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Lifelike

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The Brave & The Bold #124

Did I not just say in my last post that I had been unable to find this particular issue?  Once again, Bell, Book & Comic comes through for me.  I found it while browsing for some Aparo Batman at Gem City last week, and got it for mere pennies.  I swear, I could never set foot in my local comic shop as long as I get to see these guys at conventions twice a year.

Team-up books frequently provide oddball stories given the unlikely pairings of characters shoehorned into their twenty-odd pages.  This issue is the champion of such books, giving us a Batman/Sgt. Rock adventure that gets taken to strange new territory when artist Jim Aparo has to become personally involved.  Rock is cool, but I almost wish this could have been a straightforward Batman/Aparo team-up, just so I could see Jim’s name with a cool logo design on the cover.

I thought this would be some sort of time travel story or maybe an imaginary tale.  It was actually jarring when Rock steps into the picture on page three and he and Batman start comparing notes on the case they have both been investigating.  Checking the first page again, I was reminded that this issue was published in 1976– so Rock could have conceivably been in his late 50’s or early 60’s, not yet retired from the service.  He proves that he’s pretty spry for his age, as the old coot takes a significant amount of punishment from the bad guys before the story is over but still retains his cat-like reflexes and his gift for conducting interrogations.

The pair are pursuing a terrorist group which has stolen a shipment of super-rifles the military has developed.  Facing a high-tech crime wave, the pair join forces to tackle the daunting task of tracking down every missing weapon.  Their investigation has just begun when the scene switches to the studio of Jim Aparo, still in the process of drawing the issue– when a couple of terrorists invade his home, steal the script, and order him to draw Batman and Rock getting killed by a booby trap!

Aparo escapes, taking refuge in a friend’s house, where he can draw our heroes escaping the trap.  From here the chase is on, as the terrorists keep rewriting the script to kill Batman and Rock while Aparo, on the phone with writer Bob Haney, keep devising wildly improbable escapes for them.  Will Batman and Rock find the terrorist leader before the villains track down Aparo and force him to draw their death scene?

Aparo lucks out, as Bob Haney provides the characters with a trail of clues that lead them to the villains just as they are approaching the house where Aparo is hiding.  Batman and Rock take out the terrorist hit squad, capturing their leader who happens to have on his person a list of all the members of his organization and the location of the stolen super-rifles.  Even more remarkable is the fact that Jim Aparo drew the climactic four pages of the comic in a little over twenty minutes (story time).  All the pantywaist artists working in the trade these days who can’t meet a deadline should take note.

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10 Responses to “Way Back Machine”

  • Phill says:

    Man, Bob Haney was a mad genius.

  • Tony says:

    I disapprove of such fan-wank in-jokery.

  • Craig says:

    This was long before it became an industry standard, Mr. Goins.

  • Tony says:

    I feel like this is where it starts, though.

  • craig says:

    Arguably; but I would also argue there is a looooong walk between a book like this or the old Marvel bullpen-style rapport building between fans and the men behind the curtain, and the snarky, self-referential fan-wank in-jokery that has characters calling each other “c-listers” and commenting on “all this darkness” around them, designed to dupe the readers into feeling they are insiders in the storytelling process:

    http://www.ferretpress.com/blog/2008/10/27/leave-geo-force-alone-last-will-and-testament/

    Nothing against Geo-Force, you understand.

  • Tony Goins says:

    I think it’s a distinction without a difference.

    Actually, I like the Geo-Force story better, because at least it’s in-story. Putting the creator in the story takes me completely out of the story.

  • Tony says:

    I don’t think I phrased that right, so let me try again.

    The Geo-Force in-joke is two lines. If you’re in the know, it adds some dramatic tension. If not, it just sounds like Deathstroke talking smack.

    The Roy & Jeannie Thomas in-joke stops the book dead for a few panels to talk about people I don’t care about. The Jim Aparo in-joke is the premise for the whole story.

    Maybe you just don’t like that particular joke? Maybe your concern isn’t with in-jokes, but rather with “darkness?”

  • Craig says:

    Actually, it’s related to what I said about “duping the readers into feeling they are insiders.” Maybe that requires a blog post of it’s own, but in a nutshell: the audience for comics has been boiled down to people who wish they were in the biz themselves, and that’s not a good thing (recognizing my own glass house, here). More time is spent discussing creators and the perceived politics of the industry, less about how much we dig Batman. Every single damn pencil pusher is marketed to us as a “hot rising superstar”, the marketing machine for “events” is ridiculously overblown, stories are rife with inside references (I’ll concede I’m basing that last bit on what I’ve seen in the few new books I’ve picked up). It strikes me as pandering and I find it tedious.

    Another point: back in the day, there was no “Marvel Universe.” Stories were meant to be set in our own world, so it was less intrusive when Stan or Roy appeared.

  • Tony says:

    I don’t follow your last point. What’s more intrusive than putting in the creators?

    I can’t quite parse the difference between “rapport building” and “duping the readers into feeling they are insiders.” The Bronze Age Marvels I’ve read are full of cutesy little asides from the editors.

    I agree that in-jokes are more inside-baseball now, but I don’t think the frequency of in-jokes has increased. There’s a whole in-joke infrastructure on the web now, though, so it probably feels that way.

    I agree that comics culture is too insular now, but I suspect the rapport building is partly to blame.

  • Tony Goins says:

    I think I’m in danger of painting myself as the flag-bearer for today’s in-jokes. I’m really not. That Geo-Force story was one case where it worked for me, but generally the meta stuff gets on my nerves.

    I’ll expand on that in another post.

    Craig, I’ve been thinking about this and I may be close to seeing your point of view.

    Back to the thinking.

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