A brand-new Brave and the Bold begins this week, with some of the biggest names in comics gathering under a historic banner that goes back for seven decades. To many, The Brave and the Bold may be a name synonymous with Batman. It may represent a wider showcase of the DC Universe or a television series with a legacy still living through animation. It’s a name which has meant many things over many years, as a series which has seen quite a number of ambitious directional changes. As we embark on this new chapter, now is a great time to go back to the beginning and see all the places The Brave and the Bold has been.
1955-1959, #1-24: Blazing Adventures Through History
Like many comics from the Golden and Silver Age, The Brave and the Bold began as an anthology series showcasing a wide variety of stories. Just as Detective Comics was built to feature detective stories, House of Mystery was a host of horror and Strange Adventures explored science fiction, The Brave and the Bold, with its medieval banner-like logo, was first envisioned to be a historical adventure magazine. Not necessarily a place for fantasy, but for knights, gladiators and other heroes of times long past. The Silent Knight, the Viking Prince and even Robin Hood were frequent stars featured in this early era. But after four years of bimonthly issues, the series would expand its scope beyond its original mission statement.
1959-1963, #25-49: The Testing Ground
As DC entered the 1960s, The Brave and the Bold became a testing ground for new ideas. Just as Showcase introduced the world to new versions of Green Lantern and Hawkman, The Brave and the Bold would continue to present new ideas for DC’s Silver Age. The first was an incarnation of the Suicide Squad acting like a government-sponsored Challengers of the Unknown, and a team which really wouldn’t find its true hook until a couple decades later. Brave and the Bold’s next team proposal was much more successful right out of the gate: the debut of the Justice League of America, where DC’s greatest heroes teamed up against a common threat in their own shared feature for the first time. This period of brand experimentation also gave us Cave Carson, a Silver Age reinvention of Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories.
1963-1966, #50-66: The Haney Years
Issue #50 is where The Brave and the Bold starts embracing its most well-known concept, brought to you by its most famous original writer: Bob Haney. Under Haney’s pen, The Brave and the Bold takes a page from the success of the Justice League of America feature by showcasing rare and unlikely team-ups that introduce other DC characters to each other. Here is where Green Arrow can meet the Manhunter from Mars; the Atom can meet the Metal Men; and the Flash can meet the Doom Patrol. Two of Haney’s most successful stories from this early period are the debut of his own original hero, Metamorpho, and a couple of issues which band the young sidekicks of DC’s great heroes together for the first time, soon forming the Teen Titans for a spin-off of their own.
1967-1983, #67-200: Batman on Board
Thanks to a national Batmania inspired by the debut of the Adam West TV series in 1966, with issue #67, The Brave and the Bold's team-ups became exclusively Batman-centric. By most accounts, this is the most well-known period of The Brave and the Bold’s comic book legacy, pairing it ideologically with Batman ever since. Notably, issue #85 features a dramatic redesign of Green Arrow courtesy of Neal Adams, where his modern personality and aesthetic (beard and all) begin coming into place.
Haney continues on as the series’ main writer through issue #157, at which point a rotating creative team takes over. The Brave and the Bold continued until issue #200, ending with a team-up between the two Batmen of Earth One and Earth Two. Its conclusion advertises the book that will replace it: a new superhero team featuring Batman as its leader, Batman and the Outsiders.
In 1978, around the same time as the first Superman movie, DC launched DC Comics Presents, a sister series to The Brave and the Bold focused on Superman teaming up with other heroes. It ran for a very respectable 97 issues, until 1986.
1991-1992: Enter (and Exit) the Butcher
In 1990, Mike Baron and Shea Anton Pesa introduced John Butcher, a Native American vigilante in his own original series. In an effort to promote the character, The Brave and The Bold was revived as a six-issue series cowritten by Mike Grell, placing the new antihero within the context of the DC Universe by teaming him up with Green Arrow and the Question. Aside from a brief attempt at a revival by Jeff Lemire during his New 52 Green Arrow tenure, that was the last anyone saw of the Butcher.
1999-2000: Silver Age Throwback
At a time when the mantles of the Flash and Green Lantern had been passed on to Wally West and Kyle Rayner, Mark Waid and Tom Peyer wrote The Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold, a throwback series exploring the partnership of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. By nature, you could see it today as a sort of predecessor to Waid's current World's Finest series, which gives Batman and Superman a similar throwback treatment. The 2002 animated Justice League episode “The Brave and the Bold” would pay tribute to this team-up, developing a new working relationship between Wally West and John Stewart.
In 2000, a limited “Silver Age” event brought back original Silver Age series and concepts for new one-shot issues. This included a brand-new Brave and the Bold story written by Bob Haney himself, then 74 years old. The issue featured a team-up of Batman and the Metal Men, one of his most frequently featured characters from early in his Brave and the Bold tenure, as well as Green Arrow and Black Canary, two characters he had a great hand in revitalizing for the modern era.
2007-2010: Serial Superteams
In 2007, Mark Waid returned to the Brave and the Bold concept with a new ongoing series, the great George Perez by his side on art. This new take was inspired by the early Haney stories where any grouping of heroes could be seen working together, but with a modern twist—it would all be a continuous story, with one super team-up passing their baton to the next in each issue. This approach lasted twelve issues, before switching to more traditional self-contained one-shots and small story arcs. Perez left the book after issue #10, Waid after #16, and it continued under a rotating staff until #35.
2008-2011: Hammers of Justice
In 2008, two years after the end of Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Brave and the Bold made its animated television debut. Like with the bulk of the Haney years, the show was built around showcasing many of the DC Universe’s lesser-known heroes by displaying them in action alongside the Caped Crusader. The show launched a video game, two tie-in comics for a combined 38 issues, and a pretty great Scooby-Doo team-up movie. Deidrich Bader, who voices Batman in this series, continues in the role to this day in the animated Harley Quinn.
2018: Batman and Wonder Woman
Fresh off a critical hit run on Wonder Woman with Greg Rucka, artist Liam Sharp took the character into his own hands in 2018 for a Batman team-up inspired by Celtic mythology. Half folklore, half detective story, this miniseries featured the best of what Wonder Woman and Batman have to offer, working in tandem. It’s a leg of the trinity formed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman we rarely get to see, and the kind of story that the Brave and the Bold concept is best known for.
Today and Tomorrow
That brings us to this week, with the launch of a new Batman: The Brave and the Bold series reconnecting to the title’s anthology roots—now with a lead story highlighting Batman and an eclectic collection of backups. These first issues will retell the first battle between Batman and the Joker in a lead story by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, while the back-ups offer a new StormWatch, a mystical Superman story and a new volume of the always acclaimed Batman: Black & White collection. Recently, James Gunn also announced that the next Batman film to be part of the DC cinematic universe will be titled Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But if history has taught us anything, it’s never to be certain just where the title may take us. All we can do is enjoy the present as we embark into the future. Bravely and boldly.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Ed Brisson, Jeff Spokes, Dan Mora, Christopher Cantwell and Javier Rodriguez is now available in print and as a digital comic book.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.