"The Laughing Fish": This story is reprinted from Detective Comics #475.
- You're always a party-poop -- just when I'm beginning to have fun!
- -- The Joker
Appearing in "The Laughing Fish"
- Blue-Eyes (Only appearance; dies)
- Rupert Thorne
- Gotham City Police Department
- G. Carl Francis (Only appearance; dies)
- Sergeant Stark
Synopsis for "The Laughing Fish"
This story is reprinted from Detective Comics #475.
It is night time in Gotham City and Batman swings across the rooftops until he comes to the apartment window of Silver St. Cloud. After being invited in, Batman inquires whether or not Miss Cloud had anything to speak to him about. The look she had given him the previous evening expressed something akin to recognition. Silver stares back at him and confirm her suspicions that the Batman is Bruce Wayne. Batman, in turn, suspects that Silver may know the truth. An uncomfortable moment passes between the two, but Silver gives no signs of recognizing the real man, which is an act, since she doesn't want to lose Bruce Wayne's affection and trust. Moments later after Batman has left, he telephones Silver as Bruce Wayne, asking her to postpone their next date and Silver cancels the date altogether before she decides to leave town for a while.
Batman continues patrolling the city and eventually swoops down towards the Gotham docks. A stevedore approaches him and shows him barrels of freshly caught fish. Ordinarily, this mundane incident would not rouse the Batman's attention but for the fact that all of the fish bear faces similar to that of the Joker. The fisherman asks Batman why someone would want to create fish with Joker faces, but Batman discourages the inquiry, saying that Joker's methods are similar to his own madness.
The following morning, the Joker and his henchmen barge into the office of the city Copyright Commission. The Joker introduces himself to a clerk named G. Carl Francis, indicating that he wishes to trademark his designer Joker Fish. The man is clearly terrified by the Joker's presence, but tells him that nobody can register a copyright on a natural resource – even one as mutated as the macabre Joker Fish. The Joker scoffs at Francis and tells him that he has until midnight to make his desires a reality or else he will be dead.
The Joker leaves the office to confer with his underlings. As he is wont to do, he arbitrarily pushes one of them out into oncoming traffic where they are struck and killed by a truck.
Later, at the Tobacconists' Club, Rupert Thorne grows extremely nervous. His aide Marko comes to greet him, but his presence only serves to agitate Thorne even further. He goes to the restroom to wash his face when suddenly he is accosted by the Joker. The Joker knows that Thorne was involved with the mysterious death of Hugo Strange and wonders if Strange may have told him the true identity of the Batman. So far as the Joker is concerned, his greatest adversary has no identity other than being the Batman. However, he is satisfied that Thorne knows nothing and leaves him be. Frightened, Rupert scrambles out of the building, hops into his sedan and drives off.
That evening, Batman is summoned by Commissioner Gordon to the home of G. Carl Francis, who sought police protection against the Joker. Batman inspects the place for traps or hidden weapons, but he finds nothing suspicious. Then, the Joker broadcasts a message across television waves, declaring that he will kill Francis at 12:00 am. The three men maintain their vigil well into the evening, but at the stroke of midnight, Francis' study begins to fill with noxious gas. Batman quickly slides a re-breather into Francis' mouth, but it does no good. As the smoke clears, G. Carl Francis is dead, a grotesque smile etched across his face – the calling card of the Joker. Batman deduces that the gas that filled the room was one part of a binary compound, otherwise harmless unless mixed with another agent. He determines that the Joker must have sprayed Francis with the secondary agent when he visited his office earlier that day.
Later, Rupert Thorne continues driving across the state in the dark, rainy weather when he picks up a hitchhiker – Silver St. Cloud.
Appearing in "Sign of the Joker!"
- Gotham City Police Department
- Rupert Thorne
- Hugo Strange (Ghost)
- Ernest the cat (Single appearance)
- Thomas Jackson (Only appearance; dies)
Synopsis for "Sign of the Joker!"
This story is reprinted from Detective Comics #476.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon know that the Joker will target another city bureaucrat in his mad effort to copyright his chemically-altered Joker Fish. As per another televised threat, his next target is a man named Thomas Jackson. As before, Batman, Gordon and a squad of police officers hole up inside of Jackson's mansion. Batman has Jackson don one of his costumes while he disguises himself to take Jackson's place. That way, if the Joker chooses to attack him, he will actually be attacking the Batman.
As luck would have it, Jackson's cat, Ernest, lopes into the study carrying a poisoned Joker Fish inside of his mouth. The venom has now infected the cat and her bears the striking rictus grin that most associate with the Joker. Batman dives after the animal, but the cat launches itself at Jackson (still wearing the Batman costume) and bites him across the face. The venom spreads into Jackson's bloodstream and he dies moments later. The television comes on and the Joker takes credit for ending the life of Thomas Jackson.
Batman leaves to track down the transmitting station that the Joker is broadcasting from. As he bounds through the nearby forests he spies a spectral image – seemingly, the ghost of his old foe, Hugo Strange. The image disappears, but Batman discovers a vapor analysis meter in the underbrush.
At his Ha-Hacienda, the Joker delights in his latest kill. He ponders to himself the fun to be had by mass-marketing his Joker Fish. He even considers using his special chemicals to infect cattle. "Joker-Burgers!" he cries. "Outrageous!"
Meanwhile, Rupert Thorne picks up a hitchhiking Silver St. Cloud. He barely remembers her from a previous exchange and pays little attention to her now. His mind is on Hugo Strange. Turning on the radio, Rupert and Silver learn about the most recent debacle involving the Joker as well as Batman's approach to the crimes. Rupert has no interest in hearing about Batman and angrily shuts the radio off. Silver expresses her support for the Caped Crusader and Thorne kicks her out of the car. Moments later, the ghost of Hugo Strange attacks him anew.
Two hours later, Batman and Commissioner Gordon meet back at police headquarters. They discuss strategies, but quickly discover that the Joker is impersonating one of the officers. The Joker tries spraying Batman with acid from a false police officer's badge, but Batman dodges the attack and the Joker escapes through the window. Batman follows him up the fire escape and the two adversaries chase one another up the side of the building as rain and lightning begin to pour down on top of them. The Joker leaps from the fire escape to a nearby construction scaffold and the Batman follows suit. Joker tries to get the upper hand on Batman by spraying acid on the cable holding the girder in which they both are standing. With a supreme effort, Batman jumps off the girder to the construction site and at that precise moment, a lightning strikes at the girder, shocking Joker and making him lose balance and plunging to the waters below. Moments later, Batman realizes that nothing has come out of the water, but he doubts this would be the last they hear from the Joker.
At that moment, Silver St. Cloud, who has since returned to Gotham and witnessed Batman's battle against the Joker, confronts him and tells him that she cannot involve herself with someone who lives such a dangerous lifestyle. During her attempt to break up with him, Silver's resolution breaks and the two of them embrace in a loving kiss for a few moments. When the passion fades, Silver finally breaks up with him. As Silver leaves, Commissioner Gordon approaches Batman and tells him that local cops had picked up Rupert Thorne, who is now confessing to all of his various crimes and has revealed that he is behind the public vetoing of Batman. However, Batman has already pulled his disappearing act on Gordon and he retreats to the shadows at the break of dawn.
Appearing in "Viewpoints"
- Appearances not yet listed
Synopsis for "Viewpoints"
This story is reprinted from Mystery in Space #111.
- The Batman stories from this issue are also reprinted in the Batman: Strange Apparitions trade paperback and The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told.
- The Batman stories from this issue were nominated at the 1979 Eagle Awards for Favorite Comic book Artist (US), and for Best Continued Story.
- This story was adapted into the 1993 episode of Batman: The Animated Series, "The Laughing Fish".
- A billboard on one of the story panels reads, "See the inkology of Terry Austin!"
- The Joker's televised threat is reminiscent of a similar scene from the first Joker story in Batman #1. In this issue the Joker says, "Tonight, at precisely twelve o'clock, I will kill G. Carl Francis! The Joker has spoken!" In Batman #1 he says, "Tonight, at precisely twelve o'clock midnight I will kill Henry Claridge and steal the Claridge Diamond. Do not try to stop me! The Joker has spoken!"
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