Tag Archives: Frank McLaughlin

Batman 342 – Batman vs Man-Bat


Continuing the story from the previous issue, Batman 342 (Dec. 81) sees the hero fighting Man-Bat in the Batcave, related by Conway, Novick and McLaughlin.


Dr. Thirteen discovered the existence of the cave using a sonic gun, and after Man-Bat knocks the Ghost Breaker out, Batman uses the sonics to drive Kirk Langstrom away.  He gets Dr. Thirteen to the hospital, but the man is unconscious, and Batman has no idea what he will remember of the events.


Batman refuses to tell Commissioner Gordon exactly what happened, in order to shield his identity, and Gordon flips on him.  The election race between Hamilton Hill and Arthur Reeves has been heating up, and Gordon’s career has become a hot button issue in the campaign.


Boss Thorne is brought back, manipulating the election from behind the scenes.  Although no longer in the madhouse, we see that Thorne is still being haunted by the ghost of Hugo Strange.


Bruce Wayne goes to visit with Francine Langstrom, and a few pages are dedicated to her recapping the major events in her husband’s career as Man-Bat.  His most recent appearance, teaming with Superman, brought about the cure for their daughter’s illness, but Kirk grew to blame Batman, irrationally, for not helping her.  This lead him to take the Man-Bat serum again, and seek out vengeance on the hero.


The story ends with a beautifully rendered battle between Batman and Man-Bat in the Batcave and its adjoining underground passages.  Batman fails to get the antidote to Langstrom, who flees at the end of the story, now seemingly Man-Bat for good.

Man-Bat returns in a few months.


Batman 341 – Who is haunting Wayne Manor?


Conway, Novick and McLaughlin provide a very entertaining tale in Batman 341 (Nov. 81), with Batman causing much of the chaos.


Bruce continues to fret about Poison Ivy, but bigger problems arise when Commissioner Gordon approaches him.  There have been many reports of strange activity, apparently ghostly, around Wayne Manor.  Gordon intends to investigate, even though Bruce tries to keep him away.


Gordon contact the Historical Society, who in turn hire Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost Breaker.  Terry Thirteen had last appeared a couple of months earlier in the pages of Ghosts.  They intend to search Wayne Manor from top to bottom, to see what is behind this.  Batman has no choice but to mess up their investigation as much as he can, which is quite entertaining.  Reviewing his own security monitoring with Alfred, they find that access to the Batcave has been made by someone,and Batman suspects that he knows who.


Thinking that he had gotten rid of Gordon and Thirteen, Batman heads down into the Batcave, and finds Man-Bat, who he had guessed was the “ghost.”  But Dr. Thirteen had only pretended to leave, certain that he was being played.  He finds the entrance to the Batcave, and as the story ends, come across Batman in Man-Bat’s clutches.

The story continue in the next issue.

Man-Bat had last appeared a few months earlier, teamed with Superman in DC Comics Presents.

Batman 338 – Batman vs the Sportsman, and Robin at Hill’s Circus


Batman faces a new villain, the Sportsman, a fairly clear adaption of the classic Green Lantern enemy the Sportsmaster, in Batman 338 (Aug. 81).


Like his predecessor, the Sportsman wears various uniforms, suitable to the event he is disrupting.  This villain’s goal is to kill off star athletes.  The story is by Conway, Thomas, Novick and McLaughlin.


The Sportsman is more than happy to explain his traumatic childhood to Batman, with an abusive, and sports-crazed father.  As the boy was not terribly athletic, the dad performed medical experiments on him, which are now killing the Sportsman.  So he is out to kill successful sports figures first.


Little about this tale grabs me, the villain is just too derivative, and the fact that he is dying easily explains why we never saw him again.


Much better is the conclusion to the Robin storyline, by Conway, Newton and Mahlstedt, with the murder at Hill’s Circus.  Lorna gets cleared pretty fast, and explains that she is engaged to Waldo, although the murdered man was none too happy about that.

Vashnu, Tiny and Cleveland Brand all get very small roles, and most of them will next be seen in the Deadman miniseries a few years down the road.


It turns out that the “murder” was really a suicide, intended to frame Waldo, and prevent him and Lorna getting married.  Although it seems that the two are headed to the altar, as of the Deadman miniseries, Lorna is still single – so perhaps his sick plan worked after all.


Batman 336 – the return of a bunch of 60s villains


A host of Batman villains from the 60s come back in Batman 336 (June 1981), in a story by Bob Rozakis and Roy Thomas, with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Frank McLaughlin. Effectively, this floats four old baddies to see which ones might grab the readers’ interest, and on the whole, does a better job with them than their original tales.


The Monarch of Menace is the organizer of the cadre of criminals, and believes that the Bouncer has succeeded in killing Batman.  Neither of those characters had appeared again after their debuts, but Cluemaster has made a few cameos over the years, and Spellbinder showed up a couple of years earlier facing Superman in his book.


Oddly, the Cluemaster, who would be the only one to really continue appearing semi-regularly, doesn’t get much of a chance to shine in this tale.


The issue also has a brief scene that serves as an epilogue to the whole Gregorian Falstaff/Lazarus Affair stuff, as both Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox return to business at the Wayne Foundation.


The best sequence in the story has Batman nullifying Spellbinder’s hallucinatory effects with strips of foil.  It looks great.


But the big build up is to the battle with the Monarch of Menace.  Despite all his goofy gimmicks, the felon does not come off as any more impressive than he did in his original outing.

While the Cluemaster is next seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the only other character to return, the Spellbinder, has to wait until the late 90s and Underworld Unleashed for his comeback.

Batman 335 – The Lazarus Affair concludes


Wolfman, Novick and McLaughlin conclude The Lazarus Affair in Batman 335 (May 1981).


Batman accepts Ra’s Al Ghul’s offer to join him, despite the protestations of Robin, Catwoman and King Faraday.  He implies to Robin that his romance with Talia is the deciding factor, but of course he is only playing for time.  Anyone could guess that.


And, indeed, it’s not long before Batman reveals his true loyalties, turning on Ra’s, who is not surprised at all. There is a bad continuity error in this story, with Ra’s shown to be primarily concerned about building a global corporate empire, rather than using his League of Assassins to rule from the shadows, and he even is said to have not been aware that Batman was Bruce Wayne before the events of this story. This not only contradicts every previous story he has been in, but means that Talia knew Batman was Bruce, even though her father didn’t.  Absurd.


Talia gets shot by one of Al Ghul’s men, after she betrays her father to aid Batman, and gets put into the Lazarus Pit to restore her to life.


Then there is a last big fight between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.  It’s been done before, and has looked much better.


Ra’s Al Ghul ends off supposedly dead (again), while Catwoman takes off, and Bruce and Dick reach a kind of detente over his dropping out of college.

Pretty much a disappointing story arc all around, sad to say.

Catwoman next appears in a couple of months in the pages of Brave and the Bold, and King Faraday pops up shortly after in the Dial H for Hero series in Adventure Comics.

Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia return next year in the Batman annual.

Batman 334 – just how old is Talia anyway?, Commissioner Gordon solos, and Jason Bard checks out a fire


Both the Batman and Catwoman/Robin stories continue in the lead tale in Batman 334 (April 1981), although the issue also contains two back-up features, one with Commissioner Gordon, and the other a Tales of Gotham City starring Jason Bard.


There is little point in continuing to be coy about who the villain behind this all is.  And really, in a story with Talia Al Ghul, titled the LAZARUS Affair, one would have to be pretty dense not to figure out that it’s Ra’s Al Ghul.  Batman is held captive, and shown the idyllic paradise that Ra’s followers inhabit, and also the hellish misery endured by his enemies. Wolfman, Novick and McLaughin are the creative team.


Catwoman uses her nails to cut herself free in the opium den, and frees Robin as well.  Bet he never lived that one down.  They find King Faraday, already a captive, but the three of them still wind up falling into the hands of the big mutated monster men, and are tossed into the pit with Ra’s enemies.


Batman, refusing to join Ra’s, is brought there by the monster men as well, though Talia manages to fight her way to freedom.  Or relative freedom.


Talia begins to age very rapidly, and we discover that she is really over 150 years old, kept looking young by Ra’s Al Ghul’s touch.  Rather than wither away and die, she betrays Batman and his crew, and heads to join her father.  No other story would ever follow up on this notion, even though it makes a fair bit of sense, with Ra’s being exceptionally old.


Ra’s touch restores Talia’s youth and beauty.  Technically, Ra’s Al Ghul is only revealed as the villain on the final page, but I seriously doubt that anyone was surprised.  In fact, even at 15 it was so obvious that it put a damper on the entire tale.

The story concludes in the next issue.


Bob Rozakis, Joe Staton and McLaughlin pull off a decent one-page mystery featuring Commissioner Gordon.  He had last been given a solo tale as part of Tales of Gotham City in Detective Comics a couple of years earlier.


It’s Jason Bard who gets the Tales of Gotham City tale in this issue, by Mike W. Barr and Dan Spiegle.  This may have been sitting around for a while, as Jason Bard had been featured in a couple stories from this series a while back in Detective Comics, though his most recent appearance was in Detective 500 the previous month.


Spiegle has some nicely moody art, as Jason investigates an arson case, determining that the ex-husband of the woman left homeless was behind the fire, in order to collect the insurance money.

Jason Bard returns the following year in this book.


Batman 333 – Batman and Talia go from Switzerland to China, and Catwoman teams with Robin


Batman 333 (March 1981) contains the second chapter of The Lazarus Affair, by Wolfman, Novick and McLaughlin, as well as a Catwoman/Robin story, which again is really just another chapter in the larger storyline.


The issue opens in Switzerland, as Batman goes in disguise as one of Gregorian Falstaff’s men, to learn what he can from the man’s secret bank account. The disguise gets seen through pretty quickly – those Swiss bankers don’t trust anyone – and Batman winds up fleeing for his life.


Talia has accompanied him on his journey, and in their down time she and Bruce get all romantic – at least until more people try to kill them.  Talia gets an awful lot to do in this issue, more than she usually does, and shows herself fully capable of handling assassins.


The visit to Switzerland was not a complete loss, Batman did learn that someone was bankrolling Falstaff, and they follow the trail to China.


Batman tries to bluff his way towards whoever the mastermind is, going as Bruce Wayne, but this fails dismally, and he winds up getting captured.

The story continues in the next issue.


Catwoman teams with Robin in the back-up tale, by Wolfman, Novick and John Celardo.  They get Timothy Fox released from prison, and gain more information about the gang that was determined to frame Bruce Wayne as a slumlord.  Timothy realizes how much he had been used, and has a tearful reconciliation with Lucius Fox.


Catwoman and Robin have also discovered that China is the next step on their quest, and wind up running in to King Faraday there.  They make plans to infiltrate an opium den that is the headquarters of the gang leader, but Faraday is a no-show when the time comes.


Robin goes in disguise as one of Selina’s boy toys, while she is able to enter the place simply as herself.  She and the gang leader have a past, but not a good one, and he quickly turns on them.


The story ends with Catwoman and Robin bound, and about to be injected with cocaine.  The given reason is that it will act as a truth drug, though I highly doubt that is accurate.

The story continues in the next issue.