Friday, June 15, 2012

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 115

The Brave and the Bold #115 (October/November 1974)
"The Corpse That Wouldn't Die!"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo

Doug: I pen this before I've even read the story: Warning -- The Surgeon General has determined that you need to take your regular dosage of anti-"What the...?!?" pills before you go any further. I only bring this up now, because as I was setting this up using the Comic Book Database for the cover link and creator credits, I came across the following:

Synopsis:
The Batman is well on his way to tracking down a missing girl when he receives a massive electric shock, sending him into a near-death coma. But he's the only one who knows where the girl is being held. Enter the Atom, who by moving about in Batman's brain is able to stimulate his body and get it moving like a puppet. Can Batman's body instinctively get the Atom to the girl in time? And is this the end of the Batman?

Doug: So what are our chances that ol' Bob Haney's going to be extra-zany in this one? Let's have a look-see together then...

Doug: This gets off to a good start. Haney has a narrative box at the top of the splash page that reads: "A dark night in Gotham City -- and rain-slick streets echo with the cry of innocence seized by brutal hands..." Awesome intro. to a Batman tale, isn't it? The abduction of our damsel indeed in distress occurs right on said splash page. The Batman is with Commissioner Gordon a short time later, when the girl's parents arrive. Batman tells Gordon that he already knows the Mantons, having met them through their daughter. The Batman had encountered her through her service work in Gotham's run-down neighborhoods (Haney again uses the word "ghetto", as he did in the Teen Titans team-up we reviewed several weeks ago). But one night while on her way home, Debbie Manton had cut across a playground in the ghetto and had witnessed a mob hit. As the only eyewitness, she did the right thing and went to the law. Trouble was, Buggsy Cathcart's toughs got to her and kidnapped her. As Batman and Gordon walked through the GCPD holding cells, Cathcart let out a laugh. Batman flew into a rage, grabbing the man through his bars and threatening him. Gordon called Batman off, but it was clear -- the Dark Knight was not going to rest until Debbie Manton was saved!
Doug: And then fate set in. The Batman encountered one of his contacts, a wino named Army Eddie. Eddie tipped him off, albeit somewhat cryptically. Batman contacted Gordon to tell him that he has a hunch, but if any cops present themselves the girl would surely be killed -- he hangs up on Gordon without telling him where he's going! So into attack mode went the Caped Crusader, but as he leapt toward the building he received a tremendous shock. Moments later, as Cathcart's thugs gathered around the body, they commented to themselves that it was a good thing they'd juiced up all of the possible entrances to their hide-out. Hey, if I were you or you were me, wouldn't you take the opportunity to, I don't know, UNMASK the Batman? Heck no you wouldn't. You'd do what these bums did -- put his limp body in a car and drive around until you found a good place to chuck him out the door! Duh...

Doug: Once at the hospital, Batman is pronounced clinically dead. Heartbeat, respiration, but no brain activity. The shock had shut down his brain. Again as fate would have it, physicist Ray Palmer happened to be lecturing at the hospital that day. Now, what might you ask would a physicist be lecturing about in a hospital? That was my question, too. But hey -- Haney had to get the co-star into the story somehow. Palmer is summoned to the emergency room; someone knew he had a relationship with Batman, and Gordon simply won't accept the doctor's diagnosis. You think a physicist is qualified to give a second opinion? Really -- would a PhD in history be of any more value here than a PhD in physics? Nah... but that doesn't stop Ray Palmer from concurring with the medical staff.

Doug: As we head into part two, Palmer tells that he actually did have a purpose for being at the hospital -- he was demonstrating a micro-camera/monitor to surgeons. Still not sure how that's physics, but go with it. Palmer mounts the camera on Batman's chest, and holds the receiver. He determines that he is going to take a risky venture and attempt to allow the Batman to finish his last mission. So, shrinking and shrinking some more, the Atom climbs up onto the table and enters the Batman's ear. Haney gives us an anatomy lesson of the inner ear and brain. Not sure it's accurate, but I'm also not going to take the time to look it up. The Atom seems to know an awful lot about the brain and its zonal functions -- shoot, maybe he also has a PhD in psychology! Well, believe it or not, he uses his little footsies to stimulate the part of the brain that... resurrects the Batman!
Doug: Using the receiver in his palm, the Atom sees what Batman sees. Up and moving about, the Atom is manipulating the Dark Knight remote-control style! Batman is like a zombie now (or should we say zuvembie?). The Atom attempts to control his thoughts, but he's really banking on the subconscious of Batman, taking him back to the place where he met his end. The Atom watches the whole trip unfold, until they arrive at an abandoned police station. Taking the barred doorway apart, Batman enters the building. Very shortly he encounters one of Cathcart's hoods. Here is where this gets silly. Oh, wait -- did you think it had already gotten silly? Hey, you're only getting the synopsis -- I'm reading this thing for detail! The Atom decides he'll send Batman a signal to punch this bad guy. So he leaps onto the right side of the cerebrum for the idea, then onto the cerebellum for the execution. Trouble is, he forgot that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. So, reversing his strategy, the Batman delivers a right cross that fells the villain. Yeah!

Doug: As we enter part three, an assailant wallops the Batman with a pipe. The Atom gets knocked around inside the brain but is able to check out his monitor. He sees the baddie raise the pipe for the death blow. Some pseudo-line dancing allows Batman to level a kick at his would-be killer, taking the guy out. But next, a shotgun is leveled at his head. And, as like most bad guys, they don't take the hero out when they have a chance. Somehow, somehow, the Atom gets Batman to do a backward somersault out of harm's way, actually kicking the shotgun in the process (is the gunman killed? We don't see him again...). Finally, Batman walks his way to the room where Debbie Manton is being held by Buggsy Cathcart. Cathcart has a gun to her head, and tells Batman he'll use it. But Batman staggers forward, and collapses in a pile at Cathcart's feet! Feeling smug now, Cathcart must have been surprised when he got whacked hard on the chin -- by the Mighty Mite! The Atom, sensing that Batman's body functions needed to expire in order for the girl to be saved, beat it out of his head to save Debbie on his own.

Doug: Back at the hospital, the Batman is again "dead". Gordon, knowing how the Dark Knight Detective had risen again and saved the girl, continues to rail against the doctors. Suddenly, the machines measuring Batman's brain activity begin to hum again, as waves start to make their way across the screen. Batman will live! Palmer, noted neurosurgeon-wannabe, surmises that the stimulation he'd given the Batman's brain must have jump-started it. Sounds plausible to me... nah.

Doug: Bob Haney writes at the bottom of the last page of this story: "This concludes the most bizarre Brave and Bold epic yet! The B&B beat goes on-- in every issue! Stay with it!" No. Kidding. I'm not sure "bizarre" is a strong enough word. "Offbeat" certainly isn't. But you know what? It was sort of fun. I mean, it's really a twist on what Neal Adams did in Avengers #93, and what we'd see later from the Vision in Avengers #150. And it was certainly a creative way to use the Atom (by the way, talk about a character whose powers seem to be unlimited). And even though I've criticized and/or teased Haney's script (your perspective -- I don't think I was overtly cruel), I must declare that Jim Aparo's art is the best we've seen over the five B&B issues I've reviewed thus far. At the beginning of the story, when Batman cuts loose, that is some really solid work. As always, if you don't take these stories all that seriously, they become a nice 20-minute diversion.

Garrett -- here's your Ray Palmer pipe-shot! -- Doug

25 comments:

William Preston said...

I owned this issue and read it often. One of my favorite comics (though even my 12-year-old self knew the science was pretty bogus).

I have zero recollection of the backup stories . . .

david_b said...

Yep, I'd say Mr. Haney lives up to his nick-name in this one.

Yep..

It does actually look like a cool romp.., I believe the Atom's prowlness of traversing the human brain, being able to stimulate certain nerve endings resulting in complex behavior (breathing, equilibrium, walking, eyesight, fighting.., some at the same time..), is pretty darn amazing. Almost more a Silver Age concept than Bronze, but hey, its.. zany.

Of all the weird powers and enormous knowledge heroes 'suddenly possess', I suspect being launched into the brain-pans of super-powered JLA villains as a tactic (previously and since) was never fully utilized. A pity.

And zany.

pete doree said...

This was Bob Haney's favourite B & B story he ever wrote, and it's mine too. Always loved the madness of it. Classic Haney and Aparo is, as always,
on top form. Anybody who needs convincing, consider this: Most people's subconscious would be telling them to eat, or sleep, or stay warm.
What's Batman's subconscious telling him in this story? Rescue an innocent and beat up some crooks!

Karen said...

I think all comic book scientists are polymaths. But I think they inherited that from 1950s scientist-heroes of grade B sci fi flicks, who seemed to all possess knowledge in rocketry, medicine, chemistry, etc. I think that image has been impressed on the public, unfortunately. I know after I got my biology degree, family and friends would call me with medical questions! I studied animals and ecology. I don't know if you have brain tumor!

Unknown said...

Blazes! It's Bob Haney!

I think we're in the smack in the middle of Haney & Aparo's peak on the Brave & the Bold. Even as a kid, I knew how silly this premise was. But when Haney is at his best, he pulls off silly concepts by virtue of execution. It doesn't hurt that he had Aparo's art at it's best to help with the momentum. This is one of the 3 or 4 classic tales that I always think of when the Brave & the Bold comes to mind.

Another reason this is my favorite B & B era: 100 Page Super Spectaculars! Where else were you going to get a Dr. Fate/Hourman/Alan Scott GL teamup from the 60's in the 70's? God, I loved those spectaculars.

This story was loosely adapted on the B & B cartoon, with Aquaman added. Outrageous!

The only thing missing here is Wildcat & Sgt Rock. But you just know they'll show up soon.

So Karen, you're saying I don't have a brain tumor as long as I have my silver age physicist's pipe, right?

James Chatterton

Doug said...

There is at least one Sgt. Rock story in the Aparo tome -- do I hear a request for the next Zany Bob Haney??

Doug

Anonymous said...

Psychologists know brain anatomy? Did you mean neurologist maybe? Ray Palmer is master of all science. He makes Reed Richards look like a dullard.

Xrayman

humanbelly said...

@ Karen-
. . . and I do believe the epitome of that polymathical type was gloriously and ultimately represented (to my personal eternal delight) in The Professor from Gilligan's Island. The multi-disciplinary master to whom even Reed Richards would have to graciously and humbly defer.

I've pounded this thesis before, but my strong hunch is that the entire comics industry was made up of artists, writers, and less-than-successful publishing business execs. You just KNOW that science classes weren't any of these guys' strong suit back in grade school, and in the early days especially, there was ALWAYS this vague use of "something scientific" (and hence not fully understood) to attach to any character of situation if it more or less sounded right.

A lot of Ray's brain-lecture monologue up there sounds like it was barely paraphrased from a "Let's meet Mr. Brain" primer. . . !

HB

Inkstained Wretch said...

Yeah, I have this issue at home and I treasure it. Aparo was at the peak of his powers here and Haney takes a crazily brilliant concept and just runs with it. This is the kind of pure, undilluted joy that made me a Bronze Age comic fan in the first place.

And talk about value for your dollar! Not only the Haney/Aparo story but a classic Justice Society feature and others too.

We didn't know how good we had it back then...

Karen said...

HB: I almost mentioned the Professor but I've done that a few times on the blog now so I didn't want to sound like I was beating a dead horse. But I do wonder sometimes if people think that an education in a particular field of science means a person understands ALL sciences. Certainly in the comics universes that is true, but not in reality.

And speaking of the comics industry, I was watching Mad Men the other night and it hit me that Stan Lee could have been a great ad man. But that's probably an idea for another thread!

david_b said...

Karen:

I've been warming up to Mad Men the last few weeks. Totally agreed.

As for Russell Johnson (the fore-mentioned Professor..), I requested an autographed pic from his site about 10yrs ago. I received it with some cool Latin written at the bottom (but wonderfully, he didn't translate it, hence my search for knowledge..). Using a online translator, it basically said 'From life springs knowledge', which was soooo cool.

A year later I wrote him about how much I enjoyed his picture, and mentioned my VA position and Reserves officer rank. He actually called me 'Sir' and mentioned he was a WWII Aviator. He went on to thank me for all my service, etc.

Such a gracious human being...

As for his mass intelligence, hey, he had the brains to stay on an island with Ginger and MaryAnn.. He was the smartest of 'em all.

Fred W. Hill said...

In a manner of speaking, Stan was a great ad man, Karen! Aside from editing and whatever writing he did for the comics, he was also the primary pitchman -- initially for the comics but later for himself as well. He was possibly the greatest ad man in the comics industry, resulting in his identification with Marvel Comics which continues even 40 years since he stopped regularly writing comics (not counting the comic strips and one-off projects). Certainly not a traditional ad man but he certainly made good, even if it took him until his elder years to really get rich.
Oh, and I never read this particular comic but just reading the premise and checking out the date of publication made me think that this particular "comatose body controlled by another person" tale must have been inspired by the Ant-Man's trip inside the Vision in Avengers #93 published just a couple of years earlier.

Karen said...

Oh, no doubt Stan acted as the major publicist and ad man for Marvel. But wouldn't it be interesting to spy some alternate reality, where he left Timely/Marvel before creating the FF and went into the advertising business? I think he would have been terrific.

But back to the comic (sorry to thread jack, Doug): This plot, with the Atom manipulating Batman's body, also reminds me of that third season Star Trek stinker, Spock's Brain. Dr. McCoy used a remote control device to manipulate Spock's body, after his brain had been removed. Ugh.

Ray Tomczak said...

I don't know if its reprinted in the book you're reading from, Doug, but if you're going to spotlight a B & B Batman/Sgt. Rock team-up, the greatest one ever was "Small War of the Super-Rifles" in #124.
I think I may have mentioned in a comment on an earlier post. I have written about it on my own blog. Its my all-time favorite Batman story.
In addition to Rock, the story features appearances by Haney and Aparo themselves, as well as editor Murray Boltinoff. It certainly fits in with your "zany Bob Haney" theme.

david_b said...

Karen.., 'STINKER'...?

Ah, c'mon now, 'Spock's Brain' was one of Trek's finest achievements.

"Brain and brain, what is BRAIN..!!"

It even made Lost In Space's 'Great Vegetable Rebellion' pale in comparison...

Unknown said...

Funny thing. I used to look forward to being surprised by the guest stars in B & B so much. I always felt this huge sense of deflation every time it was Wildcat or Sgt. Rock. With all of the underutilized characters in the early 70's, why did these two keep hogging B & B was beyond me. And yet, the stories never disappointed. I just had to get over my initial reaction.

I felt the same way when I saw the cover with the Joker as that month's partner. It was like the ultimate ripoff to do a story that could be in any Batman comic. Now, it's one of my favorite Joker stories of all time.

James Chatterton

humanbelly said...

Hoo-boy, it's gonna be a ThreadJackapalooza, there's just no avoidin' it-!

@ Ray T & Doug: Wait, didn't that particular B&B story already pop up here? The one where Aparo's being threatened on the cover to finish drawing the cover that. . . he's. . . on. . . (??) Or have I misremembered? Or. . . was that not a Sgt Rock story. . . ?

@Karen & all: Does anyone possibly remember Stan's Persona Razor commercial from the 70's? Honestly, he's so quintessentially an Ad Man to the core, makin' his pitch, that it's hilarious on that level alone. It's this wonderfully natural, almost cartoonish creative energy that he has. He could be an ad guy, or the classic Tin Pan Alley hyperactive song hack, or (shudder) any number of different theatrical types.

@the True Thread: The art is soooo good, and the stories are soooo ridiculous-- they honestly drive me crazy. And yet-- they're not boring, for all that. (Well, actually, I thought the Kamandi team-up was a considerable slog to get through, to be honest--) Did we have any informed feedback on how Jim Aparo felt about these stories?

"You say the Atom dances on Batman's neurons in Batman's brain, and that's what makes Batman move around skillfully enough to defeat an armed man? THAT'S what you want me to draw?? This is one of those IT'SADREAMIMAGINARYSTORIES, right?"

HB

Ray Tomczak said...

humanbelly,
The cover you describe is the cover of B&B #124, but I don't recall reading about that issue here and it isn't in the lists of comics previously reviewed over on the left.
As to what Jim Aparo thought of Haney's scripts, he was asked that question in an early issue of Back Issue magazine focusing on team-up books.
"Bob was a good writer," Aparo says,"I enjoyed him very much."
When asked "Do you ever recall reading a Haney script and thinking 'Now this is kind of outlandish for Batman?'," the artist replied, "No, because I was going along with it." Which is pretty much the attitude you have to take when approaching Bob Haney's work. Just go with it.

Doug said...

Ray's right, HB -- we've only had a handful of B&B issues reviewed, and there's not been a Sgt. Rock team-up yet. Also as Ray said, anytime you're curious as to what has gone before in terms of our reviews, all 300+ links are on the sidebar.

And speaking of thread-jacking, I'm gonna go ahead and just do that. I just got back from my 2nd viewing of The Avengers this evening. I saw it in 2D the first time and 3D tonight. If you've not seen it in 3D, it's a must! I'd never seen a feature-length film in 3D before, as I'd heard the effect didn't enhance the film all that much. Well, they got it right on this one! Wow! And the preview for Spider-Man was... say it -- AMAZING!!

I'm not sure anyone else has mentioned this, as I didn't go back to our reader comments before typing this, but Thanos is clearly visible in the first scene in the film, when the Chtauri guy is talking to an "unknown" on that asteroid or whatever. The figure is huge, and the color scheme is all Thanos'.

One last thing -- I hadn't noticed the first time, but Jenny Agutter (Logan's Run, An American Werewolf in London) is in the film as one of the Security Council panelists that Fury deals with. How about that?

Doug

humanbelly said...

Ha-! You jacked your own thread, as it were--! (Hmm-- sounds more crude by far than it actually is).
Oh, the bitter irony--- heh--

Thanks for getting my corrected, fellas. Man, I wonder where in the world I saw that cover recently, then? Curse this relentless, glacial onslaught of impending, enfeebling old age, and its insidious, subtle ravaging of the memory cells. So far away, and yet it still stretches back with greedy, encrusted talons-- already scratching away at the foundations of one's castle of memory. Scratching. . . rooting. . . digging. . .

(Man, I'm creeping myself out. Better go do some work in the yard. . . )

HB

Garett said...

Drat-I skip BAB for a day, and it's Bob Haney day! I enjoyed this review, great wacky story. Plus I get giggles reading the comments!

Sgt Rock next would be awesome, and as mentioned #124 is primo. Thanks for spotting that pipe, Doug! I wonder how many superheroes smoked back in the day? I just watched Ghostbusters with my nephew, first time for me since it came out--startling amount in that movie as well.

Love Mad Men, Karen! Great show!

B Smith said...

Can I just be a pest and point out that medical physics is a perfectly legitimate branch of medicine/physics, and depending on what specific field of physics he's in (I'm not that au fait with the Atom), it would be quite feasible for Ray Palmer to be at a hospital to demonstrate some new piece of equipment.

The rest of it could be complete rubbish, of course, but I liked it anyway :-)

PS if you're taking requests, how about reviewing that one with the Phantom Stranger (against a magical cult) and Deadman (wherein the late Mr Brand inhabits some criminal and falls for said hoodlum's girlfriend)?

Garett said...

I love that Deadman story, B Smith--good one!

Hoosier X said...

Bob Haney was one of the masters of comic book writing. Grant Morrison WISHES he was half as good as Haney.

I was just a few days ago flipping through some issues of "Brave and Bold" from this period (#119 and #127, I think) and one of them had Batman attending a baseball game just like he was some dude from Gotham who just wanted to sit back with a hot dog and a beer and watch the game.

Awesome!

"Excuse me, Mr. Batman? Could you autograph this program for my son?"

Or:

"Hey, you! With da ears! I'm trying to watch the GAME, Big Blue! Whydontcha take your ears and go and beat up da Joker or sumpin?"

(Did "Brave and Bold" ever start out with Batman in the supermarket pushing a cart and looking for the right kind of pickles? They should bring it back just to start it that way!)

Morgan Butler said...

This is one of the best B and B stories ever. Aparo was a powerhouse in the early 70's. I request you do reviews of B and B issue's 98 and 116. Both guest starring signature Jim Aparo characters.
For my money, the worst B and B stories were team-ups with Sgt Rock. Good art of course, but Batman and Rock have no business teaming together at all...

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