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Friday, November 04, 2005


1975: Brave & Bold & Bob

Can you feel it? Can you feel your ass being kicked? Kicked savagely, without mercy? Can you feel yourself being forced by a lunatic into a fight to the death with a friend? Can you feel a spiked gauntlet crushing your jaw into splinters as it rips the skin clean off your face? Can you believe how many fricking logos are on this cover?

Brave & the Bold #118 was my introduction to a lot of things: the comic book version of Batman (looking nothing like he did on TV, I might add), Wildcat, Jim Aparo (to whom I've already written a valentine) and Bob Haney.

Oh, Bob Haney. Did I realize in 1975 how different, how special, okay, how utterly retarded this man's comics were? If "utterly retarded" is a synonym for "awesome" then yes, yes I did. I was 4 years old. And Aparo/Haney was the gold standard.

Haney's stories weren't merely stupid, or simply nonsensical. They were fucked-up fever dreams of the highest order. Intra-title continuity and character consistency didn't even make past the cover of a Haney comic. And internal plot consistency didn't fare much better. Batman snapping, and running off the kill the Joker after one crime too many. Batman sauntering down the street in broad daylight rapping about how much he "digs this groovy day!" Native American terrorists trying to sabotage a bicentennial train holding the Declaration of Independence. Batman being rescued from a well by Hitler (or maybe Satan...or maybe they're the same thing!!! Aaaiiiiieeeee!!!) Batman being sent through time by a recent issue of Brave & the Bold. I could go on about what "happens" in B&B #118: poison, a race against the clock to find a weird little dog with the antidote in its bloodstream, an ending that obliviously, egregiously contradicts the Joker's origin as the Red Hood, but pretty much the central awesomeness is right there in that cover, and the idea of Batman and Wildcat (separated by different earths in different "vibrational dimensions" in every other comic but never in Haney's) whaling the motherhumping shit out of each other as the Joker looks on in a state of downright sexual ecstacy. The only better fight I can think of is in John Carpenter's They Live, when Roddy Piper and his friend spend 15 minutes trying to kill each other with 2x4's because the other guy won't put on Rowdy Roddy's glasses. Worthy of Haney himself, that scene.

Thirty years have gone by, but Haney is no less wonderful to me, despite (or perhaps because of) my eventual awareness of his bizarreness. Every time I read a new Haney comic from that era (and thank goodness, I still have about a dozen 1970s B&B's to get) I starting yelling to my wife "This is the dumbest comic ever! This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen!" she asks if this is meant as criticism. Of course not. Many--hell, most comics are better, but no comics make me happier.

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I, too, love Wildcat, and I too, love Jim Aparo, and I too, love Bob Haney's utterly hallucinogenic BRAVE AND THE BOLD stories, especially when they're drawn by Aparo. The two were some kind of team supreme; Haney's stuff was never as good with other artists, and Aparo always seemed slightly paler when drawing someone else's scripts.

One of MY favorite B&B stories by Haney featured Batman teamed up with Sgt. Rock in the modern day, where he was some kind of ambassador, or the chief of security at some embassy, or something. Had to be 30 years since WWII when this story came out, and other than being a little grey, Rock was completely unchanged. I wish I could find that story, although, really, it wasn't a patch on the utter lunacy of the tale where Batman met Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth... and for the love of God, why did Haney never team Batman up with OMAC? That would have been awesome!
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Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .

"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .

"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.

"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank

For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing
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