Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Coming of the Man-Bat!

Man-Bat made his debut in Detective Comics #400 (June 1970). At the time of his debut there was something of a horror and Gothic "boom" going on in pop culture, as the Hammer Films were very popular and also movies such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" were making money in Hollywood. Also, the Comic Code Authority had begun to loosen its rules, including those forbidding vampires, zombies, and "creatures of the night." (As a reference, Marvel Comics dived head-first into the horror genre at this time, as The Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night, and The Ghost Rider all made their debuts within months of each other, in 1972).

So in this environment of general "horror", DC Comics decided to celebrate the 400th issue of Detective Comics by creating the antithesis of Batman; Man-Bat! Writer Frank Robbins came up with the idea of Kirk Langstrom, a scientist working at the Gotham City Museum of Natural History. Langstrom experimented on bat gland extracts in order to increase a human's innate sonar abilities....only to succeed too well! Artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano were the first to breathe life into this soon-to-be classic character.

After his debut, Man-Bat hovered around the skies of Gotham City for several years, appearing in the pages of Detective Comics and Batman semi-regularly. Frank Robbins and other writers could not seem to decide if Man-Bat was a friend or a foe, so at this time he was often both: Langstrom wanted to be a hero, but could not control his transformations. Later, he lost his intellect when changing to Man-Bat (similar to Bruce Banner and The Hulk).

Then in 1975 Man-Bat guest-starred in the pages of The Brave & The Bold #119, teamed up with Batman. His origin was also reprinted in the pages of Batman Family #1. DC must have been testing the waters, as it were, because in early 1976 Man-Bat earned his very own self-titled series! This was trumpeted with the ad shown above, highlighted by that fantastic illustration by Steve Ditko and Al Milgrom. Unfortunately, the series Man-Bat only lasted two issues.
However, you can't keep a good character down. There was enough interest in the character for him to return AGAIN: this time in Batman Family. When that series changed its format from one new lead story and two reprints to all-new stories, Man-Bat became the third feature (co-starring with Robin and Batgirl). His series at this time was drawn by such great artists as Marshall Rogers and Michael Golden. His stories continued even after Batman Family became an all-new Dollar Comic, and even after the title was folded into Detective Comics (his first home!). However, after this move he didn't last very long. He was too quickly and unceremoniously let go, replaced in Detective Comics by a rotating feature of Black Lightning, Red Tornado, and the Human Target.
Since losing his ongoing feature, Man-Bat went back to guest-appearances in Batman, Detective Comics, The Brave and The Bold, and DC Comics Presents, among others.

This, then, is Man-Bat's very basic Bronze Age publishing history. With this blog series I hope to showcase all of these appearances, from 1970 through 1986. Then I have a few Post-Crisis Man-Bat appearances I want to feature, too.
Here is my current list of all major Man-Bat appearances. I own all of these and intend to go through all of them in chronological order. But I have a request! If you are a Man-Bat fan and you know of any other major Man-Bat appearances I don't have listed here, please leave a comment letting me know.

Detective Comics 400, 402, 407, 416, 429
Batman 254
The Brave & The Bold 119
Man-Bat 1-2
Detective Comics 458-459
Power Records "Robin Meets Man-Bat"
Batman Family 11-20
Detective Comics 481, 485, 492
The Brave & The Bold 165
DC Comics Presents 35
Batman 341, 342, 348
Detective Comics 527
Batman 361
Blue Devil Annual 1
Showcase-94 11
Legend of the Dark Knight Annual 5
The Batman Adventures 11, 18
Man-Bat Elseworlds mini-eries 1-3 (1995)
Man-Bat mini-series 1-3 (1996)
Robin 76-77
Scooby-Doo Team-Up 1

I have referenced the Comic-Vine Man-Bat listing, so I know that there are a few stories after Robin that I do not have. And evidently there are quite a few times where Man-Bat appeared as a flunky of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, or as a Monster Of The Week in certain series, such as Superman/Batman. I don't know if I want or need to review all of those appearances, though. So if you know of these (or other stories!) please let me know what you think. My plan is to own or to have atleast read all of Kirk's later appearances by the time I get around to choosing to review them.....! We'll see how that goes.

So I hope you like Man-Bat as much as I do, or if you haven't yet met The Most Bizarre Super-Hero Ever, I hope you stick around and get to know him!

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget Man-Bat's appearance in the Batman:The Animated Series.