Friday, August 10, 2012

That Zany Bob Haney: The Brave and the Bold 104

The Brave and the Bold #104 (November/December 1972)
"Second Chance for a Deadman?"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo

Doug:  True confession time (again) -- I don't think I've ever read a full Deadman story.  I will say that the character is intriguing to me, and the original stories handled by Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams (particularly Adams) are somewhere on the "to find and read" list.  So while we've taken a nice tour of the Haney/Aparo Brave and the Bolds, I'll be coming to at least half of this team-up tabula rasa.  I'm thinking Haney could get real zany with this subject matter.  By the way, as I was preparing to read/write this, my sons came home from work, and the 20-year old (who is somewhat "into" comics) asked what was in the Legends of the Dark Knight - Jim Aparo, Volume 1 book.  I thumbed through it with him, showing him the various Batman team-ups.  But when I got to that one with the Atom I stopped and explained it.  They just cracked up and the older says, "Who would write a story like that??"  Bob Haney, dude.

Doug:  If there's one thing I've come to appreciate about Bob Haney, it's that he doesn't give a rat's rear end whether or not Batman is in or out of character, if the plot makes any sense at all, or how much collateral damage he leaves as he sews up a story.  Continuity be damned, sayeth he!  So when Batman grabs a machine gun and takes off after some heavily-armed hoods, to the chagrin and amazement of Commissioner Gordon, we have a Batman not seen since the Golden Age.  But it's all a ruse, as the machine gun was loaded with blanks.  Gordon's men were able to cover the Dark Knight as he made what appeared to be a suicide run.  But it made the car thieves nervous, skittish.  And when one had the courage to level his pistol at the Batman, it was Gordon who saved his friend's life with a bullet of his own.  When the two lawmen approached the corpse, they discovered that the leader was a Waxey Doyle; but Gordon said the deceased didn't look like Doyle.  Once in the morgue, Batman ordered a complete autopsy -- and you know what?  Ol' Waxey had received, at some point, a total makeover.  A further investigation by the Caped Crusader showed that several of the Most Wanted had been turning up in no way shape or form as they should have appeared.  Something big was going down with the world's elite criminals.

Doug:  Batman's aware that there are places who will totally remake a criminal's identity, but neither he or Gordon know where to find one.  Until they find a matchbook in Doyle's pocket -- the Pygmalion Spa in Cornucopia, Florida.  The Dark Knight is on the next plane.  Landing, he wears the guise of Mr. Howard Sanford and is introduced to Lilly Lang, his "directress to a new life".  She shows "Sanford" around the place, and he begins to engage in the activities.  Different denizens remark at what good shape he's in, but it's played off.  One day Batman spies Lilly with a man; he's told it's her boyfriend, and he watches them steal away to a part of the compound he's told is off-limits.  What more could a Batman need?  The next night, "Sanford" swims across the lagoon and hops the fence -- only to receive a beatdown from a couple of guards.  This begins a trend in this story that we've seen Haney employ in the other tales I've reviewed, and that is the "unaware" Batman.  For a guy who is supposed to be the world's greatest detective, the ultimate human fighting machine, and a peak physical specimen, he sure gets taken down pretty easily.

Doug:  Sensing that he's going to need a little help on this one, the Batman takes out an ad in a newspaper -- we don't know which paper, though.  It's designed to draw out one Boston Brand -- Deadman!  And the strategy works right away, because we only have a limited amount of pages to tell this story.  Wherever Brand had seen the ad, he hits the winds and makes his way to Gotham City, where the Batman has returned and is in counsel with the Commissioner.  Brand drops into the room, and indeed into the Commissioner to possess him.  Once aware that Gordon is no longer himself, Batman and Deadman cut the deal -- Deadman will go back to the Pygmalion Spa, take over the body of Lilly's boyfriend, Richie Wandrus, and gather enough evidence to blow the lid off the operation.  Before he leaves on the mission, however, Deadman is visited by Vashnu and the spirit of Rama Kushna (you'd have to have read some previous Deadman stories to be fully up to speed on this -- fortunately, I've read a few articles about Deadman, so I wasn't totally in the dark).  Rama Kushna tells Brand, "Hark to me, my son... a man, a spirit in love, may only gain his heart's desire by... losing it!  For is not love stronger than death itself?"

Doug:  Once at the spa, Brand immediately infiltrates Wandrus and begins to interact with Lilly.  He soon realizes he may be in over his head, as he begins to encounter hoods who know him.  But he sells it well enough to get by.  But as he gets closer to Lilly, Brand finds that he rather likes this return to the corporeal world -- in effect, he's falling for Lilly!  To make matters worse, he's apparently a better lover, more sensitive guy, you name it -- but Lilly likes the change in "Richie" as well!  They even talk about going straight, making enough money to retire from the spa, and going away together.  Boston Brand is falling hard.  But when the Batman confronts Brand about the lack of evidence he's gathered, Brand reveals his struggles with his feelings.  The Dark Knight will hear none of it, and orders Deadman to see this through.

Doug:  Deadman, now grasping at straws as to how to please both Batman and himself, decides the only way to handle all of it is to come clean with Lilly.  He decides to fess up to her... and you know what?  She buys it!  Brand is more committed than ever to get Lilly to go straight, so they can indeed retire together.  He gets the evidence Batman had already stored up, invading Bruce Wayne's body while Wayne slept.  With the situation now irrevocably complicated, Batman feels that he must now do this alone.  Heading back to Pygmalion, Batman takes the guise of one Whitey Blaine -- but just as clumsily screwing it up as he'd done before, Batman had picked the identity of a recently-deceased hood!  Lilly orders the plastic surgeon staff to now make Holt Gannigan -- Public Enemy #1 -- look like "Whitey Blaine", and vice versa; in effect, Bruce Wayne will be altered to look like the worst criminal in the world!  Of course, Brand stands right by, in the body of Richie Wandrus, and begins to get very nervous.

Doug:  Bruce Wayne is dumped on a Florida street, not aware that he's been made up to look like Gannigan.  Dazed, he begins to stumble about.  A police cruiser happens by, with Cornucopia's finest fully aware that Holt Gannigan has been spotted in the area.  Looking to bag a big one, they spot "Gannigan" in the street.  With lethal force, they move in and wing him in the shoulder.  Deadman immediately flashes into our view and enters Wayne's body.  Running quickly from the scene into a nearby swamp, Deadman manages to elude the police.  Squatting by a puddle to wash the make-up from Wayne's face and head, Deadman also scrawls a message in the mud.  Feeling that Wayne's been revived a bit, Deadman exits.  As he floats away, Wayne admonishes him to quit feeling for Lilly and to bring her to justice.  Entering the room Lilly shares with Wandrus, Deadman re-inhabits the napping body of Richie.  But Lilly's onto Brand's scheme, and has figured him out to be working with the law.  She draws a gun.

Doug:  At that same moment, the Batman crashes through the window and orders Lilly to drop her weapon -- law agents have the place surrounded!  But Lilly's blinded with rage toward Brand, Richie, Batman -- the whole situation.  She yells at Brand that her payback to him will be to make him watch Batman die.  Recalling the words of Rama Kushna ("Hark to me, my son... a man, a spirit in love, may only gain his heart's desire by... losing it!  For is not love stronger than death itself?"), Brand has an epiphany.  Drawing a small pistol from Wandrus' pocket, Deadman fires at Lilly, saving the Dark Knight while killing her!  Brand reasoned that Rama Kushna's words meant that in his love's death, he would find love -- but what he got instead was nothing.  Having assumed Lilly would take on a phantom form and join him in the spirit world, Brand fled to his own anxieties and disappointments.  And the Batman?  He was left to explain to Richie Wandrus just what had gone on these past days, and why he was under arrest.

Doug:  I really liked this story!  Haney's plots are always dense, with many twists and turns along the way.  And as I'd said near the top, he's never afraid to take characters (and readers) out of their comfort zones.  Think you know how "X" should behave in reaction to a given stimulus?  Think again...  Jim Aparo was solid as always, although I'm really beginning to notice his lack of ability to draw beautiful female faces.  His women aren't "ugly" by any stretch, but next to the work of Nick Cardy, Jim Mooney, John Buscema, or Johnny Romita, Aparo pales in comparison.  But he draws a great Batman, and orchestrates an action sequence well.  Good, early Bronze Age fare!


david_b said...

What I get a sense of, is Haney wrote entertaining, topical/urban stories, and threw Batman in. Other than being a shrewed 'action detective', I never saw much 'distinctively Batman' in these stories.

I totally agree on the woman's faces. Like other biggies (perhaps John Buscema and Mike Grell to name a couple), you typically got the same facial expressions all the time with Aparo. He drew wonderfully (especially how he drew capes..), but I felt his range was limited, hence why I felt in terms of artistry, if you see one Aparo Batman issue, you've seen nearly all.

Consistency..? Yes, nearly to a fault.

Garett said...

Great review Doug! I agree about Aparo's women's faces--it would be awesome if Romita could step in to fix them up. Sometimes they're better, like in the Wonder Woman issue. Aparo does draw a cool looking Bruce Wayne, in or out of disguise.

This is one of my favorite B+B stories--infiltrating the spa, the love story. The machine gun at the beginning adds the zany! Deadman is an intriguing character. The Adams issues have some very nice art, and the Garcia Lopez miniseries from the 80s was excellent as I recall.

I was surprised that Deadman shoots the woman instead of taking over her body, but he's blinded by his desire for her--a tragic ending for him. It seems quite extreme that he'd kill while inhabiting someone else's body--not sure if that happened in his other adventures.

I like the wide open nature of these B+B stories. Depending on the guest star, it can go from WW2 to horror to science to romance to western! Similar to original Star Trek in that way.

Fred W. Hill said...

Never read this story but from the description it just screams "hard-boiled detective" story, with Batman just totally dedicated to the job but making a few mistakes that add some sense of danger, while Deadman falls for the dangerous dame, almost screwing up everything and haing his metaphysical dead heart broken in the end.

Anthony said...

Karen said...

Wow, those two sites have such biting commentary in their reviews.


Doug and I have avoided putting up every page of the comics we review as we don't want to take any money out of anyone's pockets.Or incur a lawsuit. Honestly, we'd rather take the time to write up actual reviews and encourage discussion rather than just post a book. I think Doug in particular does a great job with the Bob Haney posts and the amount of conversation generated by them has been a highlight lately.


Anthony said...

Sorry. I hope I didn't step on any toes. I agree both you and Doug do a great job with reviews and I enjoy reading all the conversations even if I don't always post.

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks for reviewing this Doug.

I recently asked if you could tell if the new-ish 'Legends of the Dark Knight-Jim Aparo' book had any recoloring in it.
I checked out this link, from our fellow Bronze Age fanatic Ol' Groove:

I compared it to the reprint book, they look pretty much the same, but the book of course looks slicker, glossier. So it isn't recolored, unlike the Adams books.

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, I can't believe how coldly my favorite Batman artist is getting dissed upthread. For the record, I think he draws women just fine. So there (!) ...
Just to add to Garrett's point about Deadman stories, not only is there that beautifully drawn mini from the early '80s, there's also these now almost forgotten shorts from that brief period when Adventure was a dollar comic. I think Len Wein wrote them all, while Aparo drew the first few and Garcia Lopez the rest. Those were my first exposure to Deadman, and they are rather good stories.

Karen said...

Anthony, I'm sorry if I came on a little strong. I just know how much work it is for Doug to do one of these posts all by his lonesome.When I saw those links , where all they did was post an entire book, it just set me off a bit. I don't want to discourage you or anyone from posting, it just hit a nerve. I do apologize for the harshness of my tone.

Garett said...

Sorry Edo! But I will say Aparo is by far the best artist for B+B. Cardy I don't much like, except on Bat Lash.

There's also a cool Garcia Lopez Deadman story in DC Comics Presents #24. He drew some beautiful women!

Edo Bosnar said...

Garrett, yes that DC Comics Presents story is indeed outstanding - as soon as I posted above, I did a "d'oh! Can't believe I forgot that one!"

dbutler16 said...

The art here looks great! Speaknig of B&B with Deadman, I recently read a Bob Haney Brave & Bold that was relly good. B&B #79, which I read in "Illustrated Batman by Neal Adams" teams Batman up with Deadman in what I think must have been the first time they met. Really good tension between these two, as they have different goals in this story.

Anthony said...

Don't worry about it Karen. No harm done. If anything your comment shows the passion you feel for the work that you and Doug do here at BAB. That passion is the reason I visit BAB on a daily basis whether the post is about comics, music, movies etc. BAB is a great way to start the day.

Related Posts with Thumbnails