Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spicy Mystery Stories - Bat Man

Spicy Mystery Stories, Feb 1936

For those of you interested in comic book history, take a look at this Kafkaesque pulp story Bat Man, written by Lew Merrill.

This pulp story printed in Spicy Mystery Stories from February 1936 is another acknowledged inspiration for the DC Comics Batman character. Other characters that are precursors to Batman include the pulp hero The Bat (batwing cape and all) and the film The Bat, which is unrelated to the pulp character.

Author Will Murray cited this story in his article The Ancestors of Batman, which is included in the essay collection Pulp Heroes of the Thirties, edited by James Van Hise. Murray also cites the Black Bat, the Bat (Better Publications), the Merrill story and others as influences. The Van Hise edited book is out of print, but you can find a copy through the internet.

Bat Man is the story of John Charters, who runs afoul of a jealous suitor pursuing his fiance. He becomes ill and takes on the characteristics of a bat. He also becomes something of a serial molester and the story has cannibalistic and vampiric elements. There are definite echoes of the DC character here and one part of the story is amusing. When Charters' fiance suggests they go downstairs and depart for his lair he replies, "It's easier for me to climb down the front of the house."

Originally Batman was just an avenging vigilante and the uncanny resemblance to some pulp heroes initially caused some legal issues, but they were all worked out. Bob Kane also negotiated that he would always be the sole credited creator of Batman, though research has shown that Kane studio members Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger were as much the creators of Batman and the other supporting cast as Kane was. Today, such resemblance in characters would not be successful due to legal challenges, but the industry was a bit different back in the 30's. If Batman was indeed a blatant rip, then the creators quickly made the character unique, which is how it managed to survive the years when others faded into literary history.

That it was a comic book, cheaper to buy, easier to read and aimed for a younger market than the novelized pulps helped the character remain in the public eye also.

I have posted the entire Merrill story here.



1 comment:

  1. Actually the pulp character was called the Black Bat. Be yeah DC even stole the gauntlet fins from the Black Bat.


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