Detective Comics #400 (June 1970)
cover: Neal Adams (unsigned)
title: "Challenge of the Man-Bat!"
writer: Frank Robbins
penciller: Neal Adams
inker: Dick Giordano
editor: Julius Schwartz
Langstrom thinks he has perfected the bat gland-extract and tries it on himself. He is instantly bothered by the water dripping in the sink, and the brightness of the lab light. He turns the light off, then moves around in total darkness. Kirk now has natural sonar, but normal light and sound bothers him.
At the museum, Langstrom is finally on his way home when he notices that his hands have become longer and gnarled. He reaches for gloves, and suddenly his hat falls off his head. Afraid of what he will see, he rushes to a mirror and finds that he now looks more like a bat than a man! In shock, Langstrom immediately returns to his lab to start working on an antidote. He sends the curator a telegram saying he was rushing off to Chicago, and stays overnight in the museum.
This story still works, 45 years after it was originally published. The "horror" aspects of Man-Bat are strong here: a scientist works to improve on Nature for the greater good, but ends up being the victim of his own hubris. The story reminds me of the horror movie classics The Invisible Man and The Fly in that regard.
I don't know the story behind the story, but my guess is that this story was originally written as a book-length adventure. Then for some reason, it was split and published separately, here and in Detective Comics #402. I say this for two reasons: 1. this story sort of simply ends, with no real resolution; and 2. Man-Bat is shown on the cover and on the last page with wings, which he does not yet have in this story. Regardless of the reasons, Man-Bat (and Neal Adams) would be back after taking a month off.
Man-Bat Trivia Notes:
- The cover is a fantastic illustration by Neal Adams, but the city shown is clearly New York City.
- The back-up story in this issue stars Batgirl (with a cameo by Robin) by Denny O'Neil, Gil Kane, and Vince Colletta. Because the cliff-hanger is continued in the next, non Man-Bat issue, it took me years to track down and read the conclusion.
- There is a letter in this issue's letter column by fan Alan Brennert criticizing Frank Robbins' stories. Brennert, of course, grew up to write some of the most-loved Batman stories of the Eighties, as well as becoming a best-selling novelist and television screenwriter and producer.