I had missed an issue of BATMAN FAMILY, but was back for the next one that I saw, issue #8. Shrinking page counts on the reprint books were beginning to take their toll on the series–apart from the full-length all-new Robin story, there were only two other reprinted tales in the issue, one featuring co-star Batgirl, the other focusing on a decidedly minor-league super-villain. The cover is among the nicer ones that Ernie Chua/Chan executed during this period, although the brown background color seems a strange choice for attracting the eye. Still, everything popped well against it.
The Robin solo story is a follow-up to the one that author Bob Rozakis had written two issues previous. That one dealt with the quasi-menace of the Joker’s Daughter, this one picked up on the dangling mystery of her identity by introducing the Catwoman’s daughter Catgirl. Catgirl makes an appearance at Hudson University, causing a ruckus but not actually stealing anything. Still, reports of her presence and questions about her connection to Catwoman are enough to anger the feline femme fatale and put the two characters onto a collision course.
In their confrontations, Catgirl seems obsessed with unmasking Robin and learning his identity. Things are made more complicated when Bruce Wayne calls Robin to offer advice but gets cut off–and all evidence points to him having been abducted. the Teen Wonder hustles back to Gotham City with Catgirl hot on his heels to search for his missing mentor.
Catgirl is, of course, the Joker’s Daughter in another villain disguise, and once again she gives Robin the slip, though she doesn’t succeed in unmasking him. On a better note, it turns out that Bruce had gone undercover to track down Catwoman, and reappears at the end safe and sound, with the criminal in tow. Robin doesn’t accomplish a whole lot in this story other than running around quite a bit, but it’s still a fun outing for him.
The classic reprint was up next, featuring the nobody villain called the Spinner. He was every bit as exciting as you might expect. His crimes, typically, all revolve around spinning things, a broad theme if ever there was one. He also wears a propeller on his helmet like a beanie, because he’s just that threatening. Believe it or not, Batman and Robin actually need the help of Batwoman to take down this piker.
She’s investigating a crooked Swami whose fake prognostications include mentally honing in on the Spinner’s hideout. Te trio of heroes overcome the Spinner and his henchmen, but despite all of the evidence that they’ve collected, when they unmask the Spinner as Joliet ex-con “Peanuts” Gilson, Batman is still quick-witted enough to see through the ruse and get everybody out of the headquarters before it self-destructs. The Swami is the real Spinner, and he hoped to use Gibson as a patsy, so that he could take his loot and retire unmolested.
Last up in the issue is a more recent reprint, this one illustrated by Don Heck. Heck had his ups and downs over the years, and was typically undervalued by a fickle fandom, but his Batgirl adventures all looked pretty good–he had an affinity for depicting attractive redheads. This was the story in which Barbara Gordon ran for Congress, so it’s entitled “Batgirl’s Last Case”–the point being that, if she were to win, she’d have to focus on her congressional work rather than running around as a super hero.
It’s a very 1970s story, with little in the way of Bat-action, but a grass roots campaign to get “Boot” Gordon elected that showcases the activism of young voters. Of course, the incumbent is in the pocket of bad guys, who try to intimidate the constituency into not voting, and when that doesn’t work, they figure on simply killing Barbara off, an assassination attempt that runs afoul of both private detective Jason Bard and Batgirl herself. Jason’s the real hero, though, pulling the plug on the microphones for Barbara’s victory speech before the dynamite planted within them can go off.
As a last bit of filler material, Associate Editor E. Nelson Bridwell devoted a page to previous covers that had featured Batgirl prominently. Of course, i was most enthralled by the Justice League cover, though it would be literally decades before I’d get to read the story inside.