I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.
Most likely, I’m guessing, if you know the title The Brave and the Bold at all, it’s from the recent cartoon series which ran on the Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2011 and saw Batman teaming up with various other characters from the DC Comics Universe. I hate to admit it, but I am woefully behind when it comes to the DC animated series, and this is one that I need to catch up on.
Like it’s cartoon counterpart, the comics series is best known as a Batman team-up book, and I’ll be “covering” those team-ups in this column next time. This time out, however, I want to take a look at the series’ life before it became a strictly Batman team-up book, a period that can roughly be divided into three phases. At first, the series was a place for some of DC’s non-superhero concepts, more specifically ones that took place in the past, what I suppose you could call “adventure heroes”. For the most part, these heroes were ones like The Viking Prince and The Silent Knight.
The second phase of the book saw it become a “try-out” title – a place that DC could use to test the waters for characters and concepts that they weren’t sure really merited devoting a full series to. They would then gauge both sales and reader reactions, and if a character seemed like it might hit, then they would “graduate” to having their own feature, sometimes as a back-up in another character;s book, sometimes in their own title. Generally these try-outs would last three issues, then, if the response merited it, the feature might return for another two or three issue run.
Of course, now the trend, instead of having a dedicated try-out book or anthology series seems, for both DC and Marvel to simply announce a new series for a character and then, if it doesn’t seem to be working, redefine the series from ongoing to merely a limited run miniseries (oft times acting as if that were the plan all along), or just abruptly pulling the plug, which really is a shame, because it seems like these days, when the companies can get such instant feedback, there would be more desire to have a series like this than ever before.
Finally, The Brave and the Bold became a team-up book, but not one that specifically featured Batman. Instead, you were likely to see odd pairings that either would never happen anywhere else, or more popular characters paired with lesser-known ones to again judge the readers’ reactions.
Of course, when you’re wanting to get readers who are mostly quite literally “judging the (comic) book by it’s cover” without having any preconceived notions of the characters contained within, it’s important to really draw that potential reader’s eye in by the cover, so this seemed a perfect series to look at here. So let’s get underway, shall we?
Let’s start with issue #1 which cover features The Viking Prince, The Golden Gladiator, and The Silent Knight.
The spotlighted heroes changed at times, and one of the big additions came with issue 5, when a certain archer joined the title:
As noted above, it was with issue 25 that the series became a try-out book, beginning with the introduction of the Suicide Squad. BTW, you might also notice that the Brave and the Bold logo has shrunk in prominence and more of the cover is given over to the individual character or team logo. This was actually a practice that had begun a bit earlier when the book shrunk in size and began featuring only one new story per issue as opposed to three or four.
Issue #28 was one of the most important in the series’ run, as it introduced a new team to the DC Universe.
Issue #31 gave us Cave Carson. Yeah, he really hasn’t gained the prominence of some of the other characters the series spotlighted, but I really do love the way that lava creature pops out on the cover.
#35 gave us another character who would find a prominent place in the DC universe:
It wasn’t long before the Suicide Squad made a return to the pages of B&B, this time with a little tweak, as the group was now officially named “Task Force X” and “Suicide Squad” became their nickname because of the hazards they were facing.
Cave Carson was also given a return tour.
As was Hawkman.
I mentioned earlier that DC also tried out different concepts in the book. One of those was “Strange Sports Stories”. This actually led to a number of different titles which would feature “Strange” and “Weird” short stories in various genres such as “Weird Western Stories” and “Weird War Tales”…
Finally, issue #50 saw the book transition to its team-up phase, with the seemingly unlikely pairing of The Green Arrow and The Martian Manhunter, or, as he was known then…
This cover to issue #51 seems to be really reaching for a way to pair up these two seemingly incompatible co-stars.
Issue #54 had the bright idea of teaming up the kid sidekicks of DC’s heroes…
…which of course led to this team’s official debut in issue #60. (Though Wonder Girl wasn’t actually Wonder Woman’s kid sidekick. Instead, she was supposed to be a younger version of WW herself, much as Superboy was the younger Clark Kent. So how did she wind up here? Well, that’s a story for another time.)
Issue #61 was another of those seemingly extremely unlikely pairings that made it seem like the characters to be teamed up were simply being pulled from a hat.
Here’s another one of those from issue #65:
And finally, here’s a seemingly more sensible pairing of two of DC’s most prominent female stars at the time in issue #63
It was after this issue that the title for the most part became a strictly Batman team-up book, but we’ll save those covers for next time.