A Tribute to the of

The cover is inevitably the selling point for comic books and some are so intriguing you just cannot resist. Now, I’ve been burned before. I’ve seen some stunning Neal Adams covers that led me to disappointing stories and/or interior art. Still and all, I’m a sucker for a good cover, and that is the drawing card for the focus of this edition of the Silver Age Sage. Brave and the Bold #71, with a publication date of April/May 1967 and an on-sale date of February 16th of that year features a pretty nifty one with a team up between Batman and Green Arrow, which nearly seems redundant as I think back to Denny O’Neil’s description to me of Green Arrow as Batman with a bow. I love the Gaspar Saladino cover lettering on the wing of the thunderbird, though for my money, it looks a lot like an enormous buzzard. It’s an interesting art team-up on the cover with Carmine Infantino pencils and Chuck Cuidera inks. Ol’ Chuck must have been taking a break from Blackhawk. Let’s check out the Bob Haney scripted “The Wrath of the Thunderbird!” with interior art by George Papp, lettering by Stan Starkman and editing by George Kashdan.

As I unfortunately predicted, the interior art, while serviceable, isn’t quite up to the cover standard and Bob Haney is in his usual fine form with a caption filled with puns about the Emerald Archer to include the comics world being a-quiver, a story written with bow-string taut tension and drawn with dead-eye accuracy.

Turning the page, we find a couple of transport trucks jockeying for position on the elevated highway in Gotham City colliding and a driver being thrown into the river as a result. Batman arrives soon and tosses a bat-rope to save the gent and then orders the police to arrest the other driver of the truck sporting Tallwolf Trucking.

Just then Tom Tallwolf himself arrives on the scene in his chauffeur-driven limo. Tom is carrying a very heavy chip on his shoulder and threatens to sue the city and Batman for false arrest if he isn’t careful. Batman retorts that accidents like the sort that just happened are the result of Tallwolf’s overly aggressive drivers and the trucking magnate says he won’t be intimidated, just because as an American Indian, he chose to play in the rough and tumble white man’s world of business.

Later on, the Batmobile pulls up in front of Whitebird Enterprises, where the Dark Knight is keeping an appointment with none other than John Whitebird, another entrepreneurial success from the indigenous ranks. Whitebird is actually practicing in his office suite with a bow and arrow and using a $30K painting on the wall as his target. “I’m a ‘heap big tycoon!’ Money I have plenty of…but money’s a white man’s achievement. It’s the old Indian skills I need now…” Batman replies with “I don’t dig, John.” Sigh. Bob Haney

John proceeds to explain that Chief Standing Bear of the Kijowa tribe has just died and he and Tom Tallwlolf are in competition to take over, but the trials will be weighed against the classic native skills, such as riding, wrestling, javelin tossing and so forth, so John is trying to hone his abilities. He also concedes that Tallwolf already has the abilities in question in spades.

Just then, Tom himself arrives and suggests that Whitebird concede right now. John refuses, citing the fact that the tribe is moving forward and there’s no telling what might happen with Tallwolf in control. As Tom strides out, John tells Batman that’s why he contacted him, so that he can train Whitebird and make him a competitor. Our hero agrees and is soon teaching John Whitebird horsemanship, javelin throwing and wrestling, but when it comes to archery, he decides to call in a true expert in Green Arrow. As the instruction begins, we see “Checks” relaying information about the goings-on to “The Promoter.” “The Big Promoter” is actually J. Jay Jaye and he’s gone from two-bit Texas carnival promoter to bigger and better things. Time will tell as to what he’s up to now.

As it happens, we quickly learn that the promoter has proposed having the contest between Whitebird and Tallwolf in a stadium in Gotham City rather than on the reservation. It’s also been advertised as a benefit to the tribe. The agreements are soon made and Part I closes out with Tom Tallwolf confronting triple J about the upcoming attraction and demanding that he fix the events in his favor. Jaye agrees, citing his desire for revenge over John Whitebird for his roles in exposing a shady promotion scheme, but thinks to himself that he will have the last laugh on Tallwolf as well.

Part 2 opens in the stadium and the contest is on, the first events being a broad jump and a lance toss, won by Tallwolf and Whitebird respectively. Directly afterward it’s a show of horsemanship with Whitebird being blinded by a mirror wielded by “Checks” up in the booth, allowing Tallwolf to take the event. John Whitebird wins the wrestling match, tying the score once again.

The final, tie-breaking contest is archery and once again, Checks and the Promoter are tampering with the equipment, allowing Tom Tallwolf to prevail. Later, a suspicious Batman and Green Arrow investigate and discover the chicanery. They also note the lights being on up in the booth of Jaye and eavesdrop with a gimmick arrow, learning that Jaye has leveraged his help to Tom to blackmail Tallwolf into calling on the Thunderbird now that he has the authority as Chief. When Whitebird is queried about the mysterious Thunderbird, he tells the heroes that it’s trouble, and that they’d better make it over to the reservation quickly.

Once they arrive in Whitebird’s jeep, they see Tom Tallwolf, under the demands of Triple J summoning the Thunderbird forth. Jaye is elated that it will be the biggest attraction he’s ever promoted as the buzzard, er, Thunderbird emerges from the cave, closing out Part 2.

Part 3 reveals that things aren’t so grand on the reservation as it’s discovered that while Tallwolf certainly did have the authority to release the Thunderbird from its slumber, that was the end of his influence. He cannot control the massive fowl and it’s gone on the offensive. In the nearby jeep, Whitebird tells the backstory, that the Thunderbird was an ally to the tribe centuries ago against its rivals, but then it turned savage and the medicine man, Grey Elk, Whitebird’s ancestor, was able to subdue and put it to sleep. Batman states that it’s obviously a mutated condor (still looks like a buzzard to me) and they need to try and help defeat it.

Triple J and Tom Tallwolf try to escape in a chopper, but the enormous creature tears the rear of the craft off, sending the men into the open skies. Green Arrow quickly fires off a couple of handy parachute arrows, but now the men are sitting ducks for another run by the Thunderbird. Batman states the obvious when saying “…that big buzzard is still after them!” Hey! I’m not the only one calling it that.

The Caped Crusader deploys a batarang at the beast, but it only ticks it off and causes it to pursue the jeep. It snatches up the Batman in its talons, leaving John Whitebird to continue driving the jeep and Green Arrow to try and help with his bow and arrows.

One by one, the gimmick shafts are defeated by the bird, from a smoke arrow, dispersed by massive wings, to a bolo arrow easily snapped by the talons. A power diving Thunderbird even snaps the special alloyed bow of Green Arrow and when John Whitebird hits a rock outcropping with the jeep, spilling the pair out of it, knocking Whitebird unconscious, things seem to have hit rock bottom.

The resourceful Green Arrow isn’t ready to say die, however, and utilizes the whip antenna on the back of the jeep to create a makeshift weapon. He strings the improvised bow and fires one more arrow with a wire attached, encircling the Thunderbird’s scrawny neck and then causing some battery-powered high voltage to course through its body, dropping it from the sky. Batman soon comes to and GA explains that his hot-line arrow did the trick and he was banking on the notion that the pouchy skin of the enormous talons would provide insulation to his comrade from the electrical charge.

Soon a ranger helicopter arrives to rescue the trio and the man in the passenger seat is none other than Tom Tallwolf. Tom has eaten a sufficient amount of crow and reports that he was very wrong in his conduct and turned himself and Triple J in to the authorities, but got permission to join in the rescue effort.

In the closing panels, Tom Tallwolf passes on the mantle of Chief to John Whitebird and all is set right for the Kijowa tribe. It also wraps up another Brave and the Bold team-up.

Not too bad an effort, but the material is definitely dated. I spared you a lot of Bob Haney’s cliched dialogue, to include multiple references to wampum, “injuns”, heap big trouble, etc. In a world where the Washington Redskins are now the Commanders, this stuff simply wouldn’t fly in our day, and we’re better for it. Bob Haney could crank out the product and it was generally entertaining, but as usual, the hokey dialogue gets old. Middle-of-the road 5 rating for this effort.

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