Robert Kirkland Langstrom is a zoologist who specialized in the study of chiropterology (Bats). Slowly becoming deaf, Langstrom developed a formula that would allow a human to replicate the abilities of a bat; such as a bat's sonar sense for hearing. Testing the formula on himself, Langstrom was transformed into a large bat-like creature dubbed "Man-Bat".
A being of animalistic instinct when transformed, Langstrom constantly struggles to control his transformations but does so with the help and support of his wife and family and Gotham's other Bat-centric figure, the Batman.
When Kirk Langstrom was a boy growing up in Chicago, Illinois, he fell into a 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 due to having taken a liking to the bats living down there.
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 hometown of Chicago and enrolled at Gotham University where he met fellow student Francine Lee.
After college, Kirk became a zoologist and nocturnal mammals expert employed by the Gotham Natural History Museum. Slowly going deaf, Langstrom used his study to develop 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".
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 his affliction.
When Man-Bat refused Batman's help, the Dark Knight even tried bringing Francine to the Batcave in the hopes that she could convince Langstrom to take the antidote willingly but to no avail.
Refusing to give up her love for Kirk, Francine took the serum herself and was transformed into a female Man-Bat, (Dubbed "She-Bat") when Kirk forced her to take the same bat gland extract that he had taken as proof of her love and devotion to him. The two "Man-Bats" decided to marry and at their wedding, they donned latex masks to disguise their mutated features, but the Batman interrupted the church ceremony and exposed them in front of all their guests. Batman fought against Francine and Kirk and was finally able to defeat them by using the cathedral’s bells to incapacitate them. Upon doing so, Batman administered his cure to both of them, turning them back to normal.
Shortly after, Kirk and Francine got married properly with Batman as their best man, but a few days later, Kirk 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. Months later, Francine transformed back into She-Bat after she came in contact with a rare species of vampire bats during an investigation in the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada. Kirk worked with Batman to bring Francine back to safety and Francine was taken to a hospital, where she would receive a blood transplant to clean the traces of the bat serum in her blood.
However, Francine and Kirk decided to delay the treatment until she was stronger, but with time they forgot about it.
Aware of the 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.
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. Working with Batman, they managed to bring the criminal back to America and Batman donated the reward money to Langstrom's department at the Gotham Natural History Museum.
Langstrom was later forced to assume the guise of the Man-Bat again to save Francine from a sorcerer called Baron Tyme, who manipulated her using magic to murder people. Man-Bat confronted Tyme in the sorcerer's castle where the sorcerer died in his tower chamber when the room caught on fire.
Afterwards, Kirk moved back to Chicago with Francine, living at the Lakeshore Manor Apartments where Francine was provided the treatment she needed for her "bat" problem.
It was around this time that Man-Bat was confronted by the Ten-Eyed Man, but during the final struggle, the Ten-Eyed Man fell from the top of the building, seemingly to his death. Not long after this, the Langstroms were threatened by yet another mystical being called Doctor Thanatogenos, who tried to use their bodies and capabilities as a source of energy, but Man-Bat managed to stop the evil scheme for good.
Following Batman's advice, Kirk and Francine moved to New York where Kirk resumed his Man-Bat activities. With Francine pregnant with their child, Man-Bat tried to claim rewards for capturing criminals and the first big prize came after he captured the strange criminal called Snafu. After this, Man-Bat confronted the Sunset Gang, but he was unable to capture them. Man-Bat confronted the gang a second time and was able to defeat them, forcing their leader to come out.
Francine was visited by the private detective, Jason Bard, who informed Francine that a serial killer known as Shotgun Sniper had murdered some of her previous boyfriends and he suspected that Kirk was the killer. When Man-Bat started looking for the serial killer he was unable to find him and instead was forced to fight Jason Bard. Once Man-Bat realized that Bard was trying to help, they worked together to bring down the criminal and they shared the reward for his capture.
After the last mission, Francine was about to give birth to their child and Kirk took her to the hospital. While in the waiting room, Kirk noticed a disturbance in some of the maternity room and he went to investigate as Man-Bat. There, he discovered that the witch Morgaine le Fey was transforming new-born babies into demons. Fearing for his own child, Man-Bat confronted le Fey with help from Etrigan, the Demon. Together, they managed to stop le Fey and Man-Bat, in his human form, managed to turn the witch to stone using the Philosopher's Stone. Once this was taken care of, Kirk returned to the hospital, where he met his daughter for the first time and they named her Rebecca Elizabeth Langstrom.
After Rebecca was born, Kirk decided to retire as Man-Bat and got himself a new job in a construction site. However, there were reports of a Man-Bat creature in New York, who was capturing criminals. With both Langstroms suspecting that the other was transforming behind their back despite promising not to do so, Kirk finally learned that Francine had been subconsciously turning into the She-Bat, he went out looking for her as Man-Bat and saved her from Snafu, who had escaped from prison. After taking Francine to a safe place, Man-Bat captured Snafu once again, but he got no support from the local law enforcers.
Wanting to find new luck with his chosen career, Langstrom sought Jason Bard in Gotham City and requested to become his partner as a private detective. Reluctant at first, Bard agreed to take him in once he learned that Langstrom was Man-Bat. Together, Bard and Man-Bat became a perfect team, as they solved several crimes in Gotham City.
While still a young child, Rebecca developed an illness due to her enhanced hearing, which didn't allow her to sleep. 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, forcing Rebecca to remain with her illness longer than necessary.
Rebecca was eventually saved, due in no small part to the efforts of Superman, but Kirk felt that Batman had betrayed them and had tried to kill his daughter. 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 district.
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 consumed, replaced with nothing but raw, naked instinct. Locked in a crazed state where he believed that Rebecca was dead and that Batman was responsible, he flew off into the night and returned to the catacombs that led to the Batcave.
Eventually, Man-Bat found his way into Wayne Manor, which lay abandoned after Bruce Wayne decided to move into the Wayne Foundation Building within the city, and people began to believe that Wayne Manor was haunted. Commissioner Gordon led a search of the mansion with Batman and the "ghost breaker" Doctor Terrence Thirteen. As Batman prevented the team from finding the Batcave, he came upon Man-Bat who viciously fought against him.
During a fierce confrontation, Batman forced Man-Bat to take the antidote, but the serum had no effect and Man-Bat escaped. When Batman once again confronted Man-Bat in the caves near the Batcave, he had Rebecca by his side. At the sight of his daughter, Man-Bat recovered some of his consciousness and this gave Batman the chance to inject a more powerful antidote to revert his transformation.
However, Langstrom was now forced to take the antidote periodically in order to prevent further transformations. As Langstrom returned to his old job at the museum, his long hours of work consumed his mind and he forget about the antidote. For this reason, Langstrom transformed into Man-Bat and challenged Batman in the Batcave again, this time kidnapping a kid called Jason Todd. In his twisted mind, Man-Bat tried to transform Jason into a bat creature like him to make him his son, but Batman stopped Man-Bat with help from Francine and Rebecca and reverted the transformation once more.
As the years passed, Kirk again succumbed to the Man-Bat transformation and unknowingly left Francine as she was pregnant with another child, Aaron Longstrom, however, due to the Man-Bat serum running in his parents' veins, Aaron was born with a rare form of cancer and only had a few months to live. In desperation Francine injects Aaron with the Man-Bat Serum so that the enhanced bat-genes would fight off the cancer, however, the incident resulted in her son being permanently transformed into a Man-Bat.
After an undisclosed period of time living in the wilderness away from humans and months of night-flying, Man-Bat has returned to Gotham City driven to satiate a longing for a mental image he knows only as Francine.
As Rebecca starts have nightmares of her father's return, a woman is mutilated by a "flying man". After three more geneticists, all of whom once worked for the Helix Commission, are killed by this "flying man", the Gotham police suspect that Man-Bat was the murderer.
While managing to find Francine, Man-Bat is driven off by the look of repulsion on her face and is inadvertently shot by GCPD snipers. Finding refuge inside a train tunnel Man-Bat is found by Killer Croc who carries him to his home and patches him up.
As another geneticist is killed, Batman discovers metal shavings on the bodies of the bodies of the previous victims and theorizes with Commissioner Sarah Essen-Gordon that Man-Bat was not the killer.
After healing from his wounds, Man-Bat returns to watch his family's residence as the GCPD also camp outside to watch for him. When the "Flying man" breaks into the Langstrom residence looking to kill Kirk Langstrom, Man-Bat attacks him when he kidnaps Francine and ends up killing the man to save his wife.
Francine hires some poachers in an attempt to capture Man-Bat so that she may be able to give him the antidote and bring him home. As the poachers chase him into Bludhaven, they cross paths with Nightwing, who offers Francine his help in capturing Man-Bat but as Nightwing tries to capture him he is interrupted by Deathstroke who knocks Nightwing out and takes Man-Bat as part of a bounty.
With Oracle's help, Nightwing manages to find Deathstroke's employer and Man-Bat's captor. While managing to free Man-Bat and escape himself, Nightwing was unable to capture the wayward mutant.
After the Cataclysm earthquake decimated the city and Gotham was evicted from the United States as a "No Man's Land", Francine used her son's abilities to find food as he could smell meat and other products from great distances and he also could see in the dark. While rationing what they found amongst themselves, the Langstroms also rationed their findings amongst the people in their neighbourhood.
However, a couple of thugs spotted the Langstroms and decided to gain some profit from them; with a man named Graff attacking Francine and kidnapping her son in order to sell the kid over to Penguin. Francine went to see the Penguin but the man refused to help her in any way. Batman noticed Francine and forced the Penguin to tell him why was she there. Learning about their son, Batman attempted to offer Francine his help in finding him but discovered that she had already injected herself with the Man-Bat Serum. Using her enhanced abilities, She-Bat and Batman tracked Graff to the subway station where he was holding Aaron. Francine attacked Graff and the man ran away in fear, later being killed by the Penguin's men.
Their family reunited, the Langstroms decided to leave Gotham and live free as Bat-people. However, shortly after the end of the "No Man's Land" edict, the illegal game hunter Jaeger learns of the existence of the Man-Bats and he embarks to hunt them down and kill them as wild game. In a bid to evade the hunter the Langstroms eventually opt to hide out within the belltower of Brentwood Academy in Gotham County.
With assistance from Nightwing and Jason Bard, Robin was able to defeat Jaeger and return the Langstroms back to their human forms. Allowing the family to retire at a farm on the outskirts of Gotham and work on finding a way for Aaron to shift between his human and man-bat forms.
Later, hearing his parents in a heated argument over whether or not to ask Bruce Wayne for help with Aaron's condition, the boy leaves to go ask him himself. After arriving in the Batcave he stays there for several months without alerting anyone to his presence. Aaron is eventually discovered, when his father arrives looking for him, where Bruce agrees to help if Aaron brings back the bats that had abandoned the Batcave after they were vaccinated against the clench virus.
While still residing in Gotham, Kirk and Francine continue their attempts to lead normal lives between their periodic Man-Bat transformations and raising their beyond-normal children.
- Man-Bat can be seen hanging from the roof of the batcave during the Rise of the Bat alert and will be unleashed by Talia al Ghul to fight the player party as the alert's final boss.
- Man-Bat first appeared in Detective Comics #400 (1970)
- Langstrom is an accomplished zoologist specialized in chiropterology and mammal biology.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Langstroms have two children, Rebecca Elizabeth Langstrom and Aaron Langstrom.
- Despite his size and fearsome appearance, Man-Bat actually feeds on insects like most bat species.