Wednesday, November 15, 2017

MB24: Detective Comics #485

Detective Comics #485 (Sept 1979)
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
title: "SST---The Super-Sonic Threat!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Don Newton
inker: Frank McLaughlin
letterer: Shelly Leferman
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Allen Milgrom 

When Man-Bat arrives home after a night patrolling the city, he wakes up his infant daughter, Rebecca. Kirk thinks maybe she has inherited his acute bat-hearing.
The next day Kirk and his partner, Jason Bard, are waiting for a client. To pass the time, Jason asks Kirk about how he first became Man-Bat. Kirk gives a brief summary of how he was working on an extract to try to become a super-hero like his hero, Batman, and how his experiments did not go in quite the way he had anticipated.
Their newest client, Mrs. Eliot arrives, asking them to track her husband. Jason refuses to work on a divorce case, but Kirk happily agrees. She tells him that her husband is coming home late saying he's working, but when she calls the office no one is there. Kirk agrees to follow her husband and tell her where he is and who he is spending time with.
That night Kirk follows Wayne Eliot as he goes to an office building in a neighborhood not likely to be the site of a romantic tryst. Changing to Man-Bat, Kirk flies up to the office window in time to see Eliot working on a tech-suit. Eliot tries it on and flies out of the window, smashing it and almost hitting Man-Bat. After Man-Bat is able to recover he follows the errant rocket-man, who is crashing windows all over town due to the sonic-boom of his rockets. Because Eliot is flying in a crazy way, Man-Bat is able to catch up to him to try to stop him. Man-Bat punches Eliot, but because the suit is steel it bounces right off. Man-Bat realizes that Eliot is not in control of the suit, so he sets up some turbulence with his wings. This causes Eliot to crash into the river.
The next morning, Man-Bat's meeting with "SST" is in all of the newspapers. Eliot wanted to become a super-hero, but the suit was too strong for him to control. Because of the nature of the news, Kirk can't charge their client with any work. Besides, he and Jason know that all of their money is going to pay off all of SST's damages.

I have no idea what the history of this story is, but re-reading it now, nearly 40 years later, it just doesn't seem very strong. Was it a rush job? Was it a fill-in? I see that it was commissioned by Allen Milgrom when he was still the editor of Batman Family. I wonder if he didn't get around to tightening it up?

Maybe I'm being too harsh on it. The splash page definitely works, with the image of Man-Bat feeding his daughter is ----dare I say it --- adorable? Then we get two pages of Kirk telling Jason his "secret origin." Maybe this was supposed to be a character-building scene, trying to show "bonding" between the two men? As it is, it seems a bit slap-dash. And the tenuous tie-in at the end....if Jason is really trying to make some point about "science gone amok!" it should have been given a bit more room than a one panel throw-away.

And if this was supposed to be some comment on Marvel's Iron Man, I don't see anything but the most basic comparisons.

As for the case, can Man-Bat not catch a break, or what? Here he is working as a private detective, and the first case he tries to "solve" on his own earns him exactly zilch.

I am a fan of Don Newton, but for some reason the art seems dull this time out. Check out those panels where Man-Bat is trying to track SST reprinted below. The first panel is a silhouette of Man-Bat in the night sky. The next is a blurry figure flying by. The next a man cursing at SST. There isn't any "flow" or real feel of action going on here. Journeyman inker Frank McLaughlin doesn't help the proceedings any, either. 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • Although Kirk's ability to become Man-Bat was not an inheritable ability, this is the first mention that the bat-serum might have had an affect on Rebecca's physiology. 
  • When Jason asks Kirk to tell him the story of how he became Man-Bat, he jokes about whether he was bitten by a radioactive bat. This is a clear reference to the origin of Spider-Man.  
  • This issue of Detective Comics features the debut of the Bronze Tiger, who went on to fame as a member of the Suicide Squad. It also features the murder of Earth-1's Kathy Kane, aka Batwoman.  
This story has not been reprinted.  I re-present it to you now in its entirety.

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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