The Bat Man before Batman

It’s long been known that the comic book megastar Batman had his roots in the pulps thanks to earlier characters such as the Black Bat, the Shadow and even Doc Savage.

Sure, none of them are a direct ancestor of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, but there’s plenty of direct correlations between them all. The black costume and motif of the Black Bat. The use of fear to by the Shadow to put the hammer on the underworld. The millionaire bank account of Doc Savage.

But there might be another. In this blog, the author, as well as pulp historian Will Murray, cite the story “Bat Man” from Spicy Mystery Stories’ February 1936 issue as another possible source of inspiration for Batman’s creator, Bob Kane.

Here’s how the Lew Merrill story is described:

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.

You can even read the story here.

Beyond the “Bat Man” name dropping, this is a beauty of a cover.

You’ve got the deliciously terrified damsel. She was clearly surprised since she would have certainly tied her robe if she knew what was coming. You’ve got the corpse that’s so dead it’s skin has turned green. And you even know what killed the guy: a thick, unbreakable noose.

Looking at the colors of the piece it’s starkly divided by the pinks and oranges on one side and the greens and blacks on the other. The division is handled well, too, with the bright colors scooping around and under the greens.

The Spicy line is widely considered to have best, most lurid covers of all the pulps, and the cover for this issue of Spicy Mystery Stories is no different.


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