Monday, March 16, 2009

The Brave and The Bold Team-Up Archives Vol. 1

Let's take a look at this hardcover collection of stories from The Brave and The Bold, one of the few DC Archives I plan on keeping other than my beloved All Star Archives. While B & B is one of my favorites series, I held off on purchasing this book for some time. Why? Well, I already owned 7 of the 8 stories collected in it. That made it hard to justify spending fifty bucks on it. However, I ended up getting it for a nice price from the imaginatively monikered "Stinkfoot" of the Collected Editions Discussion Forums. So, with thanks to him, let's examine this tome of awesomeness.

The Brave And The Bold Team-Up Archives Vol. 1
Written by Bob Haney & Robert Kanigher.
Art by George Roussos, Howard Purcell, Joe Kubert, Bob Brown, Alex Toth, Bruno Premiani, Ramona Fradon, Charles Paris, Bernard Baily, and Gil Kane.
Original series edited by Murray Boltinoff, George Kashdan, and Robert Kanigher.

Boy, take a look at the cover at the above link. That George Roussos image (miscredited to Bernard Baily in the actual book) has been amusing me for years, and the fact that they used it for the cover proves that someone at DC has a sense of humor. Between J'Onn J'Onzz's leer and the fact that his hand is a bit hard to track down in all that green, you have the kind of cover that keeps slashers happy and content at night. I like that.

The cover is taken from the first page of B & B's #50. Using two of DC's perennial back-up stars to launch a series seems an odd move in retrospect, and worked. Bob Haney took a few liberties here and there in the details, but it's a perfectly acceptable story from that era. Roussos' art looks a bit cruder than you'd expect from DC at the time, but it's atmospheric and tells the story well.

#51 benefits immensely from some fine, fine art by Howard Purcell. The people from Atlantis have a fondness for fin-backed helmets that I don't recall seeing elsewhere, but some panels are almost nightmarishly creepy. Plus, Aquaman and Hawkman are more or less spot-on - always a plus.

Bob Kanigher takes over as writer and editor for #52 only and it's...well, it's a Kanigher war comic. The characters are as fearless as you would imagine, and the Joe Kubert art is excellent. It's nice to see the three "battle stars" together, along with the special surprise. Of course, this was Sgt. Rock's first appearance in B & B, something Kanigher I'm sure later regretted. But more on that another day.

#53 is...Alex Toth? Really? Yep, there he is, drawing Flash, Atom, and a baddie named "Atilla-5." This might be where Haney's stories started getting a little odd, but that's probably something a smarter person than me should analyze. Unfortunately, this story is the cause of one of my beefs with this book. How in the WORLD do you lose pages from an Alex Toth story and end up reproducing them photographically? Especially when the story had been reprinted in a previous hardcover (The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told) that was still in print in trade form until relatively recently? I sit and look at the pages and just shake my head, since they look to be from that earlier hardcover. I'd love to know the circumstances behind that.

Look, #54 has the Teen Titans! Well, not really, but this story directly led to the TT. The dialogue isn't nearly as "gear" as it would later be and Haney does manage to tattoo a little personality onto the bland boy sidekicks. Bruno Premiani's art is stiff, but expressive and wonderful. I just can't praise it enough.

I love the Metal Men and I love Ramona Fradon, so #55 is a treat. I've always felt that Haney was one of the few writers besides Kanigher who "got" the Metal Men and this is his first crack at them. Fradon's art makes just about anything better (even that 1970s Plastic Man series), so you can't go wrong with her versions of any of the characters.

It's my pleasure to own a copy of #56 and it's surprisingly well-rounded, all things considered. I sure don't remember Iris West being quite so nasty to Barry Allen in his regular book though. As for Baily's artwork, it's stiffer than I remember it (though still pretty good). He did great work before and after, so perhaps this was just symptomatic of trying to draw "house style" or just lack of interest. One oddity - his complete inability to draw Superman's "S" shield properly.

We skip #57 and #58 (the Metamorpho tryouts) and head straight into #59. First Batman team-up! An excellent Gil Kane cover and nice Fradon interiors keep the art side going strong. As for the story, it has an ingenious time travel gimmick that you should not think about at all or you will be utterly baffled. Also on display is Batman doing something stupid and the public being intensely gullible. In many ways, this issue foreshadows many a B & B to come.

All in all, an entertaining book despite my quibbles. But then, I'm hardly unbiased. Your mileage may vary.

As Bob Haney used to sign off, "B & B seeing you!"

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