Monday, May 26, 2014

Ain't a Rubber Mask Big Enough to Hide Those Ears! Detective Comics 407

Detective Comics #407 (January 1971)(cover by Neal Adams)
"Marriage: Impossible"
Frank Robbins-Neal Adams/Dick Giordano

Doug: Here we are, back with another Man-Bat tilt in the pages of Detective Comics. About two weeks ago I set out to review 'tec #400 and then realized, in all my glorious senility, that I'd already reviewed it! So I flipped through a few pages in my hardcover copy of Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, volume 2, and found the next Man-Bat story -- 'tec #402. The last story was so good, and had a nice cliffhanger (Man-Bat laying unconscious on the floor of the Batcave), so I wanted to satisfy my own curiosity. And hey -- by today's title, you can see that one of true loves in the life of a BABer is coming up. The rubber mask.

Doug: If you'll recall, back in Detective #400, Kirk Langstrom got himself into this mess while creating a bat exhibit for the Gotham City Museum of Natural History. On this day, as Batman peruses the newspaper he finds that Langstrom's work is finally set to be unveiled to the public. Even more attention-grabbing is the next paragraph in the story where the writer tells that Langstrom will marry his childhood sweetheart, Francine Lee. Batman's off to the church as quickly as he can go. I found it odd that on the way, Batman thought to himself that Langstrom was "the deluded genius who secretly turned himself into a Man-Bat!" OK, I suppose Langstrom did do it to himself, and I suppose it was his fantasies of being like the Batman that caused him to research the possibilities, but what struck me about this line was Batman's former sympathy and genuine concern for Langstrom in the previous installment of this story. As the clergyman is about to pronounce Langstrom and Lee husband and wife, the Dark Knight swoops in and grabs... you guessed it -- a rubber mask off of Langstrom's head, exposing him as a Man-Bat!

Doug: Man-Bat took off to the heights of the cathedral, while his would-be bride burst into tears. Batman asked her why she was so upset -- that surely she could not have thought of going after Langstrom in his present form. Francine told Batman that if he thought her love for Langstrom ended that night not too long ago, he was wrong. The Dark Knight then thought back to that fateful night in the Cave, when Langstrom lay prostrate on the floor, his head battered by the closing door to the Cave as he'd sought to escape. Batman, knowing Langstrom had wanted an antidote to his present condition, took it upon himself to try to duplicate the serum. But where he went wrong was in talking to himself as Langstrom came back around. It would seem that the Man-Bat took exception to being called a "creature" -- the blow to the head had unseated Langstrom's former consciousness and left him an angry Man-Bat, now seeing things quite differently than he had only hours earlier. This Man-Bat saw Batman as inferior to him as a man, and as a bat. This Man-Bat had animosity on his mind.

Doug: Batman's alarmed at Langstrom's last comment as he left the Cave -- that he wanted to be a Man-Bat. Knowing he could not talk Langstrom down in the current state of affairs, Batman left the Cave to get Francine. Perhaps she could coax her fiancee from the shadows. But it was no go -- Langstrom had evidently fled the Cave through the same crevice he'd used to enter. Batman dropped Francine back at her home, and left a phone number at which he could be reached in an emergency. But soon after their parting, Francine heard scratching on her window pane. It was the Man-Bat, silently asking her to let him inside. She complied, and Langstrom started right in with a challenge to her -- could she look at him without being repulsed? She said yes, and leaped into the arms of the Man-Bat. But she hinted that she wanted him to change back to a human form; this angered Langstrom and began to show us the deepness of his mental changes. She offered to call the Batman for the antidote, but Langstrom ripped the number from her hands and destroyed it. Not only was he volatile, but borderline hostile. He asked Francine to unequivocally prove her love for him.

Doug: Francine was charged with going to the Museum and presenting the director with a request from Langstrom -- feigning illness, Langstrom had written a note requesting that Francine have access to his laboratory. The director complied, and Francine was able to gather a large case of materials to bring to Langstrom. We're not clear as to what exactly she brought, but let's just say that the next time we see Kirk Langstrom he is no longer a Man-Bat but his old self. You guessed it again -- the BEST rubber mask ever crafted! You get a look at that Man-Bat dude's ears? How in the world would you tuck those under a rubber mask?? So Langstrom goes to the Museum himself, and greets his boss. He requests to be able to finish the exhibit and then promptly slams the door in the guy's face. Once inside the gallery, he removes his mask and talks to the stuffed bats as if they were real. Bonkers...

Doug: Back at the cathedral, Francine finishes relating this chain of events to the Batman. She says that she is going to call Langstrom back to the altar and marry him. Batman tells her that her marriage would be a mockery; and then I think Frank Robbins left the typewriter and Bob Haney sat down, because Francine suddenly removes a rubber mask to reveal that she is a She-Bat!! Holy Coyote-Ugly, Batman -- it's the NEW best rubber mask ever crafted! The Dark Knight recoils in shock, as Francine's leathery arms suddenly appear from beneath her long-sleeved wedding gown. She takes to the shadows high in the cathedral's rafters, looking for her mate.

Doug: Batman barely evades a huge chandelier sent crashing his way by Langstrom, and then tries to figure out a way to get to the two bats before they fly off. Our hero truly wants to help them, but if they get out of the church, his chances are about nil. He quickly elevates to the bell tower -- the only place with open windows. As he arrives, Francine attacks from below by ringing the bell, throwing Batman off-balance. At about the same time Langstrom attacks, making Batman drop the vial of antidote he'd carried. But in a desperate effort to reacquire it, the Caped Crusader stretched his arm as he'd never stretched before and grabbed it. Taking it strongly in his right hand, he was able to jab it into Langstom's leg. As Francine moved in for the supplemental attack, he swung the needle at her, also connecting. The two bats fell to the landing of the bell tower, and slowly began to revert to their human form. And with their change in form came a change in their psyches. They were human again, and Kirk apologized to his fiancee for what he'd put her through. The Batman had been successful in his goal to heal Dr. Kirk Langstrom.

Doug: Although separated by eight issues and seven months, this 3-parter was really a lot of fun. As I remarked in my previous review, I had no prior experience with Frank Robbins' writing, but found him more than capable in handling the adventures of the Dark Knight. Of course I poked fun at the big reveal of Francine, but Neal Adams' rendition of that scene was just great. Really, we could perceive the Man-Bat character as a horror derivative, and Adams really hit a home run on that single panel. I'd recommend this "series" to anyone who digs Man-Bat; for most of us, I would guess our main exposure to the character came in the pages of The Batman Family. And oh how I wish I still had those in my collection!


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity I'm wondering what happened to the picture at the top of the home page changing every month? Now it seems to be two alternating Alex Ross pictures - surely John Buscema or Jack Kirby would be more appropriate for a Bronze age blog and the photo-realistic style of Alex Ross is very un-Bronze age. Just saying :)

david_b said...

Actually..., ditto what Colin said. Back to a vintage Bronze shot would be nice.

As for today, not to hijaak but my humble thanks to all who serve to keep our freedom protected and strong. America is still the strong beacon of freedom and democracy to all who seek it.

Very nice story today, like most my recollections of Man-Bat are primarily through the Batman Family back-up stories. Once again, an outstanding Adams cover.

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, Doug, you're really getting me interested in these stories - more so than I normally would be. Like I said, I had the Power Records book which sort of mashed up all three of these stories, but also - as far as I know - with new material.
The Neal Adams Batman book is a bit pricey for me, but I'm now seriously considering that 1984 special edition one-shot that reprints these.

And Colin, I can't speak for Karen or Doug, but I think the masthead pics can be explained by the fact that they're both fans of Ross - and hey, it's their blog. And while I would agree that an image by Big John would be more appropriate for a Bronze Age site, there's many other artists I'd pick over Kirby (e.g. Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, Byrne, Perez, Staton...).

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, and Doug, I hear you about wishing you still had your Batman Family issues. The last four or five issues in particular (I think I had two of them) were really outstanding, virtually from cover to cover. Unfortunately, it seems like they're pretty hard to find now, especially for a reasonable price.

Doug said...

Let me first echo David's sentiment toward those who serve and to those families who have lost a loved one in service -- my gratitude, a humble "thanks", as well as my condolences.

Now, in much less important matters, I guess they say that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I'm not sure that translates to "even negative feedback is feedback". The mastheads that we use, of which there have only been two for the past 6 months or so, were a) created by our resident graphic designer Dr. Osvaldo Oyola and b) contain images that Karen and I think are pretty sweet. Thank you to Edo for defending us, even though we know you're not the biggest Ross fan. That was very nice of you to do that.

But let it never be said that we don't consider what floats our readers' boats. I have a large stock of images by John Buscema and other artists. I will petition our pal Osvaldo to see what magic he can work, and maybe you'll see a different masthead in the coming weeks.

But sheesh -- I work my butt off on today's post, we have to reorganize the blog over the past two weeks due to trying personal circumstances -- still attempting to make sure we maintain a high level of appeal -- and my Monday starts with a gripe about Silver Age Marvel?

It could have been Aquaman...


Dr. Oyola said...

The art in this story looks great! I may never get to read these, but like I said Man-Bat reminds me of the Lizard - I may go back and read some Lizard stories today.

Speaking of art, I am working on that selection of Aquaman, Venom vs. Carnage and New 52-themed headers like you asked, Doug. ;)

Edo Bosnar said...

All I can say Osvaldo, is there better be some Liefeld in that selection, or I'll be seriously miffed!

Garett said...

Great shot of Man-Bat flying on page 4. Adams' compositions seem a little off compared to the last issue though--the panel arrangement on page 3 seems awkward, and the camera angles on page 14 could show the action better. The last page looks like it could have more effective compositions and panel shapes too. But, it's a treat to see Neal Adams anyway!

You mentioned Bob Haney's writing. Check out Brave and Bold 119 for a cool Batman/Man-Bat teamup with great Jim Aparo art.

Doug said...

OK, to you masthead grumps, it's been changed. Jazzy Johnny Romita's depiction of Cap from the 1976 Marvel Bicentennial Calendar Bronze Age enough for ya?

Many thanks to Osvaldo for dropping everything he was doing on his day off and rigging this up. He's a DOCTOR for crying out loud -- how many days off do you think he gets??

It does look awesome, doesn't it? Thanks, Dr. Oyola!


Doug said...

Garett --

I have another Haney-penned Super Sons story in the queue for a solo review. However, having read through a few of those stories I may back out. If I do, I'll switch to the Man-Bat story you suggested. Heck, I may end up doing both and will get a lot of Zany in a short period of time!


Anonymous said...

Oops, I didn't mean to spoil anybody's day but that Captain America image looks fantastic - a million times better than that cold, soulless Alex Ross stuff. Thanks Doug and Osvaldo.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, I wasn't one of the masthead grumps (or was I?!) but I do like the new one. Great job, Osvaldo.
It's not this masterpiece, but it'll do ... :o

Dr. Oyola said...

Edo, I will work that image into the next one. . . ;)

As for my day off - it's like any other day - I do research for a living right now as I gear up for going on the tenure track academic job market, and work on academic articles for publication, so I make my own schedule and bill my hours. . . not a big deal to take some time out to make a new header. I like doing it, not like I do it for the money ;)

It is not as if I am the life or death kind of doctor. :)

Anonymous said...

Doug, I know I've mentioned many times that I was the classic Marvel Zombie but I must admit that your enthusiasm for DC shines through in your reviews. A big "Thanks Dude" to you and to Groovy. Thanks to both "youse guys" I've read more DC stuff this year than I've read in my whole life. Today I even pulled out my SHAZAM Treasury Edition and re-read that. I may pull out my Superman's Bicentennial Battles for after dinner.

And to echo everyone else on this day, a huge "Thanks" to all those who have not only served but paid the ultimate price for us all.

And a personal "thanks" to those GIs that shared their Sgt Rocks, Haunted Tanks and Kamandis with me.

The Prowler (wearing his red white and blue underoos today).

Doug said...

Thanks, Prowler!

I, too, was a Marvel zombie as a child, but did dabble regularly in Batman, Teen Titans, Green Lantern, the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and of course Superboy and the Legion. But my Marvel buying always dominated my allowance. Karen and I (almost) since the dawn of this blog have known we are Marvel-heavy in our reviewing. We've made a conscious effort to get some DCs into our library of reviews. In fact, just last week I did a check-up and discovered that our library is around 22% non-Marvel. I guess that's not bad, compared to where we began. But I have way more Marvels in my collection than DCs.

But thanks again -- that's nice of you to say. Made my day!


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