Brave and the Bold #124 (January, 1976)
“Small War of the Super Rifles”
Story – Bob Haney
Art – Jim Aparo
Edits – Murray Boltinoff
Cover Price: $0.25
I come to you today on final-finals day. Got my last big exam of the semester this afternoon… and so, hopefully once that (and wrapping up the big podcast hitting this weekend) are out of the way, I’ll get the opportunity to breathe a bit. Though, I am one of “those people” who always seems to need to have something to worry about… I guess we’ll see!
Wanna apologize for being lax in my responses to comments left on the last several articles… I will get those answered hopefully in the next day or two!
So, whatta we got here… from the looks of it, something a bit zany, no? Poor Jim Aparo being held up by Cobra Commander… this is going to be weird! Let’s dig in to this dog-eared, rolled-spined pile’a pulp and find out just how weird!
We open with a drive-by shooting in Gotham City… we got some of those Cobra Commander-looking terrorists firing into a crowd of people (and a dog!). Turns out, one of those people was Batman in a rubber human mask… oof. He dives on top of the baddies’ car and goes for a ride, while the police follow in hot pursuit. The terrorists drop one of their number off at… I dunno, some office or something, before taking off again. Batman decides to follow this thread, and leave the “chase” to Gotham’s finest. I do love how nonchalant these evil murderers are about making a “pit stop” during a high-speed chase. Anyhoo… Batman looks into the doorway, and is fired upon by a big ol’ rifle…
… which, then goes “boom”… right in the terrorist’s face! Batman attempts to get a closer look, to confirm just what in the heck just happened (and to rule out suicide, I guess), when he’s approached by an old friend… Sgt. Frank Rock! He’s here looking for a cache of stolen experimental rifles… just like the very one that exploded in this dude’s face.
The heroes decide to work together in tracking down this stolen arsenal… and figure their best “first stop” would be down at the Gotham City Police Department. And so, they check in with the Commish, who angrily (I mean, he looks ticked) proclaims that the rest of the terrorists had gotten away! Without much of a lead, Batman turns to Rock for advice. Rock coolly informs him that he pulled a locker key off the dead guy. Uh, Frank? You might’a wanted to lead with that! The locker is at the Bus Depot… and so, before we know it… that’s where our heroes go.
Here’s… where things get weird… er. We jump to the Connecticut studio of… Jim Aparo! He’s busy drawing the very story we’re currently reading… and is surprised to see what it says on the next page of the script. Ya see, on the next page… Batman and Sgt. Rock… die! You’d think that’d be an immediately red-flag, but in fairness… we gotta assume it’s a Haney script, and probably one of the tamest Aparo has seen in a bit. What we actually find out is… the terrorists (yes, the Cobra Commanders from the actual comic) have rewritten the comic to end with the death of the heroes. Poor Jim Aparo is bein’ held up at gunpoint… and is being forced to kill Batman!
Aparo is told in no uncertain terms that he’s gotta follow the new script… or, ya know, die. Jim accidentally-on-purpose snaps his pencil, and asks if it’s cool if he go to his storeroom for another. The terrorists have already staked the whole place out, and know that there are no windows in that storeroom… so, they allow it. What they didn’t take into account, however, was the fact that Aparo’s a wiry dude… who might just fit through a vent. Which is exactly what he does in order to escape! Next we know, Jim’s hopped in his boat, and is hightailing it to a nearby “abandoned-reconditioned” lighthouse where his buddy Chuck sometimes stays. Inside, wouldn’tcha know it, there’s a drafting table and a whole lotta comic-crafting materials! He gets back to work, and deftly saves Batman and Sgt. Rock’s lives in the next panel he draws. Wow… this was all on one page!
Back in the story, Rock nyoinks Batman away from the locker (feels like it’s been days since we first saw this scene) right before it explodes. Yes, the whole thing was a trap! Unfortunately, back in the “real world”, this is all Aparo’s got. Sure, he’s saved the heroes’ lives… but, what’s next? He decides to call his buddy and co-conspirator in all things Brave and/or Bold… Bob Haney! Jim sounds like an absolute crazy person here… talkin’ about the terrorists from inside the book trying to stop them from exposing them in the actual printed comic. Luckily, he’s talking to Chevy Chase’s sorta-kinda step-uncle (true story!), who might have a higher tolerance for wackiness. Haney then calls Murray Boltinoff for… I dunno… story approval? Okay, now we know this is a complete fiction… there’s no way Haney’s scripts ever pass under an editor’s eyes, right?
Haney goes ahead and gives Aparo the next few story beats. Ya see, these experimental stolen rifles require a special sort of ammo… and so, they probably oughta check in with some nearby guns-and-ammo shops. Turns out, that’s just the ticket! The man behind the counter confirms that somebody came in to buy that very special ammunition exactly one week ago. Batman assumes that they’ll be back today for more… and so, he waits outside the gun shop for two whole hours. Finally, the gunsmith signals to him that “the guy” just made his purchase.
Batman confronts the baddie, who unloads his magnum into the hero’s chest! Batman still manages to tackle the geek… and wonders aloud how he himself survived the experience. The gunsmith informs our man that he sold the bad guy “blanks” instead of actual bullets. Well, that’s sure handy.
Nearby, Sgt. Rock notices a military vehicle driving down the street, but notes that it has civilian plates. He decides to dive onto the back of the rig to see where it takes him. Unfortunately, no sooner is he on-board, than he’s faced down by a bunch of Cobra Commanders! They beat the ever-loving dog out of him… and, get this, dump him off an overpass onto some tracks… where he narrowly avoids getting clobbered by an oncoming train!
Back in the real world, the real-Cobra Commanders meet with their big-boss to let him know what’s going on. The Big Boss is ticked that Aparo and Haney are conspiring against their rock-solid plan to kill Batman. We jump back to Jim and Bob on the phone, when… suddenly a strange car pulls up to the Haney abode! Bob (and his dog) hop into his car, and flee the scene.
The terrorists bust into Haney’s house, and start looking for clues. What they manage to find is a chalkboard next to the phone… with the remnants of a phone number written on it. They assume this is probably whatever number Jim Aparo was calling from. They check in with one of their contacts at the phone company… and, bingo-bango, they’ve figured out where Aparo is hiding out. Meanwhile, Jim is chatting up Murray Boltinoff… and they’re attempting to put together the finishing touches of the story.
Back in the story, Batman and Rock (who is somehow still ambulatory) are walking the “blanks-shooting” dude into the Police Labs at the GCPD. Inside, there’s just a rat in a cage. I will do my best not to date myself with a lyrical reference here. Anyhoo, Rock tells the Perp that the rat’s rabid… and if he doesn’t speak up about the rest of the baddies, he’s going to let it bite him. Dude squawks pretty quick. The organization is calling themselves “The Thousand” (man, these Cobra Commanders always seem to call themselves something different, don’t they?)… and they need the rifles because… get this… they’ve declared war on America.
Back in the real world, Jim Aparo lets out a stretch after (presumably) hours at work on these pages. He spies out one of the lighthouse windows… an incoming boat! It’s gotta be the terrorists! Knowing time is short, he makes one last frantic call to Boltinoff so they can bring this story home… unfortunately, ol’ Murr didn’t quite hang up his phone completely. Ya see kids, phones used to work a bit differently… when they were left “off the hook”, you couldn’t get any incoming calls!
Just then, Bob Haney (and his dog) calls in from a payphone. Haney decides, since the bad guys are closing in, they probably ought to just have Batman and Sgt. Rock come to Aparo’s rescue! Let’s not think too hard about it… and just enjoy the ride. Back in the story, Frank and Batman hop into a helicopter, and head toward Connecticut.
As the terrorists get even closer to the lighthouse… Batman and Sgt. Rock fly overhead, before descending on the baddies and knocking the lot of ’em out!
Annnnnd… that’s the end of the story! Batman and Sgt. Rock win the day… all of our creators are safe and sound… and, uh… yeah, everything’s cool!
What a delightfully weird little story!
Definitely one ya gotta just let “happen” to ya… because, if we use even an ounce of critical thinking, the whole thing falls apart faster than a Jenga tower in an earthquake. We have to just “go with it”… the story inside the story is nebulously leaking out into the real-world story… inside the story… or something. The baddies being written about feel like their plans in the real-world will be negatively affected by the exposure they get in the story-in-the-story… and, uh… Batman and Sgt. Rock have to die in the story-in-the-story, which will change the way things go in the real-world-in-the-story. Ya dig? E-Z P-Z!
With all that spoo’ spoken… I can’t deny that I had a blast with this! It was just so weird, and so fun. It didn’t make much of a lick of sense, but… I guess they don’t always have to.
I wonder how a story such as this might’ve been received back in 1976. Personally speaking, if DC/Marvel did a story like this today… say, they had Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo help out Batman with an adventure… I’d probably puke. But, with Haney and Aparo, they’re like these mythical and endearing creators… kind of like part of the “bedrock” of DC Comics. With hindsight, I can appreciate this as a simple throwaway “funny, ha-ha”… simply because I know the body of work that Haney and Aparo will have ultimately put out… and how much they’ve both contributed to DC Comics. I guess what I’m trying to say is, whereas today something like this would be nothing more than a “vanity” issue where creators pat themselves on the back for being clever (and get those “retweets”!), there’s a certain innocent earnestness to this story. Am I projecting? Maybe I’m projecting? That’s always a
Now, Brave and the Bold has never really been “my jam”… so, I’m not all that knowledgeable on its conceits or anything… do these Cobra Commander-looking terrorists show up a lot? Or have I just gotten really lucky with my last few picks? Whatever the case, I suppose they’re perfectly good fodder for this sort of story. Their danger doesn’t really come from the individual… but, their sheer number. I’m almost surprised nobody (to my knowledge) has tried to make them a “thing”. I could see this being something right up… dare I say it… Bendis’ alley. Think about it… thousands… tens-of-thousands of hooded people, part of a secret society bent on world domination… with a wink-and-a-nod to fans of the Bronze Age for “cred”? Seems a no-brainer to me… but, then again… consider the source.
Overall… had almost too much fun with this one. This bugger is available digitally for your convenience, if you’re interested in seeing it in all its glory! It’s also been collected several times over. I’d definitely recommend giving it a look!