BHOC: BRAVE AND THE BOLD #56

The first time I came across it, I don’t think that I was able to go in and look around. But it was enough to know that it was there, and eventually, when my family had a reason to be a few towns over again in nearby Ronkonkoma (where I myself would live years later for two decades) I was able to convince my Mom to let me make a stop at Bush’s Hobbies. This was one of those catch-all collectibles stores that existed in the 1970s–they carried a full line-up of rare coins and stamps and baseball cards and the like. But what was of interest to me was the long line of boxes of vintage comic books, back issues the likes of which I had never see before. On the wall above them there were a few rarities that you could touch if you were so motivated–I remember that they has FANTASTIC FOUR #6 and FIGHTING AMERICAN #3 from the 1950s. It was far enough away that it could never be a regular haunt, and they never switched over to selling new comics, but Bush’s Hobbies became the second comic book store that I frequented, and in the years to come a regular source of older editions.

On my first trip to Bush’s I walked away with a small handful of vintage books. All these years later, it’s a little bit difficult to parse which books I might have gotten on that first trip and which were the result of later shopping excursions. But I think I’ve got it worked out–and if I’m wrong, who on Earth is going to know the difference? At this point as a collector, I had two driving conditions that made a comic appealing to me: old and cheap. I wanted books that I couldn’t have ever seen before, the older the better, but I also didn’t have the financial resources to drop a whole lot on any one comic book. I eventually worked this out to amounting to $4.99 being the ceiling I would ever pay for any one comic–so anything priced at higher than that would be passed over by me. Until my finances got good enough that I could violate that barrier. (For the record, today the most I’ve ever paid for a single comic book is $1400.00–and it represented the end of my days as a back issue collector.)

So the appeal of this issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD was that it was clearly a vintage issue–the cover image itself revealed that it had been released in 1964. And it featured the Flash, still my favorite super hero despite my recent explorations of the Marvel characters. Plus, there was something compelling about that half-Flash/half-J’onn J’ozz giant that was threatening them. I also don’t remember what it cost, but I’m betting it was around $3.00, and that it was cheaper than any contemporaneous issues of FLASH that Bush had in stock that day. BRAVE AND THE BOLD wasn’t a title held in especially high regard by collectors at that time. As with the new issues I was reading, the uncredited story in this issue was written by Bob Haney, and it was illustrated by Bernard Baily, a longtime DC artist who had helped to originate the Specter with Jerry Siegel. Baily wasn’t doing a whole lot of work for DC by 1964, but I liked what I saw here, even though his figures were occasionally a bit stiff and awkward.

The story is as daffy and entertaining as you would expect. At this time, BRAVE AND THE BOLD was being run as a team-up comic in which two diverse super-stars from the DC line would join forces in a one-off adventure. This time out, as mentioned earlier, the two headliners in question were the Flash and the Martian Manhunter, fellow members of the Justice League. They’re both attending the International Fair of 1964 (a DCU stand-in for the actual World’s Fair which was held that year) in their civilian identities. Also interested in the fair is the Queen of the distant planet Argon, Queen Tatania. Her scientists have made an extensive study of Earth’s super heroes, and they believe they can now manufacture artificial hybrids with the combined powers of any two of them. But their first attempt to create such an android goes awry and runs wild, and so they exile it to Earth–it gets mistaken on the fairgrounds for a time capsule and is scheduled to be buried.

Thereafter, a series of raids are conducted upon the fair by strange hybrids, beings that appear to be split versions of America’s famous super heroes. But Flash and the Martian Manhunter run into the first one, which combines their attributes, but its’s able to overpower and elude them. Along the way, it steals a feminine robot from one of the pavilions. Over the course of the next few days, different hybrids continue to cause chaos, and despite their best efforts, the two Justice Leaguers can’t seem to lay hands on any of them to bring their rampage to a halt. (I love that the Hawkman/Aquaman hybrid has only one wing, but presumably can still fly.)

Eventually, the trail leads back tot eh time capsule, and J’onn’s Martian vision sees the creature they’re after inside the capsule, along with the remains of the female robot. He also recognizes the construction of the capsule to be Argon in origin, so he uses Dr. Erdel’s robot brain to teleport himself to that far-off planet for some reconnoitering. Meanwhile, the capsule breaks free from the temporary containment that Flash and J’onn were able to put it in and it hovers in the air. Believing it to be a clear and present danger, Flash urges the commander of a nearby submarine to fire a Polaris missile at the cannister, to destroy it once and for all. But before the missile can strike, the Martian Manhunter diverts it. He reveals that, had it hit, the resulting detonation of the capsule would have been greater than an atomic explosion. Oops, bad plan, Flash!

J’onn has also learned the secret of why the mutant hybrid has been running amok and he’s got a plan to neutralize it. But they’ll need the help of a special guest star, Hawkgirl! (Who comes with both wings.) It turns out that the reason the hybrid went crazy was that Tatania had seen it in its creation chamber and reacted in horror, rejecting it as a monster. Programmed to love the Queen, the hybrid’s heart was broken and it lashed out. Despite J’onn’s overtures, Princess Tatania won’t help them–so J’onn’s plan is to disguise Hawkgirl as Tatania and have her quell the maddened hybrid. This operation goes well at first, but the hybrid swiftly sees through Hawkgirl’s disguise.

Rejected and broken-hearted for a second time, the Hybrid returns to the capsule, intending to detonate it and kill himself and the Earth. But before he can act, the real Tatania shows up, first to order the hybrid back to Argon and when that fails, to apologize for her harsh treatment of it. By this point, though, the final countdown is nearing its end, so the hybrid sends the capsule hurtling up into the air and out of Earth’s atmosphere so as to save the woman he loves–and the Earth additionally. The hybrid perishes, but Tatania returns to Argon a wiser and more sensitive ruler. And that’s all she wrote for this team-up of the Flash and the Martian Manhunter.

3 thoughts on “BHOC: BRAVE AND THE BOLD #56

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