Sunday, 21 April 2019

Brave and the Bold #96 - Batman meets Sgt Rock in, "The Striped Pants War!"

Brave and the Bold #96, Batman and Sgt Rock
XTC once claimed that, "Sgt Rock is going to help me."

Well, he certainly didn't help me.

He didn't help me remember I'd once read a comic which featured him.

That comic is Brave and the Bold #96, and it was one of that small batch of books I got from that legendary indoor market on Lytham Road, Blackpool, in the summer of 1972, when I was first starting out on my career as a super-hero fan.

But this one was different. While I had at least some memories of those other comics; for years, the only thing I could recall about this one was that it featured the word, "Bolas."

Needless to say, this made it a somewhat difficult comic to identify. But, at last, after 47 years, I've finally discovered its identity and have got my hands on a copy of it.

But, now that I have it, will it be revealed that my total inability to recall its contents was justified?

Brave and the Bold #96, Batman Toro
The US ambassador to a South American country's been kidnapped by terrorists and, now, Bruce Wayne's been sent there, as stand-in ambassador, to sort out a somewhat undefined treaty. Not only that but, by an incredible coincidence, Batman has also been sent there, to try and rescue the real ambassador.

But Wayne and Batman aren't the only United Statesians present, because Sgt Rock is currently working in the embassy, as head of security.

Brave and the Bold #96, BolasThere's only one problem. It quickly becomes apparent that Rock has turned traitor and is involved in the kidnapping.

Needless to say, it's not long before Batman is on the case, nearly getting himself killed at every opportunity and leaping to all the wrong conclusions - because, in a shock revelation, it turns out Rock isn't a traitor at all and that the real bad guy is exactly who you knew it was going to be the moment you clapped eyes on him.

The ambassador is safe, Batman is happy and Sgt Rock's reputation is restored.

I do have to say it's pretty obvious why I remembered all but nothing of this comic for almost fifty years because it's easily the least memorable of that handful of books I got from that market. The script is mostly devoid of Bob Haney's usual madness, while Nick Cardy's artwork feels both unrefined and workmanlike.

Cardy is one of my favourite cover artists of all time but the few examples I've seen, over the years, of his interior artwork have totally lacked the magic he managed to imbue into his covers. In this case, it feels like he's trying to draw like Joe Kubert but is struggling with it, mostly because of tackling the endeavour with too thick a brush.

Brave and the Bold #96, Sgt Rock threatens Bruce Wayne
As for Sgt Rock, the reality is that he comes across like he may be intellectually subnormal, as well as a complete and total jerk. I've never read an issue of his own comic and, so, have no idea if this is how he was always written or if it's unique to this tale, but it's very difficult to warm to him here.

And, no, I don't have a a clue why the tale is called The Striped Pants War.

Anyway, I do believe I've now reviewed all the comics I got on that summer holiday. This, therefore, is my ranking of them:
  1. Captain America #135.
  2. X-Men #44.
  3. Action Comics #402.
  4. Teen Titans #33.
  5. The Flash #195.
  6. Brave and the Bold #96.
Brave and the Bold #96, Batman and Sgt Rock


TC said...

"Striped pants diplomat" and "striped pants bureaucrat" are American slang terms for a member of the State Department/Foreign Service. The phrase presumably comes from formal attire (morning coats and pinstripe trousers) worn by ambassadors at certain ceremonies.

B&B #96 was the second Batman/Sgt. Rock team-up, and there were four more in the 1970s. Generally, fans of DC's (relatively) realistic war comics did not like the superhero comics, and vice versa. But DC may have been emulating Marvel, whose war comics (Sgt. Fury, Captain Savage) inhabited a shared universe with the Avengers and Fantastic Four.

I did read B&B #96, and thought it was not bad, although not especially good. You did have to suspend disbelief enough to accept that Rock, a first sergeant in WWII, would still be on active duty in the 1970s. And that an Army NCO (instead of a State Department agent or a Marine officer) would be in charge of security at a US embassy. But Bob Haney never let authenticity or logic get in the way of a story.

Rock's own series in Our Army At War was very good, although formulaic.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

My first B&B was #100, off the spinner (Batman, Deadman, Batman shot by a sniper through the chest.) I was drawn to it by the art. This art above isn't bad at all, to a young kid!

Sgt Rock was far more realistic than Fury. Fury was just super-hero antics on a battlefield. That being said, Rock probably destroyed half the Nazi war machine with a single shot to a tank, or a plane, or a battleship, etc. He also featured a lot of one-appearance guys, destined to die saving Rock or Easy Co. in some manner like diving on a grenade.

If Rock got out of the Army in 45, he would "only" be 50 in 1970. So, he could still be fit to fight. Anyhow, if Rock is too old, and Bats surely older than Rock, then Bats is too old too. But I never got caught up in the aging thing...

So long All and Happy Easter! The Robots are after me and I have to go!

Anonymous said...

More of a problem for this story than ageing is that Sgt Rock was killed on the last day of the war. Maybe that means its set on Earth-2?

United Statesians, Steve? Is that a thing, or did you just make the term up


Steve W. said...

TC, thanks for the striped pants info.

TC and Charlie, thanks for the Sgt Rock info. I must confess my knowledge of him is severely limited.

Sean, I believe that the Latin American name for people from the US translates as, "United Statesian," though I've never heard anyone use it seriously.

Killdumpster said...

Having only read maybe a little less than a dozen Sgt. Rock stories (including the B&B featured here) I can agree that Rock seemed more realistic than Sgt. Fury.

That being said, realism wasn't exactly why I read comics in the first place. The "5 & dime" store where my grandma lived carried nothing but Harvey, westren & war comics. When visiting her that was the only time I'd buy Rock, Fury, Rawhide Kid etc. Just for something to read in that boring 1/2 horse town. Every once in a while there'd be an issue of Haunted Tank or Weird War Stories on the rack. That felt like a bonus.

Anonymous said...

I notice Sgt. Rock is now referring to himself in the third person. That's never a good sign. Like the Hulk, Dr. Doom, Bob Dole or Trump, it usually indicates a less than balanced psyche. Alarm bells are ringing.
Now I know, M.P. has occasionally referred to himself as M.P. here, but that's more like "the royal we," indicating a distinct social status. It's not as though I walk around saying things like, "M.P. would like his eggs scrambled this morning" or "M.P. wants five bucks on pump number two."


Anonymous said...

M.P., Charlie refers to himself in the third person too - is it not normal for you United Statesians then?


Anonymous said...

No, with him it indicates an unbalanced psyche.


TC said...

I don't recall Rock ever referring to himself in the third person in his own series. Also, in his own comic, he was not the jerk that he seemed to be in B&B #96. Usually, he was portrayed as the stereotypical tough-but-compassionate NCO.

AFAIK, the idea that Rock was killed in 1945 was first mentioned by writer Robert Kanigher in a letters column in Our Army at War/Sgt. Rock in 1978. I think it was later accepted as canon, but it had not yet been established when Haney was doing the Batman/Rock team-ups in the first half of the 1970s.

Anonymous said...

Bill Mauldin said he considered killing off Willie and Joe at the end of the war, but he just didn't have the heart to do it.
He said instead he'd let 'em survive, come home and have the same problems the so-called average guy had in post-war America. Wife, kids, job, boss, bills, etc.


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Charlie does not refer to himself in the 3rd person.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

And what is the "royal we?" Charlie's heard that expression many a time.

Charlie's also heard of the "formal you" which is also the 2nd-person plural you in French and German. We have it in English too, with "Thou?"

As in "Charlie thou art in trouble... here come the robot overlords."

Charlie will hang up now, and listen for your replies.

Steve W. said...

Charlie, the Royal We is when an individual of high ranking refers to him/herself in the plural. So, for instance, a person would say, "We are not amused," when he or she means, "I am not amused."

Anonymous said...

Charlie, the correct spelling is actually Royal Wee, and it refers to the monarch having a piss.


Killdumpster said...

Reminds me of a skit on Monty Python's "Matching Tie & Handkerchief" album.

At a royal ball, all these famous English authors are insulting the king, but then explaining that it's really a compliment.

"His Majesty is like a STREAM OF BAT'S PISS!"

(Party-goers all gasp!)

"You shine out, like a shaft of gold, when all around is dark!"

Incredibly funny album, with only a few gags from the TV show. Highly recommend if you enjoy their humor.

That line "kinda" fits in with the Batman theme. Definetly fits the royal urine direction.

"Ooohh.. Piss Boy..?!!"

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I hope you know I was joking about your psyche. I think you're as sane as I.
...Sean, I've just set you up for a retort there, man. You've got the ball, don't let us down.


Anonymous said...

The term "We are not amused" is credited to Queen Victoria, who, according to legend, said it upon witnessing John Cleese's great-great grandfather do an extremely silly walk in the House of Lords.


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