Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MB19: Batman Family #17

Batman Family #17 (May 1977)
cover: Michael Kaluta 
title: "There's A Demon Born Every Minute"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Michael Golden
colorist: Jerry Serpe
letterer: Jean Simek
editor: Allen Milgrom 

Sometimes accidents happen....the Transmatter Cube on the Justice League Satellite activated to send the Huntress back to her Earth, a freak anti-matter storm in-between the parallel worlds, and the sorceress Morgaine Le Fey's attempts to escape from her interdimensional prison all combine in a perfect way to allow her to break free and return to Earth. She immediately transports herself to Jason Blood's apartment, where she steals the Philosopher's Stone. Jason Blood, elsewhere, gets a phone call and heads towards New York City.
Meanwhile, the star of this series is at the waiting room of the maternity ward waiting for word on Francine and their baby. Suddenly, doctors and nurses rush out of a delivery room, totally freaked out. Kirk turns into Man-Bat in order to investigate. He finds a demon terrorizing a woman in the operating room. After fighting its telekinetic powers, he knocks it down and it reverts back into the woman's newborn baby....?!
When the police arrive, they have a hard time believing the facts. Jason Blood shows up to support Man-Bat's and the doctors' and nurses' stories. Kirk, worried about Francine, exits and resumes waiting. Jason Blood talks to the doctor about the phenomena of babies turning into demons when they are interrupted by a call that there is another demon baby. Blood rushes off and turns into the Demon.
The Demon faces down the baby demon, and his demon-fire is able to force the baby to revert to normal. Man-Bat, alerted to the incident, believes that the Demon is part of the problem, and flies in to attack him. However, the Demon uses his demon-fire as a type of communication to bring Man-Bat up to speed. When the police show up again, the Demon hands the normal baby over to them. He and Man-Bat fly off to confront Morgaine Le Fay.
Man-Bat is able to track her via his criminal "sonar," but when they burst into her home she is able to use the Philosopher's Stone to animate hands and incapacitate them. Thinking fast, Man-Bat reverts to Kirk and squeezes free from the magical hands. He then knocks Morgan unconscious before she can react to him in his "mortal" form. Kirk hands the Stone back to the Demon and flies off.

Back at the hospital, Kirk is shocked to meet his newborn daughter, Rebecca Elizabeth. 

This story is important in the Man-Bat mythos for a few reasons. First and most importantly, this is the story where Kirk Langstrom becomes a father! You can count on one hand the number of super-heroes who have children, especially back in 1977! And the two others that I think of immediately, Aquaman-Mera and Reed & Sue Richards, both had sons! So is Rebecca Elizabeth the first baby girl born to a super-hero parent? Not sure, but it's still a big deal. Congratulations, Kirk and Francine!

Secondly, this is the first time that Man-Bat teamed up with a super-hero (?) that isn't Batman. He had met Jason Bard a few issues ago, and now he meets another JB....Jason Blood, aka The Demon. Jack Kirby had left DC Comics by this point, but his creations were popping up in various series, including here in Batman Family!

Morgaine Le Fey appears here immediately after being sent "out of this world" in The Demon #16. Oddly enough, she is no longer wearing the clothing that she was wearing in that story! Otherwise it's as if the story is continuing, as she was also intent on using the power of The Philosopher's Stone in *that* story, too. By the way, this version of the rock is not to be confused with the weapon of Doctor Alchemy (one of the Flash's enemies) or some kid named Harry Potter.

Odder still, in this instance Jason Blood does not use the normal phrase that he always used to call forth Etrigan in his own series, namely, "Gone, gone, form of man, Rise the Demon Etrigan." Instead, Jason Blood says, "Yarva Demonicus Etrigan!" It doesn't have the same dramatic flair; I can't imagine why this was changed. Of course, I don't recall ever seeing it used again.

There are a few scenes that are somewhat difficult to understand. Story-wise, who calls Jason Blood on page 4? We never find out. Art-wise, it's hard to follow the action when Man-Bat and then the Demon are fighting their demon babies.  And maybe it's just me, but I find it almost impossible to understand the choreography when the Demon and Man-Bat confronts Morgaine Le Fey. She creates giant hands to grab them? And they squeeze? It could have been drawn more clearly, in my opinion.

On the other hand, the sequence with Man-Bat and the Demon flying over New York City was beautiful. And earlier, on page three with Morgaine appearing in one scene and then disappearing to re-appear in another panel, but still in the same pose, is fantastic. I can't really explain it, so I'm reprinting it here.
She's going from the museum to Blood's apartment in one pose! 

Still, those are minor complaints. Michael Golden is definitely creative, and Bob Rozakis has written a well-plotted and fast-moving drama.This story is a hoot, with ugly super-heroes fighting uglier demons, with the poor people in the hospital not sure just what the hell (?) was happening. This story still stands up some 40 years later. 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The cover is a classic representation of the Batman Family by Michael Kaluta. Tiny versions of this Man-Bat appeared on the next few issues of Batman Family as his "head shot." 
  • At 19 pages, this is the longest Man-Bat story to be published up to this point.  
  • The Demon was created by Jack Kirby.
This story has not been reprinted. Although it *is* 19 pages, I can't deny it to you die-hard Man-Bat/Michael Golden/Demon fans. 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 #20 which features commentary on this story.

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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