Thursday, December 21, 2006

B&B Seeing You--Part 4

Part IV—Crisis On Indeterminate Earths
To die-hard afficionados of the super-hero genre, continuity, a concept best understood as an internal consistency between the worlds of the many characters who inhabit one publisher’s fictional universe, is very, you might even say disportionately, important. Readers of THE BRAVE & THE BOLD during Bob Haney’s reign as writer where often perplexed and frustrated by Haney’s open disregard for that which the held so sacred. What many considered Haney’s most egregrious offense against continuity involved the B&B tales that teamed the Batman with the heroes known as Wildcat and The Spectre.
In the days prior to the 1985 publication of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, the epic twelve issues series whose stated purpose was to clarify and, more importantly, simplify the history of DC’s super-hero universe, said universe, in fact, was actually what DC’s writer came to call a “multiverse,” consisting of several universes, each containing their own unique set of super-heroes.
The two main universes were designated Earth-One and Earth-Two, with Earth-One being the setting for the adventures of the then current incarnations of DC’s heroes as presented in the majority of the company’s ongoing titles, while Earth-Two housed the heroes as published by DC during the Golden Age of the 1930’s and 40’s, most notably the members of the seminal super-hero team, The Justice Society of America. (Yes. Having the original heroes on Earth-Two did, in fact, strike many as being bass-ackward.)
Thus the problem many readers, and later B&B editors, had with Haney’s pairing of Batman with Wildcat and The Spectre is that those two members of the JSA dwelt upon Earth-Two, whereas the stories presented in B&B ostensibly took place across the dimensional divide on Earth-One, yet Haney’s scripts made no allowance for this fact, instead treating the characters as if they existed on the same world.
Additionally, many characters behaved quite differently once they entered Haney’s realm from the way that they were portrayed in other comics of the time. The Batman himself, as I noted earlier, was considerably less grim than in his flagship titles, BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS. Jim Aparo was one of the few, if not the only, Batman artist of the 1970’s to have the opportunity to draw Gotham’s guardian with a smile on his face.
Two other characters who acted notably out of character in Haney’s B&B scripts were Green Arrow and Plastic Man. Haney’s Plas was given to wallowing in self-pity as he lamented his status as a “freak,” and Green Arrow, after losing his millionaire status as shown in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, was often portrayed as reckless, often becoming involved in risky get rich quick schemes that inevitably backfire, forcing the Batman to intervene in order to save his friend from the consequences of his own greed and foolhardiness.
I have always felt that continuity should never get in the way of telling a good story, and Bob Haney appears to have held that same opinion, and, more often than not, a good story is precisely what what he delivered. Each issue was packed with action, mystery, surprising plot twists and humor.
Haney had a knack for weaving themes from Pop Culture, contemporary trends and fads and current events into his stories. When the disappearance of ships and planes in the so-called Devil’s Triangle had captured the public’s collective imagination in the 1970’s, Haney crafted the tale which appeared in B&B #127, teaming Batman and Wildcat to uncover the secrets of the “Deadman’s Quadrangle.” For the two part tale in issues #129 and #130, Haney apparently drew inspiration from The Maltese Falcon, and perhaps the legend of the curse of the Hope Diamond, for the story of a supposedly curse artifact that falls into Green Arrow’s hands.
Haney was especially adept at bringing Batman and his co-stars together in ways that rarely felt forced, teaming the down to Earth Caped Crusader with such diverse characters as supernatural heroes The Spectre, Deadman and The Phantom Stranger; ocean dwelling Aquaman, and science-fictional heroes like Green Lantern, Hawkman, and even Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, who dwelt in a post apocalyptic world of the future, and somehow making it seem perfectly natural.
Unfortunately, it was Haney’s cavalier attitude toward continuity and his unwillingness or inability to adapt to editorial pressure to change his ways that led to his exit from B&B following issue #157. The once prolific Haney was thereafter left to write only THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, on which he continued until that title’s cancellation in 1982, at which point his nearly three decade association with DC Comics came to an end.

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