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Meta-Messages – Bob Haney Lets Spider-Man Know His Place

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator using the characters in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today, I’ll feature a suggestion that reader Gary S. e-mailed me (I think someone else did, as well, I can’t find the e-mail, though), where Bob Haney ever so gently pushed back at the prevailing attitude of the mid-1960s that Marvel was home to more original ideas.

A common refrain in the mid-60s Bullpen Bulletins was the notion that DC Comics were beginning to attempt to copy Marvel Comics due to the success of the upstart company. There is a great deal of truth to this idea, although more towards the very late 1960s and early 1970s. But even in 1966, Stan Lee would write about DC copying Marvel (this led to a particularly interesting back and forth between Lee and a DC staffer that reader Keith Alan Morgan pointed out that I’ll spotlight in the future, probably in CBLR).

So that was almost certainly on Bob Haney’s mind when he wrote 1967’s Brave and the Bold #74 (which was the beginning of Batman’s uninterrupted stretch as being always one half of the team-ups in the book) and the opening page…

This is clearly one of the tamest Meta-Messages, but for its time, it was quite outlandish. Batman breaking the fourth wall in a 1960s comic? That’s pretty darn out there!

The art was by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.


Besides the obvious reference, I wonder if Batman’s “funny” monologues are supposed to be a parody of Spider-Man’s trademark banter? Or did Haney’s Batman really talk that way?

From what I remember of the Showcase Presents of this series, Haney’s Batman did in fact talk this way all of the time. He was definitely the hippest, grooviest, funkiest caped crusader I’ve ever read about.

“Robin’s off with the Teen Titans tonight… no action at all.”

Holy innuendo, Batman.

Wow, that’s some dinamic art too! I would love to read some happy batman adventures once in a while.

I am so not used to happy batman. He’s great. He’s like normal batman, but drunk.

What…. that is one crazy Batman. Is this the SIlver Age Batman that Grant Morrison loves?

Oh my God I need more of this Batman in my life

He called himself “Brucie-Boy”? That sounds like something Superman would say when he’s nasty drunk.

I love Ross Andru’s art. He draws a pretty sweet Spider-Man as well.

I love the way Batman just sits casually on the bat statue. He looks so relaxed as though nothing could possibly ruin his day.

Besides the obvious reference, I wonder if Batman’s “funny” monologues are supposed to be a parody of Spider-Man’s trademark banter? Or did Haney’s Batman really talk that way?

I’m making my way through Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s old Batman stories from the Golden Age, and Batman’s pretty much a joke-a-minute motormouth when he fights, even before he gets Robin. He was only dark and somber and silent for the first handful of adventures. I just think all heroes bantered a lot back then, even the ones we don’t traditionally associate with banter anymore.

The irony of that sequence is while its bashing Marvel, Ross Andru’s great artwork is undeniably influenced by the Kirby-created Marvel house style

DC copying Marvel? Why would anyone say that? Oh, right…in B&B #68 Batman had become Bat-Hulk.

Anyone reading and liking this NEEDS to get the Showcase Presents Brave and the Bold Teamups Volumes 2 and 3. Every story is like this or better. There’s one where he’s walking the streets in full Bat getup in broad daylight checking out the chicks. Swear to God.

Ah, the good old days when Gotham would name a building after Batman, and give him the key to the city, and you could buy a dream date with Batman for charity.

There’s also something similar in 1966’s Adventure Comics #350, which was — I think — by E. Nelson Bridwell. It’s a classic Legion of Super-Heroes story, and at one point Chameleon Boy becomes a spider to web up a monster. The action pauses for a “talking head” where Cham gives the following little speech:

“In case a certain web-headed character thinks I’m stealing his thunder, I’d like to remind him that *I* was changing to all sorts of weird shapes long before he walked up his first wall.”

So Spider-Man was clearly a touchy subject for DC for some years.

I am unimpressed. I mean, it’s not like the acrobatics are the reason Spider-Man was lauded as revolutionary.

I don’t even get why he’s going after Spider-Man, who rarely does stuff like that. That’s more of a Daredevil move.

I love how he also comments on superheroes talking to themselves. “Hey, that’s actually not a good idea!”

Bob Haney was a gift from heaven.

I find this amusing. There were some times that for my own personal satisfaction I’d imagine speech bubbles of Spider-Man were thought-bubbles. I had trouble processing the idea that Spidey would say stuff like that out loud within earshot of anyone.

I remember in early issues of Ultimate Spider-Man, Spidey would mention his Spider-Sense being the reason he could avoid attacks. At some point someone told him it wasn’t a good idea for him to reveal his secrets to his enemies. I can’t remember who it was or what issue it was.

Cool – my first credit in one of Brian’s great columns – one thing off of my bucket list :)

Showcase B&B #1 is chock full of great Batman stuff. Issue #64 is where he spanks a rich adult brat female (in front of a photographer no less) and then in issue 78, he has Batgirl & Wonder Woman first pretending to fight over him, then they fight over him for real. S&M and a potential Menage – 60s Batman had it going on

Hah, we even got classic Spider-Man artist Ross Andru here.

Bob Haney comic books are just CRAAAAAAZY. We need a CBSG feature of their own dedicated to the man and his works. Whatever he was smoking, I want some of that.

For those of you wanting to see more of “happy Batman” I heartily the Batman:Brave and Bold cartoon, which has certainly taken its cue from the Bob Haney’s “Brave and Bold” issues (hmmm, that sentence sunds too obvious…)

Every episode is brilliant and hilarious, but if you want to sample the show check out the “The Rise of the Blue Beetle!” and “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!” episodes.

My personal favourite is the episode which introduces Firestorm (“Duel of the Double Crossers!”), which has Batman split into three “archetypes” that make up his personality – intelligent Batman (“who’s the nerd ?” asks Ronnie Raymond) , angry Batman and “slacker Batman” (again, this comes from Ronnie Raymond, and this archetype represents what is left of Batman when you remove his intelligence and drive/willpower).
I will say nothing more, except to you leave you with what is my favourite Batman quote of all time:


@Naked Punisher: Yes, Morrison has referenced Haney’s Brave and the Bold stories frequently as being an inspiration. The Batman digs this day.

@T: “The irony of that sequence is while its bashing Marvel, Ross Andru’s great artwork is undeniably influenced by the Kirby-created Marvel house style”

Plus you keep seeing the bottom of his feet — just like a Ditko book!

Anyway, seconding Brett with a vengeance; The Brave and the Bold is outstanding.

I recall a remark made by Chameleon Boy in LSH (sorry, can’t remember which issue, but I think it was in the mid-sixties and drawn by Curt Swan, so probably written by Edmond Hamilton or Jim Shooter) to the effect that if Spidey thought that Cham (who had changed into a giant spider) was stealing his thunder, he was wrong because Cham had been doing that kind of thing before Spidey was thought of.

@ sandwich eater

I think it was Daredevil who told (Ultimate) Spidey that, if I remember correctly.

Jeremy: Pot. It was pot.

@Alan – I was thinking of that Chameleon Boy quote too – it’s from the story that introduced R J Brande (Adventure #350 Nov 1966) so it pre-dates the Batman issue and, if memory serves me, was probably by E Nelson Bridwell. It was the two-parter with the kryptonite cloud that wrapped up most of E Hamilton’s dangling plots.

I love Batman making a mental note to only address himself by name when thinking out loud in the third person when there AREN’T criminals around. That’s why he’s the best.

I was joking when I typed that, but now that I think about it, for all the times recent writers have had the JLA and Avengers calling each other by (real) name during fights, it’s nice to see that there was a time when comic book writers realized that people can hear you when you talk around them.

Even if it was in the context of Batman addressing himself by name while thinking out loud in the thirsd person.

“I am unimpressed. I mean, it’s not like the acrobatics are the reason Spider-Man was lauded as revolutionary.”

DC was pretty dense when it came to grappling with Marvel’s success.

Well… To be fair, there’s nothing in Bob Haney’s text that suggests he thinks acrobatics were the reason Spider-Man was revolutionary, or even that he is arguing against Marvel being revolutionary in general. It’s just a gentle jab at Spider-Man.

Given a choice, I’d take this Batman over the current one any day. Any day at all.

THis is so much fun. I would love it if Batman did this sort of external monologue thing more often.

Or at least if Superman did it. It works quite well and it doesn’t just have to be Spidey who talks to himself.

Mychael Darklighter

July 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

60s-70s bats > 80s-90s bats.
‘bob’ bless grant morrison.

60s-70s bats > 80s-90s bats.

Not at all.

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