When longtime comic book readers think of writer Bob Haney, many will fondly recall the tales he wrote for The Brave and the Bold. During the late 1960s and through most of the 1970s, Haney had Batman team-up with various DC superheroes (such as Green Arrow) and non-super-powered characters (Sgt. Rock made numerous appearances). Others will note Bob’s Superman/Batman team-ups in World’s Finest Comics. It was Bob who introduced and chronicled the adventures of the notorious Sons of Superman and Batman in that title. Some will mention one of Bob’s most enduring characters, Metamorpho the Element Man. Others will bring up the less-enduring Unknown Soldier. Then there is Bob’s writing: layered plot structure, over-the-top dialogue, kinetic pacing and flamboyant wit.
In comics, Bob has written hundreds of good stories, dozens of great stories, and one true masterpiece: “Dirty Job,” with art by Alex Toth, published in Our Army at War #241 (February, 1972). Centuries ago, three Roman soldiers, Centurions, take to an inn in Jerusalem to indulge in wine after the events of the day. But one soldier, Antonius, a strong soldier in combat, a good soldier in the eyes of his men, takes no comfort in the goblet of wine before him. All he can brood on is the “dirty job” he and his fellow soldiers performed earlier in the day. Antonius grieves for what he did; he no longer carries the desire to conquer others. He wants to transfer from “this forsaken place.” A fellow soldier attempts to cheer Antonius. But now in deep anguish, Antonius cannot forgive himself for what he has done. He will neither forget what he did to the man he helped condemn to death nor forget the man’s final words. The reader is left with the startling, full-page silhouetted image of the act Antonius and his men committed, of Jesus Christ and two ‘criminals’ nailed to and raised on crosses, left to die a slow, painful death atop the hill Golgotha. “–Just a ‘dirty job’ — that the whole world can never forget…!” Four pages. That’s all it takes to convey one of the best short stories published in mainstream comics.
As I write this, Bob Haney is in a convalescent hospital in La Mesa, California. He suffered a massive stroke some months ago. I read of his ailing condition in a recent issue of the Comics Buyer’s Guide. When I went on-line to do a Search under Bob’s name, I found the article that CBG culled its information from. There are photos of Bob, prior to the stroke, living in Baja, California. One is of him sitting with a copy of The Silver Age Teen Titans Archives, Volume One. (The original Teen Titans is another series he wrote for years.) He’s much older now than the man Jim Aparo depicted in The Brave and the Bold #124 way back in 1975, a clever tale that featured Haney and Aparo in the story. Bob appears quite weathered in the photos, but the desert surroundings complement his features. In a Postscript at the end of the article, the address of the convalescent hospital is given where letters can be sent to him:
Mr. Bob Haney
Room 308, Bed 1
Community Convalescent Hospital
8665 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91941-3903
I wrote Bob a letter of appreciation a few weeks back, and mailed it to him in care of the nursing home. The other day I called the hospital to see how he was doing. The nurse told me that he does not respond to verbal communication. He is being given breathing treatments. He has to be sent to the local hospital when there are serious complications. There is no immediate prognosis. The nurse assured me that they are doing the best they can for Bob, keeping him as comfortable as possible. I know of the kind of debilitating situation he is in. Three of my grandparents spent the end of their lives in convalescent homes, and it was an emotional and agonizing experience for all family members and friends involved. I wish Bob and his loved ones all the best, and I know his legion of fans wish him the same.