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Robert Langstrom (New Earth)

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Quote1 Dear God. Is this what I have become? More animal than man. When will the surrender be complete? Quote2
-- Kirk Langstrom src

Early Life

When Kirk Langstrom was a young boy, he fell into a deep cavern and was lost for more than six weeks. Police conducted a massive search for the child, and were nearly ready to give up when they finally found him. Though his parents were overjoyed to see their son returned to them, Kirk seemed almost sorry to leave the cave. He silently waved goodbye to the "friends" he left behind.

A short time later, Kirk met six-year-old Bruce Wayne outside of a movie theater. He regaled Bruce with tales of his adventures beneath the earth, and embellished such tales by telling him about the race of half-human, half-bat creatures he encountered.

As an adult, Kirk left his home town of Chicago and enrolled at Gotham University where he met fellow student Francine Lee. Even after all this time the so-called "cave boy" was still obsessed with bats, and he believed that he could pioneer new medical breakthroughs through the study of bats.[1]

Man-Bat

After college, Kirk became a zoologist and nocturnal mammals expert employed by the Gotham Natural History Museum. He long admired the careers of costumed crime fighters and wanted to emulate them, particularly the legendary Batman. To this end, Langstrom developed a serum extracted from the glands of bats. This serum was designed to amplify a person's sensory capabilities, gifting them with enhanced hearing. Like many scientists of his caliber, Langstrom decided to test the serum on himself, which showed immediate results. His hands grew hairy and claw-like and his face took on the physical characteristics of a bat – including elongated ears that allowed him to perceive his surroundings via echolocation.

Dubbing himself the Man-Bat, Langstrom first went into action when a group of thieves calling themselves the Blackout Gang broke into the museum. Batman was on their trail and the Man-Bat teamed up with him to bring the thieves down. Batman welcomed the assistance, but the Man-Bat shied away when Batman mistakenly complimented him on his "disguise". As the Man-Bat ran off, Batman wondered if he had just made a formidable ally – or a brand new adversary. [2]

A short time later, Langstrom tried to find a cure for his mutation, but the transformation was far too advanced to stop. He quickly started sprouting leathery, bat-like wings under his arms, which allowed him to fly as a bat. As his animal instincts also became stronger, Man-Bat sought refuge and found Batman's Batcave, where he was defeated by the Dark Knight. While Man-Bat was unconscious, Batman started creating an antidote for Langstrom.[3] When Man-Bat refused Batman's help, the Dark Knight called Francine to help him, to no avail. Shortly after this, Man-Bat reached Francine and convinced her to marry him and to use the Man-Bat Serum as a proof of her love. Transformed into human bats, Kirk and Francine tried to get married on a church until Batman stopped them and forced them to take the cure to revert their mutations.[4]

Shortly after, Kirk and Francine got married with Batman as their best man, but a few days later, he had a relapse into his Man-Bat identity. With his mind altered again, Man-Bat created a more potent Man-Bat serum that would allow him a permanent transformation, but Batman prevented him from using it and provided another antidote to revert the transformation once again.[5] Months later, it was Francine who transformed back into She-Bat after she came in contact with a rare species of bats during an investigation in the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada. Robert worked with Batman to bring Francine back to safety.[6]

Crime Fighter

Aware of thet fact that Gotham's criminals were rampant on the streets, Langstrom decided to use the serum to go out as Man-Bat and fight criminals. His new version of the serum allowed Langstrom to stay in control of the transformation and with his newfound ability, he assited Batman in the capture of Roy Reynolds, "The Getaway Genius", starting his career as a crime fighter.[7]

Sometime later, Kirk Langstrom learned that the widow of a man named Moran was giving a $100,000 reward for the capture of the man who assassinated her husband. Langstrom needed the money, so he decided to inject himself with his special serum and became the Man-Bat once again.

He travelled to the island of Santa Cruz which was run by a dictator named Domingo Valdez. Man-Bat used his grotesque appearance to convince the islanders that he was a bat-god and ordered them to deal with several CIA agents who were likewise looking to collect on the reward. The Man-Bat flew to Valdez's castle, but he was attacked by vampire bats and forced to retreat. At this time, Langstrom had another encounter with the Batman. The two decided to work together to bring down Killer Krag, the man who assassinated Moran. They tried to infiltrate Valdez's castle but were captured in the process. Langstrom lent Batman some of his serum and Batman transformed into a true "Bat-Man". He then freed Langstrom and together they captured Killer Krag and left Santa Cruz. Back in Gotham, Batman returned to his normal form and donated the reward money to Langstrom's department at the Gotham Natural History Museum. [8]

Langstrom was later forced to assume the guise of the Man-Bat again – this time to combat a sorcerer calling himself Baron Tyme. Tyme had entered into a bargain with dark forces for power and in exchange, he needed to sacrifice innocent lives. To facilitate this task, Tyme used his power to hypnotize Francine Langstrom, turning back into the She-Bat and using her as his personal assassin. Man-Bat tried several times to stop Francine, but she was even stronger than he was by this point. He enlisted the aid of Batman and together they were able to defeat Baron Tyme and free Francine from his control. [9]

In order to take better care of his wife, Kirk reluctantly relocated from Gotham City to his home town of Chicago, Illinois. Members of his family and several old friends held a surprise "Welcome Back" party for him, but Kirk had little interest in family gatherings. The only thing that concerned him was looking after his wife.

At this time, the Man-Bat found himself at odds with one of his strangest foes to date: Phil Reardon, the Ten-Eyed Man. Reardon had been hired by a man named Lowell, leader of the Civil Liberties Association to capture the Man-Bat. Lowell promised him that he would perform an experiment to give him the Man-Bat's echolocation powers. The Ten-Eyed Man ambushed the Man-Bat, but Langstrom managed to escape from him near Lake Michigan. They fought against one another a second time on the balcony of Langstrom's apartment. This time however, the Ten-Eyed Man came prepared with a magnesium flare bomb, which he intended on using to blind the Man-Bat. During the fight, the bomb was accidentally triggered prematurely. The Man-Bat thrust Reardon in front of the bomb and he was permanently blinded. Reardon lost his balance and fell from the top of the building, seemingly to his death. [10] Kirk and Francine remained in Chicago for some time and eventually gave birth to their first child, Rebecca. Everything seemed to be going perfectly for the Langstroms: Francine was cured, Kirk had control over his transformations and they now had a new child to raise.

While still a young child, Rebecca fell deathly ill from a mysterious disease. Batman tried to help the Langstroms, but when he came into possession of the Seronotal needed to save her life, the Batman destroyed it, believing the formula had been tainted. [11]

Rebecca was eventually saved, but Kirk felt that Batman had betrayed them and had tried to kill his daughter. Whereas Kirk once felt immeasurable respect for Batman, now he felt nothing but hatred. His hatred of Batman grew into an obsession and this obsession began to affect his work. In short order, the Langstroms lost their home and their fortune. They were forced to return to Gotham City where they lived in a rundown apartment in Gotham's East End.

One evening, Kirk was working with his bat gland formula when he made a miscalculation in the chemical compound. Upon drinking it, he instantly transformed, but his conscious mind was subsumed, replaced with nothing but raw, naked instinct. He flew off into the night and eventually returned to the catacombs that led to the Batcave. By this point, Batman had relocated to the Wayne Foundation building and his ancestral home, Wayne Manor, was largely abandoned. Occasionally, children or squatters would make their way into the empty house, but they never stayed long. The shrieking cries of the Man-Bat always drove them away.

After several such instances, some began to believe that Wayne Manor was haunted. Commissioner Gordon led a search of the mansion to ferret out the source of these alleged "ghostly wails". Accompanying him was the Batman as well as ghost breaker, Doctor Terrence Thirteen. Batman's primary concern was making sure that the original Batcave was safely sealed off from inspection. He came upon the Man-Bat who viciously fought against him. Doctor Thirteen tried to lend a hand, but the Man-Bat knocked him back, hospitalizing him. Batman scooped up Thirteen's sonic radar and turned it on Langstrom, forcing the Man-Bat to flee deeper into the cave.

Batman eventually caught up with him, and as the two struggled against one another, Batman forced him to take the antidote. This time however, the antidote had no effect and the Man-Bat escaped. [12][13]

Outsiders

Years later, Robert joined the team known as the Outsiders under Batman's leadership. However, when the team disbanded after an unfortunate accident, Robert offered his support to the only remaining member of the team, Batgirl.[14]

A few days later, Langstrom went to the Iceberg Lounge to join the efforts of other meta-humans to regain control of the city by banning Intergang from Gotham. Penguin was pleased with the help and soon, Batgirl arrived to ask for Man-Bat's help.[15]

After Batman's death, Man-Bat joined the Network, a group of heroes that fought against the increasing crime in Gotham.[16] During this time, Langstrom's wife, Francine, disappeared and Man-Bat went looking for her. In his search, he helped Lynx on a fight against street gangs and later, he arrived at the Gotham Power Plant, where he was attacked by Dr. Phosphorus, who had captured Francine to lure Langstrom into a trap. Langstrom managed to escape, but when Phosphorus attacked Francine, Langstrom transformed into Man-Bat without the need of the Serum and defeated Phosphorus. Realizing the consequences of transforming at will, Langstrom ran away from his wife and friends.[17]

Some time later, Man-Bat was summoned by Oracle to join the other heroes of Gotham against the Seven Men of Death and prevent them from killing Vicki Vale.[18]

Powers

  • Transformation: Upon injection of the Man-Bat Serum, Langstrom can transform himself into a half-human/half-bat creature. Once the serum wears off, the Man-Bat returns back to human form. After years of exposure to the serum, Langstrom is able to transform at will.[17]
  • Flight: Man-Bat can fly by way of artificially generated leather wings.
  • Claws: The Man-Bat has sharpened claws which are strong enough to easily tear through flesh and muscle.
  • Echolocation: Man-Bat can navigate through the air by way of echolocation, similar in function to a bat's radar.


Weaknesses

  • Vulnerability to Sensitive Senses: Man-Bat's hearing is highly sensitive and extremely loud noises cause him great pain. He is also extremely sensitive to bright light, preferring instead to remain in dark locations.

Equipment

  • Although this character was originally introduced during DC's Earth-One era of publication, their existence following the events of the 1985-86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths remains intact. However, some elements of the character's Pre-Crisis history may have been altered or removed for Post-Crisis New Earth continuity, and should be considered apocryphal.
  • It has been theorized that the bat that crashed through the Wayne Manor study inspiring Bruce Wayne to become the Batman was one of Kirk Langstrom's test subjects that escaped from his laboratory some time prior to Langstrom becoming the Man-Bat. [19]

Related


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Footnotes


Robin - Burt Ward
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Holy anachronisms, Batman!

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