Tuesday, October 23, 2007

D.C. Dill - 1977

sgD.C. Dill I remember very clearly my first issue of Brave and the Bold. Summer of 1977. I was seven.

That summer, the Air Force decided to move us from San Antonio, Texas to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in upstate New York. My parents made a long road trip of it, stopping to see every conceivable family friend and relative along the way. Mom was pregnant with my baby sister Robyn and not feeling too well. I remember her sitting at the kitchen table at Aunt Betty Knight's, holding her forehead in pain and keeping her eyes squeezed shut. Everyone was trying to leave her alone. I approached to offer her my latest issue of Swamp Thing to read. My logic was that comics always made me feel better when my tummy hurt, so she should give them a try. She quietly thanked me and refused the comic, preferring to handle the pain in her own way. To each their own.

That road trip will forever stick in my mind. My mother had bought enough comics to keep me quiet for the duration of the trip. If it's one thing my parents knew, it was that comics would keep me docile. My mother had a time schedule for 'trip happy' distribution. I would get a comic, my sister Tara would get some puzzle book or picture book or some crappy thing. Tara could take them or leave them. Whatever. But my comics...ahhh what a trip.

At one point, the moment of 'trip happy' distribution came along and Mom was asleep. Curses! I was now counting on my father to remember. I stared intently at the back of his head, too respectful and fearful to mention anything to him. Would he miss the appointed moment? Most assuredly. I'm not even sure he was fully aware we were getting regular 'trip happies'. Although, he must have paid for them. When Mom woke up, she took entirely too long to fully come to her senses. Checking her watch, she turned to Dad and asked if he had given us our 'happies' yet. I answered for him.

My first issue of Brave and the Bold was given to me on this trip. We were entering North Carolina and a couple of hours away from my maternal grandmothers. It was issue 135, Batman meets the Metal Men. I had never heard of the Metal Men, and was eager to learn more. The issue was drawn by Jim Aparo and ended in a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger ending bothered me, but the artwork was fantastic. I believe that was my first Jim Aparo Batman, and he was so graceful and powerful under Mr. Aparo's pencils that I went on to judge other Batman appearances by that look. Beautiful. I was too young to associate an art style with an artists name, but I had long since learned to tell the different art styles apart. I could tell Jim Aparo from Neal Adams from Mike Grell from Dick Dillin when my closest friends couldn't even tell you who the Legion of Super Heroes were. I read the issue. Reread the issue. Flipped through admiring the artwork. Then read the issue again. This was standard operating procedure when I was seven. The issue was perfect.

Except....

That title. What in heaven's name did that title mean? "The Brave and the Bold". I sat quietly trying to figure it out. I had learned many new vocabulary words through comics, and "Bold" was a new one on me. "Bold". The Brave and the "Bold". What did that word mean?

I finally broke down and asked my father. You can disturb my father when asking about a new vocabulary word. But asking him for new comics, those were waters better left untread.

"Dad, what does 'Bold' mean?" I asked.

"Bold means brave." My father is famous for the brevity in his answers.

Oy! What an answer, though! "Bold" means brave!!?!! This comic was entitled "The Brave and the Brave"?! What the heck did that even mean?

My seven year old brain just had to force this to make sense. What kind of comic company, my favorite no less, would name a comic something as silly as The Brave and the Brave? It just didn't make sense.

I sat thinking for awhile. Trying to prevent the thought that was floating around in my subconscious. Soon, the thought took over and I had to face a startling fact.

Maybe Dad was wrong.

It would make much more sense to title the comic "The Brave and the Cowardly". Meaning, of course, that the brave would beat up the cowardly. Or the brave would protect the cowardly. Anything but the brave would team up with other people who were brave. That just seemed silly! These people were professionals who had been putting out comics for years! I could picture their editors sitting in the conference room talking amongst themselves when suddenly: "Wait a minute, people, bold means brave! What have we done!"

So, maybe Dad was wrong.

I looked at my comic book, as if doing a last minute check of the facts. I looked up at the back of my father's head. I thought to myself: "It would be awfully bold of me to ask my father if he could be mistaken."

Naaah, that just didn't sound right.

So which need was greater, maintain the status quo and not question my father...ever. Or get my comic book research and understanding done in the meticulous manner that I had been practicing for the last five years.

"Bold." I said out loud.

"Bold. Bold. Bold." I said again.

I was just about to pounce the question when Mom announced we were nearing Grandmom's house. Eagerly using the distraction to chicken out of my question, I put the comic aside and promptly forgot about my quandary.

An addendum to this story is that it was this same comic that I chose to demonstrate my reading skills to my Grandmother. One of the characters, Tin of the Metal Men, stuttered a lot, and I thought this would be an excellent passage to use to prove how well I could read. All I succeeded in doing was upsetting my Grandmother, who worried that comics were creating a stuttering problem for me. Sigh. Nobody gets me.

A couple of days later, we hit the rode again. Destination? Washington, D.C. to spend July fourth in our nation's capital with the Robertsons. My first 'trip happy'? Aquaman #57. Jim Aparo artwork. Life was good!

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