Welcome back to Rotten Ink. For years now we have taken a look at several Marvel horror characters and series like The Golem, Living Mummy, Dead Of Night and The Zombie up to this point, and I think that it’s time that we also showcase some of the characters that make up DC horror! Now DC horror is not as deep as Marvel’s, and while they have such titles as House Of Mystery and Swamp Thing, they have always mostly focused on their superhero comic lines like Batman and Superman with even many of the horror titles have that hero touch. One of those horror superheroes is the first topic for this DC Horror update, and of course it will be Man-Bat, that pain in the side of Batman who has been bad as well as good and has entertained comic readers for decades. So sit back, be ready to be scared and yet also pumped as this bat creature man is ready to deliver a heroic spooky good time.
Dr. Kirk Langstorm is a Chiropterologist who was working on a serum that would enhance humans senses like a bat’s sonar, and when using it on himself as a test, he turns into a bat creature that goes on rampages throughout Gotham City and has to clash with Batman as well as fellow superheroes over the years like Superman, Robin and Hawkman. From time to time Man-Bat would also find himself on the side of good and not be the monster the world sees him as but as a monster with the brain of the brilliant doctor. Man-Bat even has found himself discovering the Batcave and clashing with Batman in his own base and giving him a tough fight several times. By mistake, Man-Bat has infected his wife with the serum curse and turned her into She-Bat and once when losing control he believed that he killed his family, only for them to have survived. Man-Bat is dangerous and can fly and use his claws to rip flesh and can use his super sonar hearing to track his prey. He is also stronger than a normal man and is also super fast in speed making him a truly monstrous foe.
Man-Bat was created in 1970 and first appeared in Detective Comics # 400 with Julius Schwartz being his concept creator and Neal Adams being the artist to bring him to life on the comic pages. He was originally a villain for Batman and over the years would also have runs as a good guy helping Batman as well as other heroes and would even make appearances in DC Comics Presents teaming with Superman. At one time, he was a member of the Secret Society Of Super Villains and over the years has gotten his own comic mini series. He has also made the leap from comics to cartoons appearing in episodes of “Batman The Animated Series”, “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League Unlimited” but only in mention on the latter. He would also be in a few video games, mostly in the DC Lego series, and had many toys made of him from companies like Kenner and Mattel. And while Man-Bat never gained the following that other Batman villains did, namely The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face and Penguin, he does have a cult following along the likes of Killer Croc, Killer Moth and Black Mask. He was always one of my favorites growing up as he looked cool and always seemed to be a threat to Batman, in fact he reminded me of the Lizard from the Marvel Comics series Spider-Man as many of the times both Batman and Spidey had to defeat their foes back to normal using science and both baddies are the way they are due to science. Say what you will, but if your read DC Comics and like your characters with a dash of horror then you know just how cool Man-Bat is!
Over the years Man-Bat has had his fair share of very cool figures come out and allow fans to have him go on adventures as well as fight the likes of Batman, Superman and even Killer Croc if they want to. And while not a ton of figures have been made of Man-Bat, the ones that have been are pretty cool stuff! Man-Bat has also graced other merchandise like posters, trading cards, shirts, stickers, toys and video games. While Man-Bat is a very cool looking character, he oddly does not get much merchandise and barely makes appearances in the games, movies and cartoons…I mean it would be awesome to see him in a future live action Batman film.
The Kenner Super Powers Collection was super popular with my brother and I growing up as we would collect all the ones we could get our hands on. Four figures I can remember getting the most as a kid were Superman, The Joke, Hawkman and Robin as they were some of my favorites but I also had The Flash, Aquaman, Penguin and Samurai. My brothers had Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Cyclorton and Steppenwolf. So as you can see, we had almost all of them. But sadly Kenner would pull the plug on the Super Powers Collection line before a series four could be released and over the years fans have uncovered the names that would have made up that series including Swamp Thing, Batgirl, Creeper, Catwoman, Blue Devil, Supergirl, Vigilante and many more, but most importantly on that list of planned figures was Man-Bat! That’s right, we almost got a Man-Bat figure by Kenner and that would have been awesome and would have been one that my brother and I would have harassed our parents to get for us as we both liked the character, and he would have been a great villain for our Batman and Robin Super Powers to have fought with. And with retro toy lines coming back I wish that Hasbro, who now owns Kenner, would get the DC Comics toy license once more and bring this series back and make them look just like they did back in the 80’s and that they would do the figures that were planned in the series that never got past the prototype and sketch phase and that would include Man-Bat…but sadly I think this will never happen.
Well now that we have taken a look at Man-Bat’s character and his history in comics and merchandise, I think that its time for us to get to the review part of this update. The Man-Bat series I chose to cover is the 1st series that was released in 1975 and only lasted for two issues. I chose this series as I am a fan of the older comics from DC and plus these are the ones I remember owning and reading as a kid and would like to see if they hold up. I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having these issues in stock and making this update possible and I want to remind you that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, the entertainment value and the art and story. So if you are ready, let’s see what Man-Bat has in store for us, will it be scary or will it be superhero like?
Man-Bat # 1 **1/2
Released in 1975 Cover Price .25 DC Comics #1 of 2
Baron Tyme uses magic in order to turn Francine Langstorm into She-Bat with a mission to kill someone in Gotham City, and to his horror, Kirk watches as his wife flies away with a mission of murder on her mind. Kirk takes the serum and turns into Man-Bat as he needs to stop his wife from murdering a man, and while he looks for her, illusions created by Baron Tyme slow him down, but he is able to stop her just in time as she had found her prey. Man-Bat knocks out She-Bat and starts talking to the man who is Professor Raymond Arthur who works for a college and one of his co-workers is indeed Baron Tyme, but before he can get any more information to Man-Bat he is killed by She-Bat! The news breaks and now Batman is aware of the murder of Professor Arthur and hits the streets to find Man-Bat as it was clear that it was committed by a bat and he wants to stop him. Meanwhile Man-Bat uses the last of his powerful serum to turn She-Bat back into Francine, and as she changes back, someone cuts the lights and uses a sonar noise to confuse Man-Bat. It was Batman who set the trap and after a struggle, the two end up talking and Man-Bat alerts Batman that someone is using mind control on She-Bat and caused her to murder. Batman stays with Francine as Man-Bat heads to the college and comes face to face with Baron Tyme who uses illusions to keep our hero captive. Tyme then tells him that the murders are being done in order to please a demon and that he is going to also offer Man-Bat as well, but Man-Bat uses his low sonar sound to hurt the ears of Baron Tyme who ends up backing into an open flame and is caught on fire. As Man-Bat flies away, he wonders if his foes words of demons are true or if he was just a master of trickery who could use his hypnotizing ways to trick minds and mastermind murders.
This first issue of Man-Bat has more elements of superhero than horror but is still a very good read that features our creature hero on a quest to break a mind hold that a magical villain has on his wife, and with this mind hold he has her committing murder that gets the attention of Batman who gets involved. Man-Bat is in control and retains his smarts and is very angry that someone is using his ladylove as well as put doubt in the mind of Batman who knew that one of them had to be the ones committing the crimes. Man-Bat does his best to try and stop the super villains as well as at least one of the murders. She-Bat is out of control for most of the issue as she has a bloodlust and the want to kill and has to be knocked out in order to break those evil urges, and try to free her mind of these commands. Batman is around but besides having a brief fight with Man-Bat and staying with a subdued She-Bat he is not really a major player to our story. Baron Tyme is a man who is into black magic and can use it to control minds as well as create very realistic illusions, and he is doing all of this in order to send murdered souls to a demon that he has made a deal with. And while Baron Tyme is an interesting 70’s style comic book super villain, his motives are a little unclear and the way he is beaten in the end is a little rushed. But being set on fire and left for dead by the book’s hero does leave it open that his death could be one of his illusions so who knows maybe he will return in the next issue. The cover is pretty cool and eye catching as it shows not only Man-Bat but they also of course showcased Batman. The interior art is awesome as it is done by comic artist icon Steve Ditko! Over all this is a good read that did its best to try and make Man-Bat a hero when we all know he makes a better bad guy. With that, let’s see what the second and last issue in this series has in store for us.
Man-Bat # 2 **1/2
Released in 1976 Cover Price .25 DC Comics #2 of 2
Man-Bat is flying around Chicago on a windy day when he is attacked by unknown person who has a jet pack and clearly has been hired to take down Man-Bat, but for what reason is unknown. The two fight in the sky for a few moments and Man-Bat decides to dive into a river and take the serum to turn back into his human self Kirk and swims ashore and takes a taxi home confused on why he was attacked. Once Kirk gets home he gets the surprise of his life as his apartment is filled with his friends as well as his sister who are welcoming him back home to Chicago as he and Francine have moved back to his home city. But Kirk’s nerves go crazy when he finds Francine in her room fighting off not turning into She-Bat and outside on the balcony is his unknown attacker. So Kirk slips away and takes the serum and turns back into Man-Bat, but the attacker has a weird power that he can see using his fingers and once more he and Man-Bat start fighting in the sky and the attacker sprays weird sticky latex in the face of Man-Bat who ends up knocking out the attacker by causing pain to his fingers. While Man-Bat gets the sticky goo off his face he figures out that his attacker is really The 10 Eyed Man a villain from Gotham who was taken out of jail by the CLA group and hired to kill him! But as The 10 Eyed Man wakes back up he sets a bomb that he hopes will allow him to capture Man-Bat instead the bomb blows up and blinds the The 10 Eyed Man who falls off the building to his death. In the end Man-Bat wonders why the CLA wants him dead and then remembers he has to return to his apartment for the party.
This second and final issue of Man-Bat is an okay superhero comic mixed with a dash of horror and continues Man-Bat trying to cure She-Bat of her vampiric ways but finds himself being hunted down by The 10 Eyed Man who was hired by a group called the CLA and this causes Man-Bat drama and action. Man-Bat uses his brilliant mind to try and outsmart and outstep his attacker and in the end does so and it leads to the death of the attacker and no real questions answered, and while Man-Bat is strong and skilled his weaknesses do make him on the defense more then the offense. And that’s a shame as I would have liked to have seen Man-Bat going crazy and allow the animal side of him to go off, like the lost control version of Man-Bat who wanted to shred The 10 Eyed Man! Speaking of The 10 Eyed Man he is a very cheesy villain who uses his fingers to see and has to have his hands out in order to see and fight, and as you would guess this makes him super easy to beat up as take away his finger eyes and he is a mess and will loose. I am not sure if I like that Man-Bat is no longer in Gotham City and is now located in Chicago as to me the character just don’t fit in the Windy City. The big story arch that is showcased in this issue is the CLA getting super villains out of trouble and sending them to attack and capture Man-Bat and it’s a shame as the series had to have been such a poor seller that this story just kind of ends here with only two issues being released. I think that DC should not have made the comic series a superhero book and really should have played off the Horror aspects of Man-Bat as by making him just another hero it just was lost in the shuffle of late 70’s main company Superhero comics that flooded the market. The cover is very cool and eye catching and looks like a Horror Comic and the interior art by Pablo Marcos is really great and I like the way he draws Man-Bat as he does capture the monster aspect of the character. It’s a shame that this series did not last that long cause I do think it had potential to become a very entertaining series, but fate did not have it in the cards to have Man-Bat become a long running series. Check out the art below to see they style of art used in this two issue run.
While Man-Bat’s first solo series was more superhero than fright it was still a fun read and really did live up to my memories of reading them as a youngster. And yes before we move on I will say I do wish that DC would have played more on the horror aspect, but I would guess they got cold feet and knew that superheroes were what sold for them more. But with that our first look at DC Horror has came to an end. For our next update, we will be heading back to the world of Pro Wrestling and back to the Rotten Ink Arena as we will be talking Mr. Wrestling II! So until next time, read a DC Comic or three, watch a horror film or two and as always support your local Horror Host! And this next update is truly about a Wrestling Legend.