Monday, May 23, 2016

That Zany Bob Haney:The Brave and the Bold 143

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.


Martinex1 said...

I liked the Creeper in his early Ditko run. He was suitably odd and different than the heroes at the time. And I think some of those covers by Ditko were classic. But like you, I honestly don't remember many specifics or great stories ongoing. There is probably a diamond in the rough there; he may be more suitable for modern times. A talk show host (before he became a security man) with a healing factor and a maniacal laugh that causes pain, who is driven somewhat mad and irrational by the serum that helped create him...seems intriguing.

I like his look as it is so different than anything else (but the furry cape probably needs to be modified).

Edo Bosnar said...

All in all, looks like a solid B&B entry from that period - and I'm one of those "more than a few" BAB regulars who just loves Aparo's art everywhere, but especially in Batman stories.
As for the Creeper, I honestly haven't read many stories with him; off the top of my head, I know I read Showcase #100, in which he appears with a good half of the DC universe, and also a later issue of Brave & the Bold, in which he and Bats go against a villain made of paper or something like that. So I don't know much about him, other than he looks odd, takes on an odd persona when he's in his equally odd costume (with that shaggy red floor mat instead of a cape), and his actual abilities are a bit vague - I guess he's strong and agile, and then there's that laugh. I recall reading somewhere that Alan Moore asserted that the Creeper's only real power was to laugh at bad guys, which he apparently thought was brilliant...

Unknown said...

Jim Aparo's art is, as usual, quality work. Aparo is a prolific artist whose work on Batman could be considered "definitive" (sort of the way Curt Swan's work on Superman can be considered definitive), despite some of Aparo's obvious attempts at imitating Neal Adams earlier on in his career.

Bob Haney was a prolific writer as well, and props to him for co-creating the Teen Titans. Unfortunately, I found most of Bob Haney's stories featuring Batman to be disappointingly silly. It's too bad he didn't take Denny O'Neil's example and write "serious" Batman stories, like the "serious" tales Denny O'Neil wrote featuring Ra's al Ghul, instead of mostly juvenile ones.

The Creeper is a bizarre character, but Steve Ditko was apparently a reclusive oddball himself, so perhaps he gave his creation some of his own eccentricities. The Creeper is one of those strange types who seem to lack a moral compass---as to whether it's insanity or psychopathy, it's not clear---and he crosses the line between hero and villain on a number of occasions. For instance, the Creeper's behavior is outlandish when he goes up against the Joker in "The Last Ha-Ha" in Joker #3 from October 1975. (That issue features a cover by Dick Giordano, script by Denny O'Neil, pencils by Ernie Chan, and inks by José Luis Garcia-López---great team!)

Garett said...

I always like seeing the B+B reviews on BAB. I agree with Martinex that the Creeper seems like a character with potential, and his costume is certainly different. For me, this issue comes just after Aparo's best art period, but we can see here that it's still good.

Creeper needs to team up with Mister Miracle, just for the color coordination!

johnlindwall said...

I don't think I can sell you on the Creeper, Doug; he's just not that great a character. I remember when I was a kid and DC was parading these "new" characters that I wanted so hard to love, like Captain Comet, Airwave, and Creeper. They must be cool, because they're new, right? Well no not true. I did not hate Creeper, and was curious enough about him to read books that he appeared in but it was not like I sought him out.

Maybe the 68 Ditko series was good? Maybe THAT version of the Creeper is awesome?

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