At a police academy demonstration, Batman is sparring with a karate expert named Khan when the "master" feels the Caped Crusader has embarrassed him and turns the spar into an all-out fight. Batman, of course, lays the man out in a matter of minutes and the matter is forgotten.
Or so he thinks, as exactly one month later, Batman answers a call from Commissioner Gordon to meet him at Khan's karate studio. There, our hero finds what is left of the studio (and, ostensibly, Khan) after a furnace explosion. He and Gordon are called away for a seance, at which the men have been promised answers to a murder. At the seance, the "spirit" of Khan tells Batman that, since the Caped Crusader humiliated him in life, the dead karate master will humiliate the Batman by killing Commissioner Gordon at the stroke of twelve the next night. To protect him, Gordon is to be put in a locked vault just before midnight. However, when it comes time for Batman to help the Commissioner into the vault, he discovers that the man is not the commish at all, but The Great Dilbert in disguise. The swami dies immediately after doffing his Gordon mask (it was laced with a very toxic skin poison) but manages to gasp out a clue that enables the Batman to find and rescue Gordon, being held by Khan in a cellar below his burned-out dojo.
"Panic in Moonglow" continues the Robin adventure from Detective #398. The Boy Wonder discovers that (COMMIE ALERT) the communists are behind Dick Grayson's fellow alum turning green. The Russians have used a special soap that turns skin green in order to smear NASA's space campaign.
PE: Comic characters with "accents" have always been a distraction for me, especially those with really badly written accents (the Germans in Sgt. Fury come to mind immediately), so it's a tough go with not only the broken Irish (at least I think it's Irish) of our token "bad guy who shows up in the middle of the action and may or may not be involved," "Big Dough" Joe Brunner, but also The Great Dilbert, the medium of foreign substance.
Jack: I had this one figured out before Batman. When the dying crook mutters "Do...Jo" and Batman had fought earlier in the story with a karate master, I was right there with putting "Do" and "Jo" together to get "Dojo." Credit all those hours in seedy movie houses in downtown Newark, NJ, in the early 70s with my dad and little sister, but I did not for a minute think he meant "Big Dough" Joe.
|Batman thinks very hard!|
|...bought a new car, capped my teeth, wrote an autobiography...|
"A Bat-Death for Batman"
Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
"Hot Time in Gotham Town Tonight!"
written by Mike Friedrich
art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
Piranhas in the Rhine! Killer bulls! Yes, Bruce Wayne is visiting Germany and something batty is going on! At Fledermaus Castle (shaped like the Bat Signal), Bruce meets Baron Willi Von Ritter, who seems to long for the good old days of the Third Reich. Under cover of night, Batman investigates the castle and stumbles on a cruel battle between a vicious lamb and a cowardly lion. The Baron's biochemist, Otto Kramm, has developed a serum that makes animals killers, and some accidentally got released into the river. Batman must fend off a swarm (flock?) of angry, killer bats, while the Baron's hot, young wife, Ilga, prepares the Baron's elderly valet to be the first human to try the serum. Batman survives the attack of the bats, but Ilga injects Otto, who grows bigger, stronger, and less inhibited. He is no match for Batman, though, and gets thrown to the angry lamb! Batman explains to the dying Ilga how he used bits of aluminum foil to distract the bats.
In the second story, the Gotham City Fire Department is dealing with a mid-summer heat wave and a lot of false alarms. A call comes in from the home corner of one of the firemen, and they race to the scene, only to see Batman rescue a boy from the blaze. The fire seems to have started when the fireman's brother rubbed an idol he brought back from Vietnam! Batman grabs the glowing idol and throws it out the window. When it crashes to the ground and shatters, and all is well again.
Dr. Kirk Langstrom, employee of the Gotham Museum of Natural History and in charge of the new night creature habitat exhibit, has been doing a little moonlighting. In his off-hours, the doctor has been extracting enzymes from bats and injecting himself in order to sensitize his hearing and night vision. The serum works too well, however, and Langstrom is transformed into a full-size (Skreek!) bat. The only upside to this physical setback is that Langstrom gets to aid his hero, the Batman, in a fight against some thugs attempting to heist jewelry with the aid of night goggles.
In "A Burial for Batgirl," our heroine is accosted by a teenager escaping from the scene of a murder. When she rounds the kid up, she believes his story of innocence. Since the murder happened on Dick Grayson's campus, Robin is soon drawn into the investigation. While following a lead, Batgirl is walloped and walled up by a shadowy figure obviously influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.
PE: First appearance and origin of Man-Bat (aka Dr. Kirk Langstrom), sometime villain, sometime hero awarded his own (short-lived) title in 1975. It's a silly origin (as are most origins) but Langstrom's much more of a sympathetic character than most of these comic book monsters are. He's working on this serum to magnify his hearing and night vision, but why? What possible reason could he have? You might list off a plethora of good reasons but writer Frank Robbins doesn't even try. All we know is that Langstrom idolizes Batman and wants to emulate his hero to the Nth degree. Why would these enzymes increase his senses (never mind turn him into a full-fledged bat)? It's nothing more than a variant of the Spider-Man origin (except Spidey didn't grow extra limbs... until issue #100, that is!). His moniker is a bit funky as well. If I was turning into a bat and looked into a mirror, I'd say I look like a Bat-Man rather than a Man-Bat, but since this is a comic book and we can't have two Bat-Mans running around, confusing things, he's a Man-Bat. I grimaced though when one of the henchmen says something along the lines of "Look out everybody, it's a Man-Bat!!"
|Our first look at Man-Bat!|
Jack: I always thought Man-Bat was pretty cool and I felt sorry for the guy. It reminds me of the Underdog episode when he battled a villain named OverCat. As a wee bairn, I had imagined that a cool adversary for Underdog would be named OverCat, and one day, there he was. Kind of like Batman meeting Man-Bat.
PE: You wouldn't get from this story that Langstrom is anything other than a dweeby Batman fan who has a scientific background and wants to emulate his hero. To a degree, that is what this story is about, but Langstrom's back story will be filled in come future installments. Art is by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano and usually that's a good thing. Here it looks rushed and most of the scenes are heavily shaded as most of the action takes place in the dark. There are too many panels of villains in goggles and not enough Batman. At least we get a new villain, as I was just bemoaning the fact that we've been subjected to forgettable menaces during the first part of 1970. Man-Bat is a legitimate contender and remains popular to this day, even co-starring in the major Green Lantern crossover storyline, "Blackest Night" last year.
Jack: I liked the Adams art this time. It seemed more steady than the last time. I really think he outdid himself with Man-Bat. I especially like the cover, with the oversize Batman and Man-Bat facing off above Gotham City.
Jack: Some team-up! Dick Grayson appears briefly and we see Robin rounding a corner. Not that I wouldn't like more pages of Gil Kane drawing Batgirl, though!
Jack: Reading these Batmans is giving me a new appreciation for Frank Robbins. I'm sorry I said all those things back in the 70s when he drew The Invaders and Red Sonja. Obviously, he should have stuck with writing.
PE: There's not much to the back-up and the hyped team-up of sidekicks never actually happens, but since it's a multi-part story, I'm sure there will be oodles of exciting and dangerous happenings next issue. On the whole, not much of a celebration for a 400th issue. I believe only one comic had passed 400 issues by that time (Action Comics) so it truly was a milestone. Puzzling that this wasn't a double-sized giant spotlighting the best stories ever presented in Detective Comics.
Jack: I remember being very excited about Detective #400. It seemed like a big landmark at the time, and introducing a new character like Man-Bat made it even more special.
"Dead . . . Till Proven Alive!"
written by Frank Robbins
art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
"Case of No Consequence!"
written by Mike Friedrich
art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
Dick Grayson and his pals at Hudson U are intrigued by the rumors surrounding the supposed death of Saul Cartwright, one of the four members of the swingin' combo, the Oliver Twists. Bruce Wayne invites the group to stay at Wayne Manor while they're in town for a concert. Bruce and Dick try to solve the mystery of whether Saul is really dead or not, using voice recorders and various tricks. After a close call at a recording studio with some hired killers, Batman discovers that Saul is alive but the other three
In the second story, Batman is exhausted from a long night of crime-fighting but still finds time to recover some cash and a camera that were stolen from a deaf-mute by a mugger.
Jack: Here we go again with the hip lingo, cheat cover, and dopey story. "Saul" is dead? His partner is named Glennan? This is not the new look Batman of the 70s that were had hoped for.
PE: I take back all the bad things I said about broken Irish and badly pronounced German "accents." What the hell does "Yay, Keeds--- This is Ho Ho Ho, your jolly green deejay at XJL--with the newest poop on ye great "Oliver Twists" mystery! Dig the Seventh Groove on our boys' "Summer Knights"! Spin at 78rpm instead of 33--and playback at 1-7/8 i.p.s.!" mean in 2011 language? Were University "keeds" ever this unhip? Really? If I was Batman and Robin asked me "How did you groove it was a trap?" I'd put him over my knee, Wertham be damned.
Jack; That DJ patter did seem hopelessly dated, even for 1970. It's as if the last time Frank Robbins turned on a radio, out came Alan Freed.
PE: The back-up isn't much of a story but I will say it's more readable than its opener. As I noted already, Julius Schwartz seems to have hit upon a bonanza of capable Bat-illustrators. They all know what to do to make the Caped Crusader suitably cool and imposing. Gone are the days of a beefy Batman.
Jack: Irv Novick never got much credit, but his work is solid. I think Dick Giordano's inks add a lot, too.
PE: On the letters page, comics historian Bill Schelly raves about issue 219's "Death Casts the Deciding Vote" and asks if The Joker is in Batman's future. "No plans for The Joker and/or his costumed cronies as yet," answers editor Schwartz, "but they're bound to rear their ugly heads,"
|Yes, young Jack did clip these out.|
It was a sad day in the early 70s
when Palisades was torn down to
make way for condos. Another sad
day occurred when the people who
bought these comics realized they
had some holes.