Hello everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Ba Signal, my never-ending mission to read every singe issue of Detective Comics ever written, in random order, and with basically no context. And it looks like the Random Number Generator Gods have decided to send us to the early 1970’s, a period seemingly utterly dominated by the hot new villain of the moment, Man-Bat! Now, I’m not exactly the biggest Man-Bat fan, especially from these weird 70’s stories, but there are a few ways that Man-Bat can at least catch my attention. A story being written by the insane Frank Robbins is one way, and making it appear to be a parody of Bride of Frankenstein certainly doesn’t hurt either. But, we also have to grapple with the whole, “no context” aspect of this project today, because there’s whole swaths of this story that really feel like I’m missing something. But, let’s get to it.
The issue begins with Bruce Wayne hanging out in the Batcave, just wearing his Batman costume and reading the paper, like a complete lunatic. He doesn’t seem to be seeking out anything in particular, but when he comes across a story about a special exhibit at the Gotham Natural History Museum all about bats. Which, would probably pique his interests regardless, but when he sees that it was ran by Kirk Langstrom, he gets very interested. Because, as you probably know, Kirk Langstrom is the Man-Bat, a gifted scientist who injected himself with some sort of bat serum that turned himself into a sort of were-bat. He apparently escaped his last run-in with Batman, and the Caped Crusader has been hunting him ever since. But, the newspaper ended up doing a lot of legwork for him, because the article not only announces that Langstrom opened a new exhibit that day, but that he was getting married to his fiancee Francine Lee that very evening. So, Batman races out of the cave, leaps into the Batmobile, and begins racing through the streets of Gotham. He gets to the church where the wedding is taking place, runs into the room, and raises a complaint about the union.
Hell yeah, Batman.
So, Batman has raced into this sparsely attended wedding, and revealed that the groom is actually a man-sized bat, which immediately leads that Man-Bat to attack him. Man-Bat swipes his claws at Batman, stunning the hero long enough so that he can fly out of the church. At which point Francine begins screaming at Batman for ruining her wedding. This then triggers a massive flashback for Batman, which either fills in details that were never explained in a previous issue, of just retells quite a bit of a story already shown, I’m actually not sure which. We cut back to the first time that Batman and Man-Bat tussled, which involved Batman bringing Langstrom back to the Cave, ready to inject him with an antidote. But, Man-Bat escaped Batman’s clutches, attempting to escape the Cave, only for Batman to seal all of the exits, trapping the beast.
Batman then apparently went to fetch Francine, hoping that she could soothe Langstrom. But, when they got back to the Cave, they found the Man-Bat missing. So, Batman tasked Francine with looking out for him, and to get in contact with him if Langstrom ever returned. Which, he apparently did, very quickly. Man-Bat showed up at their apartment, and instead of calling Batman for help, Francine just started chatting with him. Man-Bat convinced her that this was his ultimate form, and that if she really loved him she’s look past the fact that he’s a bat-monster now, and help him fool the world into thinking he’s a normal man. Which, Francine of course agreed to. She helped him make a human disguise, and get back to work as Kirk Langstrom, finishing the exhibit so they can get married. All of which is pretty baffling to Batman. He has no idea why Francine would ever help Langstrom like this. But, the answer to that is pretty simple.
Yes! It turns out that the reason Francine was so compliant in all of this, and was willing to marry Man-Bat, was because Langstrom slipped her the bat formula at some point, making her a Bat-Bride. Which means that that wedding was apparently between two bat-monster wearing human costumes. Which, is fantastic. But, before Batman has time to think of the ramifications of that, we see Francine fly away from him, soaring up to the rafters of the church, and dropping a massive chandelier onto Batman to distract him. Batman chases after her, figuring that she was going to make it to the highest place in the church she could, looking for a way out, and begins climbing the stairs to the bell-tower.
But, when Batman reaches the massive bell it turns out that it was all a trap. Because Francine appears and begins ringing the bell, stunning Batman with the massive sound. At which point both Francine and Kirk attack Batman, throwing him around and slashing at him with their claws. They tag-team fight Batman, eventually throwing up off a banister, causing Batman to clutch the rail for his life. And, as the two Bat-People begin attacking him once more, Batman’s able to quickly reach and grab the fallen antidote, taking a moment to stab it into both of the Langstrom’s. And, right before his eyes, they revert back to their human forms, and their human minds. They’re both horrified what almost happened to them, and are incredibly thankful that Batman has saved them from a life of horror as Bat monsters. At which point Batman just kind of leaves them there, since they didn’t actually commit any crimes.
Folks, this issue is utterly insane, and I kind of love it. It’s what I’ve come to expect from a story written by Frank Robbins, an author who I had no familiarity with before starting this project, and who has ended up becoming one of my favorite writers of Detective Comics, mainly because he seemed to have a natural talent at writing completely unhinged comics. Such as this one, which involves Man-Bat gaslighting his girlfriend into becoming a Woman-Bat, a fraudulent wedding, and more dramatic mask-reveals than an episode of Scooby Doo. It’s completely bonkers, and I love it. I’ve never been a Man-Bat fan, and I doubt I ever will be. But, this story came about as close as I’m probably ever going to get. Making Man-Bat just a weird, Universal Monster that Batman occasionally has to deal with, who turns his wife into a monster after telling her if she really loved him she’s be a Bat-Person too, is pretty great. It’s weird, and goofy, and really stands out against most of the other stories that I talk about here on Bat Signal, which is a good thing. I wouldn’t want every issue of Detective Comics to be bizarre monster-movie homages, but every now and then would be nice.
“Marriage: Impossible” was written by Frank Robbins, penciled by Neal Adams, inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Costanza, and edited by Julius Schwartz, 1971.
Categories: Bat Signal