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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Batman Family 12 - Batgirl has a brother, Man-Bat becomes a were-jaguar, and Robin has fans

There are three stories in Batman Family 12 (July/Aug 77), all scripted by Bob Rozakis. Jim Aparo does the cover.

Batgirl opens the issue, in a story with art by Jose Delbo and Vince Colletta. The story is narrated as a letter being written by Tony Gordon, the long forgotten son of Commissioner Gordon.

Tony Gordon had only appeared once before this, in a story in World's Finest Comics back in 1951.  In this tale we learn that Barbara's older brother had vanished while taking a balloon trip around the world. He had secretly been working for the US government, and the balloon trip was cover for a spy mission, photographing installations in China. Tony had been shot down and captured by the Chinese, but managed to escape. He had to pretend to be dead so as to avoid an international incident.

Tony happens to be in Washington DC when he sees Batgirl go into action to stop a man from stealing historic planes from the Smithsonian. Somehow, despite not having seen her in years, and her being in Batgirl costume, Tony recognizes his sister instantly. He follows her and watches how she tracks down and confronts the thief.

Tony even comes to her aid when she gets stunned in a plane crash. Batgirl also has the sense that this is her brother, despite their years apart.

But Tony runs off before Batgirl can confirm that her suspicions are correct. Tony finishes his letter, and then burns it. I remember feeling this story was very sad when I first read it. Tony Gordon would return later in Batgirl's series.

Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin do the art on the Man-Bat story, which follows up on the end of the previous tale, as Kirk Langstrom had to face the Sunset Gang. He and Francine are attending a concert in Central Park when he has to change into Man-Bat to deal with a jaguar that shows up to attack the audience.

The Sunset Gang had released the jaguar to divert attention while they robbed an art gallery. They were supplied with a strange flashlight weapon by someone called Mr. O, the same shadowy man we saw at the end of the previous Man-Bat story. To their surprise, the flashlight has no effect on Man-Bat at first.

But then Man-Bat gets bitten by a second jaguar. When the Gang use the flashlight on him again, now it has the effect of turning Man-Bat into a were-jaguar.

I'm not entirely sure how making your enemy more dangerous is a good plan, but the Sunset Gang seem to think it is. Luckily for them the police show up, hunting for the jaguars, and mistake Man-Bat for one. He stays on the run until dawn, which seems to come pretty fast, and the sunlight changes him back into Man-Bat.

The story continues in the next issue.

Robin has to deal with crowds of adoring fans in his story, with art by Irv Novick and Vince Colletta.

The fans keeps complicating his life as he deals with three men who steal rare and valuable books from the Hudson University library.

It's a pretty basic tale, culminating in a stand off at the swimming pool, where the last thief threatens to drop the book in the water unless Robin backs down. A well thrown batarang retrieves the book safely.

It's only the last two pages of the story that are really interesting. Robin receives a phone call from Batgirl, and both of them find their motorcycles are operating independently, with recordings telling them they are wanted in New York. When they board their cycles they get manacled in, and the bikes drive them off to the big city.

The story continues in the next issue.

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