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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Batman Family 17 - Batman and Robin meet the Huntress, Batgirl meets the Huntress, and Man-Bat meets the Demon

Batman Family expands to Dollar Comics size with issue 17 (April/May 1978), and gets graced with a great Mike Kaluta cover. Batman and the Huntress get new ongoing strips, though in this particular issue there are only three stories.

Jim Starlin gets to open the book with a one page Batman pin up.

Then it's time for a Batman and Robin team-up, which was pretty rare during the 70s, by Gerry Conway and Jim Aparo. The story begins with Batman hunting for a missing actress. He thinks he spots her, but the woman turns out to have weirdly marred facial features. A man, whose face is also largely concealed, explains that she is from a freak show in a touring carnival.

Returning home, Bruce Wayne is surprised to find Dick Grayson there. Dick needs some advice with his love life. It turns out that, after ignoring Lori Elton for so many issues, she has taken up with her old boyfriend, a football player.

Their discussion gets interrupted when the Huntress shows up at their door. The character had only been introduced a couple of months earlier, and this marks her first visit to Earth-1. Helena Wayne explains that, on her world, she was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Her mother had died, and her father was now police commissioner for Gotham City, but does not know her secret identity. She has come asking Batman for insight on crime fighting.

Batman has a hard time dealing with this alternate reality daughter, so he brings Helena to meet Kathy Kane, figuring she would be a better one to talk to. At Kathy's carnival he sees the freak show with the woman he had met earlier. Despite the man saying that she had been with the show for a while, Batman notes that her sign is brand new, unlike the others.

Sure enough, the freak show is made up of beautiful people that had been marred and transformed against their will by Scar, and Lori Elton is due to be his next victim. Scar is the old boyfriend, permanently disfigured in a sports accident, who now hides his face and has set out to destroy anyone who looks good.

Batman gets put into a good old fashioned death trap, which he gets out of in time to prevent Lori getting her face burned with acid, while Robin is the one to actually take Scar down.

I was only 12 when I bought this comic, and the conclusion, revealing that the villain's scar is so small and slight, except in his own mind, was really powerful for me.

The second story in the issue is by Rozakis, Heck, Wiacek and Colletta, and brings together Batgirl, Batwoman and the Huntress against Catwoman, Poison Ivy and a new villainess, Madame Zodiac. Both Catwoman and Poison Ivy had appeared last the previous year in the Batman comics storyline Where Were You on the Night Batman was Killed?

Madame Zodiac wants to work with the other two women, and to prove the power of her fortune telling skills informs them that Batgirl and the Huntress will each mess up their next respective crimes. She offers to work with them on another caper, once they see that what she says is true. Neither Catwoman nor Poison Ivy believe her, but then Batgirl screws up Poison Ivy's caper.

And Catwoman has hers ruined by the Huntress. In both cases Madame Zodiac shows up to help defeat the heroes. The Catwoman scene is really effective, as Helena is fighting against the doppleganger of her own mother, and finds it really difficult.

Barbara Gordon and Helena Wayne meet with Kathy Kane at her carnival and discuss the recent events. You have to wonder if every single person working for Kathy Kane is a villain, as Madame Zodiac works at the carnival, I am sure. Zodiac lays the plans for the next caper, although her own plans allow for Catwoman and Poison Ivy to get caught, allowing her to steal a mystic pipe.

That sort of screws up when Batwoman shows up, while the other four women are fighting, to take on Madame Zodiac herself.

But the fortune teller gets the pipe and uses it to vanish. She will return in a later story.

Batwoman is next seen a couple of months down the road in Freedom Fighters. Poison Ivy returns a few months down the road in the Wonder Woman story in World's Finest Comics. Catwoman, it is worthy of note, is next seen shortly in Detective Comics, and starts to reform. Battling the alternate Earth version of her own daughter had an effect on her.

Golden does the art on the Man-Bat story, which opens with Batman and Batgirl seeing the Huntress off as she returns to Earth-2. The use of the transmatter machine interacts with a storm, which results in Morgaine le Fay turning back into a person, from the stone statue she became at the end of the Demon's series, back in 1974.

She is out for revenge, and also to gain the Philosopher's Stone. She gets her hands on that pretty quick.

It takes a while, but finally we get around to seeing what Kirk Langstrom is up to. He is at the hospital while his wife, Francine, is in labour. Morgaine, with the Stone, foresees that a baby born in that hospital will become a demonic entity, so she tries to hurry that along, turning babies into demon monsters to see if it takes. Kirk becomes Man-Bat to deal with the first of these, although the child turns back into a human once Morgaine figures out it is not the right one.

Jason Blood shows up to investigate, and once he determines Morgaine's involvement turns the case over to his own demonic side, Etrigan.

As one could expect, it takes a while for Man-Bat to figure out that Etrigan is not the cause of the problem, and then the two work together to take down Morgaine. She uses the Stone to keep both of them bound, but Man-Bat gets out of it by turning back into Kirk Langstrom.

He grabs the Stone and uses its power on Le Fay, turning her back into a statue. Morgaine is next seen early in the pre-Crisis universe, the team up between Superman and the Demon in Action Comics. As for the Demon himself, he had appeared just before this story, a cameo in Challengers of the Unknown, and returns in Detective Comics a few months down the road.

And as for Francine, she delivers a daughter, Rebecca.

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