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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 217: The Brave and the Bold #93

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams! Today’s page is from The Brave and the Bold #93, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1971. This scan is from Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 2, which was released in 2004. Enjoy!

Cain is always a tool!

After two tremendous Batman first pages from O’Neil and Adams, we get this one, which is just kind of “meh.” O’Neil wants to introduce Cain, our narrator at the House of Mystery (he’s never named throughout the book, and even though B&B is a team-up book, naturally Batman never sees him), so he gives us this thug running through the night and trying to gain access to the House. The thug certainly sees Cain, as he threatens him, but after this page, Cain simply becomes a typical 1950s-style horror narrator, showing up on the edges of panels to tell us a bit about what’s going on. Notice that he immediately shifts into this mode in the final panel – he’s “in the story” in Panel 4, but then he steps out of it to speak directly to the reader, placing himself on the other side of the fourth wall for the rest of the story. O’Neil writes his dialogue like a good 1950s horror narrator, too – he has a sharp and macabre sense of humor, no pity, and a sadistic streak. O’Neil can’t help throwing in some slang from the time period – Cain saying “pad” is extremely weird – but otherwise, it’s a nice introduction to Cain’s personality. O’Neil uses this incident – the thug almost kills Batman – to kickstart the main story, in which Batman takes a vacation, so while the thug isn’t that important, the page is more to bring in Cain than anything else. Weirdly enough, except for the cover (which is an homage to this famous one that began The House of Mystery‘s refocus on horror), there’s no indication that this is a “team-up” between Batman and the “House of Mystery” at all. I guess DC readers were just supposed to know!

Adams does what he can with the page, even though it’s not all that exciting. The punk runs in from the left, looking back over his shoulder, adding some continuity to the scene, as it feels like we just happened to wander onto the scene. Panel 2 and Panel 3 are linked, as the scene expands outward from the focus on the single man to his surroundings, and his importance from one panel to another is dwarfed as we get a sense of where he is. The House in Panel 3 is nicely drawn – Adams explains in the introduction of this trade that he used Craft-tint paper in artwork back then, and this looks like an example of it, with the figure superimposed on top of the drawing. It’s the same principle as a lot of computer effects these days, with figures moved around onto different backgrounds, with a few key differences – Adams obviously re-drew the punk, because he looks different in Panel 2 and Panel 3, and he also drew the background, so even though it’s two different ways to show artwork, it still looks fairly organic. It also adds to the mysterious nature of the House, because it looks like it’s materializing out of the fog. (According to Wikipedia, the House was actually located in Kentucky in the DCU, and why it’s in Gotham City is never addressed, but I assume it could move around at will.) After the punk tries to get in, we see a nicely-designed Panel 5, with Cain in the foreground on the left, pointing directly at the thug, who’s looking directly back to Batman. It’s not two panels, but the frame of the door forms a natural barrier between the hunted and the hunter – Batman almost appears to be in his own panel. The light behind him is placed well, too – Batman is a creature of the dark, but he brings the light of justice, so the fact that he’s running through the night but there’s a bright glare behind him helps create that dichotomous symbolism. This is, of course, recolored, so I can’t really say much about how it’s colored, but I’m not sure if Cain was green in the original – it helps him stand out, of course, especially as he spends the story “outside” of it, so this highlights that idea – but I don’t love it. It’s a bit too lurid, and I think his coloring could be toned down but still get the message across that he’s not part of Batman’s world. Again, I don’t know how much the new coloring changes the original. Adams inked this himself instead of his usual inker, Dick Giordano, but I can’t see too much difference between their work. It seems like Giordano has a slightly lighter touch than Adams, but that could just be the nature of the stories.

I don’t know why O’Neil and Adams zipped over to The Brave and the Bold for this story when they were telling weird kinds of stories in Detective and Batman during these years, but there you have it. DC shifted writers and artists around back then, and they’re still doing it 40 years later! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Next: You might think we have to get to those stories eventually – you know, those stories – but for tomorrow, we’re back with Batman! Will we ever get to those stories? You’ll have to be patient, won’t you? Bide your time by meandering through the archives!

14 Comments

So, it’s in Kentucky? (Unless they can fly it like Duckula’s Castle.) I know the House of Secrets was in Vermont — thanks to Secret Six (Damn you, DiDio! You cancelled your best book, for WHAT reason?).

So, we have Cain narrate a standard Batman tale and that makes it a Brave & Bold? If Bob Haney was alive, this would have NEVER happened!

AsianTelepathsAreCool

August 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

What’s is up with the water puddles in panel 3? Their placement and the sound effects don’t really make
any sense to me.

Becca: Well, Bob Haney was alive at the time, so who knows what he thought of this!

ATAC: Yeah, those are weird sound effects. I imagine they’re supposed to be the dude’s shoes, but he’s not wearing shoes that would seem to make that noise. The water indicates, I think, that Batman is chasing the dude down by the docks, because he is. There would be water pooling around that area. But “clik clik” for the effects doesn’t make much sense.

AsianTelepathsAreCool

August 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Never mind. The water is about the link between the crook and Batman. The crook is leaving traces of himself- the water- that allows Batman to find him as shown in the last panel; No matter where he goes the crook can never escape his fate. The sound effects I guess are added to emphasis to the starkness of his surroundings- it’s at night and nobody else seems to be around which is sort of a way of adding tension.

The Crazed Spruce

August 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Well, the House turned up every so often in California in Blue Devil, so either it could move from place to place, or there are a whole bunch of ‘em that are interconnected. (And it’s been a while since I read BD, but I’m pretty sure they mentioned the latter in the series.)

Yes, I know he was, Greg; I was going for “spectacularly cranky old fogy” and failed miserably, it seems… :)

Becca: Sorry about that. I thought you were pretty good at the cranky part! :)

Becca: always throw in a “get off my lawn” or “that ball’s mine now” for the full cranky old fogy effect. :)

Gee thanks, Greg; you really know how to charm a girl… (giggle)

Is Adams the most recoloured artist? Thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an Adams story with its original colouring – it’s always redone or black and white. I think I actually prefer b&w (possibly because that’s how I first encountered these stories in the late 80s UK Titan reprints).

Gavin: It’s certainly possible, only because his stuff is so important and relatively rare that almost all of it has been reprinted at one time or another. I have no idea how you would find that out, but that’s a good point about never seeing the original coloring. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an original Adams comic from this era either! I think the earliest “original” Adams comic I own is … Mr. T from the early 1990s. I pity the fool who makes fun of that comic!

Jake Earlewine

August 6, 2012 at 9:42 am

What a beautiful page! Awesome!

I love how Adams squeezed the top tier of panels to show the character’s desperation. Batman never looked better than when Adams drew him. Adams drew the definitive Cain, too.

Jake Earlewine

August 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

P.S. I read the original when it came out. Bought fresh off the spinner rack. It was thrilling then, and it still is.

Man o man, do I love the layout of those first three panels.

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