Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Brave and the Bold #166 DC Comics, 1980

Man, I loved this comic book when I was a kid. Do you remember this issue? The one where Batman and Black Canary fight a 600-foot tall Penguin? Look, there he is on the cover, looming over Gotham with an umbrella the size of a Zeppelin. In order to defeat The Mega Penguin, Batman has to pilot the Bat Sentinel, a giant Shogun Warrior robot that Black Canary (who is a scientific genius) designed. During the huge brawl at the end of the book, the Canary slips into Mega Penguin’s oversized nose and plants a bomb in his frontal lobe, and –

Okay, I’m just fucking with you. There’s no Mega Penguin, no Bat Sentinel. But wouldn’t that be cool - a giant bat robot? DC Comics – give me money to write a Batman: Ultimate Robot Monster Killer comic!

In reality, The Brave and the Bold #166 is almost as cool as that, but for different reasons. Any young lad who has read this comic will undoubtedly remember this as the legendary issue where Black Canary gets tied up in her underwear. It is the climax of the story, and the thing that makes this particular issue stick in my mind.

Even if this comic didn’t have Black Canary in underwear, it would still be cool. The Brave and The Bold was a team-up book that was very similar to Marvel Two-In-One or Marvel Team-Up – the superhero star of the title would join forces with a different guest hero every issue. This issue is a “full-length novel” starring Batman and Black Canary and featuring the avian villainy of The Penguin, with a back-up story starring Nemesis, that uncanny master of disguise. I’m not sure, is this the first appearance of Nemesis? Again, too lazy to look it up.

The Penguin story, by writer Michael Fleischer and artists Dick Giordano and Terry Austin is a simple, somewhat formulaic tale of crime in the DC Universe with solid, classic Batman art. The “yellow utility belt era” of Batman will always be the definitive, classic take on Batman. He has that Jim Aparo/Marshall Rogers look to him that I like, with the black forehead and big stylin’ yellow belt with those strange pellets. That’s the Batman of my childhood, and therefore, the ultimate archetypal Batman for me.

The Penguin in this comic looks exactly like the Penguin should look. Plus, he’s mean. In this issue he breaks out of a prison in Gotham and goes after the four henchmen who testified against him in exchange for immunity. The ex-henchmen have relocated to Star City, Black Canary’s stomping grounds, where The Penguin quickly and brutally takes over a local gang:

Now that is how you recruit henchmen.

Batman trails The Penguin to Star City, where he teams up with Black Canary. Unlike the Goddamn Batman of today’s comics, Yellow Utility Belt Batman knew how to treat the ladies.
Check out Batman’s method:

Das smoove.
And see? It works! Black Canary is digging his action. Personally, it looks like he’s trying to hard to me. I think he’s coming across a little patronizing. But whatever, it’s obviously working for him, so who am I to judge.

There are several quality scenes where The Penguin takes his revenge on his betrayers by killing them in needlessly complicated but spectacular ways – all with a canary motif, because his betrayers “sang” to the cops. Somewhere along the way Black Canary gets captured and The Penguin tries to kill Batman using a Canary look-alike in a dark alley.

Fortunately, Batman spots the imposter before she can breath cyanide gas in his face. He’s no chump. Actually, in a lot of comics from this era Yellow Utility Belt Batman has progressive competence – his abilities and intelligence increase as the plot progresses, until at the end he’s finally smart/tough enough to defeat his foe.

Batman finally tracks down The Penguin and starts beating the hell out of everybody while he carries on an internal monologue that explains the plot:

I will resist any crude or obvious joke about Batman getting close enough to realize the fake Canary was a real blonde. I think I deserve points for my discretion.
All this leads us to the climax of the book: In order to clothe his Canary imposter, The Penguin had to borrow the real Black Canary’s costume – which means she gets tied up in lacy black underwear.
Believe me when I tell you that Young Dave studied this panel intently:

Batman finally gets his hands on The Penguin and beats him up. See, Goddamn Batman hasn’t totally cornered the market on brutality, it’s just that Yellow Utility Belt Batman is more of a bully than a psychopath. I mean look down below, he smacks the shit out of The Penguin, who isn’t even fighting back. And he calls him “pudgy.” And he backhands him, the ultimate act of contemptuous assault.

In the end, the big aggressive alpha male wins the girl, and the nerd is defeated. Just like in high school. The Black Canary makes a big deal about being a “liberated” woman, but she ends up giving her alpha male protector a little sugar in the end anyway.

I’m not sure about the sexual politics in The Brave and the Bold #166, but I love it anyway. Perhaps this comic is in a small part to blame for some of Young Dave’s misunderstandings about women, for some of the failed relationships and squandered opportunities of my adolescent years.

You know – I think I may have something here – I should sue DC Comics for that time Kristin Carlisle broke up with me in 1986! If The Brave and the Bold #166 hadn’t modeled unhealthy gender roles and female objectification for me early in life, I might have had a chance with her! A chance at happiness! I will sue them –

-- unless they let me write Batman: Ultimate Robot Monster Killer, of course.


David said...

I've sought this one out my whole life. Thank you for this post.

I always thought the nutty guy who dresses up like a bat would hit it off w/ the Canary.

Anonymous said...

You would think a superhero crimefighter like Canary would have better abs than that.

David C said...

Wowza! I was a somewhat regular B&B reader during this period, but unfortunately missed this one. (BTW, I'm reasonably certain it's not Nemesis' first appearance, because I do have whichever B&B that was in.)

Kind of interesting that the Penguin *didn't* notice BC's wig while undressing her. (And isn't *that* a rather unpleasant notion? But maybe Oswald was chivalrous and had the faux Canary do this? And if she did speak up about it, she'd lose the killing-Batman gig to some brunette chick.)

But I dunno, I haven't had all that much experience with wigs - how noticeable are they up close, anyhow? Nobody ever seems to figure out Sydney Bristow's wigs, for instance....

Anonymous said...

Batman: Ultimate Robot Monster Killer? F%*# YEAH!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and if there's some heat between them Bats should definitely give the Black Canary a call. I like them together.

Ken said...

Michael Fleischer? Canary tied up in her underwear? Check.

David C said...

Hey, I just noticed something - isn't the claim of the Batman/BC story being a "full-length novel" (a term that has always slightly amused me in the first place) per se inaccurate given that there's a Nemesis backup story?

call me jack... said...

nothing makes me laugh as hard as the late 70's-early 80's comics where the authors tried to tackle feminist issues. somewhere around here I have a tpb where female Avengers, lead by "The Valkarie", team up against the male Avengers. the panel where The Wasp is calling someone a chauvanist is classic.

Kevin Church said...

This was one of my first Batman comics ever, purchased in a stack of quarter books in a shitty little comics-and-crap store in Florida. Just looking at that cover makes me think of the mildewy "resort" my parents insisted on taking me.

Oh, and I'd totally make it with Aparo's Canary.

I mean, Black Canary, not Dead Jim's Bird.

Edward Liu said...

bill says: "They got her out a unitard without dislodging her wig? Ooookay."

Canary's outfit is a strapless bustier type of thing, which looks like it fastens on the back. Of course, that makes me ask how she could get away with wearing a bra with straps under it.

Besides, that wig stays on when she's kicking bad guy ass with jumping spinning kicks and all that wacky kung-fu stuff, so it must be held on by Krazy Glue or something.

And in those last 2 panels, how did Batman manage to wrap his cape around Canary, closing it in the front, and then get it to open up from behind? It also seems to have eaten Canary's bra.

Anonymous said...

And where exactly is Batman's left hand in that last panel?

Ollie better watch out...

Devon Sanders said...

I shit you not. This is the only Batman comic to have survived my childhood. The thing that struck me most was the inking. This was the first comic where I realized what an inker did, enhance.

Anonymous said...

That panel of Batman beating down the Penguin is pretty close to a "F$#@ Yeah!" moment, I'm thinking.

It's just the underwear thing totally distracts you from it.

Anonymous said...

It was just the story that climaxes with Black Canary in her underwear, right? RIGHT?

thekelvingreen said...

In order to defeat The Mega Penguin, Batman has to pilot the Bat Sentinel, a giant Shogun Warrior robot that Black Canary (who is a scientific genius) designed.

Okay, I’m just fucking with you. There’s no Mega Penguin, no Bat Sentinel. But wouldn’t that be cool - a giant bat robot? DC Comics – give me money to write a Batman: Ultimate Robot Monster Killer comic!

You didn't read Superman/Batman #6 then, with the Composite Superman/Batman Rocket Mecha?

Bully said...

"that Yellow Utility Belt Batman is more of a bully than a psychopath"

Say! Thanks. That's the nicest comparison anyone's ever made. (wanders away whistling happily)

Kevin Church said...

You didn't read Superman/Batman #6 then, with the Composite Superman/Batman Rocket Mecha?

Such a genius idea that Loeb let hit the ground like a bucket full of cow blossoms. I actually have a strange and growing affection for McGuinness now that I've seen him work with a writer I like (Morrison,) but not even he could make that scene convey the utter madness that it should have had.

Anonymous said...

There's another Black Canary story from World's Finest #245 (A July 1977 "Dollar Comic") well worth your trouble: "HOSPITAL OF FEAR." Investigating a case involving a roving "man-bear," Dinah Lance visits a hospital incognito, in a yellow sundress. She gets chloroformed by a man who likes to taunt woozy "girlies." Some time later, she wakes up strapped to an examination table in her Black Canary outfit, with three men, the head bad guy, and the man-bear all looming over her.

The bad guy's explanation:
"You're awake! I hope you don't mind that we've taken the... ah... liberty of dressing you in your costume!"

"You may call me... The Doctor. Under the present circumstances, no other name is... ah... necessary...
...considering the... ah... fact that you will soon be... ah... dead!"

Combined with the "full-frontal" scene of Black Canary stripping off her stretch uniform (DAMN the fatal combination of long hair and breasts loaded with static electricity), this comic made quite the impression on my pre-teen mind. Especially since... ah... it would be a couple of years before I... ah... got to take any... ah... liberties of my own. I would go so far as to say this is one of the three sexiest man-bear comics ever created.

Anonymous said...

"I would go so far as to say this is one of the three sexiest man-bear comics ever created."

It must be true. That's not the kind of thing that you say lightly. Also, the world really needs Batman: Ultimate Robot Monster Killer.

Anonymous said...

From the comments here, I think what the world needs is another Marvel-DC crossover:
Black Canary meets Ursa Major, drawn by Frank Cho.

Anonymous said...

That issue also has the scene where Black Canary tries to intimidate a thug for information, oblivious to the fact that Batman is actually behind her the whole time and that its him and not her who is making the guy crap his pants in terror. Afterwards she says something like "Gee, that wasn't so hard" while Batman gives her this smug little smirk. And then she got tied up in her underwear. Ah, Michael Fleisher!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and regarding the costume stealing thing, at least its not as bad as Invaders Annual #1, where the bad guy steals Namor's trunks (!), points out his two burly henchmen and specifically mentions that they helped him do it (!!), and uses said trunks as the flag for his ship (!!!)
(Somebody blogged about this one a few months back, but I can't remember who....)

Winterteeth said...

Your prayers are answered:

Written by Christopher Moeller; Art and cover by Moeller

Get ready for a thrilling 2-issue miniseries written and painted by Christopher Moeller (JLA: A LEAGUE OF ONE)! The JLA members find themselves caught between two warring factions in a deep space conflict that threatens to split the Earth's mightiest super-team down the middle! Time is of the essence, causing the group to quickly choose sides — which may be the heroes' first mistake!

As the battle escalates, the team realizes that it must amp-up its collective powers and abilities — leading to the first use of the JLA's towering battle-ready armor!

Please note the last sentence and find an image of the cover to see a giant mecha-Batman.

RedheadFangirl said...

Ah, blondes. (Even wigged ones) What do you call a redhead between two blondes? An interpreter!

Anonymous said...

DC Comics Legal Department here. We're prepared to offer an out-of-court settlement.

We've contacted the girl in question and she's willing to go on a date with you now.

Rob Schamberger said...

The highlight of that godawful Legend of the Superheroes TV show thing was Black Canary strapped to a car lift, while Solomon Grundy was dressed like Gomer Pyle. You could see down her shirt!

And then Solly and Captain Marvel had a tire-throwing competition. That kicked ass.

Ken said...

One of the three sexiest man-bear comics ever, at least until the Black Canary-Hydrangea-Yiff sooper spectacular.

Anonymous said...

Is Gunhawks #4 still the sexiest Man-Bear story?

Edward Liu said...

David-Man asks: "All this patronizing equal partnership stuff only to have the heroine stripped to her lingerie and bound and gagged by villain... I mean, that's just creepy, no?"

Not if you're William Moulton Marston it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Woo! Woo!

Anonymous said...

Unnerving sexual politics in a Michael Fleisher comic? I'm shocked, I am SHOCKED!

Bully said...

This adventure should be constantly referred to in Birds of Prey.

Black Canary: He's got to be out there somewhere in the city. You search the computer records, Barbara. I'll head down to the streets.
Oracle: Sure. Just don't let him capture you and strip you to your undies so Bats can rescue you again.
BC: time...stop bringing it up!
O: (giggle)

Anonymous said...

While I own the issue in question and made my 14-year old self very happy many years ago :-), I have to agree with david-man. Seeing a super hero in her undies, even a hot one, just seems wrong. It showed contempt for Black Canary as a serious crime fighter (Fleisher, BTW, got ripped apart in the letter section over it).

The scene where Batman really is the one scaring the thug and not Dinah was even worse, IMO.