Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MB22: Batman Family #20

Batman Family #20 (November 1978)
cover: Jim Starlin (signed)
title: "Private Eye Man-Bat!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Michael Golden
inker: Josef Rubinstein
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Jerry Serpe
editor: Allen Milgrom 

Man-Bat is flying over Gotham City, back in town in order to talk to Batman. He finds the Caped Crusader fighting a group of self-styled terrorists calling themselves Gotham Guerillas. Man-Bat helps Batman by taking out the sniper on the roof. After the police take the terrorists away, Man-Bat asks Batman for a recommendation.
Later, Man-Bat flies out to Jason Bard's house to talk to the private detective. He changes back into Kirk Langstrom and, without telling Jason about his secret identity, asks for a job as a partner. Jason drills him on his lack of experience, but then Kirk suggests that Jason contact Batman for a personal recommendation. Jason is intrigued, but doesn't promise Kirk anything and escorts him out.
Kirk watches and waits outside Jason's home and then tails Jason into Long Island Suffolk County. Jason is spying on a group of thugs but is captured. Jason and Kirk realize that the criminals are waiting for a small airplane to arrive when the thugs promise to throw Jason off of it into the ocean.
Kirk shows himself and with Jason's help they turn the tables on the ground forces. Jason, however, is afraid that the pilot and "the goods" will get away. Kirk then switches to Man-Bat and flies around the airplane, causing it to crash-land. Kirk learns that he has helped Jason stop another arm of the Gotham Guerrillas. Jason happily welcomes Kirk as partner. 

Is it because I really like Man-Bat, or does this story REALLY make sense? You have a character whose basic power set is to track people; of course he should be a private investigator. I remember thinking when I first read this story that this was a fantastic idea.

The art by Michael Golden and Josef Rubinstein is also fantastic. Given a few extra pages, they really make the scene where Kirk asks Jason for a job look good. Then the tracking scene also is well drawn out (and drawn). Looks like somebody probably lived in Long Island Suffolk County, the way the highway and scenery looks.

The coloring, too, was great. Look especially at page 13 (above) where the coloring and shadowing is excellent. The only complaint I have on the graphic side is that some of the dark, moody scenes don't look as good as they could because of the quality of the paper. The shadows and dark patches seem to be absorbed too much into the page. I sure wish some of these stories were re-printed on better paper or digitally remastered.

Story-wise, I am a bit confused as to why Kirk didn't just come right out and tell Jason that he was Man-Bat. I guess he was trying to maintain his secret identity?  And then when facing the murderous thugs, he switches BACK to Kirk Langstrom? Wouldn't it have been simpler to just stay Man-Bat? I thought that was kind of silly, since he ended up turning back into Man-Bat right in front of Jason Bard after all. I could have used a bit more explanation at the end. And speaking of the end, what exactly is going on in that last panel? Anybody have any ideas? 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The cover is a fantastic illustration by Jim Starlin featuring the entire (Earth-1) Batman Family, also featuring Ragman. It's my favorite Batman Family cover by far. 
  • The neon sign for the Nouveau Supper Club in Gotham City features "Larry Hama and C (Cary) Burkett (page 2). 
  • Also featured in this issue is the first meeting between Batman and Ragman by David V. Reed and Michael Golden & Bob Smith, Batgirl and Robin teaming-up with Red Tornado and Elongated Man by Bob Rozakis and Don Heck & John Celardo, and the Huntress by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton & Bob Layton. 
  • This is the last issue of Batman Family. 
This story has not been reprinted. Although it is 13 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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