Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Detective Comics #402

Detective Comics #402 (On Sale: June 30, 1970) has a great cover by Neal Adams.

The Man-Bat returns in "Man or Bat?" by Frank Robbins, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. The story opens with some thugs pulling a heist at a biochemical lab. what they don't know is that hanging in the rafters above them lurks the tormented Kirk Langstrom, now even more bat than the last time we saw him in the classic Detective #400. He waits in an agitated state for them to crack the safe below so that he can get what he so desperately needs. But just when it seems the hour of his saving is at hand Batman appears to break up the heist. When the Man-Bat appears to join him in thwarting the crime, Batman calls him a friend, but when Man-Bat reveals that he needs something from the safe, something he has brought money to pay for, Batman tries to stop him.

When Batman tries to unmask Kirk he realizes that he is not wearing a mask, but is truly a transformed human. Still he tries to stop the Man-Bat, but is knocked unconscious in the scuffle and Kirk departs with the drug he came looking for.

When he awakens, Batman heads off for the museum when he first met the Man-Bat hoping there to find a clue to his identity. When he gets there he finds Francine Lee, Kirk's fiancée trying to gain entrance. Kirk was supposed to be at an exhibit in Chicago, but he never arrived there and Francine is worried that something may be wrong. Upstairs Kirk has concocted a formula he hopes will reverse his bizarre transformation, but when he is startled by Batman and Francine at his door he drops the serum and flees out the window.

Batman tells Francine that the strange creature who has just fled is her fiancée, Kirk Langstrom, and that when they barged in Batman saw him mouth her name. batman thinks he can recreate the dropped serum in the Batcave and heads off to find Kirk and hopefully a cure for this transformation.

He finds Kirk up on a cliff and when he comes for him Kirk leaps from the cliff in fear, but rather than dying in the fall, huge batwings appear from under his coat and his transformation complete he flies off into the night following the flight of a "brother" bat. He follows the bat to his home, which happens to be, the Batcave. Kirk reaches the inner recesses of the cave just as Batman returns. He is momentarily blinded by the lights as they come one but uses his bat sonar to find an exit. Only, Langstrom's exit is the Batmobile;s entrance and Batman leaps from the car to divert Kirk from hitting it head-on.

He latches on to the Man-Bat, telling him that he is there to help him, to create an antidote, but Kirk takes Batman on a ride to the heights of the Batcave only to drop him from there. Some light fixtures break his fall, but from the floor he sees Langstrom about to fly out the open Batcave entrance. Clicking a remote on his belt Batman closes the door and Kirk is knocked unconscious by the door. Batman then ponders what to do, should he attempt to cure Langstrom, even though his brain may have been permanently damaged by his transformation, or should he leave him alone in his cursed condition? "Merciful heaven--What an impossible decision to make! There can be only one answer...if he must die...let it be as the man he once was!"

Batman gets to work in a tale continued in Detective #407. "Man or Bat?" was reprinted in Batman from the 30s to the 70s HC, Man-Bat #1 and Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2 HC.

The back-up story is Robin in "My Place in the Sun" by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Vince Colletta. The story begins with Robin flying in on the Arrow Jet with Speedy all the way from Teen Titans #28. Dick shows Roy (Speedy) Harper around Hudson University. In the cafeteria a fight breaks out between some "punks" and a group called Project 70 who work with kids from a nearby juvenile detention farm. Dick changes into Robin to stop the fight. Robin goes after the big punk only to find out that it was the little kid Robin was trying to protect who started the fight.

Back in his room Dick is pissed at himself for jumping to conclusions without any evidence. That day Dick hears it all over campus, as Robin becomes the main topic of discussion. Some of the kids are for him, but many think he is just a vigilante and shouldn't be there. When he returns from shopping he finds Roy in his Speedy threads, heading off for a date with Wonder Girl.

After Roy leaves, Dick begins to question his role as Robin, but in the end he decides to keep the name and the costume. "...if I made a mistake once, I'm not gonna make it again! When I go out into that adult world, I want everyone to know that Robin is no longer a boy, but still a wonder!" Not a great story and certainly not great artwork.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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