The Brave & The Bold Index Part 14

The Brave & The Bold Index Part 14
Team-ups: Coasting Part 3
March 1972 – May 1979

Continuing my index/history of the greatest comic magazine! 😉

1977
#132:   … & Richard Dragon – Kung Fu Fighter, “Batman – Dragon Slayer”
            With this issue Joe Orlando takes over as managing editor and Denny O’Neil is the story editor. Cary Burkett handles the letter column. They promise some new blood in B&B and not the same old team-ups again and again! They start with one of only ten new team-ups in this era.
            Carlos Esteban hires the Stylist, a kung fu killer, to assassinate Richard Dragon.  Why? Esteban was once the partner of Calvin Curtis, deceased eccentric billionaire.  Dragon once helped Curtis – he fixed his bike and gave him a quarter for a cup of coffee.  In return, Dragon may have inherited Curtis’ billions!
#133:   … & Deadman, “Another Kind of Justice”
            Batman enlists Deadman’s help to lure drug lord Achille Lazlo back onto USjurisdiction by reviving a ghost from his past – the former drug lord Lazlo killed years before!
#134:   … & Green Lantern, “Demolishment”
Green Lantern defects to the “other side’s” People Republic! Batman attempts to kidnap GL and bring him back, but is captured instead and put through the brainwashing technique known as Demolishment!  It ends up GL’s defection is a rouse to reveal the Demolishment technique by having it used against the one person who might withstand it – Batman! Too bad it did brainwash Batman into trying to kill Green Lantern! Let’s hope GL finds his lost ring in time!
The editors admit in the letter column that Wildcat and Sgt. Rock might have been overused in the past few years. “Hell factory” is used – arguably a swear word, but they’re still pushing it!
#135:   … & Metal Men, “More than Human”
            Prince hikes to thirty-five cents.
            A robot (created in the 1800s) claims legal right to the land on which sits Bruce Wayne’s tower. The judge agrees, thus ruining Bruce’s empire. Could his rival Ruby Ryder be involved?  Continues in the next issue.
#136:   … & Green Arrow, Metal Men, “Legacy of the Doomed”
            This is the third multiple-issue story (second with Green Arrow) and the fourth multi-guest issue (third with Green Arrow).
            Batman and the Metal Men are enjoined by court order from interfering in Ruby Ryder’s shenanigans, but Green Arrow is not!
#137:   … & Demon, “Hour of the Serpent”, Artist: John Calnan.
            This is a “sequel” to #76, as the evil Shahn-Zi returns.  Teenage gangsters in Chinatown disguised as Shahn-Zi terrorize citizens.  But their actions summon the real Shahn-Zi who seeks revenge against Gotham City and Batman!
#138:   … & Mister Miracle, “Mile-High Tombstone”
            Trond-Hag, “the Tombstone”, is a volcanic island riddles with caves. Geologist Steve Lang goes missing while exploring the mountain, and Batman and Mister Miracle go to the rescue. They find Steve, as well as the villainous escape artists Cosimo (sent to kill Lang), and Kraken – the computer running an international crime cartel!
1978
#139:   … & Hawkman, “Requiem for a Top Cop”.
            Back to bi-monthly!!? Noooo!!!  Hawkman’s first appearance in B&B since #70 (over ten years).  This has always been one of my personal favorite stories. One time fan – now DC boss – Paul Levitz takes over from Denny O’Neil as story editor. Since Paul does his own letter column, Cary Burkett leaves for other pastures. Paul mentions that Bob Rozakis has had 135 letters published in his fan career. So in which four issues of Brave & Bold did he not write a letter? J
            In the late 1930s, Commissioner Gordon killed an alien accidentally. Although Batman and Hawkman agree it was in self-defense (Gordon thought the alien was about to fire at him), an alien mercenary disagrees, and tries to bring Gordon in for trial per intergalactic law.  Gordon, a fellow adherer to the Rule of Law, agrees!
1978 B&B Special (DC Special Series #8):     …Sgt. Rock and Deadman.  “Hell is for Heroes”
            Ric Estrada and Dick Giordano artists.  Paul Levitz, editor.
DC had “annuals” (larger editions of existing comics published once per year) throughout the 1960s with mostly reprinted material.  Marvel Comics had since developed the Annual into an art form. DC Comics in the late 1970s, in an attempt to boost a sagging market, tried bringing back the annuals. Not wanting to be accused of copying Marvel, DC instead referred to their annuals as Specials and Spectaculars. Every comic from Wonder Woman and Superman to the Secret Society of Super Villains had their own specials. Unlike the annuals of old, these were all new stories and art. The issues were not published as an edition of their parent comic, but instead published under the umbrella title DC Special Series. Brave & Bold was given its own special in 1978 as DC Special Series #8.
            To celebrate the uniqueness of this Special (that is, to differentiate it from a “usual” issue of Brave & Bold), Batman never meets his partners – Sgt. Rock and Easy Company along with Deadman appear together in one storyline linked with the Batman storyline.  This was the fourth time more than one star (other than as an established team – the Teen Titans, for example) appeared with Batman – #100 and the two-parters in  #129-130 and 135-136– and would be the last. Too bad, it is an interesting plot device and would satisfy readers who clamored for more stars.
            Batman tracks down Lucifer, a mad bomber. Meanwhile Sgt. Rock searches for a Batman statue stolen by Scottish Nationalists. But whatever harm comes to the statue, will also be wrought on Batman! Ouch! The statue is rammed by an army truck, set it on fire by gypsies, attacked by the Loch Ness Monster and flung from a clock tower … you get the idea. Who’s behind all this voodoo? Lucifer himself (the fallen angel, not the mad bomber) with the aid of the ghosts of Hitler, Guy Fawkes, Benedict Arnold, Bluebeard, Nero and Jack the Ripper! Rama Kushna sends Deadman to a mysterious stranger for clues, and Deadman and Rock recover the statue just in time for Batman’s final battle with Lucifer (the mad bomber, not the prince of darkness). Rama Kushna herself takes care of Lucifer (the vile spinner of lies, not the mad bomber) and his ghostly ilk!  Deadman eventually discovers the identity of the mysterious stranger to reveal this Special’s fourth star – the spirit of Sherlock Holmes!
#140:   … & Wonder Woman, “Dastardly Events Aboard the Hellship” (spell out the first letters of the title – get it?)
            There’s that aitch-eee-double-hockey-sticks word again.  Swear words or appropriate?  Hmm…
            The CEO of Belmont Technologies offers Batman one million dollars to charity if he will rescue his daughter Esmeralda from the clutches of evil industrial spy Dimetrious (because she knows the secret of the new energy-crisis-ending solar cell). The UN’s Crisis Bureau asks Wonder Woman to capture Dimetrious for his crimes. Actually, Dimetrious kidnapped the scientist who created the solar cell and Esmeralda and Belmont trick Batman and Dimetrious into revealing where the solar cell is by Esmeralda stating she loves Dimetrious and was neverkidnapped!  Dimetrious’ simian guards capture Batman and Wonder Woman, who are drugged into performing as circus animals…
            Whew!  Anyone for an index of Richie Rich and Casper instead?
#141:   … & Black Canary, “Pay or Die”
            Lots of “Jaws” references in this issue, as the Joker is back and now in the loan-sharking business. Those who can’t pay mysteriously explode! Batman sets a trap using Alfred as bait to catch the Joker. Batman and Black Canary must track down the Joker to discover how his victims explode or, for Alfred, it’s so long old chum (chum, sharks, get it? Never mind…!)
            Haney must have learned a new word – vigorish: underworld slang for loan interest – as it is used about every third page. This issue also contains a rare thing for B&B up until now – recognition of continuity of other DC comics! It is recalled that Joker was supposedly killed the last time he and Batman fought in Detective Comics, and that the Joker was once in love with Dinah Lance (that is why Joker saved her from an exploding lendee)!
#142:   … & Aquaman, “Enigma of the Death Ship”
            The logbook of the sunken Alhambracontains the name of a stowaway who later becomes Gotham’s drug kingpin.  The book may also contain incriminating evidence against Aquaman’s father, the lighthouse keeper who may have caused the wreck!  Batman must fight the drug lord’s scuba squad and Aquaman himself to get the log book!  He does get it eventually, and absolves Aquaman’s father from blame.  And the name of the drug lord is …
#143:   … & Creeper, “Cast the First Stone”
            …Montgomery Walcott, TV’s most respected and trustworthy newsman!
            Unique to B&B is this continued storyline without necessarily being a continued story – something at which Marvel’s team-up books excelled!
            With this issue begins the DC Explosion!  Increasing the price to fifty cents and increasing the page count to 44, with all new material throughout the DC line!  The beginning of a new era in comicdom! The greatest thing to happen to comics since Superman! Why are you giggling?
            The ripple effect of the DC Explosion hits Brave & Bold as a new feature debuts: Christopher Chance, the Human Target. “The Cat and the Canary Contract” by Len Wein (story) and Dick Giordano (art). Chance impersonates people marked for murder, betting he can stop the killers before they stop him!  Here Chance must protect the mob witness who years earlier had Chance’s father killed for failing to pay a debt!
#144:   … & Green Arrow, “The Arrow of Eternity”
            Monthly!  At long last!  After twenty-three years Brave & Bold goes monthly!
            While searching for Merlin’s invincible arrow, Batman and Green Arrow are magically whisked to the Battle of Agincourt to face the old Teen Titan’s foe the Gargoyle!
            Aparo’s art is fantastic: a rare venture into the sword and sorcery genre. He could have excelled in the Blazing Adventures years of B&B. While we’re on the subject: with a little rewrite this could have been a book-length story, reset in King Arthur’s time and also co-starring the Silent Knight! Why not? We will have to be satisfied with the Silent Knight having a small cameo in a battle scene being killed by an arrow! Boo!
            Human Target: “The Symphony for the Devil Contract”, Len Wein (writer) and Dick Giordano (art).  The Human Target impersonates a famous symphony conductor, protecting him from a religious fanatic.  Everyone’s a critic…
            “Dammit!” Brave & Bold’s first blatant and undisputed swear word appears!
#145:   … & Phantom Stranger, “Choice of Dooms”
            The only member of Gotham’s diamond-smuggling ring willing to testify suddenly becomes paralyzed! You see, the head of the ring is also a voodoo priest!
            Back to seventeen pages and now forty cents, as the “DC Implosion” hits the comic giant, making them cancel many of their new books and reeling back their much-hyped back-up features.
1979
#146 :  … (Earth Two) & Unknown Soldier, “The Secret that Saved the World”
            Artist: Romeo Tanghal.  #84 was partly set during World War II and told in flashback. This is the first B&B story (during the team-up years) set during the war.
            A defecting German nuclear scientist is murdered and his secret designs for an atomic bomb will be smuggled back to Germanyunless Batman and the Unknown Soldier can catch the Nazi killer!
#147:   … & Supergirl, “Death Scream from the Sky”, Writer: CaryBurkett.
            The Children of Light, a terrorist-cult, gets control of a communications satellite complete with a killer laser aimed at Gotham!  Batman and Supergirl finally discover an old JLA foe is behind it all.  It seems the “father” of the Children of Light is a certain Doctor…
            Mohammed comes to the mountain: some issues back, Paul Levitz admitted he was having trouble convincing Bob Haney to do a Supergirl team-up.  The solution was simple: Haney got the boot and former letter column editor Cary Burkett wrote the much-demanded story!  This is only the fifth issue of Brave & Bold since #50 Haney did notwrite!
#148:   … & Plastic Man, “The Night the Mob Stole Christmas”, (Artist: Jim Aparo and Joe Staton).
            Haney returns and takes his frustrations out on his favorite whipping boy, Plastic Man , the last of Plas’ four appearances in B&B. Plas is (of course) still shown as a lone loser (see the commentary of #123 for Haney’s dislike of Plas.). A Florida mobster smuggles in illegal (untaxed) cigarettes into Gotham City and smuggles out the city’s Main Street Christmas decorations to lure his competitors into a Christmas party trap.  Too bad they also kidnapped Santa – it was Plastic Man trying to make a buck!
            The combination of Aparo and Staton works here despite their divergent styles – Staton’s heroes are drawn thickly and muscular, Aparo’s are wiry and thin.
#149:   … & Teen Titans, “Look Homeward, Runaway”
            This is the last appearance of the Teen Titans in Brave & Bold, the magazine in which they debuted nearly fifteen years before.
            Haney’s temper tantrum over, it’s back to B&B business. Batman asks the Teen Titans to reunite to infiltrate the Runaways – an organized teen crime gang of (who else) runaways – to break up the gang and find their leader.
#150:   … & ?, “Today Gotham, Tomorrow the World”
            Terrorists called the Battalion of Doom threaten Gotham City with an atomic devise. They also kidnap Bruce Wayne and is guarded by Keeper Karnes. Bruce discovers Karnes is super-powered!  He knows Wayne’s Batman identity, is super fast (faster, even, than a speeding bullet), is very strong (more powerful than a locomotive)…
            You get the idea, the terrorists have also kidnapped Jimmy Olsen. Superman hoped to be assigned as Jimmy’s bodyguard, but got Bruce Wayne instead.
            In the past fans screamed for Superman to guest in B&B. Those requests were (rightly) ignored: if you want to see Supes and Bats together, go buy World’s Finest. In fact it was clearly stated in #120 Superman will never appear in B&B.
            How times change. Letters in later issues panned the choice for this anniversary issue, saying it was nothing more than a warmed-over World’s Finest story.  I disagree.  If this was a story from WF, there certainly wouldn’t have been any “surprise”.  However, I expected a more special guest for #150. Superman could have easily been Martian Manhunter. Throw in Green Arrow (like Haney and company needed an excuse to bring himinto a story) and you would have Batman teaming up with B&B’s first team from #50! That would have been a good anniversary team-up. Still, it was an interesting story and well done, if not up to hype. The letter column lists all the team-ups in B&B starting with #50. Unfortunately it also lists #150 as starring Superman, ruining the surprise for anyone reading the letter column first (including yours truly…).
***
            The issues in this era of B&B weren’t all stinkers.  In fact, it contained some of the most interesting plots.  And Aparo’s art is brilliant. But the comic wasn’t cutting edge anymore; it wasn’t leading the field.
            Although the letter columns promised new team-ups, you could almost hear the arguments behind the door – Levitz admitting to all that Haney does not want Supergirl in B&B is a good example. Was he trying to coax readers into pleading for her appearance?
            And Batman, for all his different interpretations, was turning into nothing more than a super-cop. He did fight some name supervillains, but the Joker as a loan shark?  Dr. Light as a terrorist leader? What was the point of that? There were no new super-bad guys introduced in these fifty issues (like Hellgrammite or Bork), no new versions of old heroes (like Green Arrow), just Batman and … whoever.
            And because of that, Brave & Bold was no longer the best and brightest star at DC. Then again, it didn’t need to be. It was no longer challenging and exciting. Instead of asking, “Who knows what the next issue will hold,” readers said, “I don’t know who will be here next issue, but the writing will be good and the art will be great and that’s all right with me!”
            Instead of leading the field, Brave & Bold ran in place.  Naturally and inevitably that meant it started to fall behind.  Its momentum has kept it going after its prime for eight years now. In only half that time it will be gone.

Next: The Long Goodbye…

Copyright (c) 2012 Michael G Curry

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