Monday, 6 August 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: The Brave and The Bold

The best team-up book in my personal top 5 will come as no surprise and is The Brave and The Bold,

1 - The Brave and The Bold (DC Comics)

Brave and The Bold #50 (October/November 1963)
Art by George Roussos
Launched in August 1955 as an adventure comic by legendary writer/editor Bob Kanigher, the comic went through many changes of direction and famously launched the Justice League of America in #28 (February/March 1960) under the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz.  The team-up concept was suggested to an incoming editorial team of Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan by Bob Haney and first appeared in #50 (October/November 1963).


The title owed its success to the strong story telling of Bob Haney and the great art from some of DC's finest artists including Murphy Anderson, Nick Cardy, Neal Adams and Jim Aparo.  In the early issues the headliners rotated around the DC universe and during this time we saw the debut of the Teen Titans in #54 (June/July 1964) and Metamorpho in #57 (December 1964/January 1965) both co-created by Haney.

Brave and The Bold #54 (June/July 1964)
Art by Bruno Premiani
Bob Haney would look closely at the sales figures before deciding which characters to feature in future issues  but he really wanted a major star to feature as headliner and suggested Superman.  Mort Weisinger flatly refused to authorise the use of DC's biggest star so Haney suggested Batman.  The Caped Crusader made his first appearance with Green Lantern in #59 (April/May 1965) but didn't become the regular star of the book until the massive success of the television series which first aired in January 1966.  From #67 (August/September 1966)  until cancellation with #200 (July 1983) Batman was the featured character in all  of the team-ups (except #72 and #73 which were previously commissioned tales featuring Spectre and the Flash and Aquaman and the Atom respectively).

Brave and The Bold #59 (April/May 1965)
Art by Gil Kane
Brave and The Bold #67 (August/September 1966)
Pencil art by Carmine Infantino, inks: Joe Giella and Murphy Anderson
Artist Carmine Infantino and editor Julius Schwartz had introduced the "new look" Batman for the sixties in Detective Comics #327 (May 1964) but it was in the pages of The Brave and The Bold that Neal Adams introduced the image of Batman that remains the template  for the Dark Knight in the twenty first century.  Adams first rendering of Batman appeared on the cover of #75 (December 1967/January 1968).

Brave and The Bold #75 (December 1967/January 1968)
Art by Neal Adams
Another highpoint was Adams' collaboration with Bob Haney on the Deadman team-up in #79 (August/September 1968)  which won the Alley Award for Best Full-Length Story for 1968.

Brave and The Bold #79 (August/September 1968)
Art by Neal Adams
The Brave and The Bold also saw the first appearance of Neal Adams' update of Green Arrow's costume and facial hair in #85 (August/September 1969).

Brave and The Bold #85 (August/September 1969)
Art by Neal Adams
Jim Aparo became the main artist for the vast majority of the comic's final 102 issues in #98 (October/November 1971) and became one of the defining Batman artists for the 1970s and 80s.

A panel from Brave and The Bold #109 (October/November 1973)
Art by Jim Aparo, script by Bob Haney
Aparo's very stylish, semi-realistic depiction of Batman coupled with the zany plots and scripts of Haney produced many memorable stories including an issue when Batman sold his soul and defeated Hitler in partnership with Sgt. Rock, #108 (August/September 1973).

Brave and The Bold #108 (August/September 1973)
Art by Jim Aparo
There was also a story in which Batman is pronounced brain dead so the Atom enters the dead Caped Crusader's skull and stomps on his brain which activates Batman's instincts so he can punch out the bad guy.  The Atom's stomping also brings him back to life (The Corpse That Wouldn't Die, #115 (October/November 1974).  Isn't this why you love comics?

The Atom stomps on Batman's brain in Brave and The Bold #115 (October/November 1974)
Art by Jim Aparo, Script by Bob Haney
The combination of  the crazed mind of Bob Haney and the perfect pencils of Jim Aparo was a match made in comics heaven.  You want meta-fiction? Haney would give it to you as in #124 (January 1976) which featured Sgt. Rock assisting Batman alongside artist Jim Aparo, editor Murray Boltinoff and Haney himself who ensure that the story finishes with the heroes defeating the evil-doers.

Brave and The Bold #124 (January 1976)
Art by Jim Aparo
Bob Haney is one of the great unsung heroes of comic books.  A self-confessed "hack" who was proud of never missing a deadline he totally understood that comics are primarily about fun and improbable situations which could only happen in the world of word balloons, panel borders and cheap paper stock.  Today Hollywood produces movies using CGI that translate the improbable into the possible.  In my youth this was only possible with comics created  by writers with the imagination of someone like Haney and the artistic skills of a master such as Aparo.

Haney had studied French History at Columbia University in New York City after leaving the US Navy.  He served on a destroyer in the Pacific and took part in the battle for Okinawa in 1944.  This experience helped him with his long career in war comics, which included the first Sgt. Rock story (G I Combat #68, January 1959).  Allegedly Haney was one of the few writers who could work with the fierce war comics editor Bob Kanigher.  His studies may have contributed to the Brave and The Bold issue in which Batman and Green Arrow travel through time to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 to find a magic arrow, #144 (November 1978), another nostalgic favourite from my youth.

Brave and The Bold #144 (November 1978)
Art by Jim Aparo
Alas the pairing of Haney and Aparo was drawing to a close.  Paul Levitz became editor with #139 (January/February 1978) and felt that Haney's scripts were too old fashioned so, horror of horrors, he started using other writers in rotation with Haney, such as Cary Burkett (who?).  Levitz also started to tell Haney which characters to use instead of leaving the choice up to Haney who had always used whatever characters he wanted regardless of continuity issues.  Haney chose his characters based on what sold well and who fitted the plot.  Levitz was more concerned in building a consistent continuity based on the Marvel model and Haney was eased out to be replaced by writers who had defected from Jim Shooter's Marvel such as Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman.  Haney's last issue was co-scripted with Mark W. Barr and appeared in #157 (December 1979).  Aparo continued to provide the excellent art but the magic was gone.

Bob Haney continued to write the excellent Unknown Soldier until that title's cancellation in 1982 (#268, October 1982) and slipped unnoticed from the pages of DC Comics.  He had been with the company for almost thirty years and written hundreds of truly memorable comics.  He was recently recognised in 2011 with the Bill Finger Memorial Award for Excellence in Comics Writing at the Eisners.  Unfortunately he didn't live to see this having died in 2004.  A true giant of comics who will forever be associated with the top team-up book of all time:  The Brave and The Bold.



4 comments:

  1. After the original adventure format (Viking Prince, Robin Hood, Silent Knight), B&B was a tryout comic, like "Showcase," for a while. Some strips, like Suicide Squad and Strange Sports Stories, didn't quite catch on. Others, like JLA and Hawkman, were popular enough to spin off into their own series. There may have been some tentative plan to make Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter a permanent team, like Superman and Batman in World's Finest. JLA #24 mentions that the Superman-Batman team and "the newly formed team of Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter" are absent from that month's Justice League meeting because they are away on other cases. But, evidently, sales on B&B #50 were not enough to warrant a regular GA-MM series. Maybe they were just too similar to Superman and Batman. No need for an imitation World's Finest team when DC was already publishing the real thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, not only was The Brave and The Bold the greatest team-up book it was second only to Showcase as the best try-out book and one of the best adventure books as well. I am planning a future post about Kanigher, Haney and Kubert's superb Viking Prince. To think DC replaced it in the schedules with Batman and The Outsiders!

      Delete
  2. Brave and Bold introduced Green Arrow's new look and also returned Batman to his original "dark knight" image ("Batman" and "Detective Comics" were still showing the influence of the campy TV series, although the comics never got quite as self-consciously silly as the TV show). It was not surprising that Batman became the regular star of B&B in 1966-67. DC was trying to cash in on the Batmania generated by the TV series. It is kind of ironic that Batman began his uninterrupted run as permanent co-star with #74 (summer 1967). By then, the Bat-fad was already starting to pass.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Neal Adams' iconic re-designs for Batman and Green Arrow are reasons enough on their own for Brave and The Bold's classic status.

      Delete