This was, it turned out, the final issue of BATMAN FAMILY in its current form. Shortly after this, the DC Implosion would happen, slashing the size of the DC line dramatically and costing a number of people–including this issue’s editor Al Milgrom–their jobs. On the chopping block at that moment was DETECTIVE COMICS, as it wasn’t pulling in the necessary numbers. In an attempt to save the series that the company had been named after, Paul Levitz suggested that they simply migrate the contents of BATMAN FAMILY into DETECTIVE COMICS, making it a Dollar Comic. this turned out to be a viable move, and so DETECTIVE COMICS was saved. Except for me–I largely didn’t follow that migration, in part thanks to some spotty distribution at the time and not having access to the first few Dollar Comics issues of DETECTIVE COMICS. But good on Paul for a clever idea.
This was the point where the Dollar Comics went to a No Ads format, while still providing more overall story pages. And in particular, editor Al Milgrom had a more modern aesthetic than more established DC editors, so he made good use of the younger talent that was emerging on the scene. Talent such as Michael Golden, who had been working on the Man-Bat series but here is promoted to the opening Batman story. It’s a great-looking job, teaming up the Caped Crusader with Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert’s weird creation, Ragman. Bob Smith’s inking is perhaps a little bit slight, but Golden’s skill was also still t a formative level.
The story involves some goons who are attempting to force out the tenants of the section of Gotham City where Rory Regan maintains his Rags-N-Tatters thrift shop. The twist here is that these guys are working for a development company that’s been hired by Wayne Enterprises, which puts Rory’s alter ego Ragman on a collision course with the Batman as he attempts to save his neighborhood. For his part, of course, Batman is unaware of the evil that’s being done in his name, and so he ultimately joins forces with Ragman to root out the corruption within his own company and bring the wrongdoers to justice. It’s a rare story of the era that looks at Batman as a person of wealth and privilege, and while it doesn’t really get into these issues in depth, it does at least raise the notion that it’s rich people like Bruce Wayne who are trodding upon those less fortunate than themselves as they go about expanding their wealth and empires.
Next up was an extra-length Robin and Batgirl adventure, this one also guest-starring the Red Tornado and with an appearance by the Elongated Man. The gist of the set-up is that Robin is teleported away from Hudson University by the Elongated Man because the Red Tornado needs help urgently and the rest of the Justice League are away on one of those convenient space missions. Why Ralph Dibny doesn’t just go to the android’s aid himself is hand-waved away, something about always needing to have somebody on monitor duty–sure, that’s way more important than the lives of your teammate, dude. So he reached out to Robin hoping that he and Batgirl might be able to lend a hand (while he watches it all go down on some convenient monitors.)
The enemy they’re all up against is the lousily-named Power Sower. The Sower’s got an armored electrical power suit similar to that of the old Iron Man foe the Crimson Dynamo, but the Sower is using it for a more noble cause: to bring attention to the Energy Crisis facing the world and to get people to invest in alternative sources of power. (Yes, this was in 1979.) After a couple of different skirmishes in which the trio of heroes can prove their heroism, the Power Sower is defeated and revealed as an unnamed female activist whose goals were pure but whose methods were dangerous. As with the opening Batman adventure, this story is a full-length 20 page outing, and the often-maligned Don Heck does a nice job on the visuals (though they’re not as contemporary as Golden’s work.)
After that, we get the regular slice of Man-Bat, also by Rozakis and Golden. Rozakis in particular had been working to transition Man-Bat from being a freaky Batman anti-hero into a genuine lead on his own. And while he never quite managed to get there in a global sense, these Man-Bat stories, especially the ones illustrated by Golden, were a lot of fun, and often the best part of an issue of BATMAN FAMILY. In this outing, Man-Bat attempts to set himself up as a private investigator working alongside recurring Batman supporting player Jason Bard. When a recommendation from Batman fails to do the trick (Bard is skeptical of Langstrom’s story that the Masked manhunter will vouch for him) Man-Bat does it the hard way–by tailing Bard on his next assignment and providing aerial assistance and back-up.
Finally, the issue closes out with a final story featuring the Huntress, the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman. The Huntress was a relatively new character at this time, but people at DC clearly had some big hopes for her–she would appear, for instance, in the upcoming LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES specials. This adventure is the conclusion to a short serial in which the Huntress exposes a corrupt Councilman who has been setting firebombs in South Central Gotham buildings in an attempt to secure Federal Aid from the Government. The attractive art was by the character’s visual creators, Joe Staton and Bob Layton, while the story was the work of Paul Levitz. At the end, a blurb informs readers that the Huntress will next appear in SHOWCASE, but that never wound up happening. Instead, she soon began starring in an ongoing back-up strip in WONDER WOMAN.