BHOC: DC SPECIAL SERIES #8

I bought this comic on our regular weekly trip to the supermarket. During this time, they had started carrying a few comics, mostly DC’s Dollar Comics and a few other higher-priced items. This Special had been promoted in ads over the course of the past month, so it had an air of being special about it. But also, it was the best option presented to a kid who had no interest in HOUSE OF MYSTERY or G.I. COMBAT. And it’s a hell of a strange comic book–the cover only hints at how odd this reading experience is.

This is perhaps the most Bob Haney comic book of all the comic books Bob Haney ever Bob Haneyed. it opens with an introductory page where Batman introduces his three co-stars (including “a marvelous mystery guest–who I must admit is my only real rival.” Nice humility there, Bats!) and says that they’re the only reason he’s still around to “tell it like it was.” From there, we move into the story itself, with Batman searching for an explosive that’s been planted on a playground somewhere in Gotham City by a terrorist known as Lucifer.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., a statue of Batman lent to London to help celebrate the Queen’s jubilee year (what Batman has to do with that I couldn’t begin to tell you) is stolen by Scottish Nationalists in a bid to embarrass the Crown and to move forward their bid to separate Scotland from England. Sgt Rock, still alive after World War II and still in charge of Easy Company, is tasked with recovering the missing statue–surely this is typically what you;d do in a case such as this, right? Anyway, Rock and Bulldozer and their raw recruits head out after the thieves, nearly nabbing them. But strangely, wen batman’s statue is smashed in the leg by Rock’s vehicle, over in Gotham, the real Batman suffers a similar injury at the same time. Hmmm.

Elsewhere, Deadman is marking time, inhabiting the body of a daredevil wire-walking across the Falls, when he’s contacted by the spirit of his patron goddess Rama Kushna. Deadman lets the body he’s inhabiting fall off the wire and into a waiting helicopter net, which seems like a kinda crappy thing to do to this poor guy. Rama sends Deadman to London, where a shadowed figure on a bridge quotes Conan Doyle at him and then provides him with a clue to give to both Batman and Sgt Rock. Deadman is mystified by how this mystery man can see him. Deadman races to Easy Company, inhabiting the body of Bulldozer and putting them on the trail of the elusive statue. Meanwhile, despite his injured leg, Batman gets out of his sick bed to go after Lucifer when the terrorist sends him a note taunting the Masked Manhunter about his next target.

Once again, Batman faces the same peril as his statue–when the statue slips into a bog that’s been lit aflame in the crash, Batman’s injured leg fails him and he falls into a vat of concrete that Lucifer then sets ablaze. But even more amazing, when Batman is able to pull himself up out of the concrete with his batrope, in England his statue rises up into the air with no visible means of doing so. But once again, Rock and Easy lose it to the retreating Scottish Nationalists. The real Batman has escaped as well, but his hands are now terribly burned.

As Chapter Three begins, we get the rundown on what’s going on here, as the specters of teh greatest criminals and betrayers in history congregate to welcome Lucifer, the Fallen One, into their midst. This is meant, presumably, to be the actual devil, even though he looks more like a carnival sideshow fake. He tells the congregation what we already know–that there is a link between Batman’s statue and the Caped Crusader himself, one that can be exploited to destroy batman and finish him as a champion of justice. Elsewhere, Deadman is drawn to 221B Baker Street, where they mystery man, still in shadow, provides him with more information, telling Boston Brand that he’s a spirit like Deadman–but more akin to a living myth.

You can work out how things go next. Rock and Easy board a ship that supposedly has the statue on board, only to discover that the ship is dragging the statue along in a net under the water line. And in Gotham, Batman pursues the terrorist Lucifer to a houseboat but gets knocked overboard when he can’t grab on with his burned hands, and so he’s trapped underwater as well. When Rock and easy are able to buoy the statue to the surface, Batman is able to surface as well. But the raw Easy recruits are jumped and once again they lose possession of the statue, which is being taken to Devilsmoor for the demon Lucifer’s purposes.

Rock and Easy are now in Scotland itself, still in pursuit of the Batman statue, which they find hidden among the statues in the pealing mechanism of a tower clock. A firefight breaks out over them. Meanwhile, in Gotham, Batman as tracked Lucifer to a girlfriend, who pulls a gun on him and fires, spitting lead around him in the same pattern as his statue. And when the statue falls from the clock tower, so, too, does Batman fall in Gotham.

Rock’s got the statue back, and he and Easy race to get it to London in time for the ceremony. But Deadman is mystified by his mystery helper–going back to Baker Street, he finds no sign of 221B. Elsewhere, while Alfred reads a Conan Doyle story, he comes across a passage that’s been strangely changed. It’s a clue to Lucifer’s whereabouts, and when Alfred passes it on to his half-dead master, it’s enough for Batman to track the mad bomber down to the cemetery and finally capture him. With the demonic Lucifer’s plans foiled, Rama Kushna takes a moment to appear before him and gloat. And withe the statue back in place and Gotham now safe, the story comes to its conclusion.

Editor Paul Levitz, then really only a young kid himself, describes the genesis of the story on the issue’s text page. Of greater interest to me, he ran a short rundown of the team-up stories that had run in BRAVE AND THE BOLD beginning with issue #50. I was always interested in these sorts of things, learning about the comic book stories of the past. I wasn’t yet at a point where I could seek these older issues out regularly (I had no faith in buying back issue comics through the mail–I always wanted to see what i was getting)–but I soon would be.

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