Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MB9: Man-Bat #2

Man-Bat #2 (March 1976)
cover: Jim Aparo (signed)
title: "Fugitive From Blind Justice!"
writer: Martin Pasko
penciller: Pablo Marcos
inker: Ricardo Villamonte
editor: Gerry Conway 

Man-Bat is practicing his flying over Chicago when he is suddenly attacked by the Ten-Eyed Man. He seems to know all about Man-Bat, but Man-Bat has no idea who or what the Ten-Eyed Man is. TEM ties a belt/noose around Man-Bat's feet, so Man-Bat dives into Lake Michigan and changes back to Kirk Langstrom to escape. He unfortunately loses the extra vials of bat-serum he had, so he has to take a taxi back to his apartment.
On the ride back, he remembers how he and his wife, Francine, have moved from Gotham to Chicago, which is his old hometown. They are there because of Francine's condition. Kirk hopes to find professional medical help for his wife.

As soon as Kirk enters his apartment, he is greeted by a surprise "Welcome Home!" party. Unfortunately, Francine is feeling sick, so he quickly gets her a sedative and straps her to their bed.
Then he notices the Ten-Eyed Man on his balcony, so he takes another bat-serum to turn into Man-Bat. As they battle, Man-Bat realizes who and what he is: Paul Reardon, infamous for having optical nerves in his finger-tips.
We learn that after Batman captured the Ten-Eyed Man, he was imprisoned by having his hands locked into a box; in effect, he was blinded. He is freed from prison by the head of the Civil Liberties Association, a man named Lovell. He tells Reardon that his daughter was killed by the Blockbuster, so he wants to stop all super-powered menaces. He promises the Ten-Eyed Man that if he stops Man-Bat, he will pay for experiments to give him sonar powers similar to Man-Bat's. After Reardon leaves, he admits that he is lying and has no such plans.
The Ten-Eyed Man wants to use a magnesium flare bomb to blind Man-Bat, but Man-Bat, now armed with the knowledge of who he is fighting, uses a loose clothes-line to blind him and grab off his back-pack. Suddenly, loud music from Kirk's party panics Man-Bat, and he reflexively tosses the jet-pack away. Unfortunately, it lands on the bomb, activating it. Ten-Eyed Man reflexively shades his eyes with his hands, which blinds him. He stumbles over the edge of the roof before Man-Bat can recover and fly after him.

The story this issue is nearly a 180 degree change from the first more ways than one. The only constant here from the first issue besides Kirk and Francine themselves is editor Gerry Conway; everything else....writer, artists, location, genre, and letter page comments.....couldn't be more different.

Martin Pasko is the new writer, and Pablo Marcus is the new artist. Pasko seems willing to embrace the oddness of the character and set him up as something off-center. He handles the basic flow of the story well enough, and clearly has some ideas for directions he wants to take the characters. Pablo Marcos is more known to me as an inker, but he does a great job here making Man-Bat look more realistic than Steve Ditko did last issue. Kirk appears tall and lean; Man-Bat statuesque and lithe. I like this version better than Ditko's.

The move from Gotham City to Chicago is a good one. Like Robin and Batgirl before him, Man-Bat had no hope of ever being an independent character if he remained in Gotham. The idea that he moved back to Chicago is also logical from a continuity point-of-view: Chicago is where Kirk told other he had gone to while he actually hid out trying to cure himself of being Man-Bat.

The move to Chicago allows for the creation of a cast of supporting characters; as Man-Bat is the lead now, he needs supporting characters of his own. His younger sister, Brittney, her fiancee Ted, and the doctor they are in town to confer with in order to cure Francine all have great potential.

As for the Ten-Eyed Man....I had never heard of him when I picked up this story, which is probably the point, as he drops dead at the conclusion, and unlike the Joker I felt like he wasn't going to somehow make it. He's got a cool visual shtick, but really, he's a bit creepy. I do have real problems with the ending, though. Does a blind man really raise his hands up to protect his (non-seeing) eyes? It seems odd to me. Besides that, couldn't Man-Bat have at least tried to save the Ten-Eyed Man when he slipped off the roof? It seems odd that he just watched as Reardon fell to his death.

The Civil Liberties Association and Mr. Lovell are more problematic. Is Pasko or Conway trying to make some sort of statement about convicts' rights? I don't see how blinding a man while he is in prison is not some type of "cruel and unusual" punishment, but is that what they are arguing against? Either way, the whole reason for the Ten-Eyed Man to go after Man-Bat seems unclear. How does the CLA know so much about Kirk Langstrom? Perhaps they were setting up some long-term villainous organization to be a thorn in Man-Bat's side.

Of course, all of this discussion is academic, as Man-Bat #2 was the last issue of the series. In another lengthy letter column comment, Gerry Conway this time tells us that we will NOT have Man-Bat around to cheer on: decisions were made higher up, and Man-Bat is O-U-T. With a quick note to buy Metal Men in its place, and to check Detective Comics #458 for the story that was already scripted, this series is no more.

Similar to last month, in the interests of history we re-present the letter column in its entirety below:

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The Ten-Eyed Man made his debut in Batman #226. He appeared once more, in Batman #231, before dying in this story. 
  • The Ten-Eyed Man was created by Frank Robbins, who also co-created Man-Bat. 
  • Kirk seems to go from shirtless to shirted and back again over the course of pages 8 and 9. 
  • Man-Bat is shown taking the bat-serum underwater, which seems like it would be impossible. At the very least the serum or its effects should have been....watered down.  
This story has never been reprinted.

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

1 comment:

  1. Somewhere along the way on that taxi ride back to his apt., Kirk seems to have borrowed Barnabas Collins' Inverness cape.