Bob Haney Interviewed by Michael Catron Part Five (of Five)

Posted by on January 11th, 2011 at 12:01 AM

“I was forced out”

CATRON: How did that play out?

HANEY: Well, some of my books were taken away from me. The killer thing was the Brave and Bold thing. That’s a story in itself. My editor then became Paul Levitz, on Brave and Bold. And two things happened. I had complete control of the book and I knew what I was doing and it was still doing OK. He starts playing the big editor and he tells me that he wants to change some of the team-ups. So I say, “Well, Paul. I make a real study of this. I only team up what works. I don’t team up just any underwear character that some —”

He finally says to me, “I want to do a team-up with Mera.”

I said, “Mera?” I had written Aquaman a lot. I said, “What?”

That was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I wrote it and it didn’t work and he didn’t like it. Then he — oh, I remember. In those days and for years after, they had production problems. They couldn’t meet their deadlines. Right? I never missed a deadline, Mike. In all those years, I never missed a deadline. Well, there’s all kinds of other guys. Artists, mainly, but writers also, missed deadlines. I never missed one.

So he says to me one day, “Bob, you’ll have to write three Brave and Bolds quick in a row because somebody else’s books didn’t meet the deadline.” They were worried about the slots. You know how the slots out on the stands are important because Marvel’s ahead of them.

So I went and wrote three Brave and Bolds in a row under terrific pressure. They weren’t bad, actually. I don’t think they were any worse or better than my usual production. Then I wrote that Mera thing that he wanted me to write. Then he calls me in one day [laughs] and he says, “I’m going to take you off Brave and Bold.” [According to The Grand Comics Database (www.comics.org), Boltinoff’s last issue of The Brave and the Bold is #131, Dec., 1976. Levitz is first credited as editor on #139, Jan.-Feb., 1978. Haney’s last B&B script appears to be #155, October, 1979. We could not find a Batman-Mera team-up in any issue of Brave and the Bold, although there was a Batman-Aquaman team-up in #142, which featured Mera.]

I says, “What?” I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Well, why?”

He said, “These last four scripts haven’t been up to your usual standards.”

I said, “Cut it out!”

He didn’t even realize he had put me under the pressure to write — if they were bad, and I don’t think they were — the three and then this team-up with Mera, which was ridiculous. It certainly didn’t work. And he takes me off the book. I was tempted at that point to get up and say, “You little asshole. You just lost a writer.” But I still needed the income. I still had a couple of books. But that really was the end of my deal there. That was — when was that? About ’80, I guess. I finally wound up at the very end there, was it one book? Unknown Soldier?

CATRON: I think that’s the case.

HANEY: I was with one book, and then one day they killed that. So, I wrote one last issue. I guess what burned me up a little — although I should have been used to the way they treated people there. I’d been here just shy of 30 years. That’s a fair chunk of time, right? I made a lot of money for them. Taken all their shit. And the day I turned in that last script, it was like — you know. I walked out and nobody even said, “You want a cup of coffee?” It was like you didn’t exist. If I had thought more highly of the people, my feelings would have been more hurt, but as it was, it was just so typical of them. [Laughs.] I did not have fond memories of those people. So anyway, that was the end of my DC period.

In a way, the irony being when Jenette and Paul came in, that they did, of course, bring a new broom in a couple of senses and treated people better in terms of the money and rewards and credits and all that.

But I was being eased out. Len Wein thought I was an old, used-up guy. He as much as told me that. I remember one day I was working with him and he didn’t like my stuff and I didn’t like him, particularly. I thought he was an egomaniac and overrated as a writer.

I came in one day and he says to me, “What are you still doing in this business?” And I thought — this is when I first started working with him — I said to myself, “This guy’s out for your ass, Bob. He doesn’t want you.” And it was true. Within a month, he eased me out. I’m trying to remember what the property was. It was Green Arrow. He eased me off of it. So that’s what happens.

So I do not have fond memories of those people.

Green Arrow, Batman, Adams and Aparo

Haney and Neal Adams introduced a grittier Green Arrow in “The Senator’s Been Shot!”; this sequence is from The Brave and the Bold #85. ©1969 DC Comics Click to view larger image

CATRON: Green Arrow was a character — we should probably cover this base, too — that you revived.

HANEY: Yeah.

CATRON: Revised and revived.

HANEY: Yeah, because of Neal, Neal Adams, who gave him the right look at that point. But I helped to get that same kind of feeling about him. It was going back to real basics and adding a kind of romantic or more lusty and macho kind of thing. I especially did that with Batman, too. Some of Neal’s work on The Brave and Bold fit in with that. Neal complemented me because he liked my Batman approach. Jim Aparo and I, of course, brought — They later gave everybody else credit for the Dark Knight re-emergence, you know, which is carried over into the movies. Well, I deserve some of that credit. So does Neal and so does Jim Aparo, because what [Bob] Kane and all the interim guys had done in the in-between years — Kane’s ghosts — you know Bob Kane had all these ghosts — made him cartoony and not very menacing and we brought back the menace and the more adult sophistication. Brave and Bold brought it back first. Mike Gold gave me credit for that and so did Neal, of all people. Neal’s a whole other story, of course. He decided to take over my writing, but that’s another issue.

CATRON: Oh, well, you’re not the only one.

HANEY: No, no, I know. Neal’s a talented man, I saw him at a con recently, we were friendly. We were on a panel together.

CATRON: You won an award for that story? We’re talking about Brave and the Bold #85, “The Senator’s Been Shot.”

HANEY: No, I won an award for the Deadman [story].

CATRON: Oh, which Deadman? “The Track of the Hook”?

HANEY: #86, I think. I could be off a number or two there. #86? #89? Deadman/Batman. The first one.

CATRON: The first one. That was “The Track of the Hook.” [The Brave and the Bold #79, Aug.-Sept., 1968.]

HANEY: I won half an Alley. I don’t know which half. The lower half? [Laughter.] The upper half? The left side? The right side? Shared it with some Marvel writer, I believe. I never got the Alley because they couldn’t cut it in half or something. [Catron laughs.] Like Solomon’s great decision. Anyway, yeah, that was one of my glory moments.

CATRON: Yeah, well, when you look back, what are some of the highlights, some of the stories that you remember best?

HANEY: Well, I remember some of the Metamorphos, of course. Some of the Brave and Bolds — like the one I did with Batman and his brain is injured, he’s brain-dead or something and the Atom has to get in his brain and revive him. A lot of people read that story and were enchanted with it. Just strangers, or friends who knew about it. I don’t know if you know that one or not.

CATRON: Oh, yeah, I do. [The Brave and the Bold #115, Oct.-Nov., 1974.]

HANEY: And the 100th issue. That was a good issue. A couple of the Deadman stories. A couple of the Wildcat. The Wildcat/Joker/Batman was a good one. The one with just Joker that was reprinted in the greatest Joker stories, for which I just got a royalty payment in December.

CATRON: How many Deadmans did you write?

HANEY: I wrote, in Brave and Bold, I think, three. I used certain guys more than anybody else. I used Green Arrow quite a bit. I used Aquaman a few times. Wildcat — more than you would think, even though he was a minor character. But he worked well.

CATRON: Sgt. Rock?

HANEY: Oh, the Rock stories. Yes, I enjoyed those. I wrote some of my best stories with Rock. I wrote the one with Rock and Batman pursuing Hitler after the war.

CATRON: Right.

HANEY: That was a good story.

CATRON: Yep. [The Brave and the Bold #108, Aug.-Sept., 1973.]

HANEY: The last Unknown Soldier I wrote, the final issue, was a great story I thought. The artwork -— I hated the artwork because it was Dick Ayers, right? I wish I’d had Joe [Kubert]. In fact, I asked Joe would he do the last Unknown Soldier. He was too busy. But that was a great story.

But a lot of the Brave and Bolds were good. Teen Titans — I did some good Teen Titans. Even in its own series. Although the Teen Titans in Brave and Bold were better, maybe. But then you see, so much of the other stuff in earlier years was rote work — was just six-page war stories. Some of the stuff I did for the Schiff gang, like The House of Secrets, they were fair but they were not stories I felt really great about.

CATRON: Did you work on the Mark Merlin series?

HANEY: Yeah. I think I was —

CATRON: Prince Ra-man?

HANEY: I wasn’t the originator. I think it was already an existing character. It was an existing character that Jack edited and I wrote for Jack. I wrote several Mark Merlins. Prince Ra-man, yeah. I wrote some My Greatest Adventures and House of Mysterys and I wrote, of course, the Inside Earth. You jumped around a bit in that office.

CATRON: How about Westerns?

HANEY: I wrote very few Westerns and the only ones I can remember were for Julie way back.

CATRON: Trigger Twins? Is that one of yours?

HANEY: I may have written one or two and I think I wrote a Johnny Thunder or two but not — maybe a couple others. But very few, very few. Kanigher did most of those.  I wrote Westerns over at Hillman, many, many years —

CATRON: What did you write over there?

HANEY: I cannot remember — it was not a running character. They were just little stories that you did. I did some research on real, true Westerns and wrote some of those for Hillman. But that’s way, way back.

CATRON: None of them ever starred Two-Gun Haney, huh? [Laughter.]

HANEY: We’re talking, in the case of Hillman, Mike, we’re talking 1949, ’50. Yeah, that’s pretty far back.

You know what I’m trying to give? Whatever you may think of the stories, and the comics themselves, I’m trying to give you the human element of what was involved in producing this very important aspect of popular culture. The actual business with the personalities, the owners, the workers, the whole — listen, I’m holding back, there’s a lot of crazier stuff that I maybe won’t get into.

CATRON: That’s actually what is more interesting to me, because, the comics themselves are great, and we had fun with them, but —

HANEY: Right. Yeah. I always wanted to do, and maybe I still will, a novel about guys working in the comics business back in those days, like the ‘50s, ‘60s, you know. It could be a very funny, not sensational maybe, but a funny and mordant kind of exposé. You’d have to change all the names, probably.

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