Batman team-ups from the 1970s including Batman tries to exorcize himself of the ghost of a Portuguese sailor, trying to foster mutual understanding between adults and some well-intentioned teenagers who are holding Gotham City hostage with a nuclear bomb!And will the Metal Men refuse to help Batman because of robot lib?
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Batman joins forces with the fastest man alive! Killers[?] from another dimension and three random British people. We’ll tell you all about it as we look at Showcase Presents Brave and the Bold: Batman Team Ups Volume Two.
Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here’s your host, Adam Graham.
I love a good team up book and DC was kind of the leader in getting those started. They had the original monthly team up between Batman and Superman in World’s Finest. In the Silver Age they took Brave and the Bold, what had been a series with a colored past and various formats – more recently a tryout book like Showcase Presents, and the featured team ups between various superheroes. Batman team ups begin to dominate, and then with Issue Seventy-Four it became an exclusive Batman team up book. I am reviewing this using Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold: Batman Team Ups Volume Two, but there have been some more modern collections from DC called Brave and the Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus and then just plain Brave and the Bold. Bronze Age, the one that’s the Omnibus takes Issue Seventy-Four and goes all the way up to Issue 121, while the Brave and the Bold goes from Seventy-Four to Ninety-One.
Now while these stories are set in where many define the Bronze Age to be – they were written in the 1970s and the art reflects a lot of that ’70s artistic style, particularly in this collection. You have art by Ross Andru and then Nick Cardy, they fully invested into the 1970s style. However, a lot of the stories have a Silver Age feel to them. At this point the comics were changing – there was more of a focus on being a little more grown up, not talking down to kids; and Marvel had captured the imagination of a lot of older kids by – while still being fairly family friendly by modern standards – also being a bit more grown up. DC is trying to do this, and there’s a sense of trying to be a bit more mature, but there’s still this underlying layer of goofiness that comes off so often. And it’s not like the intentional goofiness of the ’60s stories, so there can be some of these that are just a bit awkward. That said, we’re going to take a look at the first few issues. I won’t cover every single team up. Someone not particularly impressive either as good or bad.
Most of these – with one exception…all of these actually are written by Bob Haney – the art is by various people: Nick Cardy is on most of the ones that we cover here.
Issue Eighty-Eight was a notable, ‘Count Ten and Die’ because it had Wildcat, i.e. Ted Grant, a former boxer meeting up with Batman, and Batman bringing him out of retirement both as a boxer/boxing coach and eventually as Wildcat. And it’s a fun adventure that involves Batman and Wildcat having to contend with the Soviet propaganda machine. I enjoyed that one pretty well. I
Issue Ninety is another one of those stories which really is not so much a Bronze Age story as it is a Silver Age story with a bronze coat of paint. Adam Strange is the guest character and I love Adam Strange. He is this character who was on earth and hit by a Zeta beam that took him across the galaxy, and he goes to this planet Rann where he is a hero who manages to save the day. And he’s continually being shot back and forth between Rann and Earth by the Zeta beam. Anyway, the Zeta beam sends Adam Strange into the future, and then he ends up coming back to the present with a ripped piece of newspaper clipping that has two newspaper articles – one that is bad news for Batman and the other that proclaims the death of Bruce Wayne. And Adam Strange rush to give Batman the newspaper and Batman takes a look at it and then Adam Strange delivers this immortal dialogue, “A real freaky thing, eh Batman? I knew you would want to see it. Now I must return to that symposium and read my paper. So long.” “ I just gave you news of your doom. Bye!” At the end of this, or at the root of this story is this idea that Batman tries to prevent what happens in the newspaper article and causes it to happen. Like I said, it’s a very Silver Age concept and, yeah, it doesn’t really make good use of Adam Strange.
Next up is “A Cold corpse for the Collector”, and this finds Black Canary coming to Earth One. to help out on a case but more importantly she would like to meet her husband’s doppelgänger – her husband died on Earth Two – and it’s an interesting story if a bit predictable. It’s kind of a weird thing the idea that superheroes relocating from Earth to Earth, particularly since this isn’t the Flash TV show where they have a portal where you can travel between Earths. So, I mean you have to ride on Jay Garrick’s back to vibrate to Earth One but apparently that was a thing. Issue Ninety-Two is unique, it’s called, ‘Night Wears a Scarlet Shroud’, and on the front cover it says it’s introducing the Bat Squad. And they introduce the Bat Squad who are never heard from again. It’s actually not a horrible idea. Batman is in London and there are some crimes going on, and he forms a team up with three amateur detectives, although they aren’t really detectives till he makes themselves, and they set out to solve the crime. Like I said, it’s not a bad idea and I wouldn’t mind if they did it again. I also really like the art on this. I think this is helped by the fact Showcase Presents is a Black and White book, and that really just adds to the sort of noirish feeling of the whole book.
Issue Ninety-Three is ‘Red Water, Crimson Death’, and this is crossover with the House of Mystery, and it’s also the only story not written by Bob Haney but rather written by Dennis O’Neil with art by Neal Adams. And this really does feel like a Batman story in the style of other Batman stories of the era. House of Mystery was kind of a spooky anthology series like The Twilight Zone, though perhaps not quite that good. There were some old time radio programs such as the Creaking Door that it bore a similarity to. Well, but it’s good art and it’s a solid story.
‘Rebels in the Street’ is the goofiest comic in the story, and it’s in Issue Ninety-Four, and they leave a note for Batman, “We, the undersigned, declare Gotham City to be under revolutionary siege. If our demands are not met we shall destroy Gotham entirely with an atomic bomb. We are not joking. Deal with us or die. Do not send the fuzz.” And it’s signed ‘Stop: Society to Outlaw Parent Power’. And what has happened is that these tens are holding the city hostage to a nuclear bomb, and are threatening to set it off they don’t meet their demands including having Batman and Commissioner Gordon put in a concentration camp. Batman, what makes this story really silly is that Batman tries to be – I’m going to be reasonable – and understanding and negotiate. And the problem is that we grown-ups have just not been understanding enough.
Look, there are youth activists that you should show some understanding and kindness to; people who use nuclear weapons to hold a city hostage and throw their opponents into concentration camps – those aren’t youth activists. That’s North Korea! I will say that it is a better attempt at a take on youth culture and the conflict between youth and adults than the original Team Titan story was.
‘Corpse on Delivery’, Issue Ninety-Five is a fun one where Batman actually ends up kind of acting like a hard-boiled detective. He’s hired to go and find this woman’s husband where he is lost in the jungle; and in the process of this adventure where he’s getting beat up and trying to solve this Missing Person’s case, he actually brings back a Golden Age character who was part of the Quality Comics line and hadn’t yet been seen in DC. So, it’s a really cool story.
‘The Striped Pants War’, Issue Ninety-Six is notable because it introduces the modern day version of Sergeant Rock. Sergeant Rock starred in a lot of DC comicsas he led Easy Company into battle and continued to appear in World War II stories. In the previous Showcase Presents Brave and the Bold, Batman had gone back in time to the 1940s. I like the idea better of him being in the modern times and this is something that you can really only get away with in the Silver and Bronze Age, because in general Sarge would be too old
We’re going to skip comments on Issue Ninety-Eight for now. Issue Ninety-Nine sees one of the few stories where Batman teams up with what I’d consider to be a DC Comics A-Lister, an original Justice League Member. He teams up with the fastest man alive, The Flash, and it turns out to be the second goofiest story in the book because while he is vacationing Bruce Wayne/Batman is possessed by the spirit of a dead Portuguese harpooner. He recounts on Page Six of the comic, “So, it appears I’ve twice been possessed by this dead Portuguese harpooner’s personality”, and The Flash says, “Hmmm. I’ve heard of such possessions back then. Yeah, a very common thing, far more common than you think Batman.”
This shows probably one of Bob Haney’s weaknesses as a writer, and that is that he will make things up without checking to be sure he’s in continuity. In this case he’s trying to create a spooky story about Batman’s parents and their urn, and them having unleashed some forces that have stopped them from being able to truly find rest, and Batman concerned about his parents urn which is in this cabin he’s staying at. The problem is that we have seen Batman at his parents’ graveside so many times that we’re just kind of thinking ‘Wait. What is this?’
Brave and the Bold Number 103 is actually one of my favorites in the book, and it features the Metal Men who are characters from the DC Universe, particularly the Silver Age, I don’t much care for. They generally do some manipulation, get turned evil by whoever the villain of the week is, and don’t do much interesting. But in this issue they’re actually quite funny. Batman needs their help against an evil robot AI known as John Doe. However, the Metal Men aren’t interested in that because they are getting into the ‘Robot Lib Movement’. That’s a hilarious concept the way that it plays out. It’s a fun little bit of satire and probably my favorite Metal Men story, but that’s not saying a whole lot given my general regard for them.
Alright, well that is about all for now. You’ll notice that I skipped very intentionally over Issue Ninety-Eight and Issue 100-102. This is because these were stories drawn by Jim Aparo who became a legendary Batman artist, so much so that his works on Brave and the Bold have been collected in several volumes. Over the next two episodes we will look at the first volume of his work on Brave and the Bold. In the meantime, send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy, and check out our website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.