the gallery button below..
"Batman" Haney arrived in San Felipe in 1998.
He made the trip from Woodstock, NY at the request of
his sister Margaret, who invited him to visit. Bob knew
very little about San Felipe at the time, but once he
experienced the comfortable winter weather he made the
decision to stay. Robert Haney is a familiar name to comic
book aficionados. Bob was one of DC Comic's early
script writers, creating such well-known superheroes as
the Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and penning
several of the storylines for Batman, Flash, Wonderwoman
and Superman issues.
"I get treated like some
kind of celebrity," said Bob, referring to the San
Diego comic book conventions he used to frequent. "It's
Bob had a regular daily routine and could be found most
mornings at Baja Java, one of San Felipe better-known
cafes. He layer added the Sundance Deli to his
list of homes away from home. A news junkie, Bob could
be seen at the deli during late afternoons getting his
required dosage of CNN and newspapers.
Haney was also the author of Woodstock Handmade Houses,
which was a bestseller and is still much in demand. The
book is a collaboration between Bob, David Ballantine
and photographer Jonathan Elliott. It is a pictorial record
with subtext depicting the craftsmanship and ingenuity
of the freethinkers living in rural Woodstock, New York,
before the time of strict building codes.
If you would like a copy of Bob's Woodstock
book, just click on the book's image to link to an email
address where more information can be found.
REMEMBERING BOB HANEY
I first met Bob Haney at the San Felipe Bookstore in
northern Baja, Mexico, which by proximity was nicely within
my ranging pattern because I own the computer repair shop
next to it.
Bob folded his long limbs into one of the padded chairs
on the deck in front of the bookstore and reached for
a Time Magazine. He performed this motion like a man might
absently scratch the back of his head. I think Bob took
great pleasure in habitual actions. Which was good. It
made him easy to find.
Over time I came to learn that Bob had a special, perhaps
even pathological, relationship to words. Whether printed
on paper or branded on the air by CNN newscasters, the
Logos was an integral part of his life.
Bob signing a Teen Titan.
Anyway, as this tall, cantilevered man myopically leafed
through the pages of a magazine article, I had a chance
to study him. To be perfectly honest, I thought he was
a street person. He had the disheveled, razorless, a-man’s-clothes-are-his-castle,
appearance of the disenfranchised. Add to this a face
that looked like a toffee pull done at the wrong temperature
and a shock of hair that imitated twelve quail flushed
from a bush by well-thrown rock, it was easy to see that
Bob Haney was a remarkable diary of vast and expert neglect.
He obviously didn’t give a damn about his appearance
and quite likely imagined his body wasn’t much different
from his spectacularly neglected pickup truck; it didn’t
really need maintaining as long as it moved and stopped
when he wanted it to. I came to find out sometimes it
didn’t. Both the truck and his body.
The man’s wardrobe italicized the homeless impression.
Bob wore a pair of shoes that could convince the most
fervent skeptic that he was the original Wandering Jew.
They were tragic things, so divorced from their beginnings
that a cow could wear them without guilt. Some people
like to spit-shine their footwear to narcissistic mirrors.
Bob’s shoes were the opposite. They were only slightly
undersized models of the Baja peninsula itself –dessicated,
rutted, worn by erosion and the sun. I dreaded the condition
of those ten explorers who had to spelunk their dark,
dry recesses every day.
Bob’s shirt (and it didn’t matter which
shirt) is worth mentioning. There was something philosophical
about it/them, in a kind of counter stitch-in-time way.
They all had character flaws. And I don’t mean the
kind that can be easily dismissed by words like impatient,
rude or even ill-tempered. Bob’s shirts had out-and-out
personality gaps. On that first day in front of the bookstore,
the left shoulder had obviously suffered a recent demotion,
insofar as the seam yawned away from its juncture, caused
perhaps by some French regimental commander stripping
Bob of an epaulet or two. The front pocket had seen some
action too and wore a dogear that would have been perfectly
at home on an Airedale
Bob’s trousers were an ode to Woody Guthrie. Nothing
else needs to be said about them, except to mention the
possibility they were Woody Gutherie’s.
The finishing touch, other than the mortise or two in
a smile I had yet to witness, were Bob’s eyeglasses.
They were a stickman drawn by Picasso, full of hybrid
angles and unhinged megalomania. I was genuinely afraid
for the man when I saw him wrestling with them. I tried
to remember a CPR course I once took, just in case Bob’s
preparation to read a magazine led to some emergency resuscitation
So Bob Haney sat there quietly in front of the bookstore,
groping a magazine. It was a regular-sized magazine but
it looked like a postage stamp trapped between two flounders,
such were the size of Bob’s hands. He squinted,
sending a peristalsis of Basset wrinkles cascading to
the edge of his hair line. I thought he was the perfect
likeness of an ancient, glandular Kerouac after a three
Then Ed Meders, the frequently distaff member of the
husband and wife team who own the bookstore, emerged from
the shop and sat beside Bob. The two men evidently knew
each other. I heard Ed make a humorous comment and that
was when Bob showed the mortise in his laugh. The laugh
itself instantly erased my growing opinion that Bob was
an urchin. Hearty and timbrous, it was the guffaw of a
man who loved to guffaw. I haven’t known many street
people, but the few I’ve met couldn’t laugh
Bob had a habit of ordering a mocha fria at Baja Java,
an American café at the end of the deck. He did
this early in the morning and sat on a stool at the round
corner table inside the café. This was where he
absorbed the CNN reports that for a time aired from a
suspended television in Baja Java, until a thief stole
the satellite receiver card and put an end to it. Bob
was then forced to change his pattern and up until his
final stroke, he sunned himself in the mornings before
the television at the Sundance Deli, where CNN spoke to
him across a Danish and orange juice. Used copies of the
San Diego Union were also splashed about the tables and
Bob could often be seen fanning open a paper, his arms
spread like a huge condor drying its wings.
It would seem Bob was a news junkie. But I think he was
perpetually pawing the papers and airwaves out of habit
rather than interest or concern. In conversations, Bob
never injected opinions shaped by the various media he
patronized. He was more of a listener, ready for a punchline
or phrase that could unlock one of his barreling laughs.
Perhaps it was the result of a series of small, unnoticed
‘mini’-strokes that pre-dated his final, paralyzing
trauma, but Bob’s mind never seemed concerned with
the nuts and bolts of modern life, at least while I knew
him. His attention had lost its ability to put anything
on a pedestal. It seemed as if words themselves, without
any freight or baggage, were enough to comfort him, although
there must have been a reliquary of meaning stored deep
inside of him, guarded by something that did not communicate
with the man of the moment. How else could a phrase or
political joke trigger the laughs?
To most of the people who knew him, the Bob Haney of
his final few years was a man in the grip of a superb
fatalism. His ennui, highlighted by his personal disregard
and lethargy, was the stuff of folklore. He had no awareness
of his stature as a productive cog in the DC comic book
dynasty. In fact, I never knew he wrote scripts for comics
until Ed mentioned it to me. When I plugged Bob’s
name into Google, I discovered he was all over the internet.
He was revered for his contributions to the DC pantheon
and had won several awards, including the Inkpot Award,
a distinction whose list of recipients included Isaac
Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Steven Spielberg
and others. Once, Bob told me he liked to attend the ComiCon,
the annual comic book convention in San Diego. He said
the people there treated him “like royalty”.
But he frankly never understood the fuss.
I think Bob’s attitude was influenced by an early
goal in his life. He wanted to be a novelist. A good one.
On the level of a Hemingway or Fitzgerald. And even though
comic book script writing swallowed much of his life,
I don’t think he ever really looked away from that
goal for very long. After the comic book years, it was
quite possible that Bob was deeply shocked to find himself
living penniless in an old trailer in Mexico, without
ever having stepped more than a few paces along the footsteps
of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. True, he lived the bohemian
life in Paris when he was young, but location does not
make a writer. It’s the voice that fuses through
the fingers, the unsmotherable solipsistic cry that keeps
the writer’s eye steady on the heart of his quest
that makes the artist. Bob’s eye, according to some,
had a tendency to wander.
Part of the bohemian lifestyle, and part of any writer’s
toolkit, is a repertoire of personal relationships. In
Bob’s case, it tended to lean toward the fairer
sex. Over a mocha fria one morning, he confided to me
a story about a woman who broke his heart. I suspected
he was being inordinately faithful to her memory by singling
her out from a roster of past alliances. But he spoke
with such passion about this person that she quickly lost
her historical vocation in my mind and became a kind of
pivot around which Bob’s life levered itself into
its present state of world-weariness. I don’t know
if this was the case or simply the effects of the mocha
fria, but that morning was the only time I ever heard
Bob Haney delve into his core. It might have been one
of those rare instances when his core was inadvertently
accessible to him and I just happened to be an audience
to the event. But the memory was interesting and suggested
the real reason Bob had not followed the difficult road
of a novelist.
Some writers, most good writers, are soliloquies. They
write from the island of their psyches. A “country
of two” as Kurt Vonnegut called a marriage, is an
anthology that can bury a writer’s name under the
nom de plume of ‘WE’. Many cannot
survive the symbiosis. Perhaps Bob was one of them. Or
maybe in the long run he felt comic book scripts was the
level of literature most appropriate for a country of
There is a lot of evidence for this attitude. Over the
span of his comic script career, Bob was notorious for
not keeping track of a character’s story arc. He
seemed immaculately unaware of each superhero’s
current situation, circle of friends, list of villains,
even partners. He wrote in a void, creating his own vernacular,
his own interpretation of a character’s super powers,
and sometimes drafted scenes that violated timelines and
established biographic information for his subjects. But
what Bob did that most of the other script writers didn’t
do, at least not to his degree, was fuss over the story
itself. He wanted the story to be good, to have teeth
and depth. He wanted it, in fact, to be as literary as
possible. The script was often his bid at an abbreviated
‘Old Man and the Sea’ or “Great Gatsby’,
filtered through his country of two to whatever extent
he could perfect it, given the resources, restrictions
and deadlines. This is what established Bob Haney as a
DC script writer of note. Add to that the effects of his
disregard for the DC Bible and guidelines, and you have
stories that elevated Bob to cult level.
When I knew Bob, all of that was behind him, well-buried
in the vault of his personal history. He rarely opened
the door to that vault, even though his thoughts seems
wholly focused on the past. The remedial applications
of CNN and newspapers were perhaps the truest method he
had for keeping the vault door closed, to himself as well
as those around him.
In the last year of his life it seemed that Bob was
just waiting to die. He had several conditions that needed
medical attention, yet he refused to submit himself to
a doctor. In quiet times, over a table at the bookshop
(maybe Bob was magnetized to bookstores because of patterns
from his bohemian years), his tone suggested he considered
himself a failure. His various countries of two were riven
by death and divorce. He never wrote the novel he wanted
to write. His body was failing. And the bric-a-brac responsible
for protecting his daily routines --his trailer, truck,
clothes, etc. --were similarly dissolved by age. It was
going to be a close race and spectators were never sure
which contestant would cross the line to oblivion first,
Bob’s world or Bob himself. When the end finally
occurred, many said it was a tie. There was scant little
left behind after Bob Haney’s time on earth. Except
for the words that echo down from infrequent revivals
of his scripts, now and then finding a place on the shelves
of big chain bookstores, quite a distance from their literary