Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MB15: Batman Family #13

Batman Family #13 (Sept 1977)
cover: Jim Aparo (signed)
title: "The Man Who Melted Manhattan!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
pencillers: Marchall Rogers and Don Newton
inker: Bob Wiacek
colorist: Jerry Serpe
editor: Julius Schwartz 

As shown at the end of last issue, Batgirl and Robin mounted their respective motor-cyles and then found themselves shackled to them as they took off under their own power. In New York City they race towards each other, only narrowly escaping colliding into each other due to their riding skills.
Eventually they escape from this death-trap, and realize that they are facing the Outsider.
That night, Kirk and Francine Langstrom are watching the news about his fight with the were-jaguar. Kirk is non-plussed to hear that the Mayor gives Man-Bat his thanks, but no reward. Kirk then turns into Man-Bat and flies out for his nightly patrol. As soon as he flies off, someone comes to the door looking for him.
Man-Bat, using his radar ability, comes across the Sunset Gang again and quickly captures them. This time, he is careful to not let them change him back into a Uturuncu (were-jaguar). As soon as the Gang is defeated, he faces "Mr. O" himself, the Outsider. He grabs the moon, or appears to, and when it collides with Man-Bat Kirk is split into two: a separate were-jaguar now chases after him!
The Outsider somehow prevents Man-Bat from flying, so he runs to the American Museum of Natural History. He dives off of a dinosaur skeleton then runs into an exhibit of Atlantean artifacts, where the were-jaguar corners him. The Outsider hears screaming and believes that Man-Bat has been killed.
Later, the Outsider captures Robin and Batgirl and threatens to have the were-jaguar that used to be Man-Bat kill them. However, Man-Bat actually managed to "kill" the were-jaguar and then pretend to be the feline so that he could get close enough to rescue the Dynamite Duo.
The Terrific Trio then faces the Outsider again, and this time they are able to use the same "magic" flash-light that separated Man-Bat and were-jaguar on the Outsider. It successfully splits the Outsider and Alfred, who then knocks the villain off the George Washington Bridge. Exhausted, Man-Bat leaves the clean-up details to Robin and Batgirl, flying home to Francine.

This is the first in-continuity meeting between Man-Bat and Robin and Batgirl. Although Robin famously met Kirk in the Power Records comic from 1976, it can be argued that as a non-DC story it is not in-continuity. On the other hand, when the Outsider tells Robin and Batgirl that Man-Bat has been killed, Robin specifically reacts as if he knows (or atleast knows of?) Man-Bat. Due to the nature of the plot, no introductions are shown, so we can't be sure.

This is probably one of the more weird DC mainstream stories of the mid-Seventies. I remember reading the part where the Outsider literally pulls down the moon thinking, WTH? And of course, I had no idea who the Outsider was when I read this story. There was a mini-explanation of who he was at the back of the book, but clearly the Outsider was not a great Batman villain. A super-powered possessed Alfred Pennyworth? Moving on....

This story is a milestone for several reasons, not the least of which was it is the first time that Robin comes out and clearly says that he has a crush on Batgirl and can see himself falling in love with her. She, unfortunately, was asleep when he made this confession, but that doesn't stop it from being true.

From a strict Man-Bat point of view, this story was also a milestone because it was the first time that Kirk Langstrom is considered a full member of "the Batman Family" by the bad guy and the Dynamite Duo. Their team-work was good, and as a fan of all three of these characters, I always hoped for a re-meet. Unfortunately, they never met each other again (as far as I can recall).

The main story's art is handled by Don Newton, while the Man-Bat chapter is drawn by Marshall Rogers. Rogers dropped the Man-Bat series with this issue, as he moved over to the main Batman feature in Detective Comics (from #471). Even now, the Steve Englehart-Marshall Rogers-Terry Austin Batman series is considered one of the classic runs of the character. Marshall Rogers had a very dynamic design style, making his pages a joy to read. Don Newton's work is more "standard," but is in no way bad. In fact, the fight scenes on George Washington Bridge are choreographed quite well.

Unfortunately, the story is insane. Man-Bat pretended to be a were-jaguar by throwing on a leopard-skin rug?!?

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • This story features the first in-continuity meeting between Robin, Batgirl, and Man-Bat. Robin met Man-Bat in the Power Records story, "Robin Meets Man-Bat!" profiled here.  
  • The mayor of New York City at the time of this story was Abraham Beame, who served from 1974~1977. The much more famous Ed Koch started his term in January 1978, then served for twelve years. 
  • The news program that Kirk and Francine are watching references the indictment for murder facing Doll-Man, as shown in Freedom Fighters #10-12.
  • The word "uturuncu" is Incan for "jaguar." 
  • One of the extra features in this story is "Robin's New Uniform," presenting fan ideas for a new Robin outfit. One of the fan artists is future Batman artist Norm Breyfogle. The page is re-presented below. 
This story has not been reprinted. Because it is only ten pages, I re-present it to you now in its entirety. Also, I include the pertinent pages from the Man-Bat-Robin-Batgirl team-up as well. And I include the letters' pages from Batman Family #15 which features commentary on this story.

Bottom left illustration is by future Bat-Artist Norm Breyfogle! 
Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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