Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MB23: Detective Comics #481

Detective Comics #481 (Dec 1978/Jan 1979)
cover: Jim Starlin (signed)
title: "The Whittles Snatch!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Don Newton
inker: Dave Hunt
colorist: Adrienne Roy
letterer: Ben Oda
editor: Allen Milgrom 

Kirk starts to tell Francine (and Rebecca) about the Whittles case in full Humphrey Bogart "Sam Spade" accent. He starts with his as Man-Bat trailing the guy who was trailing Kirk's partner, Jason Bard. Francine interrupts and asks for Kirk to start the story over at the beginning.
The adventure began when a large, balding man named Whittles walks into the Bard-Langstrom Detective Agency asking for them to try to find his wife. Whittles tells them that his wife went missing six days ago, and that he hired a few private detectives to find her. They couldn't, so he fired them and asked Police Commissioner Gordon for advice. Gordon sent him to Bard & Langstrom.
Almost as soon as he had fired the other private detectives, Whittles got a ransom note for $500,000. Whittles wants Jason to make the drop and get his wife back.

Jason makes the drop at the Gotham Giants' stadium, then Man-Bat trails the man who picks up the money. When the man parks in a down-town garage, Man-Bat flies out and scares him. It turns out that the man is one of the detectives that Whittles had fired, trying to make some fast money off of the missing wife.
The next night, Jason and Kirk go "club hopping." Whittles had told Jason that his wife had been taking dance lessons, so they think maybe she is out enjoying the night life. Sure enough, they find her, but Jason notices that someone is trailing them. So he "sends Kirk home," and when he drags Mrs. Whittle out of the club, the man trailing them makes his move. He tries to kidnap the wife for real, but Man-Bat appears again. He and Jason manage to save Mrs. Whittles and capture the would-be kidnapper. It turns out that this man is ALSO one of the private detectives that Whittles had fired, also out to make a quick buck.
Mrs. Whittles admits to her husband that she was never kidnapped; she was only bored with her husband's dull life-style. She had escaped downtown to enjoy herself away from her husband. She promises not to leave again....until she gets bored again. 

With the sudden cancellation of Batman Family, the main features of that book transferred over to Detective Comics. BatFam editor Al Milgrom was let go, and he went to work for Marvel. However,  the stories that he had already commissioned, such as this Man-Bat adventure and next issue's Bat-Mite adventure, were published in Detective Comics. 

Unfortunately, Detective Comics' editor Julius Schwartz did not have the same affection for Man-Bat that Al Milgrom had, and this story was basically the end of the Man-Bat series. He reappears in one more issue of Detective Comics as a head-liner, but that is all. This Winged Wonder is heading towards Supporting Character slash Villain territory fast.

Which is really a shame, because the idea of Man-Bat working for/with fellow-supporting character Jason Bard as a private detective feels right to me. Without the benefit of a wealthy inheritance, Man-Bat needed to WORK, and flying around trailing suspects seems like it could have opened up this series in a direction that had not been tried before. It might have gotten old, sure...especially judging on the merits of this story, which is awful. But last issues' (ie Batman Family #20's) story of weapons smuggling was genuinely interesting. Throw in a 2nd-tier super-villain every other story and we might have had something.

I remember being disappointed when Detective Comics #482 came out and Man-Bat was gone (replaced by The Demon!). DC was admitting that BatFam sold better than Detective, but was now mucking up the features of BatFam! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! (Sigh)

On a totally unrelated note,  Man-Bat needs binoculars? I guess that makes sense....his hearing is great, but his vision is bad?! 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • Due to the unforeseen cancellation of Batman Family, this issue of Detective Comics reads much like an imaginary Batman Family #21, with a second Batman adventure taking the spot of the Huntress. 
  • Also featured in this issue is a Batman mystery by Denny O'Neil and Marshall Rogers, a Robin caper by Bob Rozakis and Don Newton & Dan Adkins, a Batgirl thriller by Rozakis and Don Heck & Bob Smith, and another Batman story by Jim Starlin and P.Craig Russell. 
This story has not been reprinted. Because it is only eleven 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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