Friday, March 22, 2013

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 110


The Brave and the Bold #110 (December/January 1973)
"A Very Special Spy!"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo (cover by Nick Cardy)

Doug:  You want zany?  You're on the right blog.  Today's fare combines an international espionage subplot, atomic equations, patents, murder-for-hire, and the unexplained presence of Earth-2's Wildcat teaming with our own Earth-1 Batman.  Seriously -- it's never addressed, and it's pretty obvious that Ted Grant is fully entrenched on "this" Earth.  But then, it's really Bob Haney's Earth, and we just get to visit it every now and again.  Let's roll --

Doug:  We pick it up somewhere on a dry lake bed, where a corporate display is about to take place.  A company wants to brag on its "Miracle-2000", and an assemblage of government bigwigs, media, and even the Batman are present to watch.  Suddenly a man throws himself in the path of the soon-to-be-speeding cars.  Batman leaps into action and pulls the guy to safety and then of course asks him what he thought he was doing.  Our attention-getter is one Peter Voss, heir to a Hans Voss.  The elder allegedly invented what the Tryton Corporation is touting as Miracle-2000, a fuel additive guaranteed to get more energy out of oil.  Voss wants to give the formula to the public out of altruism; his contention is that Tryton somehow stole the formula and wants to sell it, making themselves enormous profits in the process.  We find out later that Miracle-2000 will solve the energy crisis until the new millennium, when the world will run largely on atomic power (another prophecy failed...).  Here's the mystery -- Voss doesn't have the formula, his father was allegedly killed in a terror bombing in Holland during the War, and there were never any patents issued.  Oh, yeah -- and Ted Grant (Wildcat) works in public relations for Tryton.  How's that for a Haney table-setting?

Doug:  Batman and Grant take a corporate jet to Tryton's headquarters, as Batman wants to see for himself what's going on.  Grant introduces our hero to B.B. Sanford, president of Tryton, and to Bill Bradshaw, who claims to have invented Miracle-2000.  Back in Grant's office, the former Wildcat tells Bats that there's no mystery -- case closed.  Batman, however, would like to know why the lab wasn't set up for measuring hydrocarbons and other fossil fuel-type questions.  Hmmm...  Batman goes to visit Peter Voss.  Hearing the story again, of no records, no patents, no formula, Batman is still interested.  Then Voss tells him of an L.K. Dowling, a brilliant scientist-for-hire who had admired Voss's father's work and wanted to attempt to duplicate the formula.  Well, it seems Voss caught Dowling snooping where he shouldn't have been snooping one night, called him on it, and lo and behold Tryton introduced their Miracle-2000 a very short time later.  The plot thickens.

 

Doug:  As Batman turns to leave, Voss tells him that all he has left of his father are his incomplete records, and a worthless sculpture -- his father dabbled in art.  Batman begins an investigation of Tryton, and finds money laundering, conspiracy, questionable deaths -- the works.  He decides he needs a bit more help, so goes to Washington, DC to consult an agent in the Bureau of Industrial Espionage.  The agent informs our protagonist that Dowling is an alias in fact used by  a Radek -- a hired gun who engages in corporate bad stuff.  So it's back to Tryton to investigate.  But while going through some files, a couple of security guards sneak up on the Dark Knight and wallop him.  But who should show up to save the day but Ted Grant?  Tell me this, Haney-philes:  why would a retired boxer, working as a VP of Public Relations, be working late into the midnight hours and just happen to hear the knock against the Caped Crusader's noggin?  Hmmm....

Doug:  After Batman clears the cobwebs, he and Grant go back to Grant's office where the details of the investigation so far are told.  Ted Grant feels like a dummy, and vows to make amends for his foolishness.  Opening a closet, he reveals the Wildcat costume, and away we go!  Batman and Wildcat cross the complex and land just outside of an office where a suspicious meeting is taking place.  Laying in wait, Wildcat follows a black limousine as it leaves the plant.  Trailing it north of the city (we're not told where Tryton's headquarters are) to the company's hunting lodge, Wildcat lurks outside the building close enough to see superspy Radek accosted by two toughs from Tryton.  Suddenly Wildcat bursts in through a window, but is winged in the shoulder in the melee; Radak escapes.  As the hoods head to the balcony to take a few shots at the fleeing Radak, Wildcat leaps from the building onto the roof of the car now appropriated by Radak.  After a short time Wildcat is flung from the vehicle, Radak having been hit by a bullet and smashing the car into a tree.  Wildcat staggers out into the woods.  The assassins inspect the situation, and decide not to trail Wildcat.

Doug:  We check in on the Batman, who is in of all places the Netherlands, seeing what he can find out about Hans Voss.  Batman has gone to the ruins of Voss's laboratory (really?  After 28 years you don't think the site would have been cleaned up?).  While there he sees an old man roaming the grounds and decides to trail him.  The older gentleman enters a nursing facility, where a doctor later tells Batman that this is a John Doe -- no name, no history, and does not communicate.  But, they let him out for walks because he always comes back.  Batman looks on the man, and then exclaims.  The old man cradles a smaller version of the same sculpture Peter Voss had on a cabinet in his office!  Back in the woods, Wildcat lay unconscious as a real wildcat stalks him.  As the large cat pounces, it takes an arrow right through the chest.  An archer, looking just a bit like the updated Mike Grell Green Arrow from The Longbow Hunters, has protected Ted Grant.  The guy muses, "My herbs and roots'll have him hearty in no time!"  Wha-aat??  Three days later, Wildcat zooms away from the archer's cabin, on his cat-cycle no less!  Lordy...

Doug:  A trial over the formula patent has now commenced, and apparently seems to be winding down quickly.  The judge tells Peter Voss that he has no proof that his father ever invented what we know as Miracle-2000.  Just then, the Batman bursts into the courtroom, with none other than Hans Voss!  Yep, the old man in Holland was in reality Peter Voss's presumed dead father.  The judge is still about to throw Voss's case out, saying that the elder Voss's inability to speak is going to be of no help.  But Batman has the statue, and it was sculpted in such a way as to mimic an atomic model -- Voss had feared the formula would be stolen, and so had disguised it as art; a duplicate had been in Peter Voss's hands all along!  Just then, Ted Grant rises from his seat in the gallery among the other Tryton brass and accuses B.B. Sanford of having Radek murdered.  Sanford, big dummy that he is, blurts out "how could you know that?!"  Nice job confessing, stupid.  But, since we still have four pages to go, you know this has to get zanier.  Manfredi, the head of security who had been at the lodge to off Radek, opens the courtroom doors and displays a machine gun.  Sanford bolts for the door and they make tracks.


Doug:  Batman and Grant hightail it out to the street, where they commandeer a parked motorcycle (didn't you need a key to start those things?) and follow our fugitives.  They have a hard time staying close, and soon figure that the corporate jet on the grounds of Tryton is the destination.  But all's well that ends well, and our heroes are able to dispense justice-by-fisticuffs as the Tryton execs are about to board their plane.  Soon, back in the courtroom, the judge rules in favor of Peter Voss and his father -- Miracle-2000 will now belong to the world.


Doug:  Hey, this was another solid effort from Jim Aparo.  His panel lay-outs were more conventional than in other stories we've seen.  Haney's script... well, it's Haney's script.  I've really come to like the complete unexpectedness of his writing.  Again, to hades with continuity and anything else that might pass for good comics writing.  Haney's stories are simply meant to entertain, and I've become a convert.  I really think half the fun is just the "wait, what??" that you get when reading one of his stories.  Why the heck was that archer in this story??

Doug: I have the Silver Age Teen Titans Archives, volume one, and I think the next time I revisit a Haney story I'm going to check out something from that book.  Until then...

20 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

Ah, more fun from Earth-H(aney). I've always enjoyed the Haney-penned B&Bs, and I was never bothered by any of the externalities that I might have otherwise obsessed over (like continuity, and even elementary logic).
However, I don't think the importance of the art should be downplayed here. Aparo's beautiful work throughout really raised the level of these stories.

Matt Celis said...

So many plot holes, unlikelihoods, and legal mistakes in this one, you can't even question it or it all falls apart. Best just to say law and reason work differently on Earth-H and leave it at that.

I've never understood Wildcat's latter-day popularity. His costume is cool, but aside from that, what?

Doug said...

Matt --

Was Wildcat Wolverine before Wolverine was Wolverine? I'm asking if he was the Bronze Age rough-and-tumble, fight-first guy before Wolverine's character was fully formed?

Not necessarily a good thing at any rate, but interesting to see some basic similarities.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

No idea...the 1940s stoies i read have him just as square as every other good guy. The only later stories I've seen were Team-ups where I found him ordinary at best. Nothing like Wolverine that I can recall, no particular personality except I think they dumbed down his speech patterns because obviously all boxers speak poor English.

Doug said...

I agree with your assessment. I have just gotten a sense, often in the JSA revival in All-Star Comics, that they wanted him to be the tough "no rules" sort of guy -- that loose cannon that we see Logan as in the first several issues of the All-New X-Men.

Certainly Wildcat was never a berserker or anything like that. That wasn't my intent in the comparison.

Speech patterns in comics tend toward the stereotypical, don't they?

Doug

Matt Celis said...

"Ah don't know what y'all are tryin' to say, but it's givin' me the vapahs," as Chris Claremont might have Rogue say.

david_b said...

Not much to comment on, but regarding the 'stereotype', you could add in either DC's Hawk or Timberwolf as earlier, 'safer' loose canons.

Not much of a stretch there.

Karen said...

All I know is, whiskers really never work on a mask.

Hoosier X said...

Wildcat was in Brave and Bold a lot! I think the first time I ever saw Wildcat was in one of the Batman team-ups, it was around issue #126 or so. Batman and Wildcat go to the Caribbean for some reason. (As I recall, I noticed this comic book made no sense even though I had a pretty tolerance for that kind of thing and seldom noticed that comic books make no sense.)

Why so much Wildcat? Did they think Wildcat/Batman was a good team? Were they pushing Wildcat for a permamnent backup feature somewhere? Did Haney (or Aparo) just like Wildcat? Was it just for a good mix of team-ups?

Over the years, I must admit, Wildcat has grown on me.

Mike said...

Nice work Doug! I have to concur on Aparo's artwork -- I always thought his Batman was really cool looking. Also, I gotta mention that Wildcat was a regular on the animated Batman: Brave and the Bold from a couple of years back. I thought he was done pretty well. Here's a quick clip I found on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp_1znHtlsw).

Inkstained Wretch said...

Ok, so according to this story they solved the energy crisis in 1973? You'd think that would have caused a few more waves...

Matt Celis said...

Conspiracy by Roxxon undermined the solution!

Bruce said...

I can see how this issue might be fun, but to me, it reads as headache-inducing! But the Aparo art is great as always.

Matt, that's a spot-on Claremont Southern Accent (TM). As a native son and lifelong resident of the South, Rogue's dialogue makes me chuckle. No one, outside of "Gone With the Wind," has ever talked like Rogue, sugah!

Matt Celis said...

I lived in VA and NC and have traveled to probably every state in the South and have yet to hear an "I" that sounds like "Ah."

Unknown said...

Blazes! It's Bob Haney!

Wow, this was my very first issue of Brave and Bold in the early 70's. I had no idea what the deal was at the time. A friend in school had to explain to me that every issue had Batman teaming up with someone else. I was so excited trying to imagine who would be in the next issue until it came out..with the Joker. Boy did I feel robbed. Now, I think it's one of the all-time classic issues.

Neither of us could figure out who the heck Wildcat was at the time, not that it mattered. And we didn't know anything about continuity in the 3rd grade (that would come in the 4th grade). But the story and art were definitely a few notches up from Batman & Detective at the time.

I can safely say that I never missed an issue of B & B until I stopped collecting in 1980. They should have renamed it Tales to Astonish, because I was continually astonished by Haney's unique grasp of logic. But I was never bored.

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

Dang that Bob Haney and his damned Haney-verse. I was just an apple-cheeked lad who had just figured out the difference between Earth 1 and Earth 2 when he dropped this big hot bowl of inconsistancy in my lap. No wonder I have mental problems now. Ya gotta admit, however, those team-up titles put their writers in a pickle; teaming up Spider-Man and Daredevil or Batman and Green Arrow is easy enough, but Batman and Kamandi? Or Spider-Man and Doc Savage? It makes my poor head hurt just thinking about it.

Garett said...

Great review Doug! This is one of my favorite B+B stories from this great period of Haney-Aparo. Wildcat is not a favorite character of mine...except in these Haney stories! Here he seems tough and believable, despite the whiskers and cat-cycle that are absurd anywhere else. The archer is also funny--he's there and he's gone, whabam!

I think the art is special, with a kickass splash page not pictured here, a cool sculpture design by Aparo, and a big knockout punch by Batman near the end. The montage scenes by Aparo, like the "probe into the past" here, look much better in color. I read this series first in the B+W Showcase version, which I loved, but I'm starting to appreciate the color more now. Aparo works very well in B+W, and it's cool that he pencilled, inked and even lettered--it gives the whole thing a distinct Aparo vibe.

Glad you're enjoying the unexpectedness in Haney's stories--me too.

Haney writes Wildcat very well, and I think it's the concentration on Ted Grant, retired boxer that does it. Perhaps Haney identified with these somewhat fringe characters in the DC universe? Wildcat, Plastic Man, Deadman, Kamandi, Metamorpho....

Matt Celis said...

I love those "fringe" characters. maybe haney liked them because nobody much cared what he did with/to them? I don't know how the guest stars were chosen, some are clearly there to be promoted (new-look Wonder Woman, Plastic Man new series, etc.) while others just seem left field.

Jim Aparo was so great...love his lettering, it's so distinctively his. He seems underappreciated, perhaps due to his reliability and craftsmanship. Anyone know when the Twomorrows Aparo bio is coming out? been delayed fo years now!

Goldenrulecomics said...

I was more of a Marvel fan during this era, but Brave & Bold was one of the few D.C. comics I always read -- in part because it was so over the top!
The team-ups always seemed so random, and anything could happen each issue.
This story really didn't have much specifically to do with Wildcat, who could have been any hero slotted into the story. But I still enjoyed reading it as a kid, and I enjoyed your review! P.S. I've made some comments as `Bruce' but realize you have another Bruce among your readers so I'll start using my blog post name instead.

Kenn Dunn said...

I always thought that if TPTB at DC had just allowed for an Earth 1 version of Wildcat (Haney's version was pretty cool) and Black Canary the whole Crisis thing never would have had to have happened!

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