Man-Bat #1 (January 1976)
cover: Jim Aparo (Ernie Chua?)
title: "Beware The Eyes of Baron Tyme!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Al Milgrom
editor: Gerry Conway
As discussed in our last installment, this solo Man-Bat series got *huge* press for its first issue release. It seemed to be the jewel of the "Conway Corner" group of new titles, including a return of the Golden Age All-Star Comics and Blackhawk (which got their own joint ad the next month). And yet, it ended up running only two issues.
The story itself is good, although there is a somewhat "rushed" feel to it. How does She-Bat know where to find her targets? She is following the mental manipulation of Baron Tyme, but...how does HE know that Professor Arthur is walking down that particular street at that time? If Baron Tyme had already killed sufficient number of victims, what exactly is he doing when Man-Bat interrupts him in the tower? These types of questions only pop up after several reads, however. Initially the story trusts in adrenaline and drama to get to its climax. It is not badly done.
Nor is the art anything to complain about. Although the poster art seems more "dramatic," the art in the story itself seems more "cartoony." Steve Ditko often straddles the line in his style between serious art and cartoony art. It is generally serious here, but I still think that perhaps inker Al Milgrom put more work into the poster pose than in the issue itself. Just take a look at several of Man-Bat's close-ups presented here to see what I mean. It's not bad; far from it, but I think a little stronger inker might have made the story look a little bit more moody and atmospheric.
That being said, Steve Ditko's Batman is all about the moody and atmospheric! Of the 22 times he appears in this story, only twice is his face not hidden or in shadow. This is a very nice version of the Caped Crusader. I wish we had seen more.
With this issue Man-Bat and Batman part ways, not to team-up again for several years. Man-Bat has up until this point been tied to the Caped Crusader. After "flying alone!" with this story, Man-Bat is no longer just another Batman Family supporting cast member.
Atleast, that was the plan.
With no letters of comment to print in the letter column, Gerry Conway writes a history of the character, siting his previous seven appearances. For historical purposes, the page is reproduced in its entirety. Astute readers will see that I circled the appearances as I managed to track them down. In case you are curious, B&B #119 was the last one I needed to complete my collection.
Man-Bat Trivia Notes:
- The cover illustration of Man-Bat is clearly by Jim Aparo, but the Batman figure looks more like an Ernie Chua (Chan) re-do than classic Aparo.
- The cover scene does not appear in the story.
- The director of the Natural History Museum, Mr. Wilkins, makes his last appearance in this story.
- Batman references the events of Detective Comics #429 as having occurred "last year."
- Man-Bat received his $100,000 reward in The Brave & The Bold #119, erroneously referenced as B&B #121 in this story.