Friday, August 21, 2009

Brave and the Bold #86

Brave and the Bold #86 (On Sale: August 21, 1969) has another great cover by Neal Adams. Nothing like Deadman to bring out the best in Neal.

Batman and Deadman star in "You Can't Hide from a Deadman" which is written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams. Well, that's the story anyway, but I don't buy it for one minute because the Neal Adams Checklist on Neal's own site and my gut say this is Neal's work through and though. Now it is not that this checklist is all that accurate, as it only lists Neal as the writer and penciler of this story when he is obviously the inker as well, but my gut is pretty good on this stuff and this story so nicely wraps up the writing that Neal was doing on the Deadman strip in Strange Adventures, that I guess it is possible that Bob Haney did some of the dialog, but the plot has got to be Neal's.

This is Neal's eighth Brave and the Bold and his last of this run. Neal would draw one more full issue in a little over a year and finish up a Jim Aparo story a year or so later, but for all intents and purposes, this was the end of Neal's run as the regular penciler and it seems appropriate that he both began and ended his B&B run with Deadman.

However, this end-of-the-run may not have been Neal's idea. According to the DC Timeline "Neal Adams fired by Murray Boltinoff for rewriting Bob Haney’s script for Brave and Bold 86." I can't find any verification of this actually being the case. I know that Neal says that about this time Julius Schwartz came to him with "a handful of letters and he stops me in the hallway and he says, “How come all these fans say the only Batman at DC Comics is in Brave and Bold?” I said, “Well, Julie, in Brave and Bold he’s really Batman. He is not walking around in the daytime in his underwear, he is skulking around at night.” He said, “What makes you think you know how to do Batman?” I said, “Julie, it’s not me who knows how to do Batman, it’s me and every kid in America who knows what Batman ought to be. The problem at DC Comics is that no one knows what Batman is.” He said, “Get back here. Now you are going to be drawing Batman.” So it may have been a more gentle parting of ways than the DC Timeline says, but who knows.

It is rather telling though that in the same Comics Bulletin interview, Neal says of his talk with Boltinoff when getting the book, "I said, “Only one thing, I don’t want to change anything in the writing, I just want to every once in a while change locations and time of day.” I wanted to change the time to night because it just seems silly to have Batman walking around in his underwear in the daytime. Murray said, “That’s fine, no problem.” So, I took the script and I started drawing Brave and the Bold." If this is true and what I suspect as to the identity of the real plotter of #86, Boltinoff may have given Neal the boot.

It's just another night in Gotham as Batman and Robin break up an extortion racket, except that after mopping up the bad guys, Robin picks up a gun and tries to shoot Batman. Blinding the boy wonder with a smoke pellet saves Batman's hide and Robin strangely snaps out of it. When Commissioner Gordon and his men reach the scene Gordon uses an officer's service revolver to try and shoot Batman as well. Everyone is clueless, except Batman who has surmised that his "old friend Deadman is trying to kill me!"

Out on the street Batman runs a gauntlet of people suddenly possessed by Boston Brand's ghost and out to kill Batman. After almost being run over by a truck, Batman heads for the rooftops where Deadman will have a much harder time finding a host to possess. However Deadman finds a pigeon fancier and comes after Batman with a club. Batman tries to talk sense into Deadman, saying they are friends, but Deadman says he is trying to kill Batman. Batman's response is that Deadman is a liar and that he can prove it. "If you really want to kill me, do it the simple way...jump into my body and make me jump off the roof...clean and simple!" The logic of this causes Deadman to freak out and quickly exit the man's body.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong at the secret headquarters of the Society of Assassins, the Sensei is listening to a report from Willie Smith. Smith recounts how Deadman found his killer, the Hook and after confirming that he was dead, returned to Nanda Parbat seeking out Rama Kushna and the end of his unnatural existence. Deadman interfered with Smith's plan to destroy Nanda Parbat and thinking Smith dead, Deadman met with Rama Kushna. Afterward, Deadman chose to leave Nanda Parbat and return to being a ghost (a pretty good recap of Strange Adventurers #215 and #216). As Deadman was leaving, Smith shot him with a poison dart, but because he was only partially corporeal at the time it did not kill him but left him dazed and susceptible to suggestion. Smith used the opportunity to turn Deadman's hatred of the Sensei into a hatred for Batman. With Deadman busy trying to kill Batman the Sensei sees this as the perfect time to once and for all destroy Nanda Parbat.

Back in Gotham Batman visits the Hills Bros. Circus where Boston's brother, Cleveland, has taken over the role of the trapeze artist Deadman. Boston enters his brother's body and once again takes to the high platform, where he attempts his famous quadruple somersault, only to find that his brother's muscles are not as supple as his once were and he is saved only by the intervention of Batman. Boston is more confused than ever now that Batman has saved his brother's life. Just then circus mystic Vashnu arrives to say that Rama Kushna wants Deadman to return to Nanda Parbat.

Batman and Deadman in his brother's body are shot at as they parachute over the Himalayas down to Nanda Parbat. Deadman leaves his brother's body and leaps into the body of his attackers, turning one against the other. Returning to Cleveland's body Deadman leads Batman to Nanda Parbat where upon entrance he leaves Cleve's body and becomes corporeal once again. But as he does so the poison from Willie Smith's dart takes affect and he collapses to the ground.

Rama Kushna appears and explains that Boston has been poisoned but that one of the men coming to attack Nanda Parbat carries an antidote. Batman and Cleve head out to stop the assault on Nanda Parbat and to find the antidote. Using a now arrived blinding snowstorm for cover they take out the Sensei's men one by one, till they finally get to Smith and retrieve the antidote. The Sensei challenges them both, but they ignore him and hurry back to Boston.

Once back in Nanda Parbat Batman uses the antidote to save the life of a Deadman. Boston realizes the absurdity of it all and that Nanda Parbat is the only place where he can be harmed and therefore decides to leave and become a ghost once more. The Sensei is seen trudging down the mountain plotting his revenge on Batman and Deadman.

This classic story has been reprinted in Best of DC #26, Deadman #7, Deadman Collection HC, Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2 HC and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.


nick said...

Being a huge Neal Adams fan, seeing this cover has always represented "the end of a really great thing" to me. The previous team-ups (Sgt. Rock, Green Arrow)were two of the best comics published in this era. This issue was ... well, a bit of a letdown for several reasons. The story was somewhat esoteric for a pre-teen, and fairly confusing if you hadn't been following the Deadman book. And unfortunately, it can't escape comparison with the earlier Batman/Deadman team-up, "Track of the Hook," which was up there with the best of 'em. That said, it had its moments, and Adams' art, as usual, was superb.

-Keller said...

What I liked was the neat way it cleared up most all of the loose ends from the Strange Adventures stories. Also, the whole concept of saving the life of a dead man was pretty cool and handled well. Oh, and it was nice to see Cleve, Lorna and Vashnu all back in action; I guess there was just no part for Tiny to play.

nick said...

Good point. Years later, I acquired those last few Strange Adventure issues and when I reread this Brave and Bold in the context of the full story, it was a lot more rewarding.

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