Just about every comic book fan has heard of DC’s Brave and the Bold. The first volume ran for 28 years and 200 issues. Thanks to the popularity of his TV series the title exclusively featured Batman team ups with #74 and struck a chord with fans. Other versions have come and gone since the original run ended in ’83 but it also inspired a successful animated series that aired from 2008-2011. So it may be fair to assume you have a favorite story that stemmed from the series.
Could it be the one where fighting sorcerers gave Jason Blood a hankering for Chinese food? Didn’t think so. How about the time Batman was bested by a bottle. Must have slipped through the cracks. No worries, I’m here to fill you in on this mess known as Brave and the Bold 137 “House of the Serpent” starring Batman and the Demon. Cover dated October 1977.
Before I tell you about the creative team on this book, I need you to feel my pain. Some of these older stories just plum stink. The talents behind them however have resumes that could make you blush. No exception here. So while I enjoy finding the humor in clunkers and wonder “what the hell were they thinking?”, I respect the work put into a book. Before you say I’m just a punk, keep that in mind.
The writer was Bob Haney. A WWII veteran that co-created DC’s Teen Titans, Metamorpho, the Enchantress and Eclipso among others. So yeah, tip your cap.
John Calnan handled the art chores. John started his career doing Westerns and created Lucius Fox with Len Wein. He worked as an art director in advertising and a Television producer for agencies calling comics “work on the side”.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Welcome to Gotham’s Chinatown. The streets are empty sans one-man. Who would take a leisurely stroll through this part of the city at this hour? Batman is who and he’s strutting down the sidewalk like he owns the joint because nobody does a foot patrol better than the Dark Knight. Cue lightning…or just a creepy lantern.
“Did you wander around aimlessly then as well?”
I’m going to get this out of the way, the Batmobile never appeared in this issue. Oddly he never references or uses it once despite the need to travel across town. I’ll get more into that later on but for now I’ll just assume he’s trying to log miles on his Fitbit.
In the count your blessings department: If ever tossed out of a building, consider yourself a lottery winner when Batty just happens to be outside and saves you with an awning. This guy just avoided a broken neck and for the dudes that chucked him, you not only have the worst luck in the history of mankind, but Batman is going to pound your last brain cell out of your earhole. Next time, look before you litter! Dummies.
“Always give complimentary sack shots after a save.”
Turns out the place is a gambling den operated by a flock of teenagers called the “Dragon Gang”. They should find whoever came up with that name and introduce them to an unlocked window pronto.
Batman displays his incredible fighting prowess. Naw, just kidding. He flexes his ass cheeks, touts his suits deflection ability then gets knocked out with an empty bottle. Should’ve stayed downstairs there hotshot. I suppose using a thug to demonstrate your baseball swing earns points BUT only if you call your shot first.
“For my next amazing feat, I will…OUCH!”
Jim Gordon and the police arrive. It’s revealed these hooligans are looking to take over the local turf. Rather than bring that empty bottle of MD 20/20 to the cave for display next to the giant penny, he vows to protect Chinese New Year. Yes, he swore an oath to a holiday. Batman is better than all of us.
He is back hoofing it on the sidewalk and just happens to bump into Jason Blood and his fiance who just finished grubbing on duck. After hearing Bats account of what went down with the Dragons, he decides it’s best if his alter ego, The Demon, joins the case. Telling his babe to mind her own beeswax, they’re off to pound some pavement and delinquent derriere.
“And a misogynistic asshole problem.”
Thanks to some random dude shouting “Batman come quickly!!” they are led to what looks to be a relic shop. There they find an old man dead with a petrified look on his face. Batman takes a quick look and determines that this was a natural death. Hold on there Mr.Worlds Greatest Detective, a woman comes busting out the back screaming. She claims the deceased was frightened by the evil wizard Shahn-Zi and she’s got some soggy weeds in her hand to prove it! This is no run of the mill sticky icky. Batman knows his greens. This only comes from one place in the world, China’s Yellow River and is the calling card for none other than, you guessed it, Shahn-Zi! He’s got the good stuff baby.
“Or maybe this issue bored him to death?”
After filling Blood in on Shahn-Zi’s backstory, it’s decided that they will split up and comb Chinatown for the sorcerer. You take the mysterious fog on the right, I’ll take the alley shrouded in darkness. Can I get a chest bump? Go Team!
The Foggy route was the short end of the stick as Jason Blood immediately runs into the Z-man and gets his Brundlefly on. No fisticuffs, just a quick incantation that makes him bug out.
“When transforming into an insect, pants are optional.”
On a nearby rooftop the Caped Crusader also finds Shahn-Zi but by simply wielding a knife, it’s a tip off that this is an imposter. It’s actually the leader of the dragons, Willy Chang. He’s still into hurling humans from heights but Batman gives him some sweet chin music and avoids becoming a gravel cake.
“No truer words have ever been spoken.”
Blood retained his thoughts despite being in fly form. He’s lost the ability to speak but has an idea. If he can write out the incantation to summon the Demon on a scummy window pane, maybe just maybe, it will have the same effect .He does just that and wouldn’t you know it, the spell is broken. Astral energy starts flying… along with fish hooks. I guess when your power is magical you just summon up the most random shit that comes to mind.
“Kinda kinky if you ask me.”
Shahn-zi whips out a door of illusion and hightails out of the fray. Again with the spur of the moment magic malarkey. Batman had hauled Willy down to the Police Station. Only thing that did though was make Jim Gordon all sweaty. So despite having him on charges of attempted murder and impersonating a Warlock (The latter should be a crime, write your congressman people.) he is set free. Batty uses this as a perfect opportunity to follow him back to his lair. He prowls the rooftops and even rides atop a gondola while in pursuit.
“Never on Sundays Willy…Na Na a boo boo”
Shahn-Zi is waiting at the hideout, presumably pissed someone is running round in a knock off of his knickers. Willy goes after him with his blade. When is this friggin’ guy going to cut it out with the knife stuff? The answer is the next panel as he is tripped and stabs himself in the chest. The remaining Dragons are in shock and we get the greatest statement ever said in unison.
“Seriously, that had to be planned.”
Batman goes all gung ho after Shahn-Zi but the teaser from the cover finally occurs. He is quickly transformed into a real Bat. Like Jason Blood, he keeps the ability to think but has a hankering for jugular juice. Meanwhile, the Demon is enjoying a siesta in the sewer. He has a little telepathic chat with Merlin who instructs him on how to defeat a fellow practitioner of hoodoo.
“Looks pretty damn comfy to me.”
Shahn-Zi told Batman that his change becomes permanent at midnight. Why is it never 11:45. Has to be stroke of 12 every damn time. Anyways, our hero starts flying around in absolute panic. The New Year celebration has begun with a parade. The Dragons are concealed within a large paper snake that’s part of the procession. They are completely under the control of Shahn who, in fact, is the paper snake. You ready to try some of that Yellow River weed yet? Puff puff pass, enter the Demon and some serious fists of fury.
“So that’s where Erik Larsen got the idea from!”
The trick Merlin passed along to the Demon while in Gotham’s turd tunnels was Mongoose beats Snake. All of that ancient wisdom could have been had watching 15 minutes worth of Animal Planet. Naturally, the Demon morphs into a little fur ball and defeats Shahn-Zi with a good old bite to the neck. The baddie dissipates into the air and we are free from his lousy super villainy for now.
“Do I have a mongoose in my pocket or is that snake just happy to see me?”
So what of our boy Batman? He was flapping around trying to attack innocent bystanders. Karma is great. Just as he saved the guy at the start of the story, Demon’s victory chomp occurred as the clock ticked to the witching hour. He proved to be of no use in saving the day but screw it, let’s have some soup!
“That doesn’t sound even remotely appetizing wiseguy”
This issue was nothing short of terrible. I’ve read a fair amount of junk in my day and this was up there. It contained moments that were racist towards Asian people and the argument that it was released during a different era has no merit, this is trash.
Story is boring, Art is flimsy and there’s no substance or fun to be had. I would use the term “cover to cover crapfest” to relate the pure loathing I feel for this but the cover was the one thing I did enjoy. Colorful and inviting, if nothing more than to sucker a kid into buying this off the rack.
So what would compel one to own this book? A Brave and the Bold completist perhaps? Other than that, issue #137 meet my furnace.
Well, this mag was a complete bust but I’m a silver lining type of person, 1977 was a great year to get crabs. I’m serious…
David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.