The Brave and the Bold #81 (December/January 1968)
"But Bork Can Hurt You!"
Bob Haney-Neal Adams/Vince Colletta/Dick Giordano
Doug: Bob Haney's been on ice around the Bronze Age Babies; in fact, the last post in this series was way back on September 7 2012! For those of you who favor your DCs, you have my apologies! I also noticed that we really haven't ever featured the Flash on this blog. Remedied today. Lastly, some housekeeping -- those of you who've followed this series may recall that when Haney's collaborator has been Neal Adams, I've used as my resource the hardcover collection, Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams. Today's story comes from the first volume, and as you'll also recall features the story newly recolored by Adams. We've said before that the effort is somewhat Lucasian. So, let's tarry no longer then...
Doug: To say this story starts off full-on zany would be an understatement! We open dockside in Gotham City, as a tough named Carl Bork is kicked off a boat for allegedly trying to steal while on it. Wandering away, he doesn't see a tractor trailer bearing down on him and is run over -- literally. However, instead of becoming a stain on the pavement, we find that Bork (now referring to himself in the third person) is not only alive, but unharmed -- and apparently invulnerable! Entering a nearby "greasy spoon", Bork robs the cash register while the proprietor howls for the police. Soon a patrolman arrives, and orders Bork to halt. Unheeded, the cop immediately resorts to police brutality and shoots Bork in the back of the leg (there was never any pursuit, no billy club drawn, no warning shot -- just a bullet to the leg. Sheesh...). Bork seems unphased, so takes another bullet, and another. Now feeling that's he's somehow become godlike, Bork thinks to himself how the world is going to pay, and pay hard!
Doug: While at the GCPD, Barry Allen is visiting from Central City (o', how I wish DC had chosen long ago to set their stories in the "real world") and is being shown the facility by the Batman. Once in Commissioner Gordon's office, the two heroes become privy to a bulletin over the police band -- "rumble" on the docks. Now that's some police talk! Batman urges Gordon to give Allen a lift, while the Dark Knight takes to the skies. Once at the docks, Batman sees Milo Manning (underworld labor goon and extortionist) squaring off against Carl Bork. It gets physical right away, and Bork takes clubs and boards to his head, as well as destroys a forklift. Manning's tossed into the drink and all of the thugs quickly come to the realization that there's a new boss in Gotham. That's when the Batman descends, and places Bork under arrest. The fight is brief, as Bork takes anything the Caped Crusader dishes out, and delivers it back tenfold. An unconscious Batman is tossed in the direction of the now arrived Gordon and Allen. Gordon's men swarm toward the ganglanders, but Bork's men are now inspired and take them on directly. It isn't but minutes 'til Gordon orders a retreat. It looks like Carl Bork is on the verge of running Gotham City.
Doug: Mere hours later, the underworld has rallied around Bork. The mayor isn't happy, as City Hall has received word that Bork is ordering a city-wide riot within 24 hours if his demands aren't met. Gordon tries to placate his boss, but this isn't looking good. A bruised and battered Batman excuses himself from the conversation, and we see he and Barry Allen in another room. Allen activates his ring, and is soon dressed for action as the Flash. His mission: to track the whereabouts of Carl Bork over the past few years. Literally running around the world, the Flash makes stops everywhere he could find police information on Bork. Meeting a national president in Africa, the Flash learns that a commando team has been dispatched to Gotham to bring in Bork. Racing back to Gotham, the Flash informs the Batman of this new twist. And I have to tell you -- Bob Haney does in eight panels enough nicknaming to put Smilin' Stan Lee to shame! On a page and a third, Barry Allen is referred to as the "Scarlet Speedster", the "Wizard of Whiz", the "Sultan of Zoom", the "Super Leg Man", and the "Monarch of Motion". Whew! Now that's zany...
Doug: The African commandos, armed with assault rifles, find Bork. Bork goads them into attacking, and it's soon known what everyone else has discovered (and Haney has repeated numerous times -- "you can't hurt Bork, but Bork can hurt you!"). Batman arrives in time to separate the combatants, and they scatter. We check back on the Flash, who is in the second stage of his fact-gathering. Aboard a merchant vessel, our hero is told how Bork was once picked up from Desolation Island, where the natives had made a totem of him. The captain tells that the longstanding rumor is that those totems possessed supernatural powers. Flash covers the millennium of miles in seconds, only to discover the natives evacuating -- a volcano is about to blow on the island! Racing up the mountain to the totem, the Flash is caught in the explosion. He, the statue, and a whole lot of rock and lava are hurled out into the sea. The totem drifts away as Flash clings partially-conscious to some driftwood.
Doug: Things are heating up in Gotham, as the city council is coming apart at the prospect of Bork running the town. Batman is implored to solve this; indeed, he may be part of the larger problem, since Bork has ordered the Batman to leave Gotham City. We cut away to the Flash, now awake and back to work, searching the sea for the drifting totem. It's no luck, as we see a wayward sailor has found it and spirited it away, not knowing of its significance. Back in Gotham, Bork has allowed himself to be arrested (we're not told how or why) and is thrown in the city lock-up by Batman himself. Batman taunts Bork, telling him that while his invulnerability protects him, he doesn't possess any super-strength to break out. Wrong. Because Bork is invulnerable, he constantly pounds on the concrete wall until it gives. Now it's known that not even a jail cell can contain Carl Bork.
Doug: Back to the sea, a storm has come up and tossed the small craft of the sailor harboring the Bork carving. Finally flung back into the water, it's soon found by the Flash. Carrying it to the nearest island, the Flash attempts to destroy it by smashing it against rock. No dice. So, feeling this is definitely a case of "more than meets the eye", the Flash hustles the totem to his lab in Central City. Unable to damage it with chemicals, the Flash discovers that there are some unknown minerals coating it -- Bork's invulnerability may never be cracked! In Gotham, Gordon and Bork argue against Bork's demands, the good guys attempting to buy time for the Flash to figure this out. Some among Gotham City's leadership say Bork's demands should actually be considered; Batman says to continue to stall.
Doug: The Flash, at the end of hope, attempts to destroy the totem through friction. Attaching it to a harness, the Flash begins to tow it behind him, as fast as he can run. Eventually the Flash breaks the timestream, and then on into another dimension. Nothing. Nearly defeated, Flash takes the statue back to his lab and subjects it to the one thing he'd not previously tried: lasers. Sure enough, a spot begins to materialize on the totem's hand. As the laser heats up, its generator overheats and explodes. Flash vibrates his molecules to allow any harmful particles to pass through him. Back in Gotham, the African hit squad has again tracked down Bork. Figuring that modern weapons of warfare were useless, they turn now to more traditional methods -- blowguns and darts! With Bork in range, they attack, striking Bork in the hand -- and it affects him! Batman, on the scene, orders Gordon to call off his men. Gotham's champion will take on Bork alone, with the winner getting his way.
Doug: And then... things turn zanier yet. The Flash, realizing that the power of light and radiation caused a chink in Bork's armor, grabs the totem once again and begins towing it -- right into the sun! No transuit, no protective aura, nothing. Just running. Into the sun. And while I can suspend my disbelief enough to think the Flash could run on water, I'm having just a bit more of a tough time sensing that he can run vertically on air, and then reach escape velocity, and then run in the vacuum of space... you get my drift. Well, anyway, the Flash is able to reach the sun and hurl the totem into it -- no more totem. And, using passing asteroids for balance and pushing off (I'm not making this up -- Haney made this up), the Flash is able to reverse his own course and return to Earth. Back on terra firma, the Batman metes out punishment to the now de-powered Carl Bork. It's a pretty short fight, as you might imagine. In the end, the Africans are allowed to extradite Bork to face justice in their own nation. Gotham City has been rid of its latest menace!
Doug: So that's the plot summary -- how about the review? I thought Haney did a poor job of melding the ending to the beginning. When we first met Carl Bork he was being kicked off a steamer ship. He gets waylaid by the truck, and gets up wondering why he isn't dead. So obviously he doesn't know of his invulnerability. Yet, later when Flash is on his mission he encounters a ship's captain who informs him about the island, the totem, the supernatural, etc. Is this the same captain we saw in the beginning (he doesn't look the same)? How long has Bork been off or away from that island? Did he not have powers while there? Why did the natives make the totem of him in the first place? Why would he have been considered "worship worthy"? So while it's a goofy story anyway, those are a couple of issues that should have been more clear -- or maybe I'm just dense and un-zany myself.
Doug: Additionally, I want to throw a kudo to Adams' pencils. They are ever-dynamic, and I guess I'm going to take a commenter or two to task. It seems that each time we run a post with Adams' art, we get an anonymous drive-by commenter who wants to heap garbage on Neal Adams. I won't sit here at the keyboard and say he's the greatest comic book artist of all time, but he's in that top 5 somewhere. The complaints I usually read from this critic (whoever he or she may be) is that the figures don't look like they're talking to each other, the panels don't flow one into the other as a means to move the story, etc. I-simply-do-not-see-that. None of those criticisms are valid. I suppose the only way to truly hash it out is to sit down side-by-side and go through a story together; obviously, that's not going to happen. So if you're reading this, o' Anonymous Adams-hater, please first use a handle so there's a sense of community in your comment, and then get specific about your criticisms. Personally, I think the proof's in the panel samples provided today.
Karen and Doug are honored to have been asked to join this summer's Super Blog Team-Up. Come July, we'll be back in the reviewers' chairs and taking a look at one of the great treasuries of the Bronze Age!
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
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