Wednesday, January 17, 2018

MB26: Detective Comics #492

Detective Comics #492 (July 1980)
cover: Jim Aparo
title: "We Are Experiencing A Slight Delay..."
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Romeo Tanghal
inker: Vince Colletta
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Paul Levitz 

When Kirk gets stuck in traffic, rather than put up with it he sprouts wings and flies home. He is then surprised to find Francine and Rebecca are not at home. Francine left a note saying that they were going out but would be back at 6 pm; because it's closer to 7:30, Kirk begins to get worried. He calls Francine's friend and learns that she left her place at 5:30. Her friend wonders if Francine and Rebecca were on the subway that has gone missing? Kirk takes another pill and flies off to investigate.
Captain Daniels is not happy to see Man-Bat, but Kirk insists on helping out. Ignoring the police orders, Man-Bat flies into the subway tunnel. A bit too impetuous, he is almost hit by another subway train. Then, he comes across a trio who are clearly responsible for the subway hijacking. He makes quick work of them.
Flying on, Man-Bat finds the deserted subway train. It's smashed in and cannot move. On the train, Rebecca hears her father coming to the rescue. As Man-Bat approaches, he realizes why the people are spooked: there is a huge rat hovering around the train cars. Man-Bat grabs some newspaper and a lighter from a passenger and with his make-shift torch scares the rat away.
Later, the three men responsible for the hijacking robbery are revealed to be the motorman, conductor, and track worker. The rat is called a figment of everyone's imagination....but the tunnel where the imagined rat had run off through is walled off, just in case.   

And with that, after thirteen individual stories featuring art by some of the best artists working in comics at the time, Man-Bat ends his second solo series not with a bang but with a whimper. This is the last issue of Detective Comics that Man-Bat head-lined in. After this, Man-Bat was relegated to supporting character slash part-time menace. Clearly, editors Julius Schwartz and Paul Levitz did not appreciate Kirk Langstrom as a hero or as a private investigator; they clearly preferred him as a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde type horror character, as this is the characterization he has been shouldered with for more than 30 plus years.
So thanks to editor Al Milgrom and writer Bob Rozakis for giving us a handful of pretty good stories starring super-hero Man-Bat. Next to his debut trilogy, Man-Bat never looked or acted better than when he was a full-time Batman Family member.
Ironically (?) his last story is one of his worst. A giant sewer rat? Come on! And talking about flying through traffic might be a dream for commuters, but....where did his car go? Or did he hop off a subway? It's not clear to this mid-western boy, who finds almost nothing about this New York-centric story interesting. One bit I did like: the idea that baby Rebecca had somehow inherited her father's acute sense of hearing. Unfortunately, that would return in a rather ominous way in her next appearance.
The art, by Romeo Tanghal and Vince Colletta, is also nothing special. The layouts when Man-Bat is approaching Captain Daniels seem dull, the opposite of what should be happening when a six-foot Bat-Man flies towards or away from you. And again, perhaps because I am not from NYC, I have trouble understanding what is happening while Man-Bat is in the subway tunnel. Is there enough space for him to fly with his full wing-span between the roof of the subway car and the ceiling of the tunnel? I would think not....

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

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • This story is totally over-shadowed by one of the greatest Batgirl-Batman team-ups ever, by Cary Burkett and Don Newton. If you are a fan of Batgirl, track down this story. You will not be disappointed. 
  • This is the last appearance of Man-Bat's would-be foil, NYPD Captain Daniels. 
  • Man-Bat's private investigator partner Jason Bard does not appear in this story. 

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams


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