BATMAN #348
(JUNE 1982)

BATMAN RETURNS TO
THE BATCAVE

GERRY CONWAY HAS THE KEYS

"Shadow Play"
(18 pages)

Cover pencils - Jim Aparo
Cover inks -
Jim Aparo
Cover colouring - Anthony Tollin

Story - Gerry Conway
Art - Gene Colan
Inks - Klaus Jansen
Colours - Adrienne Roy
Lettering - Ben Oda
Editor - Dick Giordano

Second feature - Catwoman, "The Man, the Bullet, the Cat (Part 1)" (7 pages)
Letters page - "Batsignals" (1 page)

 

"MOVING DAY AT WAYNE MANOR: IN THE MANSION ABOVE, OLD FAMILIAR ROOMS HAVE BEEN DUSTED,
WINDOWS OPENED, RUGS BEATEN AND DRAPERIES CLEANED.
BRUCE WAYNE AND DICK GRAYSON HAVE COME HOME AT LAST...
AND TONIGHT, THEIR ALTER EGOS HAVE RETURNED TO THE ORIGINAL BATCAVE."

 

PLOT SUMMARY

Following an announcement made by Bruce Wayne (in the final panel of Detective Comics #513), the Dynamic Duo and Alfred are back at Wayne Manor and touching up the old Batcave back to its original former glory and functionality.

Just as they are in the midst of repositioning the numerous large prize trophies the trio of movers is called to the front door where they find an enraged Francine Langstrom who verbally and physically attacks Bruce Wayne and blames him for neither helping her and her child nor finding a cure for her husband Kirk Langstrom's sickness (i.e. turning into Man-Bat). Overcome by emotions and fatigue, Francine Langstrom faints after having accused Bruce of being a rich monster who cares for nothing and nobody but himself.

Visibly taken aback, Bruce changes into Batman gear in the cave and has Robin take Rebecca, the young Langstrom girl, down into Batcave in spite of Alfred's and Dick's protest that this may be an unwise step - but obviously, the accusations made by Francine Langstrom (who is resting in a room of the Manor) weigh heavily on the Batman's conscience.

Batman grabs an antidote - of which he believes that it will either cure Kirk Langstrom or kill him - and, after recounting to Robin and Alfred the facts of how exactly Kirk Langstrom came to be the Man-Bat (back in Detective Comics #400, June 1970) - sets out to find Langstrom, taking Rebecca with him as he feels that this might actually help save her father.

As fate and happenstance would have it, the Batman need not look far as the Man-Bat has actually made the vacated Batcave his abode and hiding place...

 
 
Elsewhere, former Police Commissioner James Gordon spends the night gazing from a bridge into the Gotham River until his daughter Barbara stops by and tells him to finally come home. The word rings somewhat out of tune for Gordon, who muses that he lost his home when his wife died and that for many years since Police HQ had been his home - but now, he feels, he no longer has any home at all. Barbara Gordon dislikes the way her father behaves like an old lost man, and decides to try and get him back into working order whilst ponderingly looking at the calling card of one Jason Bard, investigator...

And yet in another location that very same night, Vicki Vale informs Morton Deal, the editor of Picture News, that she has photographic proof of Batman's true identity but that she will not hand over the pictures for publication yet because she wants to be 100% sure about her facts - after all the incidents which took place the last time someone had claimed to be in possession of precisely that information (i.e. Arthur Reeves losing the mayoral election - back in Batman #344). She asks Deal to have a little more patience, but as soon as Vicki has left he picks up the phone and relates the information he has just received to "Boss" Thorne, who is precisely the person behind the manipulation of the mayoral election...

 
  Meanwhile, back in the Batcave, Batman and Man-Bat finally hit upon each other, but Langstrom manages to push the Darknight Detective over an edge inside the cave, and whilst Batman can grab hold of an outcrop and pull himself back up again, he finds that Man-Bat has taken Rebecca with him.

Advancing ever further into the depths of the Batcave, Batman finally catches up with Man-Bat and, in front of a terrified child, the two opposing personifications of the Bat battle it out with each other, but Langstrom - who despite his state of being the Man-Bat recognizes his daughter - once again grabs Rebecca and takes her up to precarious heights inside the giant caves underneath Wayne Manor. However, the Batman has made use of Man-Bat's focus being on the child, and comes up from behind, jabbing an injection with the antidote into Langstrom's neck... and fate is in a kind mood this night, for the antidote works and transforms Man-Bat back to his actual self, Kirk Langstrom.

And so, the move back into the Batcave has proven a turbulent affair, but at least all's well that ends well... and the next adventure awaits in the pages of Detective Comics #515 ...

 

REVIEW & ANALYSIS

Following a brief interruption for the May 1982 cover date production run with completely non-interconnected single issue stories in Detective Comics #514 by Len Wein and Batman #347 by Roger Slifer, Gerry Conway was back at the wheel to kick off the second wave of crossovers between the Batman and Detective Comics titles. Still evaluating reader reactions (as Dick Giordano's question in that direction ("Would you rather we drop all continuing threads?"), put forward to readers in the letters page of Batman #350, clearly showed) DC opted for a subtle and low-level re-entry into the crossover formula by having Batman #347 feature a basically self-contained one issue story but set into the background of a continuing plot running over from Detective Comics and then feeding back into that same title.

And again - just as he would do with the vampire story arc, starting the next issue of Batman - Conway delivers proof that he is indeed a master of the subplot whilst at the same time keeping an interesting story moving up front. This time around, he makes good use of the return of the Dynamic Duo to the original Batcave - a move greeted with enthusiastic approval by the readers - by slipping Batman an opponent who is virtually a natural to those cavernous surroundings: Man-Bat. At the same time, Conway also moves a number of subplots along, setting up James Gordon, Vicki Vale and "Boss" Thorne for further storylines, which even hint at a possible unmasking of the Batman by his new romantic interest.

 
  It all falls together very well, even if some elements of the main story may be somewhat on the melodramatic side. But then again, Conway provides characterization (even fitting in a one page recap of Man-Bat's origin), and drama is all a part of it when it comes to the world of Batman.

Just as vivid and entertaining as Conway's plotting is Gene Colan's artwork, which is so dramatic and indeed cinematographic that it almost seems to pop out at the reader in 3D in places. Colan provides first class pencils throughout this issue, but the fight scenes are especially worth pointing out, where "the Dean" is in complete command and uses highly dynamic and unconventional panel layouts to further enhance the flow of his artistic style, whilst the inks by Klaus Janson go along well and preserve the weight for which Colan's pencilling was famous.

The end result is a comic book which meshes content and visuals to near perfection, embellished further by Adrienne Roy's colouring which just sits right.

Highly RECOMMENDED READING - Another well executed example by Gerry Conway of how interestingly a storyline with multiple subplot threads can be told in just one issue, crowned with all the atmospheric and cineastic artwork for which Gene Colan is renowned.

 

BAT-MAN VS. MAN-BAT

Created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams for Detective Comics #400 (June 1970), Man-Bat is actually Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who was studying bats in the hopes of mimicking their sonar abilities to allow the blind to see. Creating an experimental serum derived from bat glands, Langstrom tries out the formula on himself but finds that transforms him into a "Man-Bat", complete with sonar and enormous and functional leathery wings.

In later appearances, Man-Bat learned to control his monstrous form, and even embarked on a short-lived career as a superhero-for-hire in his own comic-book series in 1975 - which however only lasted for two issues.

In the "New 52" version of the DC Universe most of Kirk Langstrom and Man-Bat's origin and background story of the serum has been altered substantially.

Seen mostly as a "classic" Batman villain, this appreciation no doubt stems from the fact that his visuals were created by Neal Adams, the archetypal pop culture icon Batman artists, and that the concept elaborated by equally famed Frank Robbins presents Batman almost with his personal antithesis: whereas Bruce Wayne is always still a man (albeit one who assumes certain qualities of a bat), Man-Bat is a creature who tries to block out any remnants of its human origin - and often almsot succeeds. In this respect, Man-Bat is also a parable for the fact that good and bad often coexist very closely.

 
 
Gerry Conway was revisiting many such classic Batman villains during his run in the early 1980s, but not wanting to take any chances with new readers (who might well have no previous knowledge of the Batman Universe), he would always slip in an origin recap which also gave readers a quick rundown on the essentials of a villainous character. Sometimes a panel would be enough, but in the case of Man-Bat a whole page was required to work out the fine balance between good and evil in conjunction with Man-Bat.
 

TO THE BATCAVE !

Batman #348 also heralds the return of the Dynamic Duo to Wayne Manor and hence also to the original Batcave underneath the Wayne family's historic stately home. Bruce and Alfred had left for good when Robin left in order to attend Hudson University, and moved to the Wayne Foundation building in central Gotham City (all in Batman #217 from December 1969).

 
  It was, literally, a drastic move by comic book standards. After all, the Batcave had become a set piece in the perception of Batman as a popular culture icon, not the least cemented into place by the frequent views offered to the millions of people watching the 1960s cult television series - and the trademark call of "Robin, to the Batcave!"

But then maybe that was precisley what writer Frank Robbins had in mind at the time. "Batmania" was over for good, and by the end of the 1960s a number of talents at DC comics had to almost reinvent the Darknight Detective from scratch in order to pull the character from the debris of the "camp" era when the comic books followed the TV series as closely as they could in order to cash in on the popularity (which they did, at least for a while). When the TV show ended, so did the good times for the Dynamic Duo in their original medium.

From this perspective, leaving the Batcave and "sealing it up forever" (as shown on the iconic Neal Adams cover) in order to move to more modern premises could also be seen as slightly symbolic.

In any case, readers were to find out that unlike with many other "teaser covers" (where events which loomed would ultimately not unfold) the closing up of the Batcave was for real - it would not be opened up again until Gerry Conway handed Bruce Wayne and Alfred (and Dick) back the keys in Batman #348. Which made for an incredible 131 issues (and twelve and a half years in real time) without the original Batcave.

 
Before being closed down and sealed, the Batcave had existed for a good 26 years. As a concept, it had gradually evolved from a "secret tunnel" between Wayne Manor and a "dusty old barn" to something more elaborate as the Batman obviously needed some place to store his growing arsenal of machinery.
 
In Batman #12 (August 1942) Bill Finger had the Dynamic Duo descend by elevator into "the Batman's secret underground hangars". When the more or less unaltered cut-away schematic illustrating this concept was reused for the Batman daily syndicated newspaper strip for 29 October 1943, it was labelled "Bat Cave".

However, neither Bill Finger nor Bob Kane had come up with that idea - it was the brainchild of Victor McLeod and Leslie Swabacker.

Screenwriting the 1943 Columbia serial Batman, McLeod and Swabacker came up with the idea of calling the Caped Crusader's underground crime lab "bat cave"; the second of the total 15 episodes is even entitled "The Bat's Cave".

Legend has it that Bob Kane, on returning from the studio set, told Bill Finger to take up that idea for the daily Batman newspaper strip.

The Batcave finally made its comic book debut proper in Detective Comics #83 (January 1944). Over time, it expanded (although subsequent writers cared little about consistency) to include not only a Batcomputer and a state of the art forensic lab but also a number of trophies.

The most iconic and consistently featured trophies are a full-size animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex (which comes from an adventure on "Dinosaur Island" in Batman #35 from 1946), a giant replica of a Lincoln penny (originally a trophy from Batman's encounter with a penny-obsessed villain named the Penny Plunderer in World's Finest Comics #30 from 1947, but later retconned as stemming from an encounter with Two-Face - and prominently featured on the splash page of this issue of Batman), as well as an oversized Joker playing card (with obvious origins).

 


Batman #12 (August 1942)


Batman Daily Newspaper Strip (29 October 1943)


Detective Comics #83 (January 1944)

 

FACTS & FIGURES

Batman #348 initiates the second wave of the 1982 crossovers between Detective Comics and Batman. It was sold in two variant version: a newsstand edition (with a barcode on the cover) and a direct market edition (with the barcode area left blank and displaying the DC logo plus the blurb "WHERE THE ACTION IS") which also carried a UK price of 20p.

 
  "Shadow Play" was reprinted in Batman in the Eighties (2004) and is collected in Gene Colan - Tales of the Batman Vol 1 (2011).

"Shadow Play" was almost instantly translated and reprinted for the European market in 1982 - Ehapa published a German version (although somewhat drastically shortened by four pages) in Batman Sonderheft #27, and Semic AS put out a Norwegian version in Superserien #24.

The original artwork for the splash page shows that inker Klaus Janson was erroneously lettered as "Jansen" by Ben Oda, prompting Janson to ink in the remark "DICK - CORRECT "JANSON" - TEN YEARS IN THE BUSINESS AND I GET AN "E" - SHEEESH !!" The original art for the splash page also reveals another trick of the trade as Gene Colan requested "DICK - PLEASE STAT DOWN FIGURES OF BRUCE, DICK + ALFRED RELATIVE TO "PENNY". The printed artwork does indeed show the three figures to have been downsized.

The four Rubylith acetate colour separation overlays (one each for the "subtractive primary colours" cyan, magenta and yellow plus the black "key" - hence CMYK) for the splash page have survived (autographed by colourist Adrienne Roy), and they show a fact of the printing process which is often forgotten - namely that four comic book pages were printed one one sheet of paper and then cut and folded. In this case, pages 1 (the splash page) and 32 werde side by side on one row and pages 16 and 17 on another. This print grid would get pages 2 and 31 plus 15 and 18 printed on its reverse side.

 

 
BIBLIOGRAPHY

CRONIN Brian (2010) "Comic Book Legends Revealed #279", Comic Book Ressources

 

BATMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics, Inc. TM and DC Comics, Inc.,
a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

The illustrations presented here are copyright material. Their reproduction for the review and research purposes of this website is considered fair use as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.

first uploaded to the internet 2 September 2015
text is copyright (c) 2015 atw