BHOC: BATMAN FAMILY #16

Bought this issue of BATMAN FAMILY at my regular 7-11. I was reading the title regularly, the only BATMAN book I was following so routinely, and I can’t actually tell you why. Maybe it was the format, possibly it was that I liked the Man-Bat solo stories. But I wasn’t particularly a fan of either Robin or Batgirl, nor did most of the stories in the title stick to my ribs. I suppose some of the appeal was simply things like the gimmick outlined on this cover-that the Dynamite Duo was going to be facing a villain who had three separate identities.

It also probably helped that writer Bob Rozakis was at least tangentially connecting what he was doing in BATMAN FAMILY to his work on TEEN TITANS, which I liked better. This includes bringing in the Harlequin as a guest star this issue, she who had started out in BATMAN FAMILY as the Joker’s Daughter. Her, in the opening, she and Robin cross swords with a new villain calling himself the Lumberjack. He’s a bit ridiculous, with a mask that looks like a woolen had pulled over his face and an axe and a chainsaw in place of his hands. He also speaks in a Batroc-esque comedy French accent–I presume that he was meant to be French-Canadian.

Believe it or not, the Lumberhack manages to outwit and outfight Robin and the Harlequin and make his escape–the next morning, Dick Grayson reads all about it in the local paper. And that’s our segue to Barbara Gordon, who is also reading a news story, this one about a different villain, the Galloping Ghost, who heisted plans from Ferris Aircraft, Barbara and her father Commissioner Gordon are taking the train from Gotham to Washington DC, but Gordon and his men are secretly escorting a htiman who is turning State’s Evidence to his Grand Jury appearance. But their train is attacked by yet another super-villain.

This one, Johnny G.I., is military-themed as well as bulletproof. He’s there to steal the Rajah’s Ruby, which was the false cover story Gordon set up to explain why so many cops were on board the train–but Johnny doesn’t know that. This necessitates Batgirl to swing into action against him. But as with the Lumberjack, Johnny G.I. fights Batgirl and the Gotham P.D. to a standstill ten makes good his escape.

The next day, Barbara, Dick Grayson and Commissioner Gordon are all at Babs’ place in Washington DC. Dick turns on the TV to watch coverage of the Miss Stars And Stripes ’77 Beauty Pageant. But as they watch, the pageant is attacked by still another new villain: the Lazer Razer. But as it turns out, Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl, is on hand, and she fights off the Lazer Razer. But as they watch the telecast, Dick recognizes some of the Lazer Razer’s moves as being the same as the Lumberjack’s, and Barbara notices the much more obvious clue that he’s wearing one green boot on his magenta costume–one that matches the footwear of Johnny G.I. From this, the two incognito heroes deduce that all of these villains are actually the same person in multiple guises.

What’s more, Barbara has figured out the villain’s pattern and where he’s likely to strike next. And so, a week later, as President Jimmy Carter addresses Congress, Barbara and Robin are in position when a mysterious voice cuts off the chamber in a force-field and threatens to kill everyone inside it unless the President and all of the members of Congress publicly resign. Robin is in the control room, and when Barbara stands up to comment on the situation, her hair is strangely green. The technicians, thinking that something is wrong with the picture, move to adjust it–all except one, who is color blind. He’s the man Robin is looking for. Batgirl and Robin are able to follow him and then defeat him, and the crisis is over. (He was using his multiple identities to obscure his own guilt, passing himself off as multiple criminals while he gathered the tools he’d need for each successive impersonation.)

The back-up story was another adventure of Man-Bat illustrated wonderfully by Michael Golden. I have a real soft spot for these Man-Bat stories, even though objectively they aren’t really all that good. This is the wrap-up to the adventure started last time, where the mysterious Shotgun Sniper has been killing people in Gotham, and P.I. Jason Bard thinks that Man-Bat’s alter ego Kirk Langstrom is the culprit. After a misunderstanding, they eventually catch the real Shotgun Sniper, who is a childhood friend of Man-Bat’s wife Francine who became obsessed with her and started killing off rivals for her affection. At the close of the story, Francine’s water break, so Man-Bat has to hustle her off the hospital where their child will soon be born.

And the issue wraps up with another feature on an obscure foe of Batman’s. This time, the malefactor is the Calendar Man, who hadn’t been seen in close to twenty years at this point. He’s a pretty ridiculous villain, but that didn’t stop him from going on to greater notoriety years later as the central figure in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s epic BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN

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