Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Bob Haney Mystique

I was a Bob Haney fan when it wasn't cool.

There's been something of a Haney renaissance the last few years, as many fan writers have rediscovered his plot-driven but often completely delirious comics. In fact, my friend Lewis Smith once opined that all of the Haney praise might be something of a "geek chic" - that is, people jumping on a bandwagon because they perceive it to be trendy or something. Maybe. If it is, it would be a wonderful irony.

You see, Bob Haney suffered from a shockingly poor reputation among hardcore comic fans in his time. They didn't appreciate his no-holds-barred, "anything goes" stories that sometimes flew in the face of The Sacred Continuity. There was also the perception that he was a dinosaur - a writer hopelessly out of touch with the times. Instead of getting guidance, he seems to have been left to his own devices before getting squeezed out entirely in the early 1980s.

Now, I had no idea who Bob Haney was for the longest time. I was but a wee lad in the mid-1970s when The Brave and The Bold #125 was one of the earliest superhero comics to end up in my hands. It sure doesn't seem like the kind of book that would appeal to a 3 year old, but that book (with Batman, Flash, an Asian dictator, and an Amelia Earhart stand-in!) is one of the foundations of my comic book fan psyche.

More issues of B&B followed, until the fateful day when Bob was relieved of his duties as writer of the title. It didn't mean anything to me at the time - not really - but the plain truth is the book usually wasn't as interesting after his departure. There was just something about his stories that were more enjoyable than many of the tales by more "fanboy friendly" writers.

What is it about Bob Haney's work that I find so appealing? I think it's the fact that Haney is always trying to tell a STORY. Oh, he can deal out fight scenes and characterization with the best of them. Yet, there was never any doubt that the story was the thing in a Bob Haney comic. You knew when you plunked down your change that you were going to get your money's worth as far as content, if not necessarily quality.

Oh yes, Bob wrote some bad comics in his day. I'll be the first to admit it. But when a Bob Haney comic failed, it failed spectacularly. There was a mad genius to even a bad Haney comic that made it enjoyable. Bob's numerous writing idiosyncracies are one of his hallmarks, and sometimes they worked and sometimes they...didn't.

Sadly, Bob Haney passed away in 2004. However, he did get to see at least some of the newfound respect that has begun to develop for his work. With every passing year, Bob Haney's reputation gets a little more rehabilitation. One of my main goals for this blog is to further that process by attempting to discuss as many Bob Haney comics as I possibly can acquire.

Expect strangeness.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear C. Elam,
Just stumbled across your "Bob Haney Mystique" posting today and thought you, of all people, would be interested in knowing that my interview with Bob is going to be published in The Comics Journal in two parts this summer. The first part should be out later this month, in The Comics Journal #276. The second part is scheduled for The Comics Journal #278. I knew Bob and he was a terrific guy. You would have liked him. I'd love to hear what you think of the interview -- the longest he ever sat for, as far as I know.
Your in comics,
Mike Catron

2:31 PM  
Blogger C. Elam said...

Thanks for the heads up! I'll definitely make plans to look for those issues.

10:29 PM  

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