B&B 2-in-1 Round 10: Teen Titans vs. Skull the Slayer

Batman leads 7 to 2, so Ben has to pull out all the stops. You can't go wrong with dinosaurs, you know.

In the black corner... it's Batman and the Teen Titans, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo and Neal Adams, Brave and the Bold #102, "The Commune of Defiance".

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Skull the Slayer, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ernie Chan, Marvel Two-in-One #35, Enter: Skull the Slayer and Exit: The Thing!


The Stars
Batman in the springtime... The season gives him the roving eye.
His leggy reverie is interrupted by a mugging, forcing him to go into Barclayville, a neighborhood so awful, he never ever goes there, "another Gotham, another WORLD", a world where he gets called a hypocrite for telling the kids who have made it their turf they shouldn't be taking the law into their own hands. Uhm, they're kind of right, aren't they? And doubly right that Batman isn't an effective arm of the law, when the mugger gets off because Batman couldn't legitimately make the I.D. This is Batman through the youth culture lens again (which is why he'll call in the Titans), but he does take the "Young Aquarians"' side and gives the Commissioner and the Mayor a "hot lecture" about what's been happening in the slums. The Mayor's strategy? Mow it all down. Batman's? Reverse psychology.
Yeah, this was totally unnecessary. The Aquarians AND the Titans are laying down in front of the bulldozers, and it takes Batman urging the city workers on to make them realize they shouldn't crush people to death? Just Batman taking the credit for the kids' actions. He tries that trick later on Angel Lee, the Crime Queen (more like Crime Patsy) of Barclayville and manages to make her cry. In the big climax, when the kids have to stand up to the neighborhood crooks, he stands by and watches so as not to rob anyone of their dignity, then starts making arrests left and right, showing off his new deputy badge as a Gotham City Sheriff. Who's the hypocrite NOW, kid? +3 ineffectual Bat-points

Ben Grimm finally returns to a more Mantlo-ish paradigm as expendable stuntman when he accepts a mission from his old Air Force mentor. That mission: To fly an experimental Bird of Prey through the Bermuda Triangle to find a long-lost jet full of bombs. He ends up in Prehistoric times, because comics. But this pocket of Prehistory has all sorts of flotsam and jetsam from across time, including T-Rexes he can punch, guest-stars from cancelled series he can argue with, and Aztec temples he can tumble down.
Because if time is all smushed together, might as well throw in a Samson reference in there. In addition to ripping stones out of pyramids, Ben also shows off his vocabulary. Words like "shuck" and "gazortch" don't mean anything to me, but he also uses the phrase "real blamed antediluvian" so you know he pays attention when Reed Richards talks. Then again, he also uses the term "terry-dactyls", and makes too many pop culture references (Jaws, Man from Atlantis... he obviously loves underwater stuff), so... +7 points

The Guests
Trouble with a youth group that's taken over a run-down neighborhood? Call in the Teen Titans! The roll call includes Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid-Flash, Speedy, and instead of Lilith this time, Mal! Cuz you need an "urban" teenager to say "Dig!" at appropriate times. Batman's "generation gapers" don't use their previous tricks, going undercover in the gang and so forth, they just show up in costume as a show of respect, and do the Arthur Dent in front of the bulldozers along with the Aquarians when the time comes. Admitting temporary defeat, the Mayor gives them one month to fix up Barclayville. If it doesn't pass muster then, it'll have to come down. The Titans pitch in. Wonder Girl redecorates seniors' homes (of course she does). Kid-Flash super-sweeps the streets.
Speedy kills all the rats. Robin and Mal help get the pushers in jail and out of Speedy's eyeline. You know, doing in a month what real superheroes should be doing all across the world all the time. +5  Bat-points

Who the hell is Skull the Slayer? Well, he's a Marv Wolfman creation (ah), whose series got cancelled after a brief 8-issue run (ah), and Marv obviously wanted to give his "Land before time" feature some closure (ok). Skull and his supporting cast are modern people lost in time, who argue a lot and yak yak yak about their back stories because even in 1977, no one remembered him. He's strong and fairly invulnerable, and admits to having a certain death wish that allows him to climb up into the jaws of death and fatally crack them.
His girlfriend Ann Reynolds doesn't think he needed to do that all, but he doesn't run, baby. He always has to spit in the eye of the enemy (his words), yeah. His resident antagonist, Dr. Raymond Corey calls him over-rated, but I call him a conservative. Evidence:
Yes, that is the silver lining. Now lets throw stuff into another dinosaur's mouth, because that's our thing! +5 points

The Villains
There are two antagonist groups in the story. The first, the Young Aquarians, turn into allies, but we should cover them here anyway. Especially if they think of using violence against the establishment. If that's actually a working gun.
These guys have their own "lawyer" (a kid who knows the jargon), but their idea of justice is running the criminals out of Barclayville, NOT put them in jail, because they don't trust the cops. Hmm... so just making it someone else's problem? They do have a point about the fuzz though, because the Commish seems to be sending riot squads in there all the time to break heads without asking questions. And for all the change they advocate initially, they still brandish "We love our rats" placards when the city threatens to demolish their "historic" buildings. It's about ethics in conservatorship! The real enemy here is the criminal element that's giving everyone else a bad name, in particular one Sonny Trask who's about to walk out of jail and return to his business, one he's left in the hands of his girlfriend Angel, who he plans to use as a patsy. Well, I don't know how he runs his little criminal empire, but he lets his goons slap his girlfriend/representative around, for one thing, and he stands to lose as much as the Aquarians if the neighborhood is bulldozed, so it's dumb to start trashing the place as soon as he returns. And I do mean "trash" the place. His villainy amounts to pushing trash cans down, and crashing a neighborhood BBQ. Oooh. After he gets in a fight with the Aquarians - and cheats with a roll of pennies, hiss, hiss, jeer! - Angel shoots him.
Batman is a better psychologist than we thought, I guess. +4 Bat-points

Back at the Dawn of the Marvel Universe, the Thing and friends are fighting the Jaguar Priest, his Aztec warriors, and his mind-controlled dinosaurs. Dude has a spear given to him by the "gods" that shoots flames and such, but what we really care about here is the dinosaurs.
Everything else is so much fodder. +4 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-ACTUAL GOTHAM BY-LAW: "Citizens aggrieved by uncontrolled crime may enforce their own police procedures." Man, the GCPD had just GIVEN UP in this era, hadn't it? +3 Bat-points
-Jim Aparo fell ill while drawing this issue, was replaced by Neil Adams. They could have done a lot worse! + 1 Bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:

-Amuses the Doctor Who fan in me, this Rose Tyler moment about death and time travel (re: The Unquiet Dead). +1 point
-In connecting the 1975 Skull series to this story, some bits had to go. For example, some time has obviously passed and a character has died in-between issues.
Editor's caption: "Sorry you missed it, jerks!" Wow, do you grapes taste sour, Mr. Wolfman? -1 point
-I kind of love Skull's girlfriend. After haranguing him on his needless risks, that's her reaction to a T-Rex showing up. She's been in Antediluvia for 2 years and I think she's over it! +2 points

Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: Another bulldozer approaches, but it's a fake-out, just Batman and the Titans (minus Mal, what) delivering a happy ending as the whole neighborhood is branded an untouchable historical site and tourist attraction. Yay! +2 Bat-points
Unfriendly farewell: It's not yet goodbye, but I'm giving points for the general animosity in the cliffhanger. I mean, when even the herbivorous diplodocus turn on you... +2 points

The "terrible lizards" might have paid off, as Skull slays the Titans a burning close 19 to 18! Holy crap, there's suddenly hope for Ben as he narrows Batman's lead 7 to 3. More dinos next week! In fact, a lot MORE dinos!


snell said...

Regarding Ben's vocabulary: n awful lot of lazy writers portray him as dumb. But c'mon--college graduate (yes, I know, football scholarship, but still), and the guy's a pilot (and astronaut!!). There aren't too many dummies piloting interstellar missions.

I suspect Ben plays up the patois, both to put enemies off guard, and because to him it feels more consistent with his brutish exterior. He's gruff, not dumb.

Siskoid said...

And to be fair, despite being an intellectual with an English degree, I curse like a pirate in real life. So our persona isn't tied solely to our education.

SallyP said...

This is a tough one! On the one hand, Ben and dinosaurs which is always a plus. On the other hand...that cover with Batman urging on the loader to crush the Teen Titans is simply...heavenly.

Siskoid said...

Hell is paved with good intentions.

Heaven is paved with flattened Titans.

Andrew said...

You know what else was on the newsstands with a cover-date of March 1978? Marvel's very own "Man From Atlantis" #2, so it's not just a random pop-culture reference, it's also a cleverly bit of corporate synergy.

Does that work out to bonus points, or a severe deduction?

Siskoid said...

Judges aren't looking at the replay. We may never know!

LondonKdS said...

That first panel used to be an out-of-context fixture on comic blogs, with people talking about how weird Batman wandering around in daylight, in full costume, ogling women, looks after decades of "Dark Knight" posturing.

Siskoid said...

Haney's Batman has as much in common with the 60s TV show as it does the then current O'Neil Batman.


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