Saturday, February 2, 2013

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 81


The Brave and the Bold #81 (December/January 1968)
"But Bork Can Hurt You!"
Bob Haney-Neal Adams/Vince Colletta/Dick Giordano

Doug: Bob Haney's been on ice around the Bronze Age Babies; in fact, the last post in this series was way back on September 7 2012!  For those of you who favor your DCs, you have my apologies!  I also noticed that we really haven't ever featured the Flash on this blog.  Remedied today.  Lastly, some housekeeping -- those of you who've followed this series may recall that when Haney's collaborator has been Neal Adams, I've used as my resource the hardcover collection, Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams.  Today's story comes from the first volume, and as you'll also recall features the story newly recolored by Adams.  We've said before that the effort is somewhat Lucasian.  So, let's tarry no longer then...


Doug: To say this story starts off full-on zany would be an understatement!  We open dockside in Gotham City, as a tough named Carl Bork is kicked off a boat for allegedly trying to steal while on it.  Wandering away, he doesn't see a tractor trailer bearing down on him and is run over -- literally.  However, instead of becoming a stain on the pavement, we find that Bork (now referring to himself in the third person) is not only alive, but unharmed -- and apparently invulnerable!  Entering a nearby "greasy spoon", Bork robs the cash register while the proprietor howls for the police.  Soon a patrolman arrives, and orders Bork to halt.  Unheeded, the cop immediately resorts to police brutality and shoots Bork in the back of the leg (there was never any pursuit, no billy club drawn, no warning shot -- just a bullet to the leg.  Sheesh...).  Bork seems unphased, so takes another bullet, and another.  Now feeling that's he's somehow become godlike, Bork thinks to himself how the world is going to pay, and pay hard!


Doug:  While at the GCPD, Barry Allen is visiting from Central City (o', how I wish DC had chosen long ago to set their stories in the "real world") and is being shown the facility by the Batman.  Once in Commissioner Gordon's office, the two heroes become privy to a bulletin over the police band -- "rumble" on the docks.  Now that's some police talk!  Batman urges Gordon to give Allen a lift, while the Dark Knight takes to the skies.  Once at the docks, Batman sees Milo Manning (underworld labor goon and extortionist) squaring off against Carl Bork.  It gets physical right away, and Bork takes clubs and boards to his head, as well as destroys a forklift.  Manning's tossed into the drink and all of the thugs quickly come to the realization that there's a new boss in Gotham.  That's when the Batman descends, and places Bork under arrest.  The fight is brief, as Bork takes anything the Caped Crusader dishes out, and delivers it back tenfold.  An unconscious Batman is tossed in the direction of the now arrived Gordon and Allen.  Gordon's men swarm toward the ganglanders, but Bork's men are now inspired and take them on directly.  It isn't but minutes 'til Gordon orders a retreat.  It looks like Carl Bork is on the verge of running Gotham City.


Doug:  Mere hours later, the underworld has rallied around Bork.  The mayor isn't happy, as City Hall has received word that Bork is ordering a city-wide riot within 24 hours if his demands aren't met.  Gordon tries to placate his boss, but this isn't looking good.  A bruised and battered Batman excuses himself from the conversation, and we see he and Barry Allen in another room.  Allen activates his ring, and is soon dressed for action as the Flash.  His mission: to track the whereabouts of Carl Bork over the past few years.  Literally running around the world, the Flash makes stops everywhere he could find police information on Bork.  Meeting a national president in Africa, the Flash learns that a commando team has been dispatched to Gotham to bring in Bork.  Racing back to Gotham, the Flash informs the Batman of this new twist.  And I have to tell you -- Bob Haney does in eight panels enough nicknaming to put Smilin' Stan Lee to shame!  On a page and a third, Barry Allen is referred to as the "Scarlet Speedster", the "Wizard of Whiz", the "Sultan of Zoom", the "Super Leg Man", and the "Monarch of Motion".  Whew!  Now that's zany...


Doug:  The African commandos, armed with assault rifles, find Bork.  Bork goads them into attacking, and it's soon known what everyone else has discovered (and Haney has repeated numerous times -- "you can't hurt Bork, but Bork can hurt you!").  Batman arrives in time to separate the combatants, and they scatter.  We check back on the Flash, who is in the second stage of his fact-gathering.  Aboard a merchant vessel, our hero is told how Bork was once picked up from Desolation Island, where the natives had made a totem of him.  The captain tells that the longstanding rumor is that those totems possessed supernatural powers.  Flash covers the millennium of miles in seconds, only to discover the natives evacuating -- a volcano is about to blow on the island!  Racing up the mountain to the totem, the Flash is caught in the explosion.  He, the statue, and a whole lot of rock and lava are hurled out into the sea.  The totem drifts away as Flash clings partially-conscious to some driftwood.

Doug:  Things are heating up in Gotham, as the city council is coming apart at the prospect of Bork running the town.  Batman is implored to solve this; indeed, he may be part of the larger problem, since Bork has ordered the Batman to leave Gotham City.  We cut away to the Flash, now awake and back to work, searching the sea for the drifting totem.  It's no luck, as we see a wayward sailor has found it and spirited it away, not knowing of its significance.  Back in Gotham, Bork has allowed himself to be arrested (we're not told how or why) and is thrown in the city lock-up by Batman himself.  Batman taunts Bork, telling him that while his invulnerability protects him, he doesn't possess any super-strength to break out.  Wrong.  Because Bork is invulnerable, he constantly pounds on the concrete wall until it gives.  Now it's known that not even a jail cell can contain Carl Bork.


Doug:  Back to the sea, a storm has come up and tossed the small craft of the sailor harboring the Bork carving.  Finally flung back into the water, it's soon found by the Flash.  Carrying it to the nearest island, the Flash attempts to destroy it by smashing it against rock.  No dice.  So, feeling this is definitely a case of "more than meets the eye", the Flash hustles the totem to his lab in Central City.  Unable to damage it with chemicals, the Flash discovers that there are some unknown minerals coating it -- Bork's invulnerability may never be cracked!  In Gotham, Gordon and Bork argue against Bork's demands, the good guys attempting to buy time for the Flash to figure this out.  Some among Gotham City's leadership say Bork's demands should actually be considered; Batman says to continue to stall.

Doug:  The Flash, at the end of hope, attempts to destroy the totem through friction.  Attaching it to a harness, the Flash begins to tow it behind him, as fast as he can run.  Eventually the Flash breaks the timestream, and then on into another dimension.  Nothing.  Nearly defeated, Flash takes the statue back to his lab and subjects it to the one thing he'd not previously tried: lasers.  Sure enough, a spot begins to materialize on the totem's hand.  As the laser heats up, its generator overheats and explodes.  Flash vibrates his molecules to allow any harmful particles to pass through him.  Back in Gotham, the African hit squad has again tracked down Bork.  Figuring that modern weapons of warfare were useless, they turn now to more traditional methods -- blowguns and darts!  With Bork in range, they attack, striking Bork in the hand -- and it affects him!  Batman, on the scene, orders Gordon to call off his men.  Gotham's champion will take on Bork alone, with the winner getting his way.


Doug:  And then... things turn zanier yet.  The Flash, realizing that the power of light and radiation caused a chink in Bork's armor, grabs the totem once again and begins towing it -- right into the sun!  No transuit, no protective aura, nothing.  Just running.  Into the sun.  And while I can suspend my disbelief enough to think the Flash could run on water, I'm having just a bit more of a tough time sensing that he can run vertically on air, and then reach escape velocity, and then run in the vacuum of space... you get my drift.  Well, anyway, the Flash is able to reach the sun and hurl the totem into it -- no more totem.  And, using passing asteroids for balance and pushing off (I'm not making this up -- Haney made this up), the Flash is able to reverse his own course and return to Earth.  Back on terra firma, the Batman metes out punishment to the now de-powered Carl Bork.  It's a pretty short fight, as you might imagine.  In the end, the Africans are allowed to extradite Bork to face justice in their own nation.  Gotham City has been rid of its latest menace!


Doug:  So that's the plot summary -- how about the review?  I thought Haney did a poor job of melding the ending to the beginning.  When we first met Carl Bork he was being kicked off a steamer ship.  He gets waylaid by the truck, and gets up wondering why he isn't dead.  So obviously he doesn't know of his invulnerability.  Yet, later when Flash is on his mission he encounters a ship's captain who informs him about the island, the totem, the supernatural, etc.  Is this the same captain we saw in the beginning (he doesn't look the same)?  How long has Bork been off or away from that island?  Did he not have powers while there?  Why did the natives make the totem of him in the first place?  Why would he have been considered "worship worthy"?  So while it's a goofy story anyway, those are a couple of issues that should have been more clear -- or maybe I'm just dense and un-zany myself.


Doug:  Additionally, I want to throw a kudo to Adams' pencils.  They are ever-dynamic, and I guess I'm going to take a commenter or two to task.  It seems that each time we run a post with Adams' art, we get an anonymous drive-by commenter who wants to heap garbage on Neal Adams.  I won't sit here at the keyboard and say he's the greatest comic book artist of all time, but he's in that top 5 somewhere.  The complaints I usually read from this critic (whoever he or she may be) is that the figures don't look like they're talking to each other, the panels don't flow one into the other as a means to move the story, etc.  I-simply-do-not-see-that.  None of those criticisms are valid.  I suppose the only way to truly hash it out is to sit down side-by-side and go through a story together; obviously, that's not going to happen.  So if you're reading this, o' Anonymous Adams-hater, please first use a handle so there's a sense of community in your comment, and then get specific about your criticisms.  Personally, I think the proof's in the panel samples provided today.

20 comments:

Inkstained Wretch said...

That Bob Haney plot ... wow... just, umm, wow ... running to and from the sun? ... I am speechless...

I know I've been one of Adams' tougher critics on this blog, but his work here is pretty good. Batman seems to bring out the best in him. If only he had worked longer on the various Dark Knight titles...

Matt Celis said...

I wonder if Neal Adams has some sort of eye condition or vision problem...everything he recolors turns muddy/murky/dingy. Has anyone noticed this? A friend of mine has that big Deadman hardcover and it's got the same awful new coloring by Neal Adams.

The Flash is my favorite D.C. hero...I hope someday you cover the Bronze Age Cary Bates-written years!

Fred W. Hill said...

This was just the sort of story that put me off DC when I was a wee lad of 9 or so. Beautiful art but incredibly stupid story and nothing to make readers care about any of these characters. Of course, Marvel had its share of ridiculous whoppers, particularly in the team-up mags, most infamously the one where Hercules towed Manhattan Island. But they seemed far more typical of DC than Marvel during the Silver & early Bronze ages. As far as this particular issue goes, I have nothing against Adams' art at all -- it's the story that sucks.

Edo Bosnar said...

I don't know if the artist had any bearing on Haney's writing, but the stories he wrote for B&B that were drawn by Aparo (those I've read, anyway) seem much less ridiculous than this one.
As for Adams' art - I'm in complete agreement with you in terms of its clarity and legibility. Regardless of the story, his figure work is always spectacular, and his panels flow impeccably - it's always easy to follow the action in any book drawn by Adams just by looking at the pictures.
And Matt, about the coloring, I agree with you - I'm generally not a fan of the way Adams has recolored a lot of this older work.

Graham said...

I've always enjoyed Adams' art...I think part of it was that around the time I became a serious reader was around the time he was doing less art. I never had problems following the stories (no matter how zany). I even kept up with that recent Batman: Odyssey debacle longer than I would have ordinarily because his art was so good.

Karen said...

This looks gorgeous...but absolutely ridiculous! Still, I can see the appeal.

Doug said...

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Inkstained -- because I will admit to being lazy today, I'm not going to go fishing for some of your past Adams comments. Can you elaborate on some of your past criticisms of Adams work?

Matt -- Don't look for any more Flash soon. I don't have much at all! I may be able to do a couple of stories, but never bought the title in the Bronze Age. I had about the first 7-8 issues of the Wally West version that came out post-crisis but those are long gone. As soon as the Rogues Gallery gained a fellow called The Chunk, I was gone.

Fred -- nailed it with the Herc comparison. But I was thinking of this: in the recently-rerun FF/Galactus story, we criticized Stan for showing Reed mastering Galactus' ship on first glance. Yet we know that Reed is the smartest human being on Earth, so we wince a little and then look the other way. But Haney's stuff, and perhaps the bigger picture is the off-the-charts powers of DC's so-called Original Seven (the JLA "founders"), just seems silly to me at times.

Matt and Edo -- the updated coloring seems to work for some books and not others. Additionally, I'd say (say again, I think) that the paper used in the hardcovers from which I've scanned the samples has a matte finish. That seems to make the colors even richer. See our reviews on the sidebar of the updated "Tales of Asgard" stories as well as the Barry Smith Conans. The updated coloring looks great there. I am noticing the absence of whites in the samples of today's post -- the word balloons really pop as they are the brightest thing on the page. This is of course why I made the George Lucas reference at the top of the post. The Aparo and Marshall Rogers Batman HCs appear to my eye to be reprinted in "standard" four color.

Graham -- I was given the 1st issue of Odyssey by a shop owner a few years ago as a throw-in to a larger purchase of Bronze Age material. I never pursued any further issues of the book. Your assessment is spot-on -- train wreck of a story, but still the Adams pretty pictures.

Karen -- Hi, buddy!

To all: I hope I didn't come off as too cranky at the end of the post. I ran that by Karen for editorial control way before today's publication, and she thought it was fine. You who have been around here know that we get particularly rankled by commenters who don't sign any sort of name, and by what I like to call "drive-by" snarky comments. As we've often requested, when making a comment, please say why you feel the way you do. That's the purpose of the blog -- to generate conversation.

Thanks for reading, if you're still with me!

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, while you have a point about the new coloring working for some comics and not others, I think more often than not it just doesn't work. I certainly don't agree with your example of BW Smith's Conans. At one point, I've flipped through all four of the Conan Chronicles featuring his art in bookstores, and found that new coloring really off-putting. I think I would have bought them a long time ago if it weren't for that. In another case, I so disliked the new coloring on Simonson's Thor run as published in the omnibus that I decided to track down those individual out-of-print Visionaries volumes instead.

Doug said...

Yes, Edo, I recall you mentioning the Simonson book just a few days ago.

I was originally against the updated digital coloring process; in fact, Karen and I ran a post a long time ago ahead of the release of the retooled Tales of Asgard tpb where I stated that publicly. However, upon both of us purchasing that book, we both reviewed four of the stories and remarked that the richer, darker color palette gave the tales sort of a storybook quality. For my tastes, that was OK. My suggestion that it "works" in the Smith Conans is due in large part to the fantasy/sword & sorcery genre of those stories. But, when done poorly it can be a total detraction. I reviewed an issue of Red Sonja that looked quite amateurish and really ruined the reading experience.

I understand your reservations completely. If I'm reading you correctly, you don't like it at all regardless of the story genre. That's fine. I'm not at all crazy about it for standard superhero fare. I don't mind the "remastered coloring" or whatever they want to call it (sometimes I've seen "reconstructed" used), as long as it stays true to the color palettes available in the Silver and Bronze Ages. Personally, I don't care for the look of comics for sale in the market today.

Again, our first impression is what we often cling to and there's nothing at all wrong with that sort of "purism".

Doug

Garett said...

The recoloring is Lucasian"...haha!

Terrible story, dull villain--I agree with Edo that the Aparo-drawn stories are better. The Adams art looks good to me. I like up-shot of the Flash when he starts towing the totem into space. The page with the boat...the last page with Batman's big punch...and the unusual panel in the "bounce off the asteroids" page. I like how the first panel echoes the shape of Flash's asteroid travel in the last--this is what sets Adams above someone like Buckler in panelling. Buckler would make unusually-shaped panels, but not with a purpose as Adams does here.

Hey Graham, I got about 2/3 the way through Batman Odyssey, the whole hardcover series, but I couldn't go further! I really wanted it to be a zany Haney style adventure. I did think the art was mostly good, but I wish he'd had O'Neil or another collaborator to write. Did you make it to the end?

Still looking forward to more Zany Haney Doug, despite this one!

Matt Celis said...

Truth be told, given the choice between a Neal Adams comic and a Rich Buckler comic, I'd go for the latter. His book on drawing comics is a favorite of mine, very insightful.

Doug said...

Matt --

Buckler's a strong artist, a real go-to guy. I generally like everything he does, although I'd have rather that he had been allowed to "be himself" rather than ape Kirby on the FF.

I'll tell you all what irritated me about Adams' art in this story today -- tell me where the good points are to crop it for use in the post! Nowhere! I thought some of his panel lay-outs were as zany as Haney's script. This is why you more often than not got full-page samples today, which Karen and I generally (but not always) try to stay away from.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

I read in an interview that he would adapt his style to provide visual continuity for the readers, as they were used to the previous artist on whichever comic. Unfortunately his versatility is somehow seen as a negative by some, which I never understood. His book shows a really strong sense of storytelling on the page and panel layout. You can tell he thinks things thru before putting it on the page.

Graham said...

Garett,

I didn't make to the end of Odyssey...gave up after three issues. From what I understood, at the beginning it was supposed to be 12 issues, and the thought of trying to muddle through a dozen issues of it was just too daunting for me. Trying to read it was too much like having to walk knee-deep in mud.

Doug said...

In Tuesday's second half of our Sean Howe "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" review, you'll have the opportunity to discuss the merits of the writing of Todd McFarlane. For my money, it would be akin to Adams' writing.

Just be a good artist -- it's OK!

Doug

Matt Celis said...

This implies that there ARE merits...I kid, I didn't know he ever did any writing...I thought his fame was from drawing Spider-Man (poorly, in my opinion, or at least in a style I dislike). In fact, that's when and somewhat why I quit buying Spidey.

What did/does he write?

Doug said...

Matt --

McFarlane infamously wrote Spider-Man, a new book over which he was given total control. It was horrible. After Image Comics was formed, I believe he both wrote and drew his own creation, Spawn. I never read any of that.

Doug

Fred W. Hill said...

I mostly quit reading Marvel Comics before McFarlane's era, but as I never entirely left the comics culture I read a bit about him and eventually decided to check out the Spider-Man Torment collection of the 1st several issues of that title -- after getting through it, my reaction was, Ugh! Well-named, as it was a torment to get through that dreck. And there was a character named Mary Jane Parker (nee Watson) in there who bore little resemblance to the Mary Jane who had been a regular for much of the time when Spider-Man was one of my favorite characters.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Doug,

I've remarked in the past that Adams is overrated. His expressions and anatomy are so strong it obscures the flaws: His love of odd angles, off-beat panel layout and poor sense of perspective. All of these can result in pages that make the story really hard to follow.

Example: I have a tbp collection of the Adams/Roy Thomas X-Men run, which is supposedly one of highpoints of Adams's career. But as beautiful as the individual images are, I find the stories maddening. I can never tell what is going on or where the characters are in relation to one another. I had the same reaction when you guys posted an Adams-drawn Teen Titan stories.

Also, I don't think Adams does as well with traditional superhero stories because the realism of his figures has a away of making their costumes look sillier. I say to yourself, "Ah if he'd wear that on the street, he'd look ridiculous..." I don't have that reaction with with the Buscema Bros, Gil Kane, Buckler, etc.

Garett said...

I like Buckler, but when he uses angled panel shapes, it seems random to me. When Adams uses angles, it seems like he has a design purpose in mind.

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