More Batman and the Brave and the Bold team-ups as Batman teams up with the Joker, and later joins forces with the Metal Men to stop radical Native Americans from taking the Constitution and Declaration of Independence hostage.
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Get ready for the ultimate Batman team up. It’s Batman and the Joker! We’ll tell you all about it next as we conclude our look at Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Volume One straight ahead.
Welcome the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
In the previous episode, we took a look at those Jim Aparo stories that appeared in Issues Ninety-Eight, 100 to 102, and 104 to 108. Now we turn to those that were between 109 and 122, and again I’m only focusing on those that I think are interesting. ‘Death has the Last Laugh’ is probably one of the more intriguing titles. The front cover advertises it as the strangest team up in history, Batman and the Joker with Batman protecting the Joker from the police. That doesn’t actually happen in the story, but it draws you in. Actually, when the story opens Batman is at the scene of what appears to be the Joker’s latest crime, killing an entire family and leaving each one holding a Joker Card. And this leads to Batman proclaiming, “By God, Joker, you’ve done your last criminal act! I swear, this time, to hunt you down and destroy you like the mad dog you are!” I love how Aparo sets that apart – the frame is separate from the opening spread, and it has Batman on a red background which reinforces the anger.
Now when he is leaving the crime scene Gordon reminds Batman that he can’t actually kill the Joker legally. Batman says, “I’m making no promises. You’d better catch the Joker before I do – if you want him alive.” That’ not something we’re used to Batman saying but Batman is truly ticked off and he doesn’t actually end up killing the Joker in the comic. It’s a human moment and it works. However, evidence begins to emerge that maybe the Joker didn’t commit the crime, and it appears that someone else has framed the Joker, and the Joker doesn’t like it one bit and we get the setup for a team up between Batman and the Joker. I won’t say how it plays out but it is a brilliant story with some great twist and it also highlights the importance of Batman’s relationship with Commissioner Gordon.
Issue 112 is ‘The Impossible Escape’ and it features Mr. Miracle, and Batman in a case that requires going into an old Egyptian temple. There are some good twists and what’s really interesting about it is they’re pretty much apart and interacting until the final few pages. Issue 113 is ‘The Fifty Story Killer’ where a new regime comes into City Hall and Gordon is forced to retire and Batman is sympathetic as you would always expect Batman to be. But his thought bubbles shows his thoughts, “Poor Gordon is getting too old. They did him a favor retiring him before he becomes decrepit. Hope someone does that for me when my time comes.” And immediately he’s informed that he is being retired as the city’s defender and being replaced by the Metal Men. Batman continues to fight but is given a cease and desist order. I guess that’s a downside of the whole Deputized Agent of the Law thing that Batman had going on in the 1970s. So, Batman is forced into retirement until the Metal Men run into something they can’t handle, which not surprisingly doesn’t take long. I’m not a huge fan of the Metal Men, and this story doesn’t really do enough to justify some of its silly terms.
‘The Last Jet to Gotham’ is a fascinating story because a jet carrying a key witness goes down in the ocean, and Batman contacts the Aqua Man to see if he knows anything about it, and Aqua Man does. In fact, he brought it down. It’s a solid tale that has Batman questioning Aqua Man’s motives throughout, and they’re not really revealed until the end. So, it’s an interesting case for the Batman to look into. Issue 115 is ‘The Corpse that Wouldn’t Die’ and here’s the plot: Batman is made brain dead in battle so he can’t finish pursuing the last suspect he was after. However, Ray Palmer, The Atom happens to be around so he shrinks himself inside Batman and begins dancing and manipulating Batman’s synaptic nerves until he moves. And so you have The Atom operating Batman kind of like a puppet, and of course Batman ends up OK by the end of the story. It’s probably the silliest story in this book.
‘Grasp of the Killer Cold’ features a visit from The Spectre, i.e. Jim Corrigan. The story is noteworthy for a couple of things, mainly it’s that Gordon just continually picks at Corrigan, throws shade on him in all sorts of ways. My favorite is when Corrigan tells him that a suspect got away from him and Gordon says, “Some sleuth. Guess the Batman and I will have to catch the real killers, whoever they are.” And another favorite part in this story is when Batman almost discloses The Spectre’s secret identity, because he’s speaking to Corrigan and he says, “Nice work Spectre…I mean Jim”. Real subtle there… This does have a little bit of spookiness with The Spectre and it works as a Spectre story. ‘May the Best Man Die’ is Issue 118 and it features Batman and Wildcat once again. In it, Wildcat’s fighting a benefit bout at the prison where one of the Joker’s men is being held in solitary confinement and about to crack. The warden determines that despite promising Batman and Gordon to keep the guy in solitary he’s going to let him out to fight Wildcat’s alter ego Ted Grant. And the Joker works in an opportunity to spread a plague that will kill everyone in the prison unless Batman and Wildcat find the solution which involves bringing in a dog that has antibodies which will counter the effects. And it ends up with Batman and Wildcat being forced by the Joker to fight one another. This is a pretty good story, it’s got somewhat of a weak ending. This was actually the first Issue of Brave and the Bold that was monthly. Prior Issues were bi-monthly, and so the story ended up having a little less room and so the ending’s a bit more abrupt than many other have been.
Issue 119 I won’t talk about too much but it’s Batman and Man Bat teaming up as part of an effort to bring a fugitive who’d escaped to the fictional Central American country of Santa Cruz. It’s interesting because in the Bronze Age Man-Bat had actually tried to become a superhero. He had his own comic book and he also had his own strip in Batman Family Magazine. Apparently the folks at DC saw the potential of him to be kind of one of these tragic Marvel-type heroes, and it’s not bad. It’s probably not my cup of tea but Man-Bat is fairly interesting, and this is a decent story. Issue 120 is ‘The Earth is Mine’ which features a team up of Batman and Kamandi. Now if you recall Kamandi was created by Jack Kirby. He was from a post-apocalyptic world that existed after what was known as The Great Disaster where mankind had been forced back into caveman day. So, how did Batman get there? Well it involved an issue of Brave and the Bold Number 118 that had survived the Apocalypse and by all looks it had survived in mint condition, and that let them know about Batman. And then they used Native American magic to bring him back, and then Batman is discovered by the roaming animals that are sanctioned and ruling the planet, and thought to be an animal himself and so he is named Captain Bat and commands the animal legions who are hunting for the humans until he can turn the tables. And he does so with the aid of a tape recorder that survived this apocalyptic event and still works. And as I said on Twitter, that makes the radio that worked on Gilligan’s Island seem very plausible by comparison.
Issue 121 has Batman and the Metal Men protecting the Freedom Train which was a bicentennial train that traveled through the country with exhibits of US history. And that is a great part of the story – what’s not so great is who the villains turn out to be. They turn out to be a group of secret Native American extremists who have lived while hiding their heritage so that they can seize the Freedom Train and hold the Constitution and Declaration of Independence for ransom. Yes, the plot is as bad as it sounds. But Issue 122 is much better. It’s ‘The Hour of the Beast’ and it finds Swamp Thing having been brought to Gotham City as part of an exhibition, with the owner of the show thinking that he can make a profit off of Swamp Thing, not truly fully understanding his nature. However, when a plague of vines hits the city Swamp Thing is blamed and it’s up to Batman to save Swamp Thing and get his help to save the city. And overall this is a great story, it’s what I would expect a Swamp Thing story to be. Good art as always with Aparo and a good, solid, well-though out tale.
Overall I think there are a few things that need to be said. Bob Haney wasn’t a perfect writer but he’s a better writer than many people gave him credit for. He wrote a lot of goofy stories and a lot of serious stories that ended up being a bit goofy, particularly towards the early part of the ’70s. However, he also wrote a lot of scary stories, stories that were genuinely good mysteries, as well as stories that were intentionally goofy and in a way that really worked. Again, he’s not perfect but he’s adapted to the Bronze Age much better than you would have thought looking at the earlier stories in the Showcase Presents version. Jim Aparo’s art is just fantastic; it’s great and imaginative drawing of Batman, as well as all the other characters. Brave and the Bold is interesting in that it’s endlessly fascinating but you’re mostly not dealing with DC Comics’ A-List. You’re dealing with B-Listers and occasionally a C-List hero. But that shows the strength of DCs overall lineup that you’ve created these characters who can be interesting, who can play off Batman and they’re not major named players in the DC universe. And I found myself just endlessly fascinated and looking forward to each day I was going to read another Issue in this book. They were just a blast to read through, and so despite some of the more problematic issues I will give this…give both Showcase Presents Brave and the Bold: Batman Team Ups Volume Two, and Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Volume One a rating of Classy. There were some very good Batman stories in the 1970s and certainly these are worth a look. They take a slightly darker turn in some cases than you saw during the Silver Age, but they’re not grim dark and I think they’re definitely worth a read.
Alright, well that’s it for now. If you do have a comment send it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy and check out our website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.