Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MB21: Batman Family #19

Batman Family #19 (Sept 1978)
cover: Mike Kaluta (unsigned)
title: "The Once & Future Man-Bat"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Danny Bulanadi
inker: Romeo Tanghal
letterer: Clem Robins
colorist: Mario Sen
editor: Allen Milgrom

As Snafu faces who he thinks is Man-Bat at Madison Square Garden, Kirk wakes up at home to find that Francine is gone.
Snafu blinds She-Bat with his pyrotechnical show, causing her to crash. The real Man-Bat shows up in the knick of time and knocks into Snafu, but he is successful in confusing the crowd and putting them into a panic. Concerned that they will trample the unconscious She-Bat in their haste to escape, Man-Bat rescues her, allowing Snafu to get away.

Later, back at their apartment after both have transformed back to normal, Kirk confronts Francine. She doesn't believe him when he tells her that she was the "Man-Bat" on patrol the last few nights. However, as he explains she realizes that her head-ache was the result of Snafu's attack. Kirk, now firm in his commitment to continue as Man-Bat, changes again and goes out to hunt Snafu down.
Man-Bat returns to Madison Square Garden on the hunch that Snafu would return as well. Sure enough, Snafu is back, trying to complete the job that the Bats interrupted earlier. Man-Bat uses sonar to find Snafu over his bells and lights but Snafu has a new "counter-measure" device that confuses Man-Bat, causing him to crash. Snafu then uses a sonar "echo" that causes Man-Bat to see multiple images in the wrong places.
Man-Bat seems stymied until he realizes that Snafu has turned off his sound devices. So Man-Bat uses his acute hearing to follow Snafu's breathing and punches his lights out.

When Man-Bat delivers Snafu to Captain Daniels at police head-quarters and asks for the reward, Daniels is angry. He won't give any reward money to Man-Bat until all of the damages are paid for. As Man-Bat flies off, he comes upon an idea to call Jason Bard and possibly make money with him.

The most important part of this story is the series of panels on page 5 where Kirk suddenly realizes that he can't just give up being Man-Bat, and so won't. At the time it probably read like renewed determination, but today I can't help but read it as something akin to an addiction. I don't mean to imply that the bat-serum itself is addictive, but clearly Kirk is addicted to the thrill and the danger. Which is fine, but would have made for an interesting sub-plot or personality trait for him rather than the direction DC ended up going in with the character.

I also didn't much care with the one panel dismissal of Francine as She-Bat. She had been sick the second time she took the bat-serum, and then controlled by the likes of Baron Tyme and a French gargoyle the most recent times. So a quick shrug of her sleep-walking (?) nocturnal escapades seems less than prudent.

Danny Bulanadi is no Marshall Rogers or Michael Golden. His work seems stilted and dull, two adjectives you really don't want to use when describing a flying super-hero. The first few scenes of his battle with Snafu seem off, but by the time we get to pages 6 and 7, with their more psychedelic atmospheres, the art is better. Big tip of the wing to colorist Mario Sen, who makes those pages much more interesting with his choice of colors. Also, he colors Snafu in a different color scheme in each panel, which is interesting.

I like the idea of the police NOT being on Man-Bat's side, and I like the idea of Kirk wanting to talk to Jason Bard. Hopefully after this silly little two-part distraction, we can get back to straight Man-Bat action next issue.  

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The cover of this issue is symbolic of the solo Batman story. Robin and Batgirl are not involved, and this exact scene does not occur.   

This story has not been reprinted. Because it is only nine pages, I re-present it to you now in its entirety. 

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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