The Brave And The Bold #82
Title: Sleepwalker Of The Sea!
Cover Date: March
Indica Date: Feb-Mar 1969
Writer: Bob Haney
Pencils: Neal Adams
Inks: Neal Adams
Lettering: Neal Adams
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Cover: Neal Adams
Cover Price: $0.12
If you began reading DC comics in the mid to late eighties or even later this one might seem odd to you. If this story were being told today it would consume three or four issues if not more. Written in 1969 by Bob (bend me, shape me) Haney, this story crams so much in to so few pages that it never really achieves the impact it might otherwise have had.
Our story opens with a bang as Batman is shadowing a beautiful woman being followed by a "brutish figure" . The text reads like a film noir: Raymond Chandler, perhaps. The scene is set on the waterfront at night as a car, seemingly from nowhere, screeches up and a door opens pulling the girl inside. Just then a scuba diver comes up out of the water and harpoons the man, who had been following her, in the back. The diver retrieves what appears to be some sort of pendant from his victim and tosses it into the speeding car. The dark knight leaps atop the vehicle in an attempt to apprehend the perpetrators. The car hits a telephone pole and, in so doing, hurls the caped crusader off. With acrobatic skill Batman is able to land on his feet.
He returns to the wrecked car to pull the driver out. "Batman doesn't see... or hear... the tall man slither up behind him! But he feels him... " Batman is able to glimpse his assailant- "YOU...?!" he exclaims. Batman pauses for a moment. A harpoon spears him in the back. As he plunges into the murky depths his thoughts are part hallucination as the water itself seems to form a vision of an old justice league ally. And Batman thinks to himself " Aquaman... it was you... you I fought... my friend.." The caped crime fighter is vaguely aware of being buoyed upward by some creatures of the sea as he slips into unconciousness.
The next thing he is aware of is waking up in a hospital room attended to by a physician and commissioner Gordon. It turns out the man Batman was following was Otto Chernak one of the chief promoters of "the New Marine city development" a land deal that may have been a little shady (this has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton) and somebody murdered him contract style. The item taken by the mysterious frogman was a talisman of a kraken (giant squid). At this point Batman's dialogue sounds very "cheap detective" with stuff like "whoever zapped him knew he was dame happy" and such like.
Bruce Wayne's "playboy" reputation seems uncharacteristically intact in this story. He cancels a date with a woman named "Honor" (no word on a last name); a salute, no doubt, to Honor Blackman the actress who played "Pussy Galore" in the James Bond classic "Goldfinger", to keep a date with Ailsa Dubois, "the most beautiful woman of the year"; a super model before the term was invented. Neal Adams does a wonderful job with the scene of Ailsa and Bruce sharing an intimate dinner on the balcony of a penthouse suite. He lends what would otherwise be a sanguine scene a sense of menace by "staging" it in such a way as to allow the reader to view the couple enjoying their dinner at same the time you can see beyond the balcony to the cavernous expanse below.
In very short order it becomes clear to the reader (and to Bruce) that Ailsa is more interested in Bruce's money than she is in him - namely a 100,000.00 check she persuades him to hand her as an investment in "New Marine City". It turns out she works for someone named Mr. Marius (sound familiar?) whom she describes as vital and strong "a man to be feared and obeyed". Suddenly Ailsa appears to take offense at the suggestion that Bruce is trying to buy her love with money. A fight ensues and she pulls a gun. Bruce tries to stop her but ends up being hurled off the roof instead. Thinking the shiftless playboy dead Ailsa leaves the scene confident it will be construed as an accident. Bruce is not dead, however, as he has managed to grab hold of a protruding ledge.
Bruce follows her to Marius enterprises where learns that Mr. Marius is none other than Orm Marius who is none other than the Ocean Master, one of Aquaman's fiercest foes. Why Bruce decides to crash the scene as himself instead of his alter ego I'll never know. But he does. He is ultimately confronted by Aquaman, dressed in street clothes and apparently in some kind trance like state. Bruce is no match for the king of the sea and is knocked out once again. The brain-washed Aquaman carries Bruce to the "New Marine City development" with the suggestion of putting him under the big pile driver there. Bruce is able to wrest himself free and confront his old friend. Aquaman assures Bruce that he was only going to make it look like he killed him so Marius would be satisfied. He reminds Bruce that he saved him the last time when he commanded the fish to rescue him. Ultimately they end up faking both their deaths in order to fool The Ocean Master.
Back in the sanctity of police headquarters we learn the extent to which the sea king has had the zap put on his head. You see, in Aquaman's own book he had been going through the ordeal of his wife, Mera, being kidnapped and him not being able to find her. It was all part of an eight issue story line (#'s 40-47) that Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo had constructed. It was a totally unprecedented idea at the time as far as DC was concerned.
In any event Aquaman is physically drained and emotionally vulnerable when he falls prey to a trap set for him by his arch enemy the Ocean Master. As it would happen, Orm Marius is actually the evil half brother of Aquaman even though an accident caused Marius to have amnesia and not remember this fact. Aquaman is always at a disadvantage when he's forced to confront his half sibling because he refuses to harm his own flesh and blood while the Ocean Master remains unhindered by any similar compunction. Orm tricks his brother into believing he has committed murder and ultimately drives him over the edge. Ocean Master uses the sea king as a mere pawn in a scheme he calls "Operation Kraken" of which the "New Marine City" development is but a small part.
In a remarkable feat of psychotherapy Batman is able to bring his old friend "out of it" and together they go off in pursuit of the Ocean Master. In a suspenseful confrontation Ocean Master traps the two heroes in a giant aquarium stocked with some sharks, some stingrays and a giant squid. Ultimately the heroes are rescued by the police who shoot the glass out of the aquarium. In a twist Aquaman saves Ocean Master from a police bazooka aimed at his escape sub. And Batman allows Aquaman to escape over the protestations of Commissioner Gordon.
In a final scene that could have been right out of the old BATMAN TV show Batman offers to impose on his friendship with Bruce Wayne and urge him to use his influence to get a lighter sentence for Ailsa. "You were under Marius' spell and a jury sometimes goes easy with a woman led astray by love." Ailsa brazenly spurns the offer saying "he used me! But in his arms I was alive...I dared everything! Nothing compares with that! And now I'm ready to pay for my foolishness." This is the only Aquaman story Neal Adams ever did. It all happened in 23 pages. WOW!