Detective Comics #429 (Nov 1972)
cover: Nick Cardy
title: "Man-Bat Over Vegas!"
writer & artist: Frank Robbins
editor: Julius Schwartz
In New Mexico, an underground nuclear test blast causes after-shocks in caves near Hoover Dam. This causes schools of panic-stricken bats to fly into the dam. Later that night in Las Vegas, a dead man is found with bite marks on his neck.
This story holds a special place in my heart. It was the first issue I found when I went on my Search For Man-Bat. After coming across the character in Batman Family and his own short-lived series, I decided I wanted to have all of his appearances.... and this is the first "back-issue" of his I found. On the other, this story is not very good.
Compared to the four previous Man-Bat stories, this one flies in another direction (pardon the pun). This time the Bat-Serum is treated more like a were-wolf bite. Kirk and Francine are victims, changing when there is a full moon. A quick glance at the previous stories will show you this is NOT how the Bat-Serum had been working. We'll have to see if this interpretation of the Bat-Serum sticks in continuity, or if it was just for this one story.
As a vampire slash were-wolf story, "Man-Bat Over Vegas!" works. There is legitimate, sustained suspense as Batman encounters "the creature." There is an actual mystery and Batman's initial assumption is proven incorrect for a change. On the other hand, She-Bat is attacking him while naked; he didn't notice that he was a she? I mean, come on....! So much for being the world's greatest detective if he doesn't notice breasts or the lack of a penis on a giant bat. Likewise, Kirk sleeps through his wife's change? He must sleep really soundly.
So this story works as a vampire slash were-wolf in Las Vegas story, but not really as a Man-Bat story. Interestingly, the story reads very similarly to the 1972 TV-movie, "The Night Stalker" starring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak. This is the famous movie of a news reporter hunting down a vampire in Las Vegas. If you haven't seen it, try your local library. It's worth watching.
This is the second and last time that Frank Robbins would illustrate a Man-Bat story. His art style is not for everyone, but the dynamic fight sequences and the moodiness of the spelunking scenes are very well done. See below for what I mean.
I came across this story again in 1990 during the Tim Burton Batman craze. As part of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told it was translated into Japanese. I have a copy in Japan, so the next time I go back I will try to find it and post scans.
Man-Bat Trivia Notes:
- The back-up story in this issue stars Jason Bard by Frank Robbins, Don Heck, and Joe Giella callced "The Case of the Loaded Case."
- There is a letter in this issue's letter column by then-fan Mike W. Barr. Barr would grow up to write some of the best stories of the Eighties, including Camelot 3000 and Batman & The Outsiders.