Recommended Reading

Like many pages on this blog, this is still a work in progress.

There will only be a few stories included on this page. The selections are based on personal opinion and should not be taken as suggestion that other stories are not of quality, just that the tales below stand out (to me) for one reason or another.

They are listed in order of original release.

Brand Of The Black Bat
(1939)

This kind of goes without saying. Not only is this the character's first appearance, but it also an origin story, which was quite rare at the time.

Every major character makes his (or her) first appearance; Silk Norton, Carol Baldwin, Butch O'Leary, police commissioner Jerome Warner and the unshakable McGrath. Oh, and Oliver Snate's only appearance as one of the villains in the story.

All the staples are introduced as well; the secret lab, the bat wing cloak, the ability to see in the dark, the black bat sticker...It's all here.

This story has been reprinted a couple of times, most notably by Altus Press in their first volume of the Black Bat Omnibus and by Sanctum Books.

The Black Bat's Spy Trail
March 1940

In my opinion, this is the first story in which each member of the Black Bat's entourage was given his/her moment to shine. Silk had applied his disguise skills in previous books, and Butch had knocked plenty of heads together by this point, but their contributions were expanded beyond their respective "gimmick" in this one.

Most interestingly, Carol Baldwin was more physical and resourceful than she'd been in previous stories (this was the Black Bat's fifth published adventure). The initial focus, when she first appears in a story, is usually on her looks. A chapter or two in which she shows intelligence and toughness were quite welcomed.

Not that the Black Bat takes a backseat to any of them. There's just a more even balance. Combine that balance with quality involvement by McGrath's and a solid murder mystery and you have a story that anyone, including those reading a Black Bat tale for the first time, can enjoy.

Spy Trail is included the second volume of Altus Press' Omnibu reprints as well as the third volume of Sanctum Books' reprints.

The Black Bat's Justice
(March 1941)

"Captain McGrath felt compelled to do something that rankled deep in his proud heart. He intended to confess his bewilderment and ask help of the man he thought was the Black Bat."

And that's why this story makes the list.

The usual gang of Bat assistants (Silk, Carol, Butch) is present but McGrath gets a spotlight. In fact, the first two chapters "star" McGrath.

While they have always technically been on the same side but at odds over methodology, in this story McGrath offers a temporary truce and the two work together to solve a baffling case. The policeman's character gets fleshed out at as a result and the union makes for a nice change from the usual formula of the Bat stories to this point. A very fun read, available in the fourth volume of the Altus Press Reprints.

The Eyes Of The Blind
(January 1942)

There aren't many original Black Bat stories that I would say I haven't enjoyed, at least as far as the ones written by Norman Daniels are concerned. Eyes Of The Blind is the character's 16th published story, the 13th submitted by Daniels, and it might be my personal favourite thus far.

Like the other Daniels stories listed above, this one is notable for breaking the mold. In The Eyes Of The Blind, the villains are in possession of a machine which shines a highly bright light that causes blindness. Of course, such a weapon fits right in with a main protagonist character who was blind for months and now only pretends to be so in his civilian identity.

Beyond that, at some point the Bat becomes incapacitated (guess how?). So Anthony Quinn is forced to step aside while his entourage continues the fight on their own. The added exposure to Silk, Carol and Butch is a nice treat.

There is one odd aspect to this story; The Black Bat teaches himself to use a whip as a weapon. It seems a little...random...It takes nothing away from the story, mind you. If anything it introduces a new element with potential. It just feels a bit thrown in.

At the moment, only Altus Press has reprinted the story in the sixth volume of its Black Bat Omnibus series.

Black Bat Mystery, Volume 1
(Airship 27 - 2010)

This was one of the first "current" books I bought featuring this character and I recall finding that the four stories included therein complemented the original material from the pulp era quite nicely.

I don't want to single out a specific story because they work well as a group.  We get some very flashy and dramatic antagonist, including Nazis and Russian spies. The Black Bat's entourage is included and one tale provides some back story for police officer McGrath. Combined, these stories include all of the elements that make the early Black Bat adventures appealing.

As an added bonus, the individual writers explain their inspiration for their respective contribution to the anthology and Airship 27 "Captain" Ron Fortier closes the book with a little historical background on The Black Bat, a nice touch for readers just discovering the character. Rob Davis' interior illustrations complete the package.

Subsequent volumes have been quite entertaining as well, but this one set the foundation.

Pulpsploitation: Black Bat
(Metahuman Press, 2015)

To be entirely honest, not all of the more recent Black Bat material is high quality stuff. There are a few duds out there and when this project was announced, I was fairly convinced that it would join that list.

Quite the opposite. Frank Byrns' Black Bat contribution to Pulpsploitation makes the list because it was done in a style that is far different than that of many stories based in the 70s and 80s. Stories based in that era are often more preoccupied with poking fun at big hair, goofy fashions, outdated expressions and other trends than creating a good adventure or compelling, multi-faceted characters.

Byrns took the road less traveled and the one far more appropriate for this character. Instead of lame comedy, he called upon the tense, heavy mood of classic crime movies from the era such as The French Connection, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon (by his own admission during an interview).

We are reunited with an aged Anthony Quinn, but as he is no longer able to patrol the night as the Black Bat, someone has to step up to the plate. Without giving anything away, it's an interesting approach, one that throws the door wide open for additional material but sadly, at this point, I don't believe any is forthcoming.

Speaking of stepping up to the plates, Byrns also wrote The Ty Cobb File story in Airship 27's second volume of Black Bat Mystery. It is, in my opinion, the best of that bunch and deserving of the cover treatment it received.

Guns Of The Black Bat
(Moonstone Books, late 2016)

Frankly, this is in reference to issues two and three of this mini-series.

I wrote what I thought was a fairly complete review of the three-book mini series here, then came over to include it to this list.

Most of The Black Bat's comic book material is quite...short. With the exception of the book above from Dynamite, most often the character is included in short stories in anthologies, usually ranging somewhere between six and 10 pages in length. Hard to think of such brief material as being essential.

In these two issues, while he technically shares the spotlight, he also runs the show. And looks damn cool doing it, thanks to the incredible talent of artist Silvestre Szilagyi. For that matter, I would buy the books for the awesome Michael Stribling covers alone.

And the fact he shares the book is hardly a deterrent. He matches up well with Domino Lady in a "beauty and the beast" kind of way anyway, and it's cool to get more exposure to characters like I.V. Frost and The Phantom Detective. There are quite a few references to other pulp characters, new and old, throughout the two issues as well. Overall, an excellent addition to a collection.

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