans running the company: During Haney’s reign, as stated, Batman was the world’s greatest detective, a super-cop. Now the fans thought Batman exchanging jokes with the Atom didn’t fit his personality – he was a lone wolf, a creature of the night. This style of Batman worked in the pre-Robin days, and the O’Neil-Adams Detective Comics of the late 1960s; isn’t it time the pendulum swung back from Batman the world’s greatest detective to Batman the brooding loner?
Fans, editors and creators thought so. So much so that by the later part of the new century’s first decade; the pendulum has yet to swing back fully, although there is some light at the end of the dark (knight) tunnel.
This style eventually lead to Frank Miller’s criminal Dark Knight Returns, turning Batman into a brutish thug; and eventually culminated in the awful series of Batman movies.
Brave & Bold would obviously not fit into this paradigm. Batman constantly insulting, assaulting, threatening and/or ignoring his guest stars would not make for good reading. Later attempts at Brave & Bold prove the point: either ultra-violent encounters with terrorists (with Green Arrow, the Question and the regrettably-named Butcher) or ignoring the team-up altogether for a more World’s Finest-style mode with Flash and Green Lantern starring.
It was time to replace Brave & Bold with a comic more in line with this style of Batman. I will let others discuss the logic in replacing B&B with a comic about Batman (the brooding loner) forming a new group of superheroes!
I guess B&B is a lesson in extremes: here’s what happens when you ignore fans outright; and here’s what happens when you kowtow to the most vocal fans every whim.
Well we still have four years and two months of fun left. Let’s dig in:
(unless otherwise stated, Bob Haney wrote and Jim Aparo drew the issues)
#151: … & Flash, “Disco of Death”, (No, I’m not kidding!)
Who is killing the patrons of Gotham City’s most fashionable disco? Batman believes it’s the mob, Flash thinks it’s the ghost of a marathon dancer from the 1930s. As bad as it sounds.
#152: … & Atom, “Death Has A Golden Grab”
Computers run amuck – planes crash, traffic snarls, prison cell doors open, Bruce Wayne apparently steals money from his own foundation and Ray Palmer embezzles Ivy University funds! The hunt for the computer criminal concludes in Switzerland, with Batman being fed into a trash shredder and Atom thrown into a garbage incinerator.
#153: … & Red Tornado, “The Menace of the Murder Machine”, Writer: CaryBurkett, Art: Don Newton & Bob Smith.
A scientist, injured in a lab accident, takes his revenge by siccing his Mars probe robots against his industrial backers, unless Batman and the eternally whiny Red Tornado stop him first.
A story about robots that doesn’t co-star the Metal Men? Did they have to chain Haney to a water heater in the basement?
#154: … & Metamorpho, “The Pathway of Doom…”
Sapphire Stagg “hires” Batman (offers him one million dollars to his favorite charity) to find Metamorpho. The trail leads to Franceand Turkey, where our heroes stop a gold extortion ring, if they can avoid a mysterious assassin.
#155: … & Green Lantern, “Fugitive from Two Worlds”
Tri-Vul, a well-respected scientist, steals a large meteorite from Gotham’s bedrock to take back to his planet, causing massive earthquakes in Gotham! But why? Batman and Green Lantern fight over jurisdiction: will he be tried in Gothamor before the Guardians? Can our heroes stop fighting long enough to find the meteorite and get it back to Gotham before an earthquake destroys the city?
#156: … & Dr. Fate, “Corruption”, Story: Cary Burkett, art: Don Newton & Bob Smith.
A golden age character is treated with dignity and respect – Haney must be chained to the hot water heater again!
A dead cop accused of taking bribes from a drug lord turns the Gotham City PD (including Commissioner Gordon) into thieves and murderers! Batman must find evidence to clear the cop, while Dr. Fate battles the demon inhabiting the late cop’s spirit.
#157: … & Kamandi (ties into Kamandi #59), “Time … My Dark Destiny”
Extortion, Inc. has a new Enforcer: Kamandi! How is that possible? Seems he was flung back in time, lost his memory and imbued with invulnerability and super strength! Can Batman stop his crime wave?
Levitz announces in the letter column that it is time for B&B to grow and as a result Haney is leaving as of this issue to allow him time for more projects. And that’s it, no great goodbye, no mention of the tremendous effort he put into Brave & Bold for the last 24 years, nothing! Was it amicable? Maybe I shouldn’t have made so much fun of him. Nah…
#158: … & Wonder Woman, “Yesterday Never Dies”, Writer: Gerry Conway.
The first issue without Haney features something Haney rarely used: a supervillain, and a new one at that! Flashback, whose chemical gas makes his victims relive their worst life experiences, vows to kill the members of a French-US business conglomerate. Can Batman and Wonder Woman overcome the traumas of the deaths of Batman’s parents and Steve Trevor in time to stop him?
#159: … & Ra’s Al Ghul, “The Crystal Armageddon”, Writer: Denny O’Neil.
Super villains are coming out of the woodwork! Ra’s is the second bad guy to co-star in a team-up! The Joker (#111) is the other.
A single drop of Professor Hatter’s formula could turn the ocean into crystal! Imagine what a bottle-full would do! The League of Assassins kidnaps the professor, and Batman and Ra’s try to find him before either he or the League spills/breaks the bottle!
#160: … & Supergirl, “The Brimstone Connection”, Writer: CaryBurkett.
Colonel Sulfur kidnaps Supergirl’s adopted father who knows the third part of a new rocket fuel formula.
#161: … & Adam Strange, “A Tale of Two Heroes”, Writer: Gerry Conway.
As with the Special and issue #200, Batman never meets his costar in this issue.
A Zeta Beam switches Adam Strange and (an unknowing) Batman. Batman is sent to Rann to help clear Adam who was framed for murder. That leaves Adam Strange to capture Gotham’s serial killer before he strikes again! Well done story!
#162: … & Sgt. Rock, “Operation Time Bomb”, Writer: Bill Kelly.
Featuring the Earth-Two Batman. World War II sabotage: bombs are planted on a new squadron of tanks financed by Wayne Enterprises. Now Batman and Sgt. Rock must disarm the tanks, discover the Nazi’s attack plans, and defeat the man behind it all – the Iron Major!
#163: … & Black Lightning, “Oil, Oil, Nowhere”, Writer: Paul Kupperberg, Art: Dick Giordano.
Black Lightning won a reader’s poll for most requested team-up. After a delay (BL was to appear in DC Comics Presents and the editors didn’t want to compete with their sister magazine), he finally debuts in B&B. Other than Mal appearing with the Teen Titans in #102, this is the first African American character to co-star with Batman in Brave & Bold. Not that DC had a lot of black characters to choose from…
Someone is stealing oil tanker trucks from Gotham and Metropolis. Enter Batman. One of the stolen trucks runs over an old lady in Metropolis’ suicide slum. Enter Black Lightning. They both find the missing gasoline. Enter the general-turned-senator and his private army ready to take over the US. Buncha jive turkeys!
#164: … & Hawkman, “The Mystery of the Mobile Museum”, Writer: J.M. DeMatteis, Art: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.
Batman and Hawkman deliver “The Mysterious Ones” – two pre-Cambrian statuettes – to the Midway City Museum. Unfortunately, the original owners haunt the museum and Shiera Hall in order to get the statuettes back. A very Lovecraftian tale, including a cameo appearance by Cthulhu!
#165: … & Man Bat, “Prescription for Tragedy”, Writer: Marty Pasko, Art: Don Newton & Dan Adkins.
South American drugs, smuggled into the US, may be the only thing to save Man-bat’s daughter. Unfortunately, thisbatch has a deadly viral strain in it! Can Batman stop the lethal injection in time? Old Batman cast member Jason Bard appears in a panel. Bard is an obscure member of the Batman Family. He was Batgirl’s detective boyfriend and was given his own feature (e.g. Detective Comics #425, July 1972). Around this time he was a regular cast member of the Manbat feature in Detective.
#166: … & Black Canary, “Requiem for Four Canaries”, Writer: Michael Fleisher, Art: Dick Giordano and Terry Austin.
Fifty cents? Again!? Well, they added eight pages…
The Penguin (his first appearance in B&B since #68 14 years before) vows to kill his four former henchmen who testified against him.
The story’s been done before (most notably with the Joker), but the art by Giordano is beautiful! The story seems to focus more on the flirtation between Canary and Batman. This potential romance was also hinted at years before in an issue of JLA.
This issue was roundly panned in the later letter columns. It wasn’t that bad!
For the first time in fifteen years (since the debut of the never-seen-since Bat Squad), a new hero is featured. “Nemesis” by Cary Burkett (writer) and Dan Spiegle (art). To atone for a murder committed by his brother, Thomas Tresser becomes the master-of-disguise Nemesis. In his debut outing he captures crime lord J. R. Ogden and his hired gun, George Peal.
#167 … (Earth Two) & Blackhawk, “Ice Station Alpha!”, Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Dave Cockrum & Dan Adkins.
Another long-time B&B requested team-up finally comes to pass. The golden age (Earth Two to the purists) Batman and the Blackhawks each discover the Nazi’s ultimate weapon: a machine that will melt the polar ice cap and drown the entire eastern seaboard!
Nemesis: “A Name Writ in Blood” by Burkett & Spiegle. More of Nemesis’ origin it revealed: When their widowed father dies, Tom & Craig Tresser are raised by Ben & Marjorie Marshall, their father’s best friends. When they grow to adulthood, the boys begin working for Marshallas government agents. Craig, mysteriously, shoots and kills Ben and is himself killed. Tom, now always under suspicion, removes his name from the government roles, takes his experiments (disguise techniques, bullets that shoot only non-lethal paralyzing toxins, etc.) and becomes the Dark Herald of Justice, Nemesis.
#168: … & Green Arrow, “Shackles of the Mind”, Writer: CaryBurkett. Jim Aparo is back after a six issue absence. Hmm, six issues missed to draw a three-issue mini-series Untold Legend of Batman. His “vacation” seems to have paid off; his artwork in this issue is more marvelous than ever.
Green Arrow coaxes Batman into appearing at a charity benefit featuring a thief-turned-escape-artist reformed by Green Arrow. Meanwhile, Batman tries to hunt down a museum thief who makes nearly impossible escapes. Hmm. Could Green Arrow’s friend be behind it all? Or is he just a patsy for a real stage-magician-turned-thief?
This issue shows more escape tricks and techniques than all of Mr. Miracle’s past appearances put together!
Nemesis: “Swift Wing of Recompense”; Burkett & Spiegle. Picking up his brother’s investigation where it left off, Nemesis find his brother’s undercover work was discovered by a mob boss named Kingston. Craig was brought before the “Council” and brainwashed, is that why he killed Ben Marshall? During his investigation, Nemesis also stops a drug smuggling ring.
#169: … & Zatanna, “Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death!” Writer: Mike W. Barr.
I’m honored to have Zatanna herself describe the plot of this comic. “A retsgnag sllik a htiaf relaeh ohw t’ndluoc eruc sih kaew traeh. Fi eht htiaf s’relaeh dewodiw efiw t’nac eruc mih, ll’ehs eb dellik oot, sselnu Namtab dna I pots mih tsrif!”
Thank you, Zatanna. That was wonderful… … …
Is she gone? Between you and me, Zatanna has never been a character I liked very much. Mostly because, for the reader, her spell-casting method is a pain in the ass, or as she would say, a “niap ni eht ssa”! Thank you, but I don’t want to read what Zatanna says backwards. Besides, her spells are usually explained in the next panel. Here, she stops a criminal by saying, “Snug otni sag!” That is, “Guns into gas!” In the very next panel the criminal says (and we are shown), “My gun has turned into gas!” Thanks, I just spent five minutes of my life trying to figure that out for myself! Well, not five minutes, as anytime Zatanna appears I always try to keep a mirror handy. But I shouldn’t have to read a comic book holding a compact! (Besides, isn’t “Guns into gas!” backwards really “!sag otni snuG”?) Why can’t she just say something silly like Dr. Strange and be just as effective; “I shall turn the guns into gas by using my Amulet of Amaretto!” Just as dramatic, and makes me feel less dyslexic!
Nemesis: “The Council Calls for Death”; Burkett & Spiegle. Kingstoncalls a meeting of the Council, a federation of all mob bosses under the leadership of “The Head”. Kingstonupdates the Council on Nemesis’ search for more details of Craig’s brainwashing (Nemesis finds out the brainwashing was done on the orders of The Head by a former Nazi scientist). Nemesis is at the meeting disguised as the Council’s security chief (all through the story the reader was left guessing who could have been Nemesis – he had to be in the meeting somewhere!). His next move is obviously to find The Head at his base of operations, which is in … (cue exciting music) Gotham City. Guess who stars with Batman in B&B next month? That’s right – Sisemen! Er, Nemesis (damn that Zatanna!)!
Copyright (c) 2012 Michael G Curry