It was shortly before Christmas 1976 that I picked up this issue of BATMAN FAMILY, the last issue of the series that would feature reprints. After this, new Publisher Jeanette Kahn’s dislike for reprinted material in ongoing titles would change the series to being all-new–a double-edged decision as far as i was concerned, as much of the reason I bought BATMAN FAMILY was for the classic reprints. But the times were changing.
The all-new lead in this particular issue was touted as the first full-length Batgirl solo story ever done. But it wasn’t really a solo tale at all, as writer Bob Rozakis took the opportunity to reintroduce Batwoman in this story. I knew who Batwoman was, had seen her in a couple of reprinted stories over the years, but this was her first new appearance in something like 13 years, which was an eternity to me at the age of 9. I’d guessing that Rozakis was motivated to bring Kathy Kane back based on those older stories as well as a liking for the character–he’d use her and her protege, the original Bat-Girl, a number of times in the next couple of years.
The story opens with the action already underway, as Batgirl grapples with a pair of classic Batman foes: Killer Moth (her first villain) and the Cavalier. But the tables are turned on the bad guy duo when Batwoman leaps into the fray, thus evening the odds. With that, Batgirl’s thoughts turn back to how this turn of events happened: after getting a fan letter suggesting that she herself should change her nomenclature to Batwoman, Batgirl was invited to the first anniversary of the Island of 1,000 Thrills that she and Robin had saved in a previous BATMAN FAMILY adventure.
On the way, she comes across the Cavalier in the midst of an attempted theft and easily dispatches him–he’s got an aversion to fighting women. Thereafter, at Dick Grayson’s suggestion, Barbara looks up Kathy Kane, an old friend of Dick’s and Bruce Wayne’s, and who unbeknownst to her was once Batwoman. The two incognito bat-ladies stroll after lunch, coming across another robbery in progress, this one being committed by Killer Moth. Barbara breaks away from Kathy in order to become Batgirl, and our story loops back around ti its beginning.
But the Cavalier seemingly grows to giant size, and he and Killer Moth escape. Batgirl dopes out that he’s using the illusion-casting apparatus of the Isle of 1,000 Thrills to make it seem like he’s a giant, and so forewarned, is in position to foil their next heist, an attempted hijack of a vintage Ironside ship. Making excuses to one another Barbara and Kathy become their Bat-selves, accidentally revealing their true identities to one another in the process.
From there, it’s action, action, action as the two crime-fighters beat the pants off of Killer Moth and the Cavalier. And in the wrap-up, Kathy declares her intention to remain retired and passes her mantle over to Barbara. but Barbara refuses it, saying that she intends to remain as Batgirl after all. And so this inconsequential story (a term I find I’m using for a lot of these entries lately) reaches its end. Not much happens apart from a bunch of fights, but it’s fun enough anyway, especially in seeing the two Bat-ladies compare stories.
The two reprints this time out are both Robin-centric, so as to make up for his absence in the opening story. The first is a relatively early Batman story from 1943 in which the brother of Dick Grayson’s father and his new wife arrive at Wayne Manor to take Dick off of Bruce Wayne’s hands.They are, of course, criminals looking for a payout from Wayne–and when the Batman gets involved, they bring in a gangster friend to help take care of the Masked Manhunter. It’s a good story, the best bits of which show both Bruce and Dick expressing how strongly they feel about one another (in a strictly father-son way, don’t get any ideas, Dr. Wertham!)
The second reprint is a mystery story, in which a cocky young Freddy Loyd takes Robin’s place, learning Batman’s true identity in the process and forcing him to take Freddy on as a partner as a result. But this is all a game, a put-on on the part of Dick Grayson–he’s actually disguised himself as Freddy to see if he can fool Batman and Alfred. but he’s dismayed when the duo seems to prefer Freddy to his true self. Angrily unmasking in front of them, he’s surprised to learn that they had seen through his subterfuge and decided to play along and teach him a lesson. And a fine time was had by all.