A Tribute to the of

It's likely inevitable that when you have Batman team-ups in the pages of the Brave and the Bold, you're going to end up with some repeats.  There are only so many characters, after all and if you can come up with one good story with the same characters, why not another?  In fact, there seemed to be a handful of regular "go to" characters to help the Dark Knight in his adventures and one was the soldier's soldier, Sgt. Rock.  

I actually covered their first "team-up" wa-a-ay back in Sage #44 when I covered B&B #84.  They got together again in issue #96, #108, #117, #124 (the subject of this review) and finally #162.  The Rock was quite the ally.

Issue #124 hit the stands in January of 1976, well into the Bronze Age and "Small War of the Super Rifles!" was produced by Bob Haney as writer, Jim Aparo on art, both cover and interior and editing by Murray Boltinoff with an assist by Jack C. Harris.  As you can see from that intriguing cover, artist Jim Aparo is at the drawing board while being menaced by a hooded hoodlum. 

More similarly clad rogues are creating mayhem on the streets of Gotham with small arms fire when a disguised Batman reveals himself to assist the police in dealing out some justice.  Leaping onto the getaway car, our hero finds himself on a side street while the occupants rapidly flee, leaving more rounds in their wake.  The Batman notes that the slugs are flying too fast for an ordinary rifle and when he finally gets a break in the action he finds that the wielder of the weapon has suffered a mortal injury.  The rifle has apparently exploded.  

Just then, Sgt. Rock arrives in Class A's and explains that the destroyed rifle is why he has come.  It's the Army's new M-76, a new, top secret piece of weaponry that, along with 999 other prototype models, was hijacked while being delivered to an ordnance base.  As a result, General Casey has assigned Rock to locate the shipment, allowing him "special combat authority" along with the assignment.

The trail has led to Gotham City and the hooded terrorist group.  The Sergeant explains that it has been a pattern where they rig the rifle to explode in order to avoid capture.  He does, however, discover a bus terminal locker key on the body and soon the duo are investigating.

As we flip the page, we are transported to a Connecticut studio where Jim Aparo is just taking a break from his drawing board.  "What's that crazy writer done now?  He's got Batman and Sgt. Rock being killed in the next panel…I'll fix that!"  Only then does Aparo realize he is not alone.  A couple of familiar looking hooded figures have appeared in the studio with rifles leveled at Jim.  Aparo exclaims that they changed the script while he was out of the room and they order him to draw the page as now stated.  A trembling Jim Aparo comes up with a hasty plan and "accidentally" breaks his pencil.  He tells his captors he has more in the storeroom and Part I closes. Part II, "The Long Night!" finds our artist slipping out through a vent in the storeroom and by the time his absence is discovered (and reported to Number 1) he's aboard a small outboard motor powered boat in Long Island Sound.  His destination is an abandoned, reconditioned lighthouse owned by his friend Chuck.  No one is home, but Jim is glad to discover a drawing board stocked with supplies and immediately starts a new story page, with Rock pulling Batman away from a booby trap.

Having successfully saved the heroes of our story, Aparo pauses, wondering what to do without a script at hand.  What else?  Call Bob Haney, who is at a lodge-style home in the Catskills surrounded by pine trees.  Page rates must have been pretty good for a writer in the mid-'70s.  

A bearded Bob answers the phone despite Aparo's incredible story assures him that they can work things out, but of course, good writer that he is, he feels compelled to first get sanction from his editor, Murray Boltinoff.  Murray is at his Long Island residence and swiftly agrees:  "What's that?  The Thousand…they're on to us…trying to keep Batman and Rock from exposing them?  Sure, feed Jim whatever it takes to turn the tables on the rats!"  

With that, Haney calls Aparo back with instructions for the next sequence.  Jim's pencil begins to fly over the page and Rock tells the World's Greatest Detective that they could probably get a lead on the terrorists by checking out ammo supply stores for large orders of brass of a certain caliber.  They locate the proper outlet and the vigil begins.  When the suspect leaves the store he is confronted by the Batman and despite being fired upon at point blank range, the Caped Crusader takes the thug down.  The shop owner then explains that he passed along blanks.

Elsewhere, Sgt. Rock is patrolling the streets on foot when he spots a 5-ton Army truck sporting civilian license plates.  He pulls himself aboard, but is promptly attacked and then his unconscious form is dumped off the overpass into the pathway of an oncoming train.  Fortunately he landed just right on the rail, driving his combat infantryman's badge into his skin, waking him up in time to avoid the train.  He muses a guardian angel is watching over him and the next caption confirms that it's actually three:  Jim, Bob and Murray.  

A segue to the terrorist HQ confirms matters:  "Batman captures one of our number and Sgt. Rock escapes certain death!  Only one explanation—Aparo is drawing them out of trouble…thwarting us at every turn!  Aparo's obviously in contact with Haney, the writer!  He's feeding Aparo what those two heroes need--!  We must stop that…fast!"   

Back at the lighthouse hideout, Jim is again on the phone with Bob Haney, who has noted a strange car that has passed twice by his secluded quarters.  His dog, Belle, is agitated and Haney realizes it's the terrorists.  He pulls a rifle from the wall and tells Aparo he's clearing out, advising him to keep in touch with Boltinoff until he can get back in touch, closing out Part II.

The title of Part III is "The Tide Brings Death!"  Bob and Belle are hot-footing it into the woods when the hooded henchmen enter the house.  They're able to discern a telephone number with a 203 area code and call their leader to tell them they have secured the phone number where Aparo is holed up.  

Meanwhile, Murray is filling the gaps in the new script for Jim as the story continues to unfold.  Rock and the Batman have one of the thugs in their custody and the grizzled E-8 decides to use some tried and true techniques by force-marching the crook to a cage containing a rabid rat.  It's enough to convince the criminal to sing and soon the duo are on their way with Rock admitting that while the rat didn't actually have rabies, the terrorist was none the wiser.  

Back at the studio, Jim takes a brief break, satisfied that the good guys are closing in on the baddies and he'll call Murray momentarily for the wind-up.  During a stretch, our artist spots a boat making its way to the lighthouse with malefactors aboard. Fortunately its low tide and they won't be able to broach the rock barrier for another 20 minutes or so.  Frantically, a perspiring Jim tries to call Murray, to no avail.  Then the phone rings and its Haney calling from a phone booth.  

A quick consultation later and Aparo is again laying graphite to paper, depicting Rock and Batman locating the terrorist hideout.  Commandeering a helicopter, they're soon airborne and in hot pursuit.  Arriving at the Connecticut coast where the boat is about to head inland, it's a matter of holding the 'copter steady while Sgt. Rock fires a round at the boat's rudder cable, effectively disabling it. Unfortunately the helicopter has been catastrophically damaged and our two heroes leap out and onto the boat where the wild melee begins and just as quickly ends with the bad guys under the icy stare and steady aim of Sgt. Frank Rock.  

A relieved Jim Aparo, after working all night at the story, issues a heavy sigh of relief.  Murray Boltinoff climbs the stairs to bed, content that Bob Haney successfully conveyed a way out to the accomplished artist.  Bob Haney and his faithful dog companion work their way back home now that the Brave and Bold heroes have found a list of the terrorists and the final panel shows an exhausted Aparo, pencil still in hand, asleep at the drawing table.  

I love these stories where they break down the fourth wall and while I won't take the time here to go back through the archives to see how many of these we've done before, suffice it to say that our editors, writers and artists have made a number of fun and interesting cameo appearances in their work and every chance I get I try to include them here.  They're just a ball as far as I'm concerned and it was especially fun to see how Jim Aparo delineated himself and his colleagues.    

Even though we focus on the Silver Age it's not unheard of for us to wander a little.  I hope this journey was fun for you, dear reader, and that you continue to make us a regular stop on the web.  As always, you're invited to let us know how we're doing at: professor_the@hotmail.com.   

Join us again September 1st as we continue to explore the wonderful world of DC Silver Age treasures.  

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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