Batman Family #1 (September/October 1975)
Lead Story Writer: Elliot S! Maggin
Lead Story Penciller/Inker: Mike Grell
As a kid, my favorite comics were DC’s line of Dollar Comics, Sure, they cost much more than the other books on the shelves at the time, but you also received 64 pages of comics, completely ad-free. Titles like Adventure Comics and World’s Finest Comics became anthology books focusing on four or five features per issue. For an all-to-brief run of four issues, Batman Family became a Dollar Comics book, before getting caught up in the DC Implosion of the late 1970s. (DC did move the Dollar Comics concept over to the pages of Detective Comics, keeping the “Batman Family” concept alive for another year or so.)
Anyway, those Dollar Comics issues of Batman Family were the best introduction to Batman comics for my impressionable young mind. In those issues, I read stories by Denny O’Neal, Paul Levitz, and Bob Rozakis, and the art was done by the likes of Michael Golden, Joe Staton, Mike Kaluta, Jim Starlin, P. Craig Russell, and Jim Aparo. I think I read those issues until they fell apart.
Over the last several years, I have been searching back-issue bins to build a complete run of Batman Family in decent shape. At Planet Comicon, I finally tracked down one of the two missing issues for my collection, Batman Family #1, from Craig Klotz at the KC Fancon booth. He had posted a photo on Facebook of the comic a month before the convention, and I sent a note asking him to hold it for me until the con. Craig was a man of his word, and I was able to add this to my collection on Friday afternoon.
(For the record, the only issue I am missing from this series now is Batman Family #6, which has skyrocketed in prices in recent years due to the debut of the Joker’s Daughter in that issue’s main story. If some generous reader of this blog would like to donate a copy to help me complete my collection, please contact me through the website!)
Now the early issues of Batman Family were a mix of new stories and reprint stories. In the first issue, we get an original story involving Batgirl and Robin by Elliot S! Maggin and Mike Grell. Batgirl and Robin would be the stars of Batman Family for the entire run of the book. This story takes place during the time when Barbara Gordon served as a member of Congress from Gotham City. (Don’t think too hard about the rules of holding government office. I’m assuming that the laws governing Congress in the Earth-1 universe differ from our Earth-Prime universe.) Dick Grayson is on a break from Hudson University, and has traveled to Washington, D.C., to serve as an aide to the Congresswoman. During a TV interview with Barbara, a portrait of Benedict Arnold comes to life. Yes, THAT Benedict Arnold. The one-time general seeks to tear down the government that has betrayed it’s principles over the years. Barbara and Dick make quick exits — this is an era where neither knew the other’s identity – and Batgirl and Robin quickly take chase after Arnold. During a climatic sword fight between Batgirl, Robin, and Benedict Arnold, it is revealed that the Devil has brought Arnold back to life in an attempt to destroy the American Spirit. The Devil sends Arnold back to the netherworld, and Batgirl and Robin are left to clean up the mess.
The other stories in this collection are all reprints from previous DC comics:
- “The Great Handcuff King!” starring Alfred is from Batman #28 (April/May 1945).
- “Commissioner Gordon’s Death Threat!” can be found in Batman #186 (November 1966).
- “Challenge of the Man-Bat!”, reprinting the Man-Bat’s first appearance, is from Detective Comics #400 (June 1970).
To find the original Batman Family issues, check with your local comic book. In the Midwest, I strongly recommend Clint’s Comics in midtown Kansas City. Clint’s has been in business for nearly 50 years at the intersection of Main St. and Westport Rd. The back-issue selection is incredible, and what you see in the store is just a small fraction of their total inventory. In addition to the back issues, Clint’s stocks current issues, trade paperbacks, toys, T-shirts, and more. Check out Clint’s Comics to build your own essential collection!