The Brave & The Bold Index Part 12

The Brave & The Bold Index Part 12
Team-ups: Coasting Part 1
March 1972 – May 1979

            For the rest of the 1970s, Brave & Bold seemed to rely on its popularity.
            This was the lowest point in Brave & Bold history, if only because it was its least creative.  Sales were still good and solid (it went monthly in this period as did many DC comics), and the stories and art were sometimes fantastic. But as a reflection of the superhero comics industry at the time, Brave & Bold seemed tired and in need of some fresh ideas. Batman met only ten new characters (that is, they never appeared before in B&B) in this fifty-issue run, and one of them was Superman.  That averages one new team-up every two years.
Most of the new team-ups were exciting in idea if not in application.  Some of Batman’s most bizarre partners were in this time period – the Demon, Manbat, Kamandi, Swamp Thing, the Unknown Soldier and Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter!  Mr. Miracle appeared – the only nod to Kirby’s Fourth World series going on elsewhere at National.
These new heroes reflected National’s attempt to refresh their line in the 1970s.  Kirby’s work (including the aforementioned Kamandi), gave a shot of excitement at National. The horror genre was at its peak with DC’s mystery magazines such as Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing putting out excellent stories and art.  Sword and sorcery magazines came back – harkening to B&B’s earliest days only with a more modern twist (read: more sex and violence) – Warlord, Claw, Stalker.  DC even tried pulp heroes (the Shadowand the Avenger in Justice Inc.) and gave villains their own comics – Kobra, the Secret Society of Supervillains and the Joker!
            While these comics were wonderful and exciting in themselves, the superhero genre was stagnating.  At one time the two biggest selling comics at National, both Justice League of Americaand Brave & Bold were at their lowest ebb.  Even turning the comics into 100 page giants packed with new material and wonderful reprints couldn’t help boost sales in a faltering economy.
            The price of comics going from ten to twelve to fifteen, twenty-five, fifty cents hurt sales; a lot.
            Maybe it was also partly the fault of the editor, Murray Boltinoff, and his choice of guests. He insisted B&B feature “real” heroes – no more ubermensch in underwear with impossible and inexplicable powers.  Reprints in the 100 page giants consisted of Viking Prince, Silent Knight, Green Arrow, Secret Six, Teen Titans and Blackhawk stories.  While this idea worked for Charleton comics (this was one of Dick Giordano’s favorite mantras), at B&B it made for boring team-ups.  Wildcat appeared on average every eight issues.  Green Arrow appeared annually.
Plus the guests seemed interchangable – Metamorpho could have been Plastic Man could have been the Metal Men.  Green Arrow could have been Wildcat could have been Black Canary.  Batman needed someone to investigate a health spa who could not be seen. He called Deadman. Why not the Martian Manhunter? Come to think of it, why not Element Girl instead of Metamorpho?  Why not Black Orchid instead of Wonder Woman? Dolphin instead of Aquaman? They did it once – with Supergirl instead of Superman, and it worked!  They didn’t take the hint…
            Imagine Batman meeting the New Gods or the Forever People (Mr. Miracle’s appearances hardly mentioned the Fourth World: there was one appearance by Granny Goodness and a mention of Darkseid but otherwise Miracle’s three team-ups added nothing to the mythos).  Or imagine his teaming with the Avenger, Travis Morgan the Warlord, Captain Comet, Code Name: Assassin or Kirby’s Sandman.
            Meanwhile, Marvel was once again beating DC at its own game:  The Thing in Marvel Two-in-One, introduced new characters such as Spiderwoman and teamed with Doc Savage.  Spiderman’s Marvel Team-Up guest-starred Howard the Duck and the cast of Saturday Night Live.  It had continuing story lines with more than one guest (Thor and Havok in one, Dr. Strange and Ms. Marvel in another, Hulk, Woodgod and Warlock in yet another!).  How can B&B top that?
            Ironically, Batman was having more exciting team-ups elsewhere other than in his own team-up magazine.  Walt Simonson’s Manhunter fought Batman in Detective Comics; the Shadow out-spooked Batman in both Batman and Detective Comics, where he also “met” the ghost of Enemy Ace. On television he met Scooby Doo for goodness’ sake!
This is why the stranger team-ups (Swamp Thing, Kamandi, Manbat) seemed sostrange and brought a lot of response, positive or not. Swamp Thing? I gotta buy that!  Kamandi and Batman together? How? Good or bad, the powers-that-be didn’t look at sales figures, only what they thought would “work”.  For that matter, however, when the stories worked, they worked.  The Joker team-up is one of the best selling comics of this era. But then they wondered why the fourth Wildcat story in as many years didn’t sell as well. Even adding the Joker as the titled villain to a Wildcat story didn’t help sales.  And the editors asked, “Why?”
Still, it wasn’t all that bad: experiments were made – three of B&B’s four three-person team-up (the fourth being the 100th anniversary issue) and two of its five multi-part story lines appeared in this era (both with Green Arrow {sigh} well, their hearts were in the right place). The villainous Ruby Ryder appears in several issues to taunt Batman and Bruce Wayne – a small attempt to make B&B truly a third Batman book?  But as is the danger of team-up books, continuity and characterization must take a back seat to getting our heroes together to beat the bad guys in about twenty pages (not counting the unnecessary splash).
But such attempts were fleeting and (apparently) unnecessary.  B&B still had good sales and loyal readers from years past (the sales drop was proportionate to the industry as a whole), and the marvelous Aparo art was always spectacular, giving B&B its distinct look. This was the time when Aparo made his nitch as the Batman artist. As influential to Batman as Wayne Boring or Curt Swan were to Superman.
It wasn’t the best, but it was still good!  And that’s all that matters!
Isn’t it?
(Unless otherwise stated, Bob Haney wrote and Jim Aparo drew the issues)
May 1972
#101:   … & Metamorpho, “Cold Blood, Hot Gun”
            Writer: Bob Haney, Artist: Jim Aparo.
            A Gothammansion is being sold via sealed-bid auction.  A hired killer named Bounty Hunter is trying to eliminate everyone who submitting a bid, including Bruce Wayne and Metamorpho’s girlfriend Sapphire Stagg!  Who hired him and why? Ends up being one of the brothers selling the mansion.
            This issue features a blurb for the return of a Metamorpho strip in Action Comics, a reprint of a B&B Viking Prince story and a third letter by Bob Rozakis is published.
#102:   … & Teen Titans, “Commune of Defiance”
            Writer: Bob Haney, Artist: Jim Aparo and Neal Adams.  These masters working together result in one of the best artwork in comics!  Wondergirl never looked prettier (in all of three panels she was in!  Boo! Hiss!)
            Barcleyville is Gotham’s oldest city, but now it’s a crime-ridden slum and set for demolition.  The Young Aquarians (a good-natured youth gang) can prevent the town’s demolition if in 30 days they can roust out all the muggers and pushers and clean up the town. It works, until the mob boss brings in his hired goons during the victory block party! The plot is somewhat reminiscent of issue #84 (ghetto teens clean up their town), but this was executed better, almost as if it were a rewrite.
            This is Aparo’s second visit to Barcleyville, the town was featured in Phantom Stranger #4, which he also drew.
            Also features a silver age Robotman story, also featuring his fellow Doom Patroller, the Chief. Rozakis and uber-comics-fan (the late) Robert Morrisey have letters.
#103:   … & Metal Men, “A Traitor Lurks Inside Earth”
            Writer: Bob Haney, Artist: Bob Brown.  Twenty cents?  That’s better!  Well, they did cut the page count in half, but we’re paying five cents less than last issue for the same number of pages before the price hike when it was fifteen cen – HEY!!  Bob Rozakis’ name is again mentioned in the letter column applauding #101.
            John Doe, the robot in charge of all USnuclear missiles goes insane.  Batman asked the help of the newly-reformed Metal Men, until they decide to join John Doe’s side! As with #101 (Metamorpho), this issue picks up the threads to the guests’ canceled magazine.
#104:   … & Deadman: “Second Chance for a Deadman”
             Deadman helps Batman infiltrate and gather evidence on a Florida spa that also changes the identities of fugitive criminals!  Only one problem: Deadman falls in love with the woman in charge!
            Bob Rozakis’ and Mark Gruenwald’s letters are published.
#105:   … & Wonder Woman, “Pay Now – Die Later”
            Another Bob Rozakis letter (anyone keeping track?  Seven so far, six in a row) appears. This issue features superb art by Aparo – a shining star among a galaxy of great performances in Brave & Bold by “Jaunty Jim”!
            A senorita and her revolutionary brother ask Bruce Wayne to pay their father’s ransom before he reveals the location of his country’s exiled treasure trove. Waynesuspects a scam and enlists Wonder Woman’s help to expose it all. Trouble is, Batman finds out it isn’t a scam after all!  Is it too late?
#106:   … & Green Arrow, “Double Your Money or Die”
            Eighth Rozakis letter.  And a letter by professional fan-boy, the late Rich Morrisey from Framingham, Mass. also contributes.
            There are “five little shareholders” who will cash in a ten million dollar dividend.  Unfortunately, someone is killing them off – the sole survivor is Oliver Queen!  If all shareholders die, the money goes to a Swiss clinic dedicated to new plastic surgery techniques.  Ah, thatexplains Two Face’s murderous intent.
            This is the first appearance of a major Batman villain in seven years – since the Joker-Penguin-Riddler team in #66.
            It is a greatstoryline!! Full of twists and turns! A blatant Haney-ism though:  Queen is no longer destitute and collects the ten million in dividends at the end of the story! This is explained later – either the story took place before Queen lost his fortune, or Queen is the type to “… gain a million, lose a million”. Or Haney goofed.
#107:   … & Black Canary, “The 3 Million Dollar Sky”
            Another Rozakis mention, as well as regular letter contributer Joe Rusnak.  Note that B&B’s letter columns read more like movie posters than actual letters – “Fantastic,” says Bob Rozakis of Elmont, NY; “Fair,” Keith Griffin of Mobile, Ala. Writes; “Blows!” Mike Curry of St. Louis, MOshouts. This way the editors can mention twenty or more letter-writers in one issue. Every few issues someone complains about publishing complete letters and addresses so they can contact fellow fans, but the editors continually refuse to do so. Too bad, it would help establish a stronger fan base if they could contact each other and discuss their favorite issues.
            A skyjacker demands three million dollars, the release of a drug kingpin and a trip to San Pedro. Batman and Black Canary disguise as an aviator and a stewardess (you are left to you own devises as to who disguised as whom!) to foil the plot.
#108:   … & Sgt. Rock, “The Night Batman Sold his Soul”
            No Batman didn’t sign on to be the commercial spokesmen for Pepsi, he shouted that he’d give his soul to be rescued after being trapped in a well during a manhunt. Now the old man who rescued him claims to have his soul! Batman thinks he is the devil, Rock thinks he’s an alive-and-well Adolph Hitler (there’s a difference?).
            Letters? Yep, Rozakis again – ten times so far, ninth in a row.
            B&B’s first swear word – “hell” – is used three times, but in context (“we’ve gone into the bowels of Hell”) rather than cursing.  They are fighting the devil after all! So I guess that’s all right…
#109:   … & Demon, “Gotham Be My Grave”
            The first Kirby-created character to appear with Batman!  And discounting the Bat Squad (who weren’t established characters) and the House of Mystery (that was more of a style than a team-up), this is the first new team-up since Adam Strange in #90 – three years ago!  “Hell” is mentioned twice in this story, but still not used as swear words. Still … they’re pushing it!  Rozakis, Keith Griffen and Richard Morrisay all contribute to the letter page.
            A sailor condemned to death in 1883 returns to haunt Gothamkilling all sailors and seamen in its path.
Copyright (c) 2012 Michael G. Curry

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