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