I bought a lot of issues of BRAVE AND THE BOLD (or as this cover would have it, THE NEW BIG BRAVE AND THE BOLD) despite the fact that I was never really all that wild about it. I liked the Jim Aparo artwork well enough, and I liked a number of the characters who guest-starred alongside Batman in it. But I wasn’t all that wild about usual scripter Bob Haney’s approach to storytelling. And even when Haney wasn’t in residence, the other folks who came in on the series seemed to follow along in his tradition a little bit. Possibly that was the influence of the editors as much as anybody. But for whatever reason, I probably bought BRAVE AND THE BOLD more consistently than any other Batman title during the 1970s, and that’s why it is no surprise to me that it was the best-selling Bat-book of its era, regularly outperforming both BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS.

By 1978 and the time of the DC Explosion, editor Paul Levitz was beginning to rein in some of the madness just a little bit, though it was still a pretty crazy book. This particular issue’s story opens with Bruce Wayne walking into the Wayne Foundation offices only to find Green Arrow showing a apple off of the head of his secretary. Now, how Green Arrow convinced this young woman to risk her life in such a foolhardy fashion for so cavalier a feat isn’t covered–let’s chalk it up to Oliver Queen being just an extremely smooth talker. And it is a pretty cool and dramatic opening, nonsense though it may be. Green Arrow is on the hunt for, of all things, a magic arrow that never misses which is said to have been enchanted by Merlin. As Batman doesn’t have anything better to do this week, he agrees to help out the ace archer in his quest.

It came relatively early in the issue, but this House Ad for other DC releases was pretty exciting to me due to the announcement of the first new FAMOUS 1ST EDITIONS Treasury Edition in several years. I really loved those reprints of important DC comic books of the past, and this opportunity to get SUPERMAN #1 wasn’t one that i was going to allow to go past. It was pretty clearly being issued in the build-up to the forthcoming SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, but regardless of the reason, i didn’t care. My mind, though, envisioned possible further such releases, dreams that would never come to pass.

Batman drops Green Arrow off at his destination in France, but then decided to stick around and investigate himself after the ancient book that Ollie had been referring to vanishes in front of his eyes, as if by magic. The Caped Crusader discovers that Oliver Queen has vanished, and when he begins a search for his friend, he winds up passing through a rift in time in an old castle and finds himself in the 15th Century, and menaced by a trio of knights. This is the work of the Gargoyle, an obscure old Teen Titans villain who hadn’t been seen in years. The knights proceed to bop Batman and take him prisoner. Elsewhere, Green Arrow has fallen in with English forces who intend to attack the French. Merlin appears and he enchants one of Ollie’s arrows, making it the very thing that he came here to find. It’s all a bit staggeringly coincidental.

With Batman in tow, the Gargoyle and his forces challenge the armies of King Henry the Fifth (whom Aparo straight up draws as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant) to combat, and none of Henry’s finest warriors can seem to bring him down. As the melee goes on, Batman is able to free himself undetected, and Green Arrow steps up to take his shot at the Gargoyle with his special Merlin arrow. The shaft flies an impossible path and finds its mark in the Gargoyle, turning the villain to stone. With the Gargoyle downed, King Henry’s forces attack, even though they are outnumbered five to one. History records that the English won a storied victory on this day thanks to Henry’s military acumen and the skill of his longbowmen. But Batman and Green Arrow want no part of this fight. In the confusion, they set off to try to make their way back to the castle and presumably the portal home. (nobody seems much worried about leaving the petrified gargoyle in the 15th Century.)

There’s a pause here for a memorial page for Mort Weisinger, the longtime Superman editor who had recently passed away. It’s a very nice piece that gives Mort his deserved props while in no way reflecting his history as a bit of a petty tyrant and abusive boss. I didn’t really know who Mort was at the time, so this whole thing sort of went past me, for all that I read the piece.

After a danger-laden chase, the heroes wind up back in the present. But then Batman tells Green Arrow that he can’t keep the enchanted arrow that they came for–and he gives his explanation indicating that it’s “the only possible explanation for what happened!” Batman theorizes, based on pretty much nothing at all, that the Gargoyle had been trapped in the 15th Century, but he was able to reach forward to the 20th with his mind force and cause GA to find the book and go looking for the arrow. The reason being that the only way the Gargoyle could return to the 20th Century was to be “killed” by that enchanted arrow fired by an expert marksman such as Green Arrow. To which I go, “Wha–??” The heroes are swiftly able to ascertain that the Gargoyle is alive again and in the present, and invulnerable to everything except the enchanted shaft. So Green Arrow needs to shoot him with it again while Batman keeps him busy. Which Ollie does. End of story–the magic arrow vanishes with the Gargoyle, and I was left wondering what the point of this entire affair had been. A bunch of weird, almost stream-of-consciousness stuff had happened, but none of it really made sense or added up well. Stories like this were the reason why I didn’t really love BRAVE AND THE BOLD.

Part of the draw for me in reading BRAVE AND THE BOLD during the short Explosion months was the back-up series, which I really liked. It was devoted to the Human Target, a creation of Len Wein whose shtick was that he was a master of disguise who would impersonate people under threat of murder and prevent their deaths by acting as, you got it, a human target. I thought it was a great concept and that it should have been a television show–which it eventually was, twice. Anyway, in this story by Len and artist Dick Giordano, Christopher Chance takes the place of an orchestra conductor who has received a death threat.

It’s a nice, tight little 8-page caper, the sort of story that they just don’t make anymore. Strangely, despite the fact that there were no costumes, no super-villains and no outlandish powers (apart from Chance’s credulity-stretching ability to resemble other people) I dug the series a lot. I’m sure that all comes down to the skills of Wein and Giordano, who presented a polished and slick end product.

6 thoughts on “BHOC: BRAVE AND THE BOLD #144

  1. “it was the best-selling Bat-book of its era, regularly outperforming both BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS.”

    The Brave and the Bold regularly outsold Detective Comics in the 1970s, but not the main Batman title. The sales of Batman and Brave and the Bold were comparable, but Batman usually did better, even if only by a few thousand per issue. The only year where Brave and the Bold’s average issue sales were more than Batman’s was 1974-1975. It was selling 160,000 an issue, and Batman was selling 154,000. But every other year, Batman outsells Brave and the Bold.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t buy any DC comic with regularity other than the 100 page spectaculars and the Famous First Editions. But I would buy Brave and the Bold more frequently than any other Bat title. I loved Aparo’s art and Batman teaming up with some rando worked pretty well for 8-10 year old me. I still appreciate Aparo’s 70’s work quite a bit… I think he was a more consistent and dynamic and artist than a number of 70’s artists with bigger reps.


  3. Joining in on the Human Target fandom here. No argument Wein/Giordano did great work but it’s still remarkable how an Action Comics backup feature went on to have two TV shows and multiple comics series.


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