Wednesday, December 20, 2017

MB25: Super Friends #28

Super Friends #28 (Jan 1980)
cover: Ramona Fradon & Bob Smith (signed)
title: "Masquerade of Madness"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Ramona Fradon
inker: Vince Colletta
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Jerry Serpe
editor: Julius Schwartz 

Batman and Robin, as their celebrity philanthropist identities of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, are attending a charity Halloween party dressed as themselves! They brought along the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, as well.
Suddenly, Felix Faust, master of black magic, bursts into a rich Halloween party in Gotham City. The sorceror has used his mystical powers to keep all of the guests trapped in their Halloween costumes until they arrange to have their jewels delivered to him. For example, he calls out Bruce Wayne, who owns the Temple Sapphire that Faust wants. Batman and Robin attempt to stop Faust, but his magic is too much for them.
That's Wolfman Jimmy next to the would-be Demon

Jimmy Olsen is also at the party, dressed (?) as Wolfman Jimmy. He sneaks the Wonder Twins away from the main hall to try to come up with a strategy to beat Faust. They call-in the remaining Super Friends, who meet up with Batman and Robin.
The five main Super Friends burst back in to the hall to knock out Faust and break his spell. However, Faust orders five of the more monstrous guests made-up as Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, the Demon, Swamp Thing, and Man-Bat to defend him.

The guest made up as Man-Bat attacks Robin. Although Robin admits that this is not the real Kirk Langstrom, this Man-Bat is still strong enough and fast enough to defeat the Teen Wonder.
As the Super Friends battle the magic-controlled guests, Jimmy Olsen and the Wonder Twins face Felix Faust and succeed in knocking him out. As planned, this breaks Faust's spell, and "Man-Bat" and the other guests are freed. 

As soon as the story begins, it becomes clear that the cover image is not *quite* a true representation of what is going on in the story. That isn't REALLY Man-Bat facing off against Robin. I was already going to buy this story because of Aquaman, but I wonder how many would-be Man-Bat fans saw this and bought it thinking that was really Kirk Langstrom, then were disappointed to find out it wasn't really him.

DC certainly did want to try to make fans buy this book, though. Here is the house ad that ran in DC comics on sale at about the same time as this issue:
I remember thinking at the time, "Somebody would really spend the time and money to dress up as these guys?" I mean, this was years before CosPlay, and come on, Jack Kirby's Demon is PRETTY obscure!

So I originally was not going to review this story in my Man-Bat Files. After I thought about it for a while, though, I decided that DC *was* selling this as a Man-Bat appearance, AND there wasn't a whole lot of other options going on at the time, we are!

Other than the issue of identity, this story works pretty well. I like how Man-Bat, even though he isn't the "real deal," is still powerful enough to defeat Robin. In fact, the only Super Friend who does well in this story is Wonder Woman, who is able to use her magic lasso to break the spell against the Demon.

Ramona Fradon does a good job on Man-Bat, as well as on the other "Fearsome Fiends," although I have to say I'm not a big fan of her Solomon Grundy. He looks too pug-nosed and short to me. Of course, it really isn't him, so.....oh, never mind.

When I met Ms. Fradon and had her sign my copy of this comic, she told me that she had enjoyed drawing these different characters. She did have a few choice comments to make about inker Vince Colletta (she preferred Bob Smith) and about writer E. Nelson Bridwell, though!

This story has been reprinted in the following:
Super Friends: Truth, Justice, and Peace TPB (2003)

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • Although the cover makes it look like Batman will face-down the Swamp Thing, that job actually falls to Aquaman. Solomon Grundy takes on the Caped Crusader.
  • Bridwell reminds us in this story that Jimmy Olsen knows the secret identities of Batman and Robin, but not of Superman. This information shocks the Wonder Twins, who know all of their secrets. 
Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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