Or – “I Have A Rather Sizable Crush On Mike Sekowsky’s Wonder Woman…”
This week, at Gatekeeper, my co-worker Chris and I had a discussion about who drew some of the most attractive female characters (spinning out of our discussion of Amanda Conner’s work on Silk Spectre #1.) When I mentioned the awesome 70’s mojo of Mike Sekowsky, he had no reference to work from, so I pulled out this issue for his perusal, and it seemed like a natural progression to the full Retro Review treatment…
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #87
Scripter: Mike Sekowsky
Penciler: Mike Sekowsky
Inker: Dick Giordano
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 15 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00
Previously, in The Brave And The Bold: Wonder Woman had a more difficult transition into the 70s than her JLA cohorts. While Green Lantern went on a search for America, she forswore her Amazon heritage and super-powers, buying a clothing boutique and becoming a character somewhat reminiscent of Mrs. Emma Peel of ‘The Avengers.’ Taking a crash course in ancient kung-fu from her mysterious mentor I Ching, Diana Prince entered the Bronze Age as an interesting cross between James Bond and Twiggy, which makes for interesting stories, but doesn’t really feel like Wonder Woman. As for Batman, he’s pretty much always Batman: Rich, handsome, athletic and awesome. Starting in 1965, Batman became even more of a force in the DCU, as The Brave and The Bold became another monthly Bat-title, teaming him with the other denizens of the DCU. For some reason, this issue starts off in Europe, with a fashion show taking place at a racetrack. Why?
Because “The Bronze Age,” that’s why.
I am by no means a connoisseur of 60’s Batman, but I don’t recall him ever having an interest in Formula One racing before this issue. Of course, that’s a common sort of plot issue with Brave and Bold stories, especially those written by Bob Haney. (There are so many continuity issues with B&B that some fans have posited the existence of another world in the multiverse, Earth-Haney, to explain ’em.) This story is not written by Haney, but instead by Mike Sekowsky, the architect of Diana’s powerless Wonder Woman stories. Bruce Wayne sees haughty German racer Willi Von Dort making his way towards Diana, with visions of romance, and steps in to intercede and save his old friend. (Of course, Diana doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne is Batman at this point in their history.) The twosome watches Willi drive off in a snit, wondering why his car is emblazoned with the name “Widow-Macher.”
That mechanic had to leave immediately, in order to tell Shaggy and Velma about Old Man Witherspoon’s abandoned carnival, but Bruce Wayne still manages to set the best qualifying time for the race, putting him on Willi’s radar professionally as well as personally. Later that afternoon, Diana and I Ching discover how bad an idea this is…
Those are some formidable eyebrows Diana is rockin’ there, but not as formidable as her chop-socky moves, leading the former Amazon to follow Willi’s goons to Bruce Wayne.
It’s funny to read this sequence, as Bruce Wayne won’t break out his own skills in front of a former colleague, for fear of revealing his identity as Batman. Even sadder, his ego is so bruised by being saved by a woman and a blind man that he takes a wrench to the head, ending up hospitalized. In a beautiful non-sequitur, Diana informs Bruce upon waking that she will be racing his car for him, leading to a spectacular bit of chicanery by the Batman…
The underlying tension here cracks me up every time I read it, as it’s unclear why Batman would be so condescendingly worried about the driving skills of “a girl” when he KNOWS she’s freakin’ Wonder Woman! Chalk it up to 70’s sexual politics, I guess… Of course, Diana’s pouting when Bruce’s “replacement” arrives doesn’t really undermine his worries.
Man, this story has a LOT of subtext in it, as we find out that Willi’s father was a super-villain/proto-Nazi that Batman took out at some nebulous time. Batman and Willi jockey for position, as Wonder Woman races off in her own car to take out Willi’s flunkies, each of whom has a fatal surprise for The Batman. Of course, a car named “Widow-Maker” has a few surprises of it’s own…
Batman just said ‘Holy Cow.’ I love the Silver Age. Especially when something ridiculous (Batman using a telescope from his utility belt to not crash) is stacked upon something banal (Wonder Woman blowing a tire), leaving Batman completely at Willi’s mercies. Willi’s last henchman holds Diana at gunpoint as he prepares the last booby-trap, meant to be the nail in Batman’s racing coffin!
For some reason, the story ends with a “Dizzy Blonde” moment for the Amazing Amazon, as a stranger accuses her of having stolen his car to chase down Batman…
Heh… That ending is equal parts amusing and cringe-inducing, but I have to imagine that Bruce and Diana had a lovely dinner date somewhere in Monte Carlo at some point after this issue. I’ve always found their pairing to be more compelling than the Superman/Wonder Woman pairing, mostly because the contrasts between Batman and Wonder Woman can be turned into open flirting, instead of remaining subtext like it does in Batman/Superman. This issue comes from a point in history where each issue was designed as a single experience, like watching a movie, rather than the extended television series continuity that developed in the salad days of Marvel Comics, and as an individual slice of story, it’s pretty damn cool. Batman’s cape fluttering on his Formula-1 car is kind of silly, but I can’t help but think how cool it looks, and I never turn down Sekowsky Wonder Woman (especially with Dick Giordano handling the inks.) The Brave and The Bold #87 is a fun moment of history, one of the few times that kung-fu spycraft Wonder Woman interacted with her superhero colleagues, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.