Man-Bat #1 (1984)

In the early 1980s, the paper that comics were printed on was a big deal. A really big deal. Maybe it was because for so many years the paper quality was so low, but comic companies made a big deal about their paper quality. Mando paper was good, Hudson paper was slick, but the prestige paper stock, the one that got the headlines and made the fanboys cry out in passion, was Baxter paper. Mention Baxter paper to a fan who read the direct market books in ’82, ’83, ’84, and their eyes will glaze over with a kind of wistful passion as they list off some of the comics on that gorgeous Baxter paper: Teen Titans, Thriller, Nexus, and all of those Marvel and DC reprints of classic comics from the late ’60s.
In fact, the Baxter paper reprints represented the beginning of a sea change that kind of parallels the difference between syndicated TV shows and seasons on DVD. In the ’60s and ’70s, scenes were cut out of reprint comics. As reprint books like Marvel’s Greatest Comics shrunk to 18-page monthly comics, they still reprinted twenty-page issues of Fantastic Four. So it was the job of some poor editor to decide which two pages of pure Stan Lee- Jack Kirby goodness needed to be edited out for space. But when the Baxter reprints started, space was much more open. The books were 48 or even 64 pages long, and often recolored and remastered. Sometimes the books had additional commentary as well.
Looking back, it was a golden age for reprints and a kind of transitional time between the traditional single comic and the eventual TPB collections that are all over the market these days. Great series were reprinted on nice paper, and fans could pick up cool stuff easily.
So in ’84, DC put out a one-shot collection of Man-Bat stories written by Frank Robbins and illustrated by Neal Adams. Robbins is really well-known – almost notorious – for his bizarre, hyperkinetic art style, but around 1970 or so, he was a writer on Batman and created one of ol’ pointy ears’s greatest nemesises, the odd Man-Bat, a demented researcher who somehow turns himself into a bat. It sounds goofy, but something about the passion of Robbins’s story and Adams’s wonderful art gives the story real energy. The pathos of a man who turns himself into a monster and who tries to keep control of his life is pretty cool.
Though it does get a bit silly by the end. Man-Bat’s alter ego is Kirk Landstrom, and he’s engaged to be married before he transforms into a monster. So in the third story in this comic, his fiancee herself transforms into a She-Bat because she wants to be as close to Kirk as she can be. Aww, ain’t that sweet? She loves a monster, so she becomes a monster. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

One Response to “Man-Bat #1 (1984)”

  1. Ariel Says:

    Wait, so this is not the same man-bat currently seen in regular Batman continuity??

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