"The Secret that Saved a World!"
(17 pages)

Cover pencils & inks - Jim Aparo
Cover colouring - Tatjana Wood

Script - Bob Haney
Pencils - Romeo Tanghal
Inks - Frank McLaughlin
Colours - Jerry Serpe
Lettering - Ben Oda
Editor - Paul Levitz

One of those comic book series with an intriguing title, The Brave and the Bold started out as a bi-monthly anthology in August 1955 featuring characters from past ages such as Viking Prince, the Silent Knight, or even Robin Hood. Following DC's successful attempts at reviving and updating superheroes from the Golden Age (kick-started by the Flash in Showcase #4 in October 1956), Brave and the Bold was changed into a try-out title as of issue #25 (August 1959), presenting a succession of (mostly successful) new concepts which would often move on to their own title. The most significant of these was the Justice League of America (Brave and the Bold #28, February 1960) which, as comic book history lore has it, ultimately spawned the Fantastic Four and hence the whole Marvel Universe (Howe, 2012).
Having previously already run a few team-up stories, Brave and the Bold #59 (April 1965) featured Batman for the first time, followed by further appearances by the Darknight Detective (#64 and #67-71). With the TV series and the subsequent Batmania in full swing Brave and the Bold became a dedicated Batman team-up title with issue #74 (October 1967), becoming a monthly title with Brave and the Bold #118 (April 1975) and ultimately clocking up 200 issues until its demise in July 1983.

The title takes much of its renown and fan interest from the fact that it was the first to feature Neal Adams' version of the Batman in a Batman and Deadman team-up entitled "Track of the Hook" (Brave and the Bold #79, August 1968), and his style defines the iconic popular culture Batman image to this day. Adams was followed by another fan favourite, Jim Aparo, who started an impressive run with Brave and the Bold #98 (October 1971), becoming the principal artist for the title throughout the Bronze Age and ultimately pencilling almost all of the second one hundred issues of the title.

One of those few issues Aparo did not provide the artwork for is Brave and the Bold #146 (January 1979) - although he did pencil and ink the cover - and the rare occasion was marked by the fact that Romeo Tanghal (pencils) and Frank McLaughlin (inks) were billed as "guest artists".
  Romeo Tanghal (*1943) is a self-taught Filipino artist who came to the US in 1976 and worked for both DC and Marvel. Possibly best known as inker for the Perez run on the Teen Titans, his first pencils on Batman were published in February 1977 (Batman #284). He is active on the convention scene and describes himself as a "retired comic book illustrator/inker" [1]. Frank McLaughlin (*1935) worked as a technical illustrator before being hired by Charlton Comics whose art director he became in 1962. As of 1972 he began to work for both DC and Marvel, pursuing a career in inking which included some of Ernie Chan's pencils on Batman in Detective Comics in 1975/76. He has taught and published books on comic book pencilling and inking.  
  Contrary to both Tanghal and McLaughlin, whose combined artwork efforts would remain their sole contribution to the 200 issues run of Brave and the Bold, writer Robert G. "Bob" Haney (1926-2004) was almost a part of the inventory of the title. Having entered the comic book industry in 1948, he started working for DC in 1954 [2] and would continue to do so for almost 30 years during which Haney scripted just about every sort of comic book DC published (Evanier, 2004). Sometimes called Zany Haney, he was in actual fact one of the few people at DC in the mid-1960s who "understood that Marvel was successfully reinventing the super-hero comic for the current generation" (Evanier, 2004) and tried to bring some of that "Marvel flavour" to the stories he was writing for DC, including his very own (and sometimes completely off-beat) version of Stan Lee's hyperbole.
Brave and the Bold came to be placed firmly in the writing responsibility of Bob Haney - matter of fact the letters page of Brave and the Bold #146 informed readers that Haney would be taking his first holiday break in ten years and thus not script issue #147. Haney's first script for the title had appeared in issue #4 in February 1956 (a Viking prince story), and he came up with the Batman team-up formula when the title had experienced sagging sales.

"I soon realized that a super-hero team-up concept was the only way to revitalize the book. I needed a wheelhorse. Superman was out. His editor jealously guarded that empire. So Batman became the B&B mainstay. It worked. Without him or with some minor or non-super teammate, sales would tumble. So I pursued a policy of repeated link-ups with those characters the readers obviously favored via their sales response. Also, I wanted the spooky dark night Batman image of his original days. Such artists as Neal Adams and the redoubtable Jim Aparo brought this vision to panelled reality."
["Bob Haney",
in Best of the Brave and the Bold #5 (1988)]

With each and every story Haney would just grab the Batman and run, completely defying continuity, convention - and sometimes common sense. He simply wrote the Darknight Detective's team-up adventures the way he wanted to, sometimes even in outright contradiction to established DC Universe and even core Batman conventionalities. So much so that Haney's Brave and the Bold Batman would be deemed to not be the Batman from Earth-One (i.e. within Silver and Bronze Age continuity) but rather a Batman living in an alternate reality called "Earth-B" - a term coined by Bob Rozakis (Eury, 2013).

"Haney didn’t just embrace the wild, anything-goes attitude of the Bronze Age, he strapped a jetpack on it and rocketed it to a headquarters at the center of the sun. He set the gold standard for an entire era of DC comics, writing stories in which no premise was too insane to make a grand adventure and no character was off-limits for a team-up with Batman." (Sims, 2011)

To some, however, this style and approach seemed ridiculously irreverent, and Haney's hyperbole ("read it [i.e. Brave and the Bold] ever, miss it never!") didn't go down well with others either who felt it was "strained" (Daniels, 1995). Haney, who was ahead of the pack in the Sixties, gradually came to be perceived as someone who had fallen hopelessly behind by the mid- to late Seventies (Evanier, 2004).

"Paul Levitz became editor with #139 (January/February 1978) and felt that Haney's scripts were too old fashioned so (...) he started using other writers in rotation with Haney (...).  Levitz also started to tell Haney which characters to use instead of leaving the choice up to Haney who had always used whatever characters he wanted regardless of continuity issues.  Haney chose his characters based on what sold well and who fitted the plot.  Levitz was more concerned in building a consistent continuity based on the Marvel model and Haney was eased out to be replaced by writers who had defected from Jim Shooter's Marvel such as Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman." (Simayl, 2012)

Haney's final Brave and the Bold story teamed up Batman and Kamandi in issue #157 (December 1979). In the very early 1980s he struggled to produce material that DC's editors did not consider dated and old fashioned, and ultimately left the comic book industry (Evanier, 2004).


Bob Haney was quite capable of whipping up tightly plotted scripts which became near classics (e.g. his Brave and the Bold stories illustrated by Neal Adams), but he could also produce extremely loose plots with lots of holes and very little overall sense. "The Secret that saved a World" clearly belongs in the latter category, and starts out with a splash page featuring a scene which never actually happens this way in the story about to unfold.

[Left] Original artwork by Romeo Tanghal and Frank McLaughlin for the splash page of Brave and the Bold #146 (scanned from the original) and [Right] the same page as it appeared in print

The fact that this is an "Earth-B" story if ever there was one is not only highlighted by the fact that Batman is teamed up with the Unknown Soldier in what must thus be an "untold tale from World War Two" (as per the cover blurb), but also put straight in the very first story panel which informs readers that this story takes place "years ago on a world not our own, when that world was covered by the dark clouds of World War Two".
  Investigating the murder of a German physicist, the Batman discovers a Nazi dingy off Gotham shore. He contacts the FBI in Washington and there meets the Unknown Soldier.

Upon learning that the Unknown Soldier's arch-foe, Count Klaus Von Stauffen, is quite probably acting on orders given to him by "Herr Mustache" (i.e. Hitler) himself and attempting to steal secrets concerning the American atomic weapon plans, the Batman and the Unknown Soldier team up to prevent Von Stauffen from smuggling any secret documents out of the country.

The Nazis have seemingly infiltrated the embassy of the small South American country of San Pedro and are using it as their base of operations. Attempting to buy large quantities of uranium from a friend of Bruce Wayne, Von Stauffen kills the potential supplier (on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, no less) when the latter wants to turn to the authorities because he has become suspicious.

Batman and the Unknown Soldier then trail Von Stauffen to New Mexico where he has hired an old bi-plane in order to take aerial pictures from the top secret Los Alamo complex. The Unknown Soldier poses as the pilot but is found out in mid-air by Von Stauffen. As a result of the ensuing struggle the plane crashes, leaving the Unknown Soldier slightly injured as Von Stauffen jumps clear and flees (contrary to the splash page, Batman is on the ground while all of this happens).
  Listening in to the telephone calls of the San Pedro embassy the Batman and the Unknown Soldier learn that Von Stauffen is seemingly about to meet his contact, most probably wanting to hand over the secret plans.

Batman deciphers his code description of the place and time, and the two trail Von Stauffen to the official memorial day celebrations in Washington DC. Disguising himself as President Roosevelt, the Unknown Soldier manages to seize a rose from Von Stauffen which he noticed the Nazi spy had picked up only moments earlier.

However, as "the president" takes the rose from Von Stauffen, the Nazi hurries from the scene, making the Unknown Soldier instinctively realize that there is some other kind of foul work going on.
With a split-second reaction the Unknown Soldier grabs an explosive device from one of the tombs and hurls it out of harm's way only moments before it explodes... and would have taken with it half of America's leaders.

While Batman is rueful about Von Stauffen having given them the slip and probably hiding at the San Pedro embassy, the Unknown Soldier assures the Darknight Detective that he will be preying and waiting on his arch-enemy - a story to be told in a future issue of The Unknown Soldier ...

The continuation of the story refered to in the last panel did, by the way, actually take place - although not before almost a year had passed, in Unknown Soldier #234 and #235, cover dated December 1979 and January 1980.

Haney's team-up for Brave and the Bold #146 certainly generates a pronounced interest on the metaplot level as Batman, historically speaking, barely fought Nazis at all back in the actual days of WW2 while other superheroes were busy punching Hitler and the "Japanazis" every other day. In fact, the only time Batman (and Robin) came to grips with Nazis was when they foiled a gang of German agents in Batman #14 (January 1943) in a story titled "Swastika over the White House". Other than that, the Batman stories more or less completely ignored the war - the most readers would see was the Dynamic Duo advertising war bonds on the covers of Batman and Detective Comics.
  Bob Haney saw the raw potential of using his own version of the Darknight Detective in a war story context, and the successful range of DC war comics (popular ever since the 1950s) provided him with a protagonist in the form of Sgt Rock (who had made his first appearance in Our Army at War #83 in June 1959) for several team-ups with Batman in several issues of Brave and the Bold, starting with issue #84 in June 1969.

Haney's loose handling of timelines and continuity didn't really meet the approval of fellow writer Robert Kanigher, who had co-created Sgt Rock with artist Joe Kubert and felt that the character should be rooted and displayed in WW2 days only. This didn't stop Haney from writing present day team-ups between Batman and Rock, including the somewhat oddball yet at the same time fascinating and poignant tale in Brave and the Bold #108 (August 1973) where the Sergeant from Easy Company trails a satanic figure which he believes to be Hitler.

Including the Führer - refered to as Herr Mustache - in Brave and the Bold #146 was thus no first for Bob Haney, but using the Unknown Soldier - another DC war comics character created by Kanigher and Kubert - was. First appearing in Our Army At War #168 (June 1966), the Unknown Soldier is an interesting concept: As the "man whom no one knows - but is known by everyone", his head and face are so severely disfigured that he typically has it completely wrapped in heavy bandages. Adding to that air of mystery surrounding his person, he is deployed on various missions as a US intelligence agent, and the success of his missions relies to some extent on his ability to produce masterful facial disguises, allowing him to assume the identity of almost any man using latex masks and make-up.
Bob Haney had more than just a hand in the shaping of DC's war comics. He had penned the script which featured a character seen by many as the prototypical Sgt Rock character in April 1959 and hence his true first appearance (in Our Army at War #81), and he wrote the Unknown Soldier feature in Star Spangled Wat Stories throughout 1972 and 1973 and then from 1977 to 1982 in his own title, The Unknown Soldier.

Brave and the Bold #146 would be the first and last time Batman and the Unknown Soldier would team up, and rather than transport the latter through time Haney opted to label the story a "forgotten tale of WW2" on one of DC's many "parallel earths" where the Batman is active during that period of history.

It's not all change, however, as Haney for example sticks to the "no guns" rule of the mainstream Batman Universe and even has the Darknight Detective make an explicit comment on this point. Otherwise, however, the story makes little overall sense as the object of Count Klaus Von Stauffen inexplicably changes (from stealing secret plans for atomic weapons to blowing up America's leaders) upon the turning of a page and only few panels left to the story's ending.

To make matters even worse, Von Stauffen's modus operandi for setting off the explosive remains a complete mystery - the rose which the Unknown Soldier disguised as President Roosevelt takes from must have something to do with, but how and why will probably remain Bob Haney's secret for ever. On top of this rather desperately thin plot the almost shapeshifting-like disguises employed by the Unknown Soldier are little more than a deus ex machina, highly improbable devices to push on a story which otherwise would be stuck completely.

The setup with Batman and the Unknown Soldier fighting Nazi spies is promising, but unfortunately "The Secret that saved a World" loses speed very quickly and then collapses right across the finishing line. But even so, it is a facet of the Bronze Age "Earth B" Batman and the character's long publication history. Throughout those 75 years Batman stories have - quite naturally - always varied in quality, but with the Batman, even a "miss" will always contain points of interest and a certain entertaining quality.


Brave and the Bold #146 went on sale on October 26th 1978, and its in-house ads and editorial pages afford a glimpse of DC Comics as the 1970s Bronze Age was about to unwind.

Strangely enough, one of the advertisements included the very comic book readers were holding in their hands as DC was pushing "Super-Team Thrills" with Brave and the Bold and the then only recently launched Superman team-up title DC Comics Presents. Other in-house ads included a Superman The Movie contest, subscriptions to DC's Direct Currents newsletter, the tabloid-size Famous First Edition of Superman #1, plus the at the time new "Dollar Comics" issues of Adventure Comics and Unexpected.

  DC's general editorial information page at the time was the Daily Planet with its regular features Direct Currents (information on that month's happenings), Ask the Answer Man (who this time around informs us that the Earth-2 Batman [i.e. the Golden Age Batman] is about 25 years older than the Earth-1 Batman [i.e. the mainstream Silver/Bronze Age Batman] - and readers of Brave and the Bold #146 could add that the Earth-B Batman (at least for that month) was about the same age as his Earth-2 counterpart...) plus the Hembeck cartoon which this time around features a new candidate for the Legion of Super-Heroes in the form of Peanut Eater Lad - who clearly is a caricature of at the time US President Jimmy Carter. Other titles on sale for the cover month of January 1979, as listed here, were Batman #308 (with the return of Mr Freeze), Jonah Hex #21, Men of War #13 (with Romeo Tanghal inks), Action Comics #491, Green Lantern #112, Super Friends #16, Unknown Soldier #223 (with script by Bob Haney and inks by Romeo Tanghal), Warlord #17, Wonder Woman #261, Superman #331, Sgt Rock #324, Superboy & The Legion #247, Weird Western #51, and House of Mystery #264.
Brave and the Bold also had its regular letters page (as was, of course, still customary at the time), rather blandly titled "The Brave and the Bold Mailbag".
Brave and the Bold had been a bi-monthly title for the whole of its publishing history until it was promoted to monthly publication as of issue #144 for November 1978. This caused a slight disturbance for the letters page of issue #146 as there wasn't an issue to comment on as letters had yet to catch up with the new publication schedule. So editor Paul Levitz ran almost an entire page of lists of team-up suggestions sent in by readers - but then again, that was pretty much standard content of the Brave and the Bold Mailbag anyway.
For 1978 the average print run was 386,422 copies, of which only 119,955 were sold on average - although this figure was seemingly on the up as the numbers for the month of September 1978 was 204,901 sold copies [3] - possibly both an indication and explanation for the promotion to monthly title. The fact, however, that an average total of 243,487 copies were logged each month as being returned from newsagents [4] speaks volumes about the unprofitability of the traditional distribution system for comic books and their returnability if not sold.

Brave and the Bold #146 was sold through no less than three distinct distribution channels which each left their mark on the cover. Apart from the regular newsstand edition (pictured at the beginning of this write-up), there is also a pence priced cover for the UK market (below right) as well as a cover for copies sold in Whitman comicpacks (these covers have the DC logo replaced with the Whitman "smiling face W" and lack both issue number and cover date).



Using the typology introduced by McClure (2010), the UK market version is a type 1a Variant and the Whitman version a type 7a Variant.

Stories from Brave and the Bold were regularly used as material for publication outside the US by various license holding publishers. However, publishing a story with Nazi emblems was out of the question during the 1970s and 1980s in Germany, and even the otherwise prolific Scandinavian editions shied away from this story at the time, and there seems to have been no interest in it in the UK or Australia either.

It is most unlikely that Brave and the Bold #146 will ever be collected and reprinted in its original colour format, so the original issue remains the one source for anybody wanting to read up on this lost tale of WW2.

All in all, the story was very much "retro" for the late 1970s, a time in which - as can be seen from the ads which featured in Brave and the Bold #146 - a Star Wars "micro electronic digital watch" was the thing to have. Now itself very much a retro object and terribly dated, these digital watches were perceived and felt to be the cutting edge of rocket science on your wrist.

Times change, watches change, and comic books change. And yes, the Batman changes too, although it would almost seem as though he, like few other things, is a stable rock in the constant stream of change. Updated and reinterpreted by writers and artists alike, the essence of his persona and his core characteristics nevertheless remain the same, even after 75 years of publication history. It almost seems like Bob Haney knew that - and simply had fun exploring the more far fetched possibilities the Darknight Detective has to offer.




DANIELS Les (1995) DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes, Bulfinch

EURY Michael (2013) "The Batman of Earth-B", in Back Issue #66 (August 2013), TwoMorrows Publishing

EVANIER Mark (2004) "On the Passing of Bob Haney", published online on News from Me (accessed 28 September 2014)

HOWE Sean (2012) Marvel Comics - The Untold Story, Harper Collins

McCLURE Jon Martin (2010) "A History of Publisher Experimentation and Variant Comic Books", in Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, 40th Edition, Gemstone Publishing

SIMAYL (2012) "Top 5 Team-Up Books: The Brave and the Bold", published online at Silver and Bronze Age Subjects Blog

SIMS Chris (2011) "The 7 Craziest Comics of Bob Haney: From JFK Shapeshifters to Satanic Nazis", published online at Comics Alliance


[1] Romeo Tanghal Sr. Blog (retrieved 28 September 2014)

[2] "Bob Haney", in Best of the Brave and the Bold #5 (1988)

[3] According to the statement of ownership published in Brave and the Bold #149 (April 1978)

[4] According to the statement of ownership published in Brave and the Bold #149 (April 1978)



BATMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics, Inc. TM and © DC Comics, Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
The illustrations presented here are copyright material. Their reproduction for the review purposes of this website is considered fair use as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.


first published on the web 14 October 2014