Finally, a Batman plot that just strikes me as bizarre rather than the typical humdrum stories where the most interesting thing happens on the splash page. Instead of falling down trapdoors or sucker punched by trick sleeves, they’re dealing with actual science fictions creations, something not seen since long before their redesigns.
This story is “the Man who Quit the Human Race!” and was originally published in Detective Comics 165 in August 1964. But why am I giving this story its own post? Because it was also featured in the Japanese Adaptation, commonly known as Bat-Manga! The Japanese version was printed in Shonen King, one of many weekly comic magazines printed in a phonebook sized format. It doesn’t really differ from each other, only how the story is told. Japanese comics tend to focus more on images, rather than on words and the style does lend itself to more of a film like quality when telling a story. A 12 page story in America could add up to 48 pages in Japan due to flow.
Batman Issue 165A- “The Man Who Quit the Human Race!”
Published August 1964
Writer: Gardner Fox
Pencils: Bob Kane
The Governor of New Jersey/New York, or whatever state Gotham City is in, addresses the State Legislature about his resignation. It brings the whole auditorium to a shock because it is rather sudden and he didn’t give them any warning why. The real reason, that he’s quitting the Human Race! However, this is not something he is willing to reveal to just about anybody yet.
Returning to the Governor’s Mansion, Warner tells Batman and Robin that he’s ready for the next step. For quite awhile now, he has been suffering from headaches and how his face keeps changing shape and other weird things. Batman surmises that it’s as if Warner is trapped in a weaker’s person’s body. If this isn’t a story about transgender and LBGT issues, you’d have to be blind! I’m not an expert but I expect some enterprising blogger to write something about this!
Anyway, Governor Warner goes sees a bunch of doctors about his condition, ranging from psychotherapists to MRI specialists and whatnot. His physician has finally determined what is the matter with the poor man, that he’s a mutant waiting to burst out of this mortal coil! In the present, Batman and Robin take him to a medical research center, where he’ll undergo some treatments that will allow him to be free of being a homo sapien man.
Bathed in radiation, Governor Warner’s skin hardens into a “carapace” and grows to 10 feet like a giant. Bursting with power he yells to the scientists and the duo that he will no longer be burdened by the limitations of man, and will now be free to do whatever he wants. In this case it’s subjugating the entire human race, of course. Batman and Robin leap into action but the Warner-Monster tells them that they should flee or else be killed by him. They decide to charge toward him anyway and he spits out blue hoops in retaliation. The duo tries to use their gadgets to subdue their former governor and he turns invisible, fleeing the research center.
The chase begins as former-Warner surfs on a car, leaps from building to building, etc. Batman tries to chase him on foot, but he’s just too fast for the caped crusader. A scientist gives the duo a specialized Geiger counter and they find Warner at the nuclear laboratory building. When they arrive, they find a rather massive footprint and suddenly they are captured by the really giant Warner and he places them in a giant force field. The duo stick their boots through it and it doesn’t affect them there, but when they slam their whole bodies on the barrier, they can’t get through and instead it coats their faces in a yellow substance, yikes. Warner tells them “no living thing” can pass through the barrier and it becomes the key for their escape from it.
To make their escape, Batman covers the only exposed part of his costume, his face, with his came and easily passes through the barrier. He comes back with a chest and ties his rope around it. Robin goes inside the box and shuts the lid, and his partner pulls him out of the barrier. A rather clever solution, when the Hulk would’ve just beat the crap out the force field instead.
They arrive in time to see the last remnants of Warner’s humanity zapped away by radioactive impulses and suddenly Batman realizes the key to defeating this giant! All throughout the story, what was left of Warner left clues on how to defeat his mutated form. Batman remembers an experiment he did in college with Warner that involved passing a bright light through a gold leaf and the result was a green light. Digging through his utility belt, he manages to find such a leaf and easily defeats the mutant by shining the light at it.
At the end of the story, rather than placing him in jail, they launch the Warner mutant into space, so that one day in the distant future, humanity’s evolved state could deal with him more properly. Bruce Wayne hopes that a more open mankind will be able accept Warner for who he is, rather than what he appears to be. Maybe it will be that same mankind that will also be accepting of other types of people, be it homosexual or transgender or colored and whatnot.
Anyway over to the manga story!
When the Batman TV series was exported to Japan, the now-defunct Shonen Gahosha secured the rights to making a comic book over in Japan. They weren’t content with just translating the very word-heavy serial, instead they wanted to adapt Batman for a Japanese audience. They hired Jiro Kuwata, already famous for Eight Man, to write and draw the series, adding another title to his already big workload of weekly comic series. All this is chronicled in Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, edited by Chip Kidd.
“The Man Who Quit Being Human” is obviously an adaptation of the American comic book story, but it does get more heady about the prospect of human evolution, rather than just giving a sort of lip service to the problems people have in modern society in regards to their sexuality. It ties more to the human desire of making yourself a better person through time and hard work, that one day as that high functioning member of society, you can help change it. But obviously, with power does come madness which Batman faces in this story.
Kuwata’s story begins with him discussing how lifeforms, over the course of two billion years, began to evolve slowly but surely into various species of animals. From the lowly hermit crab to the Tyrannosaurus Rex to even Paleozoic People. Those cavemen eventually evolved into homo sapiens, the most dominant species on Earth. He then asks, what if were are already evolving? If we are, have we already reached that next stage? And among the human population, can these mutants exist in the present day? What do they look like, he asks, showing pictures of various different creatures. Since evolution takes over long periods of time unfathomable to most people, these new-humans may as well looks the same to the reader and the author.
Our story begins with Governor Warner sneaking out of his home and into the Nuclear Power Research Lab. He attacks the guard walking through the hallways, alerting Batman and Robin to the scene. By the time the two arrive, Warner has already reached the “Parabolic Chambers” and is about to open the door. He notices them and throws a chair at them. Batman dodges it and throws a tranquilizer disc at him, knocking him out for the time being.
Batman and Robin look at the face of the intruder and are shocked at why their governor is here of all places. The caped crusader wants to find out exactly why his old college friend is doing this, especially since he has no priors. They take him to Gotham Hospital, where a conscious Warner tells them that he doesn’t remember what happened earlier in the evening. Later, he is sent to have a psychological examination, where the doctor there reveals to the duo that Governor Warner is a mutant!
The doctor explains further that Warner is walking a thin line between mutant and human in his condition. It all has to do with his pituitary gland, as it has been acting funny according to his CAT scans. The mutant side of the governor took control of his body to break into the nuclear laboratories. Using the equipment there, he may be trying to accelerate the process rather than waiting the years it would take to fully realize his evolutionary form. Governor Warner now has a choice, to undergo an operation that would keep him human, or evolve into a mutant.
Batman goes into the next room to discuss this with Warner, who is worried about what the mutant could do for or to mankind. He tells Batman that something must be done now for he fears the worse case scenario. While society has a potential mutant in their hands, they can find a way to stop or prevent more of them from doing something very terrible to the rest of mankind. He makes his decision, Warner will become a mutant to help his fellow citizens. He offers Batman one condition, if he ever becomes a monster, the crime fighter will kill him with any means necessary.
The next chapter begins with Warner testing out the laser gun on a two ton titanium steel ball. That must cost a doozy, but it ends up getting vaporized in a matter of seconds. Warner tells Batman about the treatment, which shoots concentrated doses of radiation to his pituitary gland, speeding up his mutation and he will be reborn in a new form. He forces Batman to promise him that if anything dangerous happens, he must be destroyed.
Suddenly, Warner’s daughter appears at the doorway begging him not to go ahead with this experiment. Batman is surprised that this public figure actually has children, despite Bruce being a friend to the Governor, rather than saying “His daughter?! Here?!” The doctor also confronts Warner about this new development, and urges him to get the surgery instead. The obstinate Warner demands that the experiment must go forward, for humanity.
The experiment goes ahead, and Warner starts writhing in pain not from the radiation, but rather from the changes in his body. Liz faints at the sight of what is happening to her father while everybody else in the room can’t do anything but watch. Warner demands Batman to use the laser, especially now that the pain is unbearable and something very bad is happening. Batman hesitates, as Warner still has a shred of humanity left in his cries. It’s too late anyway, as he emerges as an alien-looking creature, right out of a 1950s movie or a Japanese sci-fi show.
Chapter 3 begins with Batman marveling at the newly created mutant. The doctor tries communicating with him, but Warner does him one better by talking to everybody telepathically. The mutant mocks everyone for use their mouths to talk, similar to how a goldfish must keep moving its mouth for just about anything. He turns to Batman and tells him that an opportunity to kill him has been wasted and he’s going to wish he had. Batman regrets this, especially now that the mutant is really mad with power. The mutant continues his speech about how he will create more of his kind and with this new race of supermen they will subjugate the human race into mere pets.
Batman jumps to the disentegrator and is easily stopped by Warner using his telekinetic powers, smashing the laser without even touching his operating table. Like his American counterpart, Warner starts shooting blue orbs from his hands to distract the crime fighting duo. Robin notices the mutant is headed toward Liz and Batman seizes this opportunity to use the laser again. It doesn’t do a damn thing except to force Warner to make a hasty retreat, teleporting outside to the green grass. Batman and Robin reach outside in time to see him jump on to a green sedan.
The two head back inside to console Liz, and they tell her the former Governor did a very brave thing by sacrificing himself to spare humanity. Batman tells her that her father is gone and now all that’s left is a savage creature hellbent on ruling mankind and it is his duty to stop him. Instead of freaking out even more, Liz hesitantly accepts what has happened so far. The doctor decides to see if Liz also has a mutant gene, and through an examination it has been determined she does.
Unlike her father, Liz’s mutant strain runs deeper in her brain and if anybody dares operate on her, she would die. The doctor goes to a scientific conference to figure out exactly what to do about her, so that another tragedy doesn’t occur. Unfortunately, the whole board reaches a consensus that she must die for the benefit of mankind instead of finding a way to stop the mutant strain in her and among the human population.
Batman and Robin receive the news, but suddenly Liz is taken by Warner. Batman tells him not to kidnap her, and Warner rebuts that she must be raised into a mutant so that their race can evolve and thrive. How the thriving part can happen, let’s just hope Warner finds other mutants… He then traps the duo in a golden force field and all they can do is watch Warner leave the house with the girl.
Chapter four begins with Batman realizing how they can get out of this trap. In the last issue, Robin threw a batarang at the mutant and it went through the barrier. This causes Batman to realize that only inanimate objects can get through the barrier. Using a batrope, he ties a lasso and drags Liz’s bed into the force field. First, Batman gets under the covers and Robin pushes him out of the barrier. Batman pushes the bed back, and pulls Robin out and presto they’re free.
They get into the Batmobile and Batman tells Robin that Warner can’t teleport anymore. Last time, Warner’s only means of escape was burning a hole in the wall, and this means that he can only escape on foot with Liz in tow. They surmise that because he can only walk, he’ll have to head for the nearest radiation lab. The duo reach the university first and alert Commissioner Gordon to have the place barricaded for any signs of Warner. Eventually Warner arrives, and as the police try to shoot him down, he throws one of their trucks, causing it to explode.
Back in the lab, Batman tells Gordon that he’s ready to stop the mutant Warner. Picking up clues from previous installments, Batman tells Robin that Warner’s powers are influenced by the different colors of light. From the green sedan and grass to the golden yellow force field, they both realize that Warner is bound by those colors. Batman then gives an odd explanation that the laws of photo-physics will allow them to defeat the Warner mutant. Shining a high powered beam through a gold filter will stop the mutant in his tracks. Warner enters the lab and they fire the searchlight at him and he is killed by the effects of the green light, due to the fact that he is a complete mutant. The light also works on Liz too, as it cures her of the mutant gene.
The story ends with Batman reassuring Liz that she will live a fruitful life, and that her father will have a hero’s burial. They watch as a rocket containing the remains of Warner is shot off into space.
This was a pretty long story compared to the American version, and I’d have to say a lot more exciting. The action and the themes were thought out a lot better, even if the art isn’t as detailed as Infantino’s pencils. I guess the notion of a trangender man must have flown over the head of Kuwata, especially since he focuses a lot on evolutionary aspects of man rather than the original’s story hinting on being more accepting of vastly different peoples.
I’d like to see more Batman manga, especially since the way the stories are told gets my attention more than the regular Batman comics of the time ever can.