Man-Bat Pt. 2: Detective Comics #402
Gotham City… in the lab office of Biochem, Ltd., wholesaler of rare biochemicals… where an intent heist-gang works, unaware of a silent watcher hanging poised above them…
Batman recognizes Man-Bat and assumes he’s come to help him again, like he did in the Museum of Natural History (see Detective Comics #400.) However, when Man-Bat tells him he’s there because he wants the contents of the safe, a skirmish between the two ensues.
Meanwhile, at the museum…
When Batman and Francine burst in on Kirk in his lab, Man-Bat curses him for revealing what he has become to his wife. Little does he know that Batman, being the world’s greatest detective and all, figures out what Kirk was trying to accomplish and heads to the Batcave where he believes he has the essential elements for compounding a counter-active gland stimulant.
Still fleeing, Man-Bat flies into a cave to hide. As coincidence would have it, it’s not just an ordinary cave; yep, it’s the Batcave!
As a battle escalates, a groggy Batman uses the remote control on his utility belt to bring the Batmobile to him. It hits Man-Bat, sends him flying, and knocks him unconscious. Batman is faced with what he considers an “impossible decision”…
And therefore we ask:
As the story begins, we’re not sure, as Batman wondered in Detective Comics #400, whether Man-Bat is friend or foe:
Friend. When Man-Bat sees the robbers open the safe, he says he’s going to make a grand entrance like his idol, Batman, and scare them off.
Foe. When Batman arrives, Man-Bat tells him it was in his own selfish interest to stop the robbers. “There’s something in that safe I must have – fast!”
Friend. Man-Bat says that he’s prepared to pay for what he takes.
Foe. When Batman tells him there’s no way to buy what he wants, Man-Bat is forced to fight.
Friend. Man-Bat asks Batman not to make him do it and asks forgiveness in advance.
Foe. Man-Bat gives Batman a beat-down, slamming the safe door into his head.
When we learn that Man-Bat, aka Kirk Langstrom, is simply trying to collect the ingredients he hopes will reverse his transformation, he becomes either an anti-hero or a sympathetic villain, or both.
Man, I love this story! It offers all kinds of twists and turns as Batman and Man-Bat play the game of figuring out what each other is all about. And as long as Adams and Giordano are doing the art, I’m going to keep praising it. I mean, look at this:
It’s just beautiful! I said it once, and I’ll say it again, this is my definitive Batman.
How did readers like this new character at the time? The consensus in the letter column of Detective Comics #404, was that stories by Frank Robbins had been hit or miss, but with the combination of artwork by Neal Adams, they had become, as Guy H. Lillian III said, “truly beautiful.”
Martin Pasko, a reader who would begin working for DC in 1973 writing Superman (and who frequently provided feedback to comics which Julius Schwartz edited) wrote, “… so effective an integration of good plot, good art, and appropriate nocturnal “feelings" that it may well be termed THE definitive “atmosphere story…”
Alan Brennart, a reader who would begin working for DC in 1977 plotting Wonder Woman, wrote, “The Man-Bat can well become an excellent supporting character – but only as a sometimes-friend sometimes-foe. Any one direction will cause stagnation."
Mike W. Barr, a reader who would begin working for DC in 1980 writing Batman (and who became extremely prolific in the 1980s) also wrote; however, he commented on the Batgirl story, A Burial for Batgirl!, not the Man-Bat story.
Title: Detective Comics
Issue #: 402
Cover Date: August, 1970
On Sale Date: June 30, 1970
Writer(s): Frank Robbins
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inker: Dick Giordano
Editor: Julius Schwartz