Monday, November 1, 2010

Greatest! Cover! Ever!

I was scrolling through the archives of J.M. DeMatteis' blog recently and I came across a posting from this past May in which DeMatteis, inspired by an entry on Dean Haspiel's blog, revealed his pick for his favorite DC Comics cover ever.  Both of these posts have inspired me to weigh in with my choice, which happens to be from a comic that I'd planned to write about here eventually, anyway. 
While both DeMatteis and Haspiel chose covers from the Superman family of titles, my pick is from Batman's corner of the DC Universe.  Not only do I consider this the greatest DC cover ever, but it just may be the greatest comic book cover ever, period.  And it doesn't even have a gorilla on it, believe it or not.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the cover of The Brave and the Bold #124:

This cover, with its arresting image of artist Jim Aparo held at gunpoint by a menacing masked figure who demands that Aparo draw guest star Sgt. Rock killing Batman, achieves exactly what a good comic book cover is supposed to.  It captures your attention and makes you not just want, but need to read that issue.  I know that from the time I first saw this cover as a kid in DC house ads until I finally bought a copy and read the story years later, I wondered what kind of story could possibly be inside.
A great cover, however, is not always an indication of a good comic, but B&B #124 lives up to its cover's promise of a great story.  As crazy as that cover is, it's actually a fairly accurate representation of the issue's story.
"Small War of the Super-Rifles", written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo, teams Batman and Rock on a quest to track down a stolen shipment of experimental weapons that have fallen into the hands of a band of terrorists calling themselves "The Thousand" who are menacing Gotham City.  Just as the two heroes are tracking down a clue to whereabouts of the stolen rifles, a key to a bus station storage locker found on the body of a dead terrorist, the scene abruptly shifts to Aparo's studio, where the artist decides to take a break from drawing the very issue of B&B that we've been reading.  When he returns to his drawing board, Aparo discovers that his studio has been invaded by the very terrorists he had been drawing.  They have changed the script so that Batman and Rock are killed by a bomb that explodes when the locker is opened, and, just as shown on the cover, aim their guns at Aparo and threaten to kill him unless he draws their revised version of the story.
Aparo manages to escape the terrorists and flees to a remote abandoned lighthouse now used as an art studio by a friend of his named Chuck.  I'm not sure if "Chuck" is supposed to be a real person or if he was just made up by Haney for this story.  Anyway, once relatively safe, Aparo completes the sequence with Rock saving Batman at the last minute.  Unsure as to how he should proceed, Aparo calls Haney, who in turn calls B&B editor Murray Boltinoff.  Together the three of them hash out a new plot for Aparo to draw.  Meanwhile, Batman and Rock continue their investigations, unaware that their actions are being guided by the trio of comics creators.
The terrorists, however, are all too aware of that fact, and, with Aparo having eluded them, they go after Haney, who is forced to flee, leaving Aparo and Boltinoff to continue the story until Bob can get to a phone.  Eventually, the terrorists also discover the location of Aparo's hiding place. Fortunately, Haney gets back in touch with Aparo and the two frantically work to complete the story, leading Batman and Rock to the terrorists just as they are closing in on the lighthouse.
The Bronze Age was an era full of crazy concepts and off the wall ideas, with Bob Haney, in  The Brave and the Bold and other titles such as World's Finest, coming up with some of the most outrageous.  But even amidst all that, "Small War of the Super-Rifles" stands out as a masterpiece of unbridled imagination and a celebration of the power of the comics medium.


  1. Ray you magnificent bastard. I think you may be right.

    The only question is, who's under the mask? Superboy-Prime? John Byrne?