Man-Bat Pt. 1: Detective Comics #400
At the Gotham Museum of Natural History… after hours, Kirk Langstrom works on a night-creature habitat exhibit for its opening next month. When the curator, Mr. Wilkins, finally leaves him alone, he returns to his “real” work with live bats.
While underground in another part of Gotham City… other men have come up with a way to combat Batman’s night-fighting ability!
These criminals use “light-intensifier” goggles that allow them to see in the dark, something even Batman cannot do, and wear foam-soled shoes so no one can hear them. Nevertheless, Batman foils their plans, but when they escape, he confiscates their ultra-sonic cutting tool that can “zip through concrete and metal like cheese... without emitting a sound the human ear can detect.”
Langstrom decides to call it a night and go home, however…
My hands! They’re… they’re growing hairy like… like a bat! Even getting claw-like!
As coincidence would have it, the criminals decide to make their next robbery at… you guessed it, the Gotham Museum of Natural History! Batman can’t see in the dark or hear the men… but Man-Bat can!
When Batman compliments his awe-inspiring costume, Langstrom sobs, “I only wish it were [a costume.] He flees, leaving Batman to ponder, “He would make a formidable friend!… or foe?
Consider the irony… The only creatures that terrify me are bats. Yet, my favorite superhero is Batman and one of my favorite secondary characters is Man-Bat. There’s something really cool about Man-Bat. He’s sort of an opposite of Batman and he looks amazing!
Then again, everything looks amazing in Detective Comics #400, with art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. This is the definitive look of Batman for me and I’m not sure how much longevity Man-Bat would have had with creators other than these.
Challenge of the Man-Bat is the simple origin story of a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type character, except at this point, Kirk Langstrom is all Mr. Hyde. We don’t know if or when he will return to his human alter ego.
It’s a relatively short story with only 16 pages, sharing the issue with an 8-page Batgirl & Robin story, A Burial for Batgirl, by Denny O’Neil, Gil Kane, and Vince Colletta. At the end, a gorgeous image of Batman facing Man-Bat in front of a full moon promises we’ll see more of this new creature.
Title: Detective Comics
Issue #: 400
Cover Date: June, 1970
On Sale Date: April 30, 1970
Writer(s): Frank Robbins
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Dick Giordano
Editor: Julius Schwartz