The Brave and the Bold #143 (September/October 1978)
"Cast the First Stone"
Bob Haney/Cary Burkett-Jim Aparo
Doug: At the end of March the Creeper's name came up in our discussion of costume accessories. It then occurred to me that we've never had this weirdo on the BAB. That, for better or worse, changes today. And yes, he is a weirdo. NOTE: Apologies at the top for the quality of the scans. I am reading/scanning from Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, volume 2. As this is my first review from that book, the spine is pretty tight.
Doug: The 50c cover price really threw me -- when I got to setting up the post I assumed this issue would be from the early 1980s. I was never a reader of The Brave and the Bold as a child, so that the book apparently went double-sized eluded me. It seemed an oddly short-lived experiment, lasting only two issues (this one and #144) before settling in at 40c. So basically the marketing dept. at DC charged you 35c, but when Marvel raised their prices to 40c DC actually went to a 44-page book at 50c for two months. I believe this up-and-down occurred across the line and was the last straw before the famed "DC Implosion". You can check out the well-referenced facts on the Wikipedia article -- it's interesting.
Doug: Let's check out the plot of this story in a 100-Word Review:
We open with a news broadcast from “the most trusted man in America”, Cosmic Broadcasting’s Monty Walcott. He’s being trailed by the Batman; his top security man is Jack Ryder (secretly the Creeper) – you see where this is headed. Batman and the Creeper meet, tussle briefly, and the Batman tells him of an adventure he’d had with Aquaman concerning the log of a ship sunk 30 years earlier. It’s a tale of drugs, drug lords, and a revelation about Aquaman’s father. But the true bombshell was the reveal of the Gotham City kingpin – Monty Walcott! Can our heroes stop him?
The Good: When you're reading a Bronze Age B&B, you know you start your praises with Jim Aparo's art. As many around these parts say, he's the definitive Bronze Age Batman artist, and the favorite of more than a few of our readers. Aparo stays inside the lines for every one of his panels, but he really varies the size and shape of each one -- no grid system here. He paces things well, and of course his action sequences are top shelf. Although not the colorist on the issue (Jerry Serpe is credited), the page where Batman narrates to the Creeper the adventure with Aquaman from the previous issue is really well done in solid colors with only the inks for shading. And as three of the panels are underwater scenes, it's nicely effective.
Aparo also chooses interesting camera angles, really showing Batman from all perspectives -- I've chosen a panel with a shot from above that is pretty cool -- of course, the blowing cape doesn't exactly lend itself to stealth, does it? I also enjoy Aparo's depiction of Commissioner Gordon with the tousled hair and thick mustache that's really wanting to become a handlebar! If I have a qualm, and it's a minor one, it's in the way Jack Ryder is drawn. Fortunately he's named in each panel that starts a scene, as one might be tempted to think "Bruce Wayne" if just bouncing through the book visually. This was a real problem in the Silver Age in the Avengers in any scene where Cap, Goliath, and/or Hawkeye were shown sans masks -- all that square jaw/blond hair was tough to differentiate. That's what I'm saying here about Aparo's "tall, dark, and handsome" guys. And they are that -- he draws a good-looking man. If I have any knock on the guy's style, it's that his female faces are not equally attractive.
The story in this issue is only 17 pages, as again the book was divided but extra length. Bob Haney's script is pretty simple, with the surprise revealed at the beginning. After all, who would suspect the DCU's version of (apparently) Walter Cronkite as a drug kingpin? Not me. But that's out of the way at the front, and Batman really doesn't have to do much convincing to get the Creeper to help him out in putting Monty Walcott away. Walcott does get crafty in the middle of the tale, as he employs a "vertigo effect" that allows him to escape the clutches of the Batman and Gordon during an interrogation. Batman later learns that this is actually a gas weapon whereby the gas could be set off with a bomb, but activated by a particular radio frequency (there's your Zany) and causing crippling dizziness. There was an antidote, and Walcott had used it to escape from GCPD headquarters. You know he won't be on the lamb for long, though...
The Bad: I am searching the dark depths of my memory for facts lost among minutiae like what I'm supposed to get from the grocery store, in order to recall if I've read many Creeper stories. I know I've owned a few, notably in a longbox of Batman comics I bought for $30 in June 1989 (I've told that story -- took 'em right off the hands of a fellow at a flea market who apparently didn't know there was a Batman film about to be released. Two copies of Detective Comics #400 in there among the other 200 Bat-books). I must say that I don't really care for the character -- not his look, and I find his personality a bit confusing. Bear with me -- it could be just because I'm a novice. I'd like our readers to "sell" me on the character if you have a particular affinity for him. I thought the mash-up of his laughter, mystic talk, and regular-guy talk was off-putting. I guess I couldn't decide which was the "real" him. I said at the top the Creeper is weird -- standing by that, but then again -- maybe that's the point. Other than that general impression, there wasn't anything else in the story that wasn't either positive or what I would have expected from the Haney/Aparo team.
The Ugly: First, can you imagine if the Creeper was really out there running around all yellow and red hairy-cape-thing? That's ugly. Second, as mentioned above, I really tire of megalomaniac talk that includes admonitions like "Mortals!" and "Humans!" Pfah... spare me.