Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MB16: Batman Family #14

Batman Family #14 (October 1977)
cover: Jim Aparo (signed)
title: "Cinemattack!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Howard Chaykin
inker: Josef Rubenstein
colorist: Jerry Serpe
letterer: Milt Snapinn
editor: Julius Schwartz 

Our story begins in the apartment of Ambrose Robertson, who is watching the late-late show "Monster Mayhem" at 4 am. He is a monster fanatic who has the tools to fight any real-life monsters. In-between commercials he happens to see Man-Bat arrive back at his apartment, which happens to be right above Ambrose's.
Man-Bat changes back to Kirk and tells his wife, Francine, about his evening. He made $110 fro stopping a mugging and rescuing a runaway poodle. As they head to bed, Francine tells Kirk that "that man" came by again to talk to him. She couldn't remember his name, "Bart" or "Bard" or something.

Downstairs, Ambrose prepares to exorcise the bat-demon from the poor man who lives upstairs.

The next night, as Man-Bat returns to his apartment again, Ambrose calls him over. He has wired his fire escape to shock "the demon," and it works. Ambrose drags a stunned Man-Bat into his apartment.
Man-Bat begins to revive and they fight. Ambrose uses a crucifix, but of course Man-Bat isn't affected. When Ambrose uses a flame-thrower, he accidentally catches his own curtains on fire, which Man-Bat puts out. Ambrose tosses water on Man-Bat, then freezes him with liquid oxygen.

Downed, Man-Bat listens as Ambrose begins chanting in order to exorcise him. Man-Bat decides the easiest thing to do is to convince Ambrose that he succeeded, so he discretely takes his pill to revert back to Kirk Langstrom. As Man-Bat returns to normal, Ambrose faints.

This story is an adorable little throw-away portrait about mental illness in the DC Universe.

Think about it: in a world where you know that aliens exist as well as "creatures" such as Swamp Thing and the Outsider, how do you gauge mental health? Is it really "crazy" to think that you see vampires or ghosts, when such things really do seem to exist? So what *would* happen if you happened to live in the same apartment complex as a vampire, or a super-hero, or Man-Bat? If you are a movie-loving "nerd," you would try to be a hero like Batman, right?

That being said, Kirk's solution to his dilemma is wonderfully creative and absolutely the right thing to do. The art by Howard Chaykin, fresh off the first four issues of some Marvel series called Star Wars, delivers a fresh, straight forward story-telling that anchors the "fantasy" to a semblance of reality (or whatever reality we have of a man-bat creature fighting against a movie fanatic).

I would also like to point out the references to classic horror movies that writer Bob Rozakis tosses into the dialogue: there's the original The Thing (1951), King Kong (1933), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and Godzilla (1954). 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • This is the first Man-Bat story to give credit to its letterer. 
  • WGNY is currently an FM station in Rosendale, New York. 
  • Cosmo Puree's Greatest Hits is the album being sold during "Monster Mayhem." 
  • Long-time fans of Detective Comics will recognize the name of the man who visited Francine. He finally shows up in person next issue. 
This story has not been reprinted. Because it is only nine pages, I re-present it to you in its entirety. For the sake of nostalgia, I have also included the letters' page from Batman Family #16 which features commentary on this story.

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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