Friday, June 1, 2012

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 105

The Brave and the Bold #105 (January/February 1973)
"Play Now... Die Later!"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo

Doug:   Today we're taking a look at another B&B classic from the Bronze Age team of scribe Bob Haney and artist supreme Jim Aparo.  This issue may be a curiosity to some of our readers not counted among those self-labelled as Wonder Woman fans.  Does everyone in attendance know that the Amazon princess endured a period from September/October 1968 (Wonder Woman #178) to November/December 1972 (Wonder Woman #203) as simply Diana Prince?  In that long-running arc, Diana was depowered and existed as more of an Emma Peel-type of spy/adventurer.  Even though her own book transitioned back to the traditional costume and storylines of yore in the same month that today's B&B hit the stands, Haney and Aparo spun a tale of Ms. Prince without the star-spangled bun-huggers, patriotic bustier, golden lasso, etc.  Let's check it out.

Doug:  We're dropped into a Latin restaurant where Bruce Wayne is finishing his meal.  Wayne birddogs a beautiful senorita, accompanied by a duena -- an older single woman serving as her chaperone.  The maitre d tells our hero that it is indeed strange that a girl would be out at such a late hour, even with a duena.  So, Bruce offers them a ride to anywhere in his limousine.  The duena declines rather bruskly and the two women speed away on foot.  But by the time Wayne gets outside the two women have been accosted by a couple of muggers.  Springing to action, Wayne decks one of the do-badders.  Pilar, the now-named duena, collapses.  As Wayne turns his attention the muggers run off.  And you know what?  Alfred ends up chauffeuring the ladies after all.

Doug:  But this isn't going to be easy.  As the limo speeds toward a hospital, the young lady introduces herself as Conchita Vasquez of the fictional Latin American nation of San Sebastian.  And then gunfire erupts ahead of the Rolls.  Stopping the car, Alfred lets Bruce Wayne excuse himself.  He re-emerges in his fightin' togs and jumps right into the middle of a gang war, with a little boy caught in the crossfire.  The Batman manages to disrupt the gunplay with the heaving of a couple of trashcans, and spirits the lad to safety.  One of the men has a machine gun.  About this time a few police squad cars arrive, one with Commissioner Gordon.  Batman gets his hands on a shooter, and Gordon identifies the man as being part of a gang war that's been brought to Gotham City from the streets of San Sebastian.  Once at the station, the gunman identifies himself as Raoul Vasquez, Revolutionary.  Ah, the plot begins to thicken.

Doug:  Back to the hospital, Bruce Wayne tells Conchita Vasquez that her duena Pilar will be all right.  Bob Haney begins here what I find to be an incredibly clumsy effort at authentism (I made that word up), which is the inclusion of some Spanish in his dialogue.  The trouble is, rather than show a word balloon in Spanish and translated in a narration box (a common tool in comics), he drops in words like "muy", "amigo", "hombre", and "que pasa" -- but with the former or subsequent word being in English.  It's just distracting, and detracting in my opinion.  And one more thing -- does anyone's Batman other than Haney's use the term "commish"?  I am thinking not.  But back to the plot: 

Doug:  As Wayne and Conchita go outside, they are mugged (sheesh!) by some Latino toughs.  We find that ol' Raoul must have made bail, because he is among them.  He chastises Conchita, his sister, for being alone with Wayne -- Conchita explains that Bruce Wayne is willing to help them.  Raoul explains that the Vasquez family is opposed by the Montoyas, who have kidnapped Raoul's and Conchita's father and have brought him to Gotham City as their hostage.  For a ransom, they will stop torturing him -- it is the location of a great treasure they desire.  Wayne agrees to give them the money for their father's freedom, then leaves with Alfred.  Once in the car, Bruce explains that this is all a scam -- a variation on the old Spanish prisoner con.  Alfred finds it hard to believe, but Bruce feels the Batman will catch them at it.

Doug:  Batman arrives at a special meeting at City Hall, where he meets Francisco Montoya.  Montoya spins the opposite tale that Batman had heard from the Vasquez family.  Commissioner Gordon and the mayor, distressed by the violence in the streets, agree to ally with Montoya.  Batman begins to set a plan into motion, but with some assistance.  As we turn the page, cue the entrance of Diana Prince, nee Wonder Woman.  Diana has applied to an agency in the Las Pampas neighborhood as a duena.  Of course, it just so happens that Conchita Vasquez is in need of a duena, but those jobs generally go to "old hags" and not beautiful young adventurers.  And of course again, she gets the job -- hey, these were done-in-ones after all!  She radios Batman to update him, and later that night Bruce Wayne pays a visit to Conchita and Diana.  He brings the ransom money, and even later that night Diana again contacts him to discuss the drop.

Doug:  Near a seaside warehouse (would you expect anything less?), Conchita and Diana meet El Moro.  The money is exchanged, and as el Moro begins to hand over a paper that allegedly holds the location of Senor Vasquez, gunmen appear.  El Moro runs and is pursued -- money and paper in hand.  Realizing that this may not be playing out as Batman had assumed, Diana goes into Emma Peel-mode and wipes out a couple of thugs.  However, she's pistol-whipped and goes down.  Batman begins to run along the rooftops above el Moro and his pursuers, but before he can act el Moro is gunned down.  Batman descends and saves the body from toppling over the wharf.  As he picks up the letter, Raoul Vasquez levels a gun at the back of his head and orders him to hand over the paper.  Had the Dark Knight miscalculated how this would play out?

Doug:  Batman calls Vasquez's bluff, only angering him and drawing a chops-bashing.  As the Caped Crusader crumbles the police arrive.  Shots are fired at Vasquez, but he avoids them and flees.  On his feet, Batman is shocked to see that Vasquez left all of the ransom money but took the paper!  Yep -- egg's on your face, Bruce!  Batman sprints away, frantically calling Wonder Woman over the radio; there's no answer, however, as Diana lays unconscious on the pier.  Batman hustles to the address he'd seen on the paper, to find a warehouse with a large billboard atop it.  On the billboard is a smoking ad, with a man blowing smoke rings.  But as Batman spies a manacle affixed to the wall, he's struck on the head from behind and knocked out.  He awakens to find that he is now held prisoner by the same manacle.  Cut to Diana Prince, who is about to be crushed by a speeding truck.  All of a sudden, Diana's Amazon Guardian Angel comes out of nowhere to snatch her away from certain death.  You read that correctly.

Doug:  As morning breaks, Diana is back in Las Pampas.  Suddenly she spies the billboard smoking like crazy.  Assuming that something is going on (because you would if you were in a Bob Haney book, wouldn't you?), she goes upstairs to the warehouse.  Batman is certainly glad to see her.  As Diana frees Batman, the door opens and in falls Raoul Vasquez.  Wounded by the GCPD, he staggered to the address on the paper.  Once in a talking frame of mind, Vasquez convinces Batman that it is indeed Montoya who is the bad guy.  Heading outside, the three find themselves near the Festival of the Fishermen -- a blessing for fishermen before their ships set sail.  Batman quickly deduces that the floats at the festival may contain the treasure -- especially as they see Montoya boarding one of the vessels.  Diana scurries across a rope to one of the boats as Vasquez and Batman trail.  Once in the hold, they find boxes marked "tortillas" actually contain plane parts!  Vasquez puts it together right away -- Montoya is sailing back to San Sebastian with a couple of war planes in his pocket to tip the revolution.  With this one shipment, Montoya will set himself up as dictator of San Sebastian!

Doug:  Back on deck, our heroes put away the toughs.  Batman makes his way to one of the cabins back below, where he finds Senor Vasquez and Conchita, both in the presence of Montoya -- who levels a gun at Vasquez's head.  But it's an open window that proves the undoing, as Diana suddenly slithers through and kicks the gun away.  Good guys win!

Doug:  Of the four Bob Haney/Jim Aparo stories I've reviewed so far, I find this one to be the most enjoyable.  To those of you who heap praises on Haney's plots -- I'm beginning to develop a small appreciation myself for his "ah, what the heck..." attitude toward plot holes, and downright zaniness.  Aparo is solid as ever -- he has a slick style akin to Dick Giordano when Giordano is penciller.  It's not quite Adamsian, but close.  However, I'm thinking at this time Aparo with Giordano inking over him would have been an improvement.  Don't get me wrong -- Aparo's great on his own.  But I think the art would have had a bit more polish to it with another hand in the kitchen.  But overall, this was a fun 20-minute diversion.


dbutler16 said...

I’ve never read any of the “Emma Peel” Wonder Woman stories, but I’ve been very interested in them . It sounds so 70’s! I bought The Greatest Wonder Woman Stories Ever Told recently, but unfortunately there aren’t any of those stories in it. I didn’t know she had a guardian angel, though. That sounds like a gimmick which should be used with discretion.

I love the 70’s Batman. It seems like almost no matter who that writer and artist is, it’s usually pretty cool and relatively consistent (IMHO) between different creative teams. Here, however, from what you’ve shown, Haney’s dialogue is pretty sloppy, to say the least. Yup, some typical Haney zaniness, also, which I’d gotten used to from reading Showcase Presents The Teen Titans. Hey, at least the Batman here isn’t infallible, the way the modern Batman seems to be. It’s always a shock to read these Bronze Age Batman stories and see somebody actually get the better of the Caped Crusader. I’m not a huge fan of Aparo, though the art here looks pretty good. His style is a decent fit for Batman. I agree with you, Doug, that it would have been more polished with Giordano inking. Really, that is my biggest complaint about Aparo’s pencils – they seem a bit rough to me.

Edo Bosnar said...

With reference to yesterday's post, I'd have to add that Wonder Woman's "mod" period is another run I'd like to read.
Otherwise, I have to respectfully disagree about Aparo; I think he was at his best when, which is usually the case in B&B, he did the whole package: pencils, inks and even letters.

david_b said...

I never was a big fan of Aparo.. just get tired of his facial styles, but will agree that this '70s Batman rendition really lifted the character up better than any other genre, even post-Super Friends.

And, to add more accolades, of all the DC hero mags to survive the readership lull coming into the Bronze Age (GL/GA, Aquaman, TT, WW, even Supes), Batman still flourished. That speaks volumes for this creative team.

Karen said...

I still think of Aparo when I think of comic book Batman (otherwise, if I think of Batman in the broadest sense, I think of the Batman from the Animated Series and Justice League cartoon). I still think he should be tall and lean but muscular. When I see him drawn with a huge hulking physique, which seems common nowadays, it just doesn't seem right.

dbutler16 said...

I wonder if the success of Batman: The Animated Series is responsible for the hulking Batman? I agree, I prefere him lean and muscular, sort of like a 6 foot 2 Bruce Lee. That's one reason that Neal Adams draws my definitive Batman, though there were plenty of good Batman artists in the 70's.

david_b said...

I would blame the hulking more on Miller's 'Dark Knight Returns'..

Big and over-bulky..? It was a novel approach, but as mentioned here MANY times before, that became the definitive style for way too long.

Garett said...

I agree that Batman's better lean and muscular. The Dark Knight comic Batman was too bulky, and Jim Lee's version as well.

I like Aparo's pencil/inks/lettering all together, but yes it would have been cool to see Giordano inks on Aparo's super layouts.

One thing I remember about this issue is Bruce Wayne in the Spanish cafe--smoking a cigar! I don't remember seeing him do that in other '70s comics--maybe in the '40s with a pipe.

Aparo has a typical way of drawing women's faces that doesn't appeal to me--one of the few things I dislike about his art-- but he breaks out of that here with Diana's face. Looks good.

The Atom as Ray Palmer also smoked in a B+B issue. I read an interview with Aparo where he said he didn't think twice about it, that it was just a prop, something to do with the character's hands.

Nice art in this issue, in the cafe scenes as well as the outdoor action scenes, but just average story for me. Perhaps not enough zany? : ) I wonder if the guardian angel ever showed up again?

Thanks for another B+B review! There can never be enough! : )

Anonymous said...

So much better than Christian Bale.

Unknown said...

Blazes, it's Bob Haney!

I love those great Haney titles from this era: "Play Now, Die Later" "Count to Ten...and Die", "Double Your Money-and Die". With titles like that, you know you're in for some serious business. And, someone's gonna die!

There are some pretty remarkable plot-holes here. The Amazon Guardian Angel is up there with his worst. Still, this is another typical plot packed with enough twists and turns for any three issues of Batman or Detective at the time.

I always thought that Aparo's style relied heavily on his inking. I've seen him inked by others, and while the results are often fine, a lot of the verve is lost. I think he's more like Cardy or Wood in that respect. Whereas artists like Kane, Adams, or Buscema always seemed to lend themselves well to different inkers without losing their essence.

James Chatterton

Inkstained Wretch said...

I saw in a store not that long ago that they have collected the "New Mod Wonder Woman" stories in TPB form. Didn't pick one up, but was intrigued... Still Wonder Woman without powers is, well, the Black Widow actually ...

William Preston said...

The only Wonder Woman issue I owned was one from her powerless era; she's throwing a karate chop at someone on the cover of an issue that featured Fritz Lieber's Gray Mouser and Fafhrd. I thought the character seemed pretty cool, but I never picked up another issue.

LOVE Aparo's Batman. Always.

Doug said...

Garrett --

B&B #115 has an Atom team-up. I'm not sure this is the issue you referenced, but how about I check it out and review that issue next?


Garett said...

That would be fun, Doug! Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I loved how Aparo used to draw Wildcat. DC should really have let him and Haney bring out a regular bi-monthly Wildcat book.

dbutler16 said...

So Frank Miller is responsible for the bulky Batman? I shouldn't be surprised. I never did like Miller's art. I don't see the appeal.

Anonymous said...

Me neither. Miller ruined Batman for me just like he ruined Daredevil.

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

Referring to the ice cream truck you have pictured above. I used to get iced cream from them when I was a kid. However when looking at the employees in those trucks today, I'd go out to the store and get my kids an ice cream before I'd let them go to a stranger in a truck that's labeled "Ice Cream". It's sad but you don't know if someone with a criminal record is driving one of those trucks. You don't know where the ice cream is from or if it's fresh anymore.

Morgan B. said...

I think it's pretty funny how when Wonder Woman shows up to "rescue" Batman, they depict him with one arm cuffed and his utility belt still on! Poor Batman was totally helpless and unable to free himself. What does he really know about picking locks anyway? "A hairpin?! You really are a Wonder!? LoL.

Morgan B. said...

Also, I must say, I LOVE EARLY 70'S JIM APARO! I think he's better than Neal Adams actually! Especially when he was not only drawing, but also inking, coloring and lettering! When an artist does all that then his work has maximum affect. I think his work always suffered when other people were doing his inking. Check out his Spectre work from that time period.

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