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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely stuffed full of comic book reviews that nobody asked for!  Well. . .at least they USUALLY don't ask for them.  That's right, it's another Longbox Junk Reader Request Edition!

A while back, my comic lovin' daughter challenged me to take on some reader requests.  The call went out, a decent list was formed, and now I occasionally draw one randomly from a hat (An actual hat.  A set of Micky Mouse Ears monogrammed with my daughter's name from Disney World, to be specific) and then here we are!

Congratulations goes out to Spector for his fine request for some Man-Bat!

I WAS originally going to do the 1996 3 issue Man-Bat mini for this entry because I like how it feels like a non-branded Vertigo horror comic.  Spector's request was actually for the 1975 two issue Man-Bat "series", but between me and my daughter, we only have the first issue of that one, and I usually only like reviewing complete stories.

BUT. . .

You know what? There's no real rules here at Longbox Junk, so I decided to just go ahead and steal my daughter's Man-Bat #1 for a nice single issue combination Retro Review and Reader Request Edition, because why not? Spector wanted Bronze Age Man-Bat, so we're gonna swing this into a Retro Review and get into some Bronze Age Man-Bat!

A bit of introduction first.

Man-Bat is one of those characters that's hard to pin down.  He's a great supporting character (mostly in Batman-related comics) that's sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, but is never really able to hold down an ongoing series.  He's had several rebooted origins (Let's not even talk about what they did to the poor guy in the New 52), but at the heart of things, Man-Bat is actually a horror character.

Digging down to the essence of the character, he's sort of a combination of the Hulk and Werewolf by Night.  Basically, he's a brilliant scientist named Kirk Langstrom who fell victim to an experiment gone wrong.  He transforms into a vicious flying humanoid bat-like creature where he has varying degrees of control over both the transformation and his state of mind once transformed.

Sometimes he has control over himself and is able to work alongside others as sort of a heroic figure (as seen in the recent Justice League Dark comics).  Other times (as in the 1996 mini I mentioned above) he's almost completely inhumanly feral and capable of the most brutal and bloody acts.

So. . .science gone wrong forcing a man to share his body with a vicious creature he may or may not be able to control.  I should have done some Man-Bat for Longbox Junk Halloween!

In the comic at hand, Kirk Langstrom is able to control his transformation, retains his intelligence in Man-Bat form and is able to communicate with others. . .in other words, the more heroic version of Man-Bat.  Let's take a look!

MAN-BAT #1

DC (1975)

 
SCRIPT: Gerry Conway
PENCILS: Steve Ditko 
(His one and only time drawing Batman, by the way)
INKS: Al Milgrom
COVER: Jim Aparo
 
As usual, before we get inside, let's take a quick look at the cover.
 
I have to say. . .it's a real eye-catcher!  This great Jim Aparo cover is all about the contrast.  I love the contrast between the plain dark purple background and the giant bright yellow logo, boldly telling us that this ain't Bat-MAN, this is MAN-Bat!  Then there's Batman's cape framing the action in the center, which features a very nicely detailed Man-Bat and his "victim".  I love the banner at the top as well, which firmly cements this comic in the Bronze Age. 
 
This cover is just so well done that I'm not sure that my daughter is getting this comic back when I'm finished with it!  It deserves a turn up on my rotating "Wall O' Covers" on my office wall at work.  
 
So that's the cover. . .here's the story.
 

BEWARE THE EYES OF BARON TYME

 
We begin in the home of scientists Kirk and Francine Langstrom, where Kirk is shocked by the sudden and unexpected transformation of Francine into She-Bat! (The origin of She-Bat can be found in Detective Comics #407, if you're interested)
 
The transformed Francine Langstrom attacks Kirk and then flies into the night, helplessly following the mental commands of a mysterious figure (that Francine calls Baron Tyme during her attack on her husband) telling her to track down and kill a man.
 
 
Kirk immediately takes his "Bat Gland Formula" and transforms into Man-Bat in order to give chase to his wife.  As he follows her, Man-Bat encounters several illusions produced by Baron Tyme to stall his pursuit. . .
 
 
Man-Bat finally catches up to Francine/ She-Bat just in time to stop her from killing her victim.  After Man-Bat subdues his transformed wife, he interrogates the man she was hunting and discovers that "Baron" Tyme is actually a Professor of Medieval History named Clement Tyme.  
 
But before Man-Bat can learn more, his wife regains consciousness and attacks, killing the man! Man-Bat quickly subdues Francine again and flies away from the scene of the crime with her.  
 
And with that, the scene shifts to Wayne Manor, where Batman is preparing to leave for the night, determined to investigate the mysterious killings that have been taking place while he was out of town a few days tracking down the Joker. . .
 
 
Seeing a familiar pattern in the killings, Batman's first stop is the Gotham City Museum to inquire about their resident Bat expert. . .Kirk Langstrom.  The museum's director tells Batman that Langstrom no longer works for them since coming into some money (from Batman himself in Brave & Bold #121) and that he's set himself up in a private lab near Antioke University.  
 
In the meantime, Man-Bat has taken Francine home and restrained her in order to try an antidote, hoping to transform her back into human form.  The antidote is successful, but suddenly, Man-Bat is assaulted with powerful sonar pulses from an unknown attacker!
 
 
As Langstrom attempts to escape the sonic attack, it's revealed that the attacker is Batman, who has arrived to capture Man-Bat, thinking he is behind the recent murders.  As the two of them fight, Batman falls from the skies, only to be rescued by Man-Bat.
 
 
With their battle finished, Man-Bat explains the situation to Batman, revealing that since he hypnotized Francine to find the cause of mysterious gaps in her memory, he has been aware of her being controlled by Baron Tyme. . .but because of Batman's constant interference in their lives, Langstrom was determined to find Baron Tyme and end the killings without the Dark Knight's assistance. . .something he is still determined to do.  
 
Batman reluctantly agrees to let Man-Bat take on the challenge of stopping Baron Tyme on his own.
 
 
Man-Bat flies to Antioke University and enters a high tower that Francine described while under hypnosis.  Inside, he discovers Baron Tyme waiting for him.  The villain quickly captures Man-Bat with powerful energy tentacles, then begins to gloat and monologue about his nefarious plan and how it came to be. . .
 
In his role as a Professor of Medieval History, Tyme discovered ancient books of black magic that he experimented with, managing to combine magic and science together and successfully summon a demon!  Tyme made a bargain with the demon. . .in exchange for magical powers, Tyme would supply the demon with human lives. 
 
 The demon also gave Tyme information about the Langstroms that enabled the would-be sorcerer to use Francine as his tool for killing.
 
 
After he's done revealing the details of his evil plot, Tyme begins a ritual to summon the demon, intending to give Man-Bat as a final sacrifice.  As the ritual proceeds, Man-Bat realizes the bonds holding him are nothing but powerful illusions controlled by Baron Tyme.  
 
Man-Bat uses his sonic screech to painfully disorient Tyme, weakening his mental control over the illusions and stopping him from completing the ritual.
 
 
Man-Bat escapes his bonds, determined to bring Tyme to justice.  But before he can attack, the sorcerer bursts into flame!  Man-Bat escapes the tower just in time to avoid a powerful explosion.  There is no longer any sign of Baron Tyme.  
 
As Man-Bat flies into the night, he wonders if it was explosive chemicals or demonic forces that caused the explosion.  A question that is left unanswered. . .
 
 
The End.
 
Well now. . .that was. . .Bronze Age.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's just that, like a lot of Bronze Age stories, this one felt extremely rushed and compressed to fit into a single issue. 
 
 For someone who didn't really come into comic collecting until the early 90's it just seems sort of strange to see a story like this crammed into a single comic book.  If this story were to be done today, it would either be a double-sized (and double-priced!) one shot or a 3 issue mini-series.
 
But does that make it a bad story?  No it doesn't.  This isn't a great story, but it's not bad. Truthfully it's just okay.  It sits right in the middle of the road, squarely on the line between good and bad. 
 
It moves along quickly and is well written (Gerry Conway is the kind of writer that can polish a potato and make it look good, so there's that)  but it also just sort of drops the reader into the world of Man-Bat without any introduction, with the action hitting straight out of the gate with the first story panel.
 
It just sort of assumes that readers will already know Man-Bat from other comics, and indeed, there are several editorial references to Detective, Batman, and Brave & Bold through the story, which sort of hangs the whole thing on the hook of previous Man-Bat appearances and leaves little for new readers to get into the character with.
 
To be fair, there's a full-page summary of Man-Bat's previous appearances at the end of the issue:
 
 
I like that DC included this, but it doesn't really help the story feel less like the first issue of what was supposed to be an ongoing series and more like a story that could have been found in #35 or any other random issue of a Man-Bat series.  It just doesn't seem. . .special.  
 
I'm not sure if it's because of my more modern reading tastes, but this story just doesn't seem like what one would expect in a first issue meant to hook in new readers on the idea of a Batman villain becoming the hero.  As I said above, it's not BAD. . .but at the same time, it's not really memorable or remarkable in any way. 
 
But the draw here for many who pick this issue up will be the art. 
 
As I noted above, this issue features Steve Ditko (Best known more for his Marvel work as the artist and co-creator of Spider-Man & Doctor Strange. . .among others) drawing Batman for his first and only time.  That and well. . .it's the legendary Steve Ditko.  For some people, that's all that needs to be said.
 
So here's the thing.  There are some mighty high pedestals that some creators from the Silver Age are set on.  In the minds of many comic fans, Steve Ditko sits up on one of the highest there is.  I mean, Spider-Man IS a pretty high bar for other creators to try and hurdle.  I won't question that.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I've never been one for unabashed worship of comic creators.  There's not a single one out there, no matter HOW legendary, that hasn't phoned it in at some point.  Fortunately, Ditko didn't phone this one in. But to be fair, this also isn't his best work.  It seems that the unremarkable nature of the story might have carried over to the artwork as well.
 
There ARE some really good panels scattered throughout this story. . .the aerial battle between Man-Bat and Batman is outstanding, for example.  And Ditko's portrayal of Batman is likewise outstanding.  I really like the way he keeps Batman's face mostly hidden in the dark, and Batman himself as a dark figure, mostly defined by shadows, often just a silhouette of the distinctive cape and cowl. . .as Batman SHOULD be!  
 
Based on this issue alone, I would have REALLY liked to see Ditko as a regular Batman artist during his short time at DC!  I'd wager it would be considered a defining run among collectors today.
 
But beyond a few standout moments, the art here is generally good, but certainly not the best effort coming from someone as highly-regarded as Steve Ditko. It's not phoned in or bad in any way, but based on other work I've seen from Ditko, it could have been a lot better.
 

CONCLUSION

 
Overall, this issue is a pretty average effort.  The story feels rushed and crammed into too small of a space, but I have to blame the Bronze Age in general for that, and not Gerry Conway.  His writing is good here, but not remarkable or memorable in any way.  It certainly doesn't feel like the first issue of a series because the story hangs firmly on the hook of previous Man-Bat appearances in other comics.
 
As far as the art goes, the big draw here is Steve Ditko drawing Batman for the first and only time.  For a lot of people, that's enough.  For me, it's plainly not his best work.  Ditko's take on Batman IS the best part of this comic, but the rest of the art (while good) could have been a lot better.
 
Good taken with bad, If you're a Batman or Steve Ditko fan I'd recommend picking this one up if you can find it at a decent price.  I'm not sure it's worth taking much effort to specifically hunt it down unless you're a Batman, Man-Bat or Ditko completionist.  This isn't a bad comic, but it's not a great one either.  It's just okay.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I just picked up a TON of Longbox Junk from a closing comic shop. . .as in two full Longboxes of it!  SO MUCH GREAT JUNK!  There's a bunch of NOW, Continuity, Acclaim, Malibu, and early "We wanna be like Marvel!" Image comics in there.  If I have a full run of anything, I'll probably drop that next.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk Halloween - DCeased #1

184 views • 14 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me for!

Even though the witching hour draws close, we're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky stuff hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

It's been a pretty nice Halloween season here at Longbox Junk if I DO say so myself. So far we've seen Vampires (Vegetarian and otherwise), Killer Easter Bunnies,  A sci-fi take on Jekyll & Hyde, Werewolves, Frankenstein's Monster, Spirits of Vengeance, Prairie Witches, and some generally nasty people doing nasty things (like burying each other alive).  So what's missing here?

Zombies.  We need some zombies!

And so here's some zombies.

What we have here is a fresh chunk of Longbox Junk that's on the stands even as I write this.  I only have the first issue because I basically bought it for the extremely Halloween-y zombie Batman variant cover and somehow have kept missing the following issues.  I'm sure I'll spot the whole set eventually in a bargain bin, but for now I just have this first issue, so let's take a look at it!

DCEASED

ISSUE #1

DC (2019)

 
 
So I bought this thing for the cover. Let's take a look at the cover, shall we?  
 
*shudders* Now THAT's some creep-tastic cover art right there!  Fransesco Mattina outdoes himself with a nightmarish vision of one of DC's greatest heroes gone straight to zombie hell!  Just look at the detail in things like Batman's nasty teeth and jaundiced eyes.  This is NOT the Batman you want to meet in a dark alley.  Very well done!
 
That's the cover.  Let's get into the story.
 

GOING VIRAL

SCRIPT: Tom Taylor
PENCILS: Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano (pgs. 1-6, 15-26)
                    James Harren (pgs. 7-14)
COVER: Francesco Mattina (Variant)
 
The story goes like this. . .
 
We begin with the Justice League defeating Darkseid and forcing him to leave after he invades Earth. But as he goes, Darkseid gives the League an ominous farewell that doesn't quite sit right with the heroes. . .
 
 
Indeed, all is not as it seems.  Darkseid's invasion was merely a distraction.  His true purpose was to capture the hero known as Cyborg. . .now held prisoner on Apokolips.  Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life Equation has led him to believe that the second half of the Equation rests in Cyborg's technology. . .
 
 
Darkseid's scientist, Desaad, informs his master that although the combining of the two halves of the Anti-Life Equation is possible, the Equation will be lost entirely if Cyborg dies in the process.  To ensure that Cyborg doesn't die, Darkseid summons Death and uses him to slightly alter the Anti-Life Equation to make sure Cyborg survives the process. . .
 
 
The change that Darkseid makes to the Anti-Life Equation has disastrous effects as the corrupted Equation combining the physical and technological drives Darkseid insane.  Desaad quickly transports Cyborg back to Earth to try and stop the spread of the Techo-Organic Virus, but he's too late.  An insane Darkseid destroys Apokolips. . .
 
 
 
Cyborg reappears on Earth in Metropolis, and his internal systems immediately connect him to the internet and all surrounding online devices.  Cyborg is horrified to see the Techno-Organic Virus he's infected with begin to quickly spread among the people nearby.  He is unable to do anything to stop the Virus as people begin to go insane and tear each other apart. . .
 
 
In the meantime, Superman is putting together a plan with Big Barda and Mister Miracle to rescue Cyborg from Apokolips, not knowing that Cyborg has already been sent back by Desaad.  He hears the screams of people from the street and sees the spreading insanity.  Realizing  that the situation is already out of hand and getting worse, Superman rushes to his wife and son. . .
 
 
While Superman is busy saving his family from the spreading madness, the scene shifts to the Batcave, where Batman is monitoring the situation on isolated systems safe from the Techno-Organic Virus. . .and the news isn't good.  
 
The computer estimates that there are ALREADY 600 million infected people, and at the current rate of spread BILLIONS will be infected in a matter of days.  This is definitely a problem Batman can't punch a solution to!
 
 
 
Batman quickly sets off an EMP pulse in Wayne Manor above, but he's too late.  As the Dark Knight heads upstairs to check on things, he is attacked by an infected Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake)!
 
 
After a brutal battle with his infected partners, Batman orders Alfred to escape and we are left with a cliffhanger scene of Batman being bitten by Nightwing. . .
 
 
 
The End.
 
Okay then.  There it is.  It's not a "Dead Rising Up And Slowly Wantin' To Eat Your Braaaaaains" sort of zombie apocalypse.  More of a "Virus Driving People Insane Enough To Kill You, So RUN!" sort of thing.  Despite the unique connection to the DC Universe by having the virus originate as a corrupted form of the Anti-Life Equation, it's still. . .well. . .it's just another zombie apocalypse.
 
Don't get me wrong.  It's not bad.  It's actually pretty good and makes me want to pick up the next issue.  The idea of a zombie apocalypse in the DC Universe IS an interesting one.  It's just that, do we REALLY need more zombies?  Okay, sure.  There's superheroes in this zombie story.  But really, hasn't that also been done before?
 
There's going to be inevitable comparisons between this and Marvel Zombies. . .but from what I've read of Marvel Zombies (which admittedly isn't very much, just a few issues here and there), they are two different things.  Sort of like how there's a definite difference between a Corvette and a Pickup Truck even though at the heart of it, they're both basically automobiles.  So despite what you may think, DCeased is NOT a copy of Marvel Zombies. 
 
The writer does a fine job.  I want to see what happens next.  There's nothing wrong with the writing.  The art is good, but not great.  I actually enjoyed the chunkier, darker look of the art during the Apokolips sections. . .it reminds me of the artist everyone else hated on the recent X-Force series that I liked (Dylan Burnett) enough that I pulled out an X-Force issue to see if it was the same guy.  I guess I just like that chunky, dark sort of style.
 
So nothing wrong with the writing or art.  It's just. . .zombies, I guess.  Maybe they could have told the story of a Techno-Organic Virus destroying the world without zombies? Maybe? I think they could have.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
What we have here is a well-written story with a DC Universe-specific angle on the extremely well-worn framework of a zombie apocalypse backed up with some good art.  It's interesting enough for me to want to get the next issue, but not interesting enough to make me want to order it if my local shop doesn't have the next one sitting there.
 
If you're a fan of zombie stories, then definitely pick this one up.  If you're getting a bit tired of zombies then this isn't really something you'll miss out on if you don't read it.  If you don't like zombie stories in the first place, then this won't change your mind one bit.
 
Up Next. . .
 
I think there's still time for at least one more piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

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Welcome back to my completely unnecessary reboot and renumbering of the Longbox Junk blog! I'm celebrating my 175th comic review that nobody ever asked me for by doing something else nobody ever asked for. . .reviewing the handful of issue #175 comics in my (and my daughter's) collection!

Oddly enough, I've discovered that it seems nobody really cares about hitting their 175th issue. The Walking Dead started a new (and pretty epic) storyline in #175, but I'm not sure if that was actually planned or if it just worked out that way.  Superman #175 was celebrating being the 100th issue since the iconic "Death of Superman" finale. . .but I'm not convinced that's an actual celebration of hitting issue #175.

So. . .nobody cares about the one-seven-five except me.

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I'm gonna get this out right off the top. . .As far as I'm concerned, Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight is the best Batman series that has ever been published.

I know. . .I know. . .that's a mighty hefty claim. 

I'm sure there are many who will disagree with me.  But in MY extremely humble opinion (and NO opinion is more humble than mine), LOTDK (as I will be referring to it from here on out, due to basic laziness) was the ultimate perfection of Batman comics.

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We interrupt "Merry Marvel Mainstream Madness" for a special DC Christmas edition of Longbox Junk because my daughter and I are both extremely light on Marvel Christmas issues. . .as in, we don't have any.

Welcome back to another special "Retro Review" edition of Longbox Junk, where I step away from my usual dollar box fare and take a look at some of the older or more "valuable" comics lurking in my 45 Longboxes.   

Sheesh. . .45 boxes? My local comic shops should send me a Christmas card thanking me for clearing out their unwanted inventory.

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Longbox Junk - Batman/Aliens II

620 views • May 31, '18 • (0) Comments

I wasn't really that impressed with the first Batman/Alien crossover.  It had its moments, but overall it was average at best, with cardboard cutout disposable 80's action movie cliche characters and art that was half and half. . .good on monsters and backgrounds, bad on human characters.

BUT. . .

There seems to have been enough people who liked the first one to merit Dark Horse and DC getting back together a few years later for a sequel.  Is it any better?  Let's take a look and find out!

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Longbox Junk - Batman/Aliens

712 views • May 23, '18 • (0) Comments

As I've stated before on this blog, I LOVE the Aliens franchise.  One of my favorite movies is the much-hated Alien 3.  You know anyone who publicly confesses a love for Alien 3 without a single bit of shame is a true Alien fan. 

AND. . .

When it comes to DC comics, Batman is pretty much my favorite character of them all.  I have 36 longboxes in my comic collection.  5 of them are nothing but Batman comics.  I have more Batman comics in my collection than a lot of people have in their TOTAL collection.

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I actually do reviews of single issues in my collection that are worth a little more or are considered more "collectable" and wouldn't really be called "Longbox Junk" for another site and figured that since I'm a sharing kind of guy, I'd bring a few of them here. 

The main difference between these reviews and Longbox Junk reviews (beyond the value of the comics) is that sometimes you can find other reviews of some of the Longbox Junk. . .with these, I can just about 99.99% guarantee that there has NEVER been a review, simply because most of the non-junk reviews are from the 1950's to the 1970's and comic book reviews weren't even a thing then. Uncharted territory, son!

ANYWAY. . .

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Longbox Junk - A Death In The Family

973 views • Dec 6, '17 • (0) Comments

"A Death In The Family" is a four issue "event" that, although it's pretty much considered a standalone story, ran in the regular ongoing Batman series in late 1988, early 1989 (Issues #426-429).  If you skip around the internet a bit, you're going to run across the story on just about any "Top (insert number here) Batman Stories" list you find. 

But is it really any good when a hard look is taken at it?  Or are people just knee-jerking it onto "Best Story" lists because of the impact on comic book history of the death of a major supporting character (SPOILER: Jason Todd Robin)?  Does the story itself hold up under scrutiny, or is it coasting along on the noteriety gained by having comic fans actually call a 900 number (anyone remember those?) and decide if Robin died or not?


Let's find out!

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There's nothing wrong at all with a good ongoing series, but if anyone were to ask me what my favorite form of comic art is, I would immediately answer "The One Shot". Within the framework of a single issue, the creative team is challenged to give us everything we need to enjoy a story. They're pretty much forced to swing for the fences. Here are 5 random single issues from my collection read and reviewed for your consideration. Are they home runs or foul balls? Let's find out!

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