Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas With The Caped Crusader: The Brave and the Bold #148

In our celebration of Batman Christmas tales, we're still stuck in 1978 for the moment.  That's okay with me. 1979 was one of the worst years of my life, but that's not a tale for this blog. 
Today we're going to examine The Brave and the Bold #148, starring Batman and Plastic Man in "The Night the Mob Stole Xmas!" (I know there's usually a dash in there between the "X" and the "mas", but that's the way it was punctuated in the book, so that's the way I'm doing it here.)  Like all the the majority of issues of B&B, this one was written by Bob Haney, but the art chores are handled a little differently this time out.  Regular B&B artist Jim Aparo was usually a one man band, penciling, inking and even lettering the entire story every issue.  In #148, however, he inks over the pencils of Joe Staton.  I assume he did the letters as well, as they look the same as they do in every other issue. 
This unusual distribution of duties allowed Aparo time to adjust to the book's new publishing schedule.  In 1978, after thirty-three years, B&B finally became a monthly comic. The choice of Joe Staton to help out with this issue was probably because, if I'm remembering right, he was drawing a Plastic Man feature in Adventure Comics at the time.
But the Plastic Man who appears in this story is the Plas of Bob Haney's B&B, and is quite a different character than the one Joe was drawing over in Adventure.  Many characters tended to act a little differently when they entered Haney's corner of the DC Universe than they did anywhere else, but Plastic Man was the most extreme example.  Rather than the light hearted, happy-go-lucky adventurer he was in his solo stories, in B&B, Plas was, to be honest, a bit of a whiner, given to bemoaning his status as a "freak."  Thus, when Batman encounters Plas, reduced to working as a street corner Santa, Plastic Man tells the Caped Crusader how things have gone downhill since they last met in B&B #123.  "...Cheap carnivals I quit because I hated being a freak," he moans, "But I guess I'm doomed to play only phony this!" (Wait, is Plas saying Santa isn't real?)  Batman stammers out a few reassuring words, tosses a coin in Plas' pot, tells him to try to have a Merry Christmas, then goes off to continue pursuing the cigarette smugglers, or "buttleggers", that he's been on the trail of .
The next morning, Batman drives by "Lacey's" department store to discover that their world famous Christmas display has been stolen.  Not only that, but the thieves also also kidnapped Plastic Man. Fortunately, Plas was able to leave a clue for Batman, and the Dark Knight soon finds himself on the trail of a convoy of semis headed for Florida.
Its soon revealed that the Lacey's display was stolen to serve as decorations at a Christmas party thrown by supposedly dieing mob boss Big Jake Doyle , coincidentally, the head of the "buttlegging" ring, ostensibly to make peace with his rivals before he passes on.  Of course, Doyle isn't dieing after all and the party was just a ruse to get all his competitors in one place so he can rub them out.  Fortunately, Bats and Plas are on hand to prevent the carnage, arrest Doyle, and get the Lacey's display back to Gotham in time for Christmas Eve.
While many of the Batman Christmas stories I've read feature some sort of life affirming message about the meaning of the season, Bob Haney wasn't really much of a sentimentalist. This is pretty much a typical Haney B&B story featuring Batman and his co-star du jour taking on a group of fairly generic mobsters.
Fortunately, Plastic Man's moaning is kept to a minimum, and there are some pretty clever uses of his powers, making this my favorite of Haney's B&B stories with the character.


  1. Given that Eel O'Brian was a career criminal before becoming Plastic Man and also that poverty is a leading cause of crime itself, y'd think Batman was all his riches and Christmas cheer would;ve toosed more his way than a coin and some platitudes...

  2. I think Batman just wanted to get the bloody hell away from the mopey S.O.B. as soon as humanly possible. Plas in Haney's B&B was a serious downer.