During a conversation about The Brave and the Bold, Scott Tipton – Mr. Blastoff himself – described writer Bob Haney as the “mad scientist of comics” who “just did whatever the fuck he wanted.” After reading #141, which had me laughing out loud throughout at the bizarre twists and turns, that which I couldn’t imagine reading in a modern Batman book, I started reading more about Haney himself. He didn’t care about continuity, nor what was going on in the other books featuring characters he was writing. He just did his thing – and man, his thing is something else.
So, The Brave and the Bold. It’s a Batman team-up series, and #141 features Dinah Lance: the so-called “Blonde Bombshell,” the Black Canary. I’m currently loving her solo comic, and Haney’s Batman seemed intriguing, so I thought it would be a thrill to read this for Blastoff’s Team Up month. The issue is drawn by Jim Aparo and colored by Jerry Serpe, who create dynamic pages with breeze action – but it’s their Joker that really wows me. His face is inhuman, stretched into a horrific shape to accommodate an ever-widening grin. Terrifying!
The plot is simple. Someone is murdering businessmen by blowing them to little bits. Gordon is investigating this, while Batman lurks on the side of buildings to eavesdrop and (even better) putting on a janitor’s outfit and fake mask over his entire Batman get-up to spy on the investigation! Bats quickly deduces that a loan shark is the culprit, which leads him to make a lot of bizarre shark jokes. Because he’s Batman, I guess, so why not laugh in the face of crime (and explodey death)?
Anyway, Batman finds out that a “Mr. Longreen” is the loan shark that these folks have in common. He’s joined by Black Canary when she’s witness to another attack – she chases the guy, but he’s quick, clever, and completely crazy. Batman and Canary talk to an older woman who is involved in Canary’s new career as a fashion designer – and the lady, who has an accent, mispronounces “Longreen” as “Long Grin.”
And Batman proceeds to base his entire investigation off of the fact that Long Green + Russian Lady = Long Grin = JOKER!
It’s stunningly bizarre, hilarious, and kinda perfect.
Obviously, Batman is right, because – hello, Batman. He sets-up Alfred to be the bait here, and man… Alfred could really sue for mistreatment, because Haney’s over-the-top, cackling crusader of a Batman is kind of a huge dick. But in the end, his weird deductions and dickery leads him to the Joker, who he ambushes by wearing an Alfred mask – again, over the cowl! – and defeats with very minor help from Black Canary.
I wish that we got more Canary, and that it was a true team-up rather than Dinah just kind of being along for the journey. Black Canary has a great power-set and personality that we don’t really see at work here, but the roller coaster pacing, weirdo plot twists, and irreverent take on these beloved heroes made it a fun read anyway, despite it never really following through on its premise.
Because in the end, this still happened, and we really just have to look back at that with reverence, don’t we?
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Family Pets, Van Helsing vs. Dracula) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). When not barely surviving a California heat wave, this temperature sensitive ginger can be found in coffeehouses, where you should tell him to stop tweeting and write, dammit.