Monday, October 24, 2011

Brave and Bold #84

As you can see here, when DC advertised this issue in their other mags, they highlighted the impossible nature of this story. "How can this be possible? Batman and Sgt. Rock together!" The answer is that anything's possible in a Bob Haney story. Batman probably teamed up with Abe Lincoln in a non-time travel story by Haney at some point.

Our tale begins with the curator of a museum informing Bruce that a World War II artifact is being claimed by someone with a German accent. As Bruce and his friend inspect the piece, a German confronts them with a luger, pistol-whipping the curator:
The story then flashes back to war-time England. Bruce was in London tracking down saboteurs as Batman and using his Bruce Wayne identity and business interests as a cover. A former classmate of his is killed in a bombing raid shortly after meeting Bruce, and just before dying passes on the information that there's something odd about the wine at a particular chateau in France. So:
Okay, time out here. A little later we learn that it's a couple of days before D-Day, which took place on June 6, 1944. This comic is dated July 1969. So Bruce was an adult in London, 25 years earlier?

Let's be generous to Haney and say that he's 23 when he meets Churchill. That would make him 48 in 1969. Even as a teenager at the time, I knew that was ridiculous. And don't get me wrong; I don't have any problem with Golden Age stories that show Batman fighting Nazis. But surely we can all accept that if he were to fight them today it would either have to be modern Nazis or some sort of time travel story? It wasn't much more credible in 1969 than it is today.

Anyway, back to the story. Bruce catches a lift with Easy Company, which is assigned to blow up a bridge just prior to the invasion. En route they run into a Luftwaffe fighter, but Bruce acts quickly:
Bruce and Rock separate, with the former heading to the Chateau under the guise of being a wine merchant, where he encounters Von Stauffen:
He manages to get a look at the bottle and discovers it's empty of wine; instead there's nerve gas. Von Stauffen, concerned by reports that Americans are in the area, kicks Bruce out and announces that Operation Barbarian must go into action at once. Wagons full of hay (concealing the wine bottles of nerve gas) are pulled towards the front by horses. Bruce tries to convince Rock to blow the bridge now, but he refuses:
Rock sees that the wagons were indeed carrying the gas plus some German artillery. Still, he has to deck Bruce just to set an example for his men. About that time, artillery pieces start dropping from the sky; the invasion has begun and both Rock and Bruce have accomplished their mission.

Flash forward to 1969 again. Can you guess who saves Bruce from Von Stauffen?
Once you get past the obvious problem with Bruce being an adult in World War II, the story itself is not bad, and the artwork by Neal Adams is, as always, superb. Incidentally, the whole bit with something being in the wine bottles appears to have been lifted from the 1946 film Notorious, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. In that movie, the stuff in the bottles turns out to have been uranium.

4 comments:

  1. I agree that Bruce/Batman not aging in the intervening 30/25 years seems to make no sense but..... Haney was teaming Rock with a character who was active during WW II. There was no definite date for the first appearance of the Earth One Batman. Throughout the Siver Age alllusions were constantly being made to Batman stories that had occurred in the Golden Age - as though the Earth One version of Bats had also been around way back then to participate in them. So with an indeterminate origin date and an extended back history it seemed as though there might not be an Earth 2 Batman - just an Earth One version wh'd been around for a long time (same with Superman and Wonder Woman those other continuously published survivors from the Golden Age) . This possibility was also adhered to in early JLA/JSA crossovers where Black Canary stood in for Wonder Woman, Dr Fate for Superman and Dr Mid-Nite for Batman i.e. it was if there were no Earth Two versions of these characters. So Haney can be forgiven for being confused as DC had far from sorted out its continuity. Because of this Haney may have thought of Bats as a character who remained continually youthful - like Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and other legends who started in the Victorian/Edwardian era but according to books and films were still active and relatively young during WW II. Having said all that it bothered me at the time too!

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  2. The biggest problem with the story may not have been the anachronism, but trying to mix genres. I suspect that a lot of war comics fans did not like costumed super-heroes, and vice versa. My impression was that the super-hero fans were typically 8-12 years old and that the war (and western, and horror) fans were a little older.

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  3. They might have avoided the time problem by setting the story on Earth-2, but, in the 1960's, DC seemed reluctant to depict the Golden Age versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Unlike Green Lantern or Flash, the "Big Three" had been published uninterrupted since the 1940's. DC may have been unsure where to draw the line between the old and new versions.

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  4. At the time, it seemed that DC's (relatively) realistic comics did not necessarily exist in the same universe as the super hero and science fiction titles. I know Marvel's Nick Fury often crossed over with the super heroes, but Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos were more like the Avengers in fatigues than a realistic war series.

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