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The Top 16 Best Team-Up Book Runs: # 1

The best comics ever!

(For a very specific definition of best.)

1)  Bob Haney (writer) and Jim Aparo (artist) on Brave and the Bold (1971-1979)

Issues:  98, 100-102, 104-125,  I think he’s the inker on 126,, 127-136, 138-145, 148-152, 154-155 and 157.  Whew.  A whopping 53 issues.

Team-Ups: Batman with:  Green Arrow (6 times), the Metal Men (4 times), Wonder Woman, Mister Miracle, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Metamorpho, the Atom, Sgt. Rock, Aquaman and Wildcat.  (3 times each), Plastic Man, the Joker, the Flash, Teen Titans, the Phantom Stranger, Deadman and Kamandi (twice each) and Robin, the Demon, the Spectre, Man-Bat, Swamp Thing, Two-Face, Richard Dragon, Hawkman and the Creeper.  (Once each.)  Note that some of these issues had more than one character per story.   Issue # 100 guest-starred Robin AND Green Lantern AND Green Arrow AND Black Canary, ferinstance.

417px-Brave_and_the_bold_100

Obviously, I’m a member of the comics blogsphere.  And, as such, I have to love these comics like my 53 first born children, and can talk about it for days on end, not pausing for food or sleep or bathroom breaks.

But in the interests of brevity and good taste, I will limit myself to ten-ish reasons why it’s the best.

Why This Run is Numbero Uno:

1)  Plot.  “Not,” he hastens to add, “that these are extraordinarily well planned-out stories, or stories with far-reaching implications for the “DC Universe” or stories that build, as a unit, to a grand pay-off 37 issues down the road.”…. But they ARE high-concept, original, fast moving, unpredictable, and ridiculously entertaining, with everything from characterization to setting (this might be the globe-trottingest Batman ever) rendered flexible in the service of story!  Story!  STORY!

Flat-out, folks, I think this is the most entertaining bunch of STORIES (story!  Story!) of any comic run I’ve read.

For example let’s turn to the Wildcat team-up in Brave and the Bold # 118.

Batman and Wildcat are forced into boxing (complete with ring) each other with Cestus (spiked metal gloves from the Roman Colliseum, apparently) to stop the Joker from shooting THE ONLY PUPPY IN THE WORLD who’s blood contains anti-bodies can save a prison full of sick inmates, including one former boxer who lost the title to Wildcat on a technicality and is now a henchman of the Joker, posisoned so he can’t talk.

You `know what that’s called in a Haney/Aparo story?  Page 13.

1098_4_118

(“Hell of a lot more content in those thirteen pages than in entire 8 issue mini-series we get now-a-days”  hrummps your infirm and aging host.)

2)  Tone.

I imagine the actual creative PROCESS for these issues involved lots of snickering and air-fist-pumping and cries of “HELLS YEAH!”

But the actual stories themselves are played absolutely straight.

=  And this may be the oddest/craziest/wonderfullest thing about this run. While most Silver and Bronze age superhero writers held themselves at a sniggering distance from the kiddie stuff they were cranking out, H & A didn’t even adopt the camp vibe of the old ’60s TV show.  This stuff is treated like  Russian Literature, which (A) means that the dark, moody, serious sequences (and they DO exist) can work credibly well (B)  when the plot gets… interesting, it’s an absolute blindside.

haneyww021
(From Brave and the Bold # 140.)

To get all lit-major-y (and keep in mind Haney had a BA in English) the ontrast between the autorial approach to the stories (dead serious) and the CONTENT of the stories (Whack-a-ding-dong insane) makes for a delicious application of reverse romatic-irony.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  But I’m outta school right now and have to keep my bullshit muscles in shape.)

3)  VIOLENCE!  Jim Aparo draws punchin’ and kickin’ and bitin’ and gougin’ better than any artist ever, with Batman all hitting people so hard they explode.

rsz_image0001
(From Brave and the Bold # 132.)

4)  Aparo’s inking himself for much of the run.  The big problem with the penciller/inker system in comics is that, often, inkers are overly afraid to obfuscate the penciled art, which means you never get big ‘ol gobs of black all over everything, like SO.

IMAGE0006
(From Brave and the Bold # 110.)

5)  I really, really (REALLY) dig Haney’s approach to Batman.  It’s probably the most… normal, and well-adjusted take on the character ever.  I’ve always suspected that the “Grim, obsessed, creature of the night” schtick has always worked contrary to one of Batman’s innate strengths as a character – The fact that he really IS the “hero who could be you.”

Haney’s Batman, on the other hand…..  Really could.

digs-this-day
(A slightly edited panel from Brave and the Bold # 102, borrowed from Mark Waid’s site.)

One non-Aparo example from B &B 99.   Here Batman confronts the deaths of his parents, goes through some angst, GETS THE HELL OVER IT, and ends with a riff on “Goodnight Moon.”

th-eend
(From Brave and the Bold # 99, drawn by Bob Brown.  Nick Cardy Inker.  Thanks to Every Day is Like Wednesday for the Scan.)

6)  These aren’t, by and large, strictly superhero comics.  At least they’re not bound by the cliches and storytelling structure of most supehero books.  War comics?   Sure.  International espionage comics?  Absolutely.  Gothic romance books?  Betcher bottom dollar.  Hot, Indiana Jones style archeologist action?  ‘Sooolutely!  But there’s very, very little of the “Hero on patrol encounters random villain, almost loses, comes back and kicks butt” stuff that makes up 97% of the plots in the other “street level hero” type books of the day.  This kind of facile genre hopping garuantees that you don’t ever QUITE know what you’re gonna get in any given issue, and keeps the whole run lively, and far less predictable and repetetetetetive than… well, again, pretty much any other run of comics, ever.

B&B 135 Love-thumb
(From Brave and the Bold # 135, a romance/legal thriller between a caveman (who might be a robot) and a female tycoon.  Guest starring the Metal Men, like there’s any room for them.)

7)  Haney’s a genuinely smart dude, and his stories are full of interesting historical/biological/archeological tid-bits and trivia. ADULT me has actually learned stuff about the real world from these comics.

It might be a little strange that the Atom is controlling Batman’s dead body like a puppet..

Corpse03
(From Brave and the Bold # 115)

But you can be sure he’s researched and assigned the correct functions to the different regions of the brain.

(For proof, I’ll refer you to the medically-minded Scott over at Polite Dissent. It’s definitely worth clicking the “Bob Haney” tag at the bottom, as well.)

8)  Haney and Aparo were doing meta-fiction before Grant Morrison could even spell it.

1098_4_124

And just for balance sake, here’s Bob Haney from the same issue.

B&B 124 Haney

(Yes, OBVIOUSLY, Bob Haney lives in a cabin out in the middle of the woods, has a big hunting dog, and his best friend owns a lighthouse.  This is common sense.)

9)  100 Pages!  Now it’s been scientifically proven beyond the benefit of a doubt that the 100 page floppy is the optimal format for comics, and this run provides six of ‘em, every issue between 112 and 117. Checkout all the cool stuff you get in just one issue!

rsz_image0002
(From Brave and the Bold # 116.  Batman by Nick Cardy.)

Beautiful.

10) The early issues of this run are absolutely superbly colored, although the colorist isn’t listed and even the Grand Comic Book Database doesn’t know who it is.  The Hooded Utilitarian does a side-by-side comparison of the original Deadman team-up in issue # 104 with the Black and White reprint, so I’ll just quote him:

And I love the way the touch of red shading makes Deadman’s path out of the body here more solid; it’s almost like he’s at the end of a twisty ectoplasmic fabric; an effect which is present, but more muted, in the black and white:

lastpage006

out154

And, OK, I was tryin’ for just ten, but I got one more.

11)  The best Alfred in the last fifty years.  He doesn’t regularly show up till late in the run, but Haney’s Alfred isa man who’s  both ready with a self-deprecating wise-crack

B&B151AlfredDescriibes-thumb
(From Brave and the Bold # 141.)

AND he’s hip to all the latest dance-steps.

rsz_image0004
(From Brave and the Bold # 151)

On the Other Hand: Blah…blah… blah… inconsistent, some issues are boring (105) some are fairly terrible (134) blah…blah..blah editorial muddling and co-writing with Cary Burkett before he was any good and Blah Blah Blah gets worse as the run goes on.  And sometimes other, lesser, creators failed to follow/understand the one true continuity as laid down by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo, and made the DC Universe look inconsistent as a result.

But still, on the whole, pretty damned brilliant.

Bonus Links! (Man, we could be here all day.)

ASIDE from the people I’ve already linked to:

Here’s Tucker Stone of the Factual Opion on B&B 100-102

Here’s Graeme McMillan giving an “Excellent” rating to the Black and White Showcase Rerprint of 109- 134.

Here’s Rob! of the Aquaman Shrine on Brave and the Bold 126.

And here’s Rob!’s Phantom Stranger sie sister-site on the Phantom Stranger in 145.

And Chris Sims of the ISB on the Atom/Dead Batman team-up from 115.

And Sims again on Batman and Richard Dragon from B &B 132.

Scroll down for “H” of the Comic Treadmill reviewing pretty much the whole damn series.

Here’s some Commisioned Jim Aparo art from an eminently tasteful dude calling himself “Aparofan.”

And, heck, here’s CSBGs’ Bill Reed on Bob Haney.

(The best part about all these links? Liberally borrowing scans from the above bloggers. Saved me a lot of work, guys.)

Next: After some recovery time I’ll discuss the runners up. (Basically the OTHER twenty-or-so team-up book runs I really like. Soon!)

31 Comments

Loved this pick for the top spot. I smiled throughout the whole article, especially at the “Page 13″ crack in regards to plot. Hear, hear! Earlier this year I committed to rereading and reviewing a Bronze Age comic every day, and a new appreciation of the Haney/Aparo B&B has been one of the most pleasant surprises. The stories aren’t always great, but interesting is rarely a problem. And I love Jim Aparo more with every issue I see (so far, I’ve reviewed #135, #150 and #157).

Yeah, this was a no-brainer for the #1 spot. And DC 100 page comics are one of my favorite things on the planet. I’ve bought a lot of beat up issues for pretty cheap. Unfortunately, most of the time they’re priced pretty steep.

No complaint here. I only have #135 (Metal Men) and #155 (Green Lantern), but now I look forward to seeking out other issues in this run. Excellent work on the countdown.

Let’s not forget #111 – for me one of the best, perhaps THE best Joker story ever written (“Death hast the last laugh”). The splash page was even cited in “The Dark Knight”.

I did #80 a couple of years ago… I bought many, many issues of B&B from the early 70’s till the early 80’s, even had a letter or two printed in the letters pages. #80 was one of my favorite issues in the whole run.

I had that Batman/Sgt Rock issue when I was a kid and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Loved the art but the story hurt my lil brain. And one of the Wildcat issues was one of my favorite comics ever. And yes, those 100 page issues rival tiramisu and oral sex as “Greatest Inventions Ever.”

Thanks Mark. This was great.

For a long time, B&B was the only Batman title I bought. Aparo is THE Batman artist.

Pretty much expecting this as the top pick, although it was only when I saw your list of the issues that it really dawned on me that the “Haney-Aparo” run would not include all of the issues drawn by Aparo, which is, I believe, damn near everything from issue from 100 to 200 (o.k., o.k. maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I don’t feel like going to the GCD to get an exact tally). Somehow I think some kind of homage should be paid just to the Aparo-as-artist run, not only because he did so many, but he did them so well. And I’m another one of those who think Jim Aparo is the definitive Batman artist.

Worth noting — for many years, Aparo not only did his own inking, but his own lettering, as well. It’s why his pages have such a great individual look, he’s designed everything to work as a unit.

Dammit, I still miss Jim Aparo.

Cool stuff, any chance they’ve put it into a Showcase volume, tpb or hardcover?

B&B is my favorite comic of all time, and “Small War of the Super Rifles” (the Sgt. Rock/Haney/Aparo/Boltinoff team up from #124) may be the best Batman story of all time.

“Batman, Wonder Woman and Batgirl- The eternal triangle — one man, and the two women who want him!”

Damn, Batman, you are the man, aren’t ya?

In the first two issues of this run I acquired as a kid (98 and 145, the Phantom Stranger appearances):

98) Batman (not Bruce Wayne) is some civilian’s oldest and dearest friend and godfather of his son. When the friend dies, Batman (not Bruce Wayne) gets all huggy with the kid and (after some Bob Haney happens, i.e. he original kid turns out to be the evil twin and a demonic overlord who has to be defeated, but there’s a heretofore unknown good twin) promises to take care of him forever, albeit at a distance; and

145) when interrogating a prisoner who’s under hypnotic influence and convinced that a voodoo lord’s spell will kill him if he talks, Batman first tries to go the dark-and-scary-bat-avenger route, to convince the prisoner that he’s way scarier than the voodoo lord… and when the man’s mind is about to break, Batman realizes that *he’s supposed to protect people, not scare them the hell to death*, and so he instead switches to balancing the voodoo lord’s power of suggestion of scary spells with his own power of suggestion that he’s Batman and can therefore *protect* the guy.

Normal and well-adjusted indeed. I think that at any time in the last 20+ years you could publish B&B 145 and have it seem like a contemporary piece of critical commentary on Batman comics– even though it came out years before Miller ever touched the character!

Mark Andrew Blah blah blah failed to cover the criticisms blah blah blah cop out blah blah blah not a fair review blah blah blah you fail. :P

Seriously now: I guess you felt that the criticisms of the Haney/Aparo run had been done to the death and need not be repeated here. Fair. But it makes this review sound more like a fanboy blog.

As I mentioned previously, I did see many of these comics (both in English and Spanish) and even back then with my limited knowledge of DC comics I still could tell something was just WRONG about the Haney stories. STILL, I liked them. As you said, you never knew exactly what to expect from B&B, and even if it felt like I was watching a parody of Batman sometimes, it was entertaining. And Aparo’s art style could make even the silliest story work. No, I would not have made #1 in my own list, but it would be at the top.

I want to read these issues SO badly but absolutely refuse to read them uncolored. Are there any old out of print trade paperbacks or new upcoming hardcovers where i can read them in color?

For someone reading all of these comics now for the first time, some things age a lot better than others. I’d argue that the Starlin-drawn issues of DC Comics Presents age better than a lot of this stuff. That’s just me, though. Obviously the art ages fine. Aparo is great.

This is the series that I voted on for the top spot, so I strongly support your choice.

I have very fond memories of this run from the very first bunch of comics I got for Christmas way beack when. One of those was Brave and Bold #114, the 100-pager with Aquaman, and it just stood out from all of the others. One of the first comics I remember picking up off the rack was #133 with Deadman. Then, I also remember getting #155 with Green Lantern at another convenience store. All of these had that intense Aparo art, which just made you believe that it would take Batman to solve the problem at hand. The stories then were just interesting enough to hook me in, but in that cool way where you as a kid were being let into a more adult story without what all of the adult themes really meant. Re-reading those stories many years after, I still enjoyed them just as much. As others have said, it might very well be the best Batman ever, with so many of my favourite characteristics: globe-trotting adventures, detective work, and early Aparo art.

I have yet to read the entire run, but have read about half of the bunch since those early years when I was first exposed to them. I have all but 5 of Batman’s appearances in Brave and the Bold and plan to read each one of those when I can sit down comfortably and savour them. I love Aparo’s Batman so much that I got an original page from #191 that has the death of Penguin, the Joker wiping a tear from his eye and Batman walking away with a billowing cape.

Thanks for this countdown, Mark.

How has that panel from #102 been ‘slightly edited’?

Haney was just a little bit before my time (I started collecting B&B about a year before it ended), but I’ve been collecting the Showcase Presents books and it’s like before Haney wrote each issue he sat down and drank a bottle of crazy juice. He does stuff with Batman that he’d never get away with now, but man does it make for some fun reading.

I’d probably go with the Claremont/Byrne MTU over this, but it’s a solid choice. Like the Mutt, this was the main or only Batman title I bought for a while.

Alas, it began tailing off in quality around #120, and I gave it up around #135. In other words, the first 20 or so issues are the heart of the run.

See all the covers here:

http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/brave-and-the-bold/3

Re the panel from #102:

Batman’s original thoughts were: “What am I doing here? Can’t remember…must have hit my head. But I feel exposed…naked…like a bat who’s wandered far from his cave. Must return to the shadows…where I belong!”

There was a B&B where Bob Haney had Batman (not Bruce Wayne or in disguise) flying on a commercial airliner (not the Batplane or Whirly Bat) to some adventure or another (I think it was a team up with the Flash). I think the key to Haney’s work was what Mark said: Haney wasn’t doing super hero stories, he was doing high adventure stories, spy stories, war stories, crime stories….it just happened the star of Haney’s B&B stories just happened to be wearing super hero costumes. Taken as super hero stories, Haney’s stuff was wierd as all get out. Not viewing them as super hero stories, well, they were still wierd but it makes it easier to enjoy the goofy and odd aspects of these stories. And no matter how one views Bob Haney’s stories, Aparo’s art was always cool to look at.

Here’s the original sequence from Brave and the Bold # 102.

http://www.daveexmachina.com/gfx/bmdtd.jpg

The only difference is that one caption was placed into a different panel.

Reprints:

There are Black and White Showcase Volumes covering about 2/3rds of this run. They’re Showcase Presents Batman: The Brave and the Bold Volumes 2 and 3.

http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_music_info&cPath=388_389_6232&products_id=47478

(Volume one has the nice Neal Adams run, but the rest isn’t very good.)

As far as I know, exactly ONE issue of the Haney/Aparo run has been reprinted in color. The Atom team-up in # 115, in the “Strange Deaths of the Batman” TPB.

Here’s the (uncomplimentary) CBR review here.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?id=677&page=user_review

There are nice (but pricey, PRICEY) hardbacks of the Neal Adams Brave and the Bold:

http://cgi.ebay.com/DC-Archives-volume-1-Batman-illustrated-by-Neal-Adams_W0QQitemZ310166772879QQcmdZViewItem

And the first few pre-Batman Haney Brave and the Bold stories (With art by Alex Toth, Ramona Fradon, Bruno Preminani and some NICE work from Golden Age Green Lantern artist Howard Purcell)

http://www.dccomics.com/dcu/graphic_novels/?gn=2843

The writing here is really, REALLY silly, though.

I’d LOVE (and maybe even pay hardback prices for) a color reprint of the best of the Haney/Aparo Brave and the Bold, but I doubt it’s gonna happen in the near future.

Ebay or Lone Star Comics
have Back Issues decently cheap.

Johnny Bacardi
I did #80 a couple of years ago… I bought many, many issues of B&B from the early 70’s till the early 80’s, even had a letter or two printed in the letters pages. #80 was one of my favorite issues in the whole run.

Nice. I’ll edit that into the Neal Adams entry. (In at # 4, findable through tags.)

I know you had at least two letters printed (I was excited to find ‘em) – and I kind of thought you had three. I’ll probably reprint one of ‘em at some point. :)

There was a B&B where Bob Haney had Batman (not Bruce Wayne or in disguise) flying on a commercial airliner (not the Batplane or Whirly Bat) to some adventure or another (I think it was a team up with the Flash)

# 132. Batman and Richard Dragon. (I don’t have the Flash team-up in # 125, but I’ve read it recently and I don’t remember the scene.

Hey, that reminds me. I think my only appearance in a letters page was in a Haney/Aparo BRAVE & BOLD too.

Well, it was definitely in a BRAVE & BOLD. I leave it as an exercise to determine which one.

"O" the Humanatee!

September 27, 2009 at 4:42 pm

In B&B #111 there’s a page where Batman arrives at some kind of canal lock and finds there one of the Joker’s playing cards. It’s not an exciting page from the point of view of SLAM! BANG! action, but Aparo depicts it with such an apt range of panel sizes, camera angles, and choice of “shots” (from a long-distance scene-setting view of the lock to a close-up on the card) that it has energy and flows beautifully. I think noticing that page was one of the firsts times I really appreciated what good comic-book storytelling was.

Totally one of the best comic runs ever.

The only possible #1. This has been an entertaining feature.

Definitely… Aparo, was a brilliant artist. I found him while collecting the Manhunter Detectives… and He’s in my top four (Simonson, Sienkiewicz, Aparo and Gene Ha or S. Immomen… depends on the day… or Tony Harris… gods, I want more Starman)
Excellent choice…

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

September 28, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Brave & Bold by Haney and Aparo! The obvious choice. The only choice.

And forget the “Batman” qualifier. IMO Jim Aparo was the best artist ever. B & B was my second favorite series growing up – my favorite during those long periods of time when Aquaman didn’t have his own series.

Thanks for the smile, sir.

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