Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MB17: Batman Family #15

Batman Family #15 (January 1978)
cover: Jim Aparo 
title: "Target: The Shotgun Sniper!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
artist: Mike Golden
colorist: Jerry Serpe
letterer: G. Saldino
editor: Julius Schwartz

Man-Bat is flying around the skies of New York City trying to get a "bead" on the Shotgun Sniper but only meets up with a guy scaring pigeons with a baseball bat on the roof of his apartment.
Later, Man-Bat stops at the 12th Precinct Police HQ and asks Captain Daniels for information on "the Sniper." Man-Bat wants the $5,000 reward, but Daniels kicks him out.
At Kirk and Francine's apartment, private investigator Jason Bard asks for Kirk. When he still isn't there, Bard insists on talking to Francine. He tells her that the three victims of the Sniper had connections to Francine. One of them was a good friend of Bard's, and so he is determined to solve the case. He thinks Kirk may actually be the Sniper, jealous of Francine's old boy-friends. Francine knows that he is not, but cannot explain to Bard without revealing that Kirk is Man-Bat.
After Francine shows him out, Jason Bard decides to wait for Kirk to arrive home by watching for him on the roof. However, as Man-Bat "arrives home" via the sky, he sees a man on a roof with a cane that Man-Bat mistakes for a rifle. So Man-Bat now thinks that *Bard* is the Sniper!
As Man-Bat swoops down on Bard, he doesn't know why he is being attacked. Francine hears Man-Bat flying around but can't see him. And none of the three knows that the actual Sniper is across the street, taking aim at one of them....! 

It is easy to re-read this story now and see that writer Bob Rozakis was probably trying to create a group of supporting characters for Man-Bat. Besides his wife Francine, Man-Bat could maybe team-up with fellow Detective Comics supporting character Jason Bard. And this was also the first appearance of a Commissioner Gordon-type police contact character, Captain Daniels, who I imagine Rozakis intended to be a mainstay in the background of the stories.

This is a well-done set up for an all-too-rare mystery story. Rozakis has introduced a serial killer who is actually NOT killing people at random. So who is it, and why is he targeting former boy-friends of Francine's? The last page is a cliff-hanger, but I'm more interested in the reveal of the murderer....!

This is one of the earliest works by extra-ordinary artist Michael Golden. He started at DC in 1977 and worked on The Batman Family features before becoming famous at Marvel for working on The Micronauts and The 'Nam.

Jason Bard made his debut in Detective Comics #392 as a private investigator who had returned as a wounded Viet Nam veteran. He started out as a supporting character in the Batgirl series in Detective before he got his own solo back-up series, off-and-on between Detective Comics #s 425 thru 435, including in #429 which featured Man-Bat in the lead feature! 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • Jason Bard was created by Frank Robbins, who co-created Man-Bat. Jason Bard made his debut eight months before Man-Bat, Detective Comics #392 vs #400
This story has not been reprinted. Because it is only nine pages, I re-present it to you now in its entirety. 
For the sake of nostalgia, I have also included the letters' page from Batman Family #18, which features commentary on this story. 

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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