13 REASONS to Love Cult-Fave BATMAN Villain (LORD) DEATH MAN

With his first-ever action figure on the way, the mysterious evil-doer has finally arrived…

Death-Man and I go way back.

Long story short, Batman #180, released in 1966, was one of the first two back issues I ever bought at a comics convention, in New York in 1979. (The other was Batman #186, which also came out in ’66. I remember agonizing over both but just don’t remember which I ended up choosing. I only had the money for one. My memory flip-flops on this.)

No matter. From the first time I saw the glorious and gloomy cover by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, I was enthralled. This was a downright spooky cover, especially for the era, and the story inside, by Robert Kanigher, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella was just as compelling.

Anyway, many decades and circuitous routes later, Death-Man — aka Lord Death Man — is finally having his moment in the sun, achieving the mercantile status reserved only for the worthy: He’s getting his first-ever action figure, thanks to the wonderfully whimsical folks over at McFarlane Toys. He’s part of the Batman ’66 line, which includes not just figures from the show but characters from DC’s late, lamented comics series based on the program.

I could not be more excited. So in anticipation of the figure’s scheduled October release — fitting, no? — here are 13 REASONS TO LOVE (LORD) DEATH-MAN:

Batman #180 Cover. Gil Kane didn’t do too many Batman covers, but dang, this one just happens to be one of the very best of the ’60s. Classic “comin’ atcha” design, moody atmosphere, and superb inks by Murphy Anderson. No wonder it caught my eye at my very first convention. A masterpiece.

Batman #180 Story. The issue came out in March 1966 amid the Batman TV show-driven Batmania. But production time being what it was, the issue was likely written before the show debuted. Even then, it’s an uncommonly dark(ish) and creepy story for the era. Death Man’s schtick is that he keeps appearing to die, only to come back to haunt and taunt Batman. SPOILER ALERT for a 57-year-old comic book: He finally gets killed in the end and it sticks. Except…

Bat-Manga in Japan. The late, great Japanese manga artist Jiro Kuwata soon after adapted the story (among others) for the magazine Shonen King. Batmania was huge in Japan but it would be decades before American audiences had a fuller understanding of that, thanks to Chip Kidd’s 2008 book Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, which shared manga pages and a huge assortment of photos of toys, like tin robots, Batmobiles and the like. For whatever reason, Kuwata tweaked the villain’s name to the more magisterial Lord Death Man, and slightly altered his outfit and gave him a dapper cape. It was an improvement, for sure.

From DC’s Bat-Manga collection. See below.

Batman Incorporated #1. Finally, in November 2010, Death-Man — or rather Lord Death Man — returned to American comics after more than 44 years, thanks to Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe’s original Batman Incorporated series. The first, two-issue arc featured Batman and Catwoman in Japan, where they encounter Lord Death Man.

Batman dryly notes on the honorific: “I suspect an upgrade.” Morrison never found an obscure character or idea that he couldn’t revamp and make even cooler.

Dig the panel on the lower left!

Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Lord Death Man hits the screen! The wonderful Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon series had a blast on April Fool’s Day 2011 when it ran Bat-Mite Presents: Batman’s Strangest Cases, featuring three hilarious segments. As the title indicates, the episode featured Bat-Mite (voiced by the late, great Paul Reubens) hosting each short: an adaptation of the classic satire “Batboy and Rubin,” by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood, from 1953’s Mad #8; a spoof of the early-’70s Batman-Scooby-Doo team-ups; and a wonderful adaptation of Kuwata’s Bat-Manga story. It just might be my favorite segment in the entire series.

The Complete Bat-Manga Comes to the U.S. The rising popularity of Kuwata’s work Stateside prompted DC in 2014-15 to collect the complete Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga — the artist’s stories in three paperback volumes, after they appeared digitally. Not only do you get the Lord Death-Man story, you get a whole slew of other Silver Age Batman adaptations. Wonderful to have on the bookshelf.

Mike Allred’s Batman ’66 #21 Cover. The Batman ’66 comic-book series went where the show did not — deeper into the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery and in 2015’s print Issue #21, Batman and Batgirl go to Japan and do battle with… Lord Death Man! (After a Penguin prologue.) Naturally, Mike Allred (and his wife, colorist Laura Allred) went to town with one of the series’ most evocative covers, with its creative layout, neon colors and Tokyo scenery.

Digital version of the cover

Batman ’66 #21 Story. Between the original Batman #180, the Bat-Manga adaptation, Batman Incorporated and the Brave and the Bold segment, the story by writer Jeff Parker and artist Sandy Jarrell was like art imitating art, imitating art, imitating art, imitating art. Like the cover, the Batman-Batgirl team-up is a series highlight.

This Groovy Sandy Jarrell Print. I own this and it hangs proudly in my personal Batcave. It was originally meant to be a variant cover but those evil deadline issues interfered. Far out!

This Groovy Sandy Jarrell Print — Uncolored, Original Version. Sandy originally did the image with Robin but then changed it to Batgirl when the script called for the Dominoed Daredoll to accompany the Caped Crusader to Tokyo in place of a sidelined Boy Wonder. Right on!

This Other Groovy Sandy Jarrell Print. Actually, why don’t you just check out Sandy’s website? You can see the Batman/Batgirl print in color and in black and white. You can also view this ginchy beaut:

This Batman/Lord Death Man T-Shirt. I own one just like this. There are others out there too. Poke around!

Lord Death Man McFarlane Toys Action Figure. And here we are — 2023! Lord Death Man gets his first-ever action figure, as part of the 6-inch-scale Batman ’66 line! And that cape is removable, so you can demote him back to Death-Man if you like! It’s available for pre-order at many online retailers including McFarlane’s own store. List price? A downright reasonable $17.99.


— 13 BATMANGA COVERS: A JIRO KUWATA Birthday Tribute. Click here.

— 13 Silver Age Covers That Demand the BATMAN ’66 Treatment. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On


  1. That figure is spectacular! I’ve always had a soft spot for this character too—Batman 180 is also one of the first ‘60s back issues I ever bought—so I might have to buy this at some point.

    Post a Reply
  2. Great list! I have a soft spot for (Lord) Death Man as well! I remember reading an article in the late lamented magazine Comic Collector that praised the Death Man story as one of the few non-camp Batman stories of the era. A few years later in the late 80s, I found a copy of Batman #180 for a reasonable price at a comic shop. One reason it was cheap was the otherwise minty book had a slight tape lift on the cover. When I got the book home and opened the bag, I found the comic gods had smiled on me and given me the rarest of gifts…a double cover! Underneath there was a super-mint copy of Kane and Anderson’s evocative cover greeting me! And I liked the story too! Loved the Manga and the B&B animated adaptation!

    Post a Reply
  3. I LOVE Death-Man! #180 was the first issue of Batman I got (my dad bought it for me when I was home sick from school). I’d been a fan at 7 of the TV show and this story was quite shocking and different at the time. Someone in a letter column later suggested it would make a great movie with Vincent Price as Death-Man.

    Post a Reply
  4. A skeleton was my first costume in1965 for Halloween, months before Batman debuted. Love this history of LDM and I didn’t realize until a few years ago that LDM was an actual villain in Batman lore. It’s a call back to the early Bat-Man stories…

    Post a Reply
  5. Batman #180 was the first Batman comic I ever bought. I believe it was the issue that was on the stands when the TV series premiered.

    Post a Reply
  6. Not sure I’d call $17.99 “reasonable”…. not a fan of inflation. But I may have to get this anyway. In the same vein, I wished they would offer a “Spook” from the ’70s.

    Post a Reply
    • In my book, anything under $20 is reasonable. But I know that varies person to person.

      Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: