Writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers had a superb and all-too-brief run of Batman stories in Detective Comics in the late 1970s, climaxing in this two-part Joker tale. It’s so good, Batman: The Animated Series adapted it pretty faithfully years later.
The Joker wants to copyright fish. He poisons them so that they all have permanently grinning faces, thus sharing his likeness. So he feels his copyright claim is a perfectly reasonable proposition, and until he gets his cut of every fish sale nationwide, he’ll kill one person at a time. Each execution is publicly announced, with plenty of forewarning for Batman and the police to take measures to protect the innocent…provided they can predict how their brilliantly insane nemesis will strike.
And then there’s the ongoing subplot of Bruce Wayne’s new love interest, Silver St. Cloud—an excellent match for him and someone too smart to be fooled by a mask.
There are a lot of great interpretations of Batman out there, in print and in film, but this is the type of Batman I prefer. He’s heroic, intelligent, strong, and not crazy. This Batman is capable of warmth and healthy relationships, while still being driven and utterly devoted to his mission.
The depiction of the Joker is also spot-on. He’s frightening in his unpredictability, but with an underlying method to his madness that can be fathomed only by himself.
There are no cheap shocks here, just strong storytelling skills, great characters, and an inventive story.
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Marshall Rogers
Inker: Terry Austin
How to Read Them: back issues; included in Batman: Strange Apparitions (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up