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Detective Comics 475
Detective Comics #475
Publication Information
Published February 1978
Executive Editor Julius Schwartz
Cover Artist(s) Marshall Rogers
Writer(s) Steve Englehart
Inker(s) Terry Austin
Letterer(s) Ben Oda
Editor(s) Julius Schwartz
Alternate Covers


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"The Laughing Fish"Edit

SynopsisEdit

The story begins with Batman entering the penthouse apartment of Silver St. Cloud, socialite and girlfriend to Bruce Wayne. Silver is startled, but nevertheless allows Batman inside. As the two lock eyes, Batman confirms to himself that the events of last night [1] proved that Silver does indeed know his secret identity. He questions Silver further about it, but she simply continues denying that she had ever spoken to him before this night. Batman considers taking off his mask to end the game once and for all, but in the end, decides against it, and leaves.

Silver then collapses from the stress of the brief but tension-packed meeting, thinking to herself about what to do now that she knows Batman is Bruce Wayne - she had learned the secret by studying his jaw evening after evening. Her thoughts are interrupted by a phone call, which turns out to be from Bruce Wayne, who lies to her that he will be working late, and that their date will have to be canceled. This proves to be the last straw for Silver, who decides that she needs to leave Gotham and do some heavy thinking where Batman/Bruce Wayne won't find her.

In the meantime, Batman, too, is pondering his next move. He loves Silver beyond all else, but questions the wisdom of revealing his secret identity for any reason, even love. A diversion soon arrives, however, in the form of panicked cries from several fishermen near the docks. Batman swoops down to see what's wrong, and is treated to a nasty shock - one of the fishermen holds up a basket of disfigured fish, all of them with their lips reddened, their faces a chalk white, and their mouths frozen in grotesque grins - just like The Joker. The fishermen question Batman as to what The Joker intends to accomplish by mutating the fish, to which Batman responds that he has no idea - The Joker, after all, follows no rhyme or reason in his doings.

News of the "Joker-Fish" soon spreads over the entire United States, as fish on both the East and West coasts begin to bear The Joker's hideous grins. At noon the next morning, the Macabre Master of Mirth himself boldly marches into Gotham's copyright office, surrounded by a host of armed henchmen. The Joker then reveals to the local bureaucrat, G. Carl Francis, that he intends to copyright the fish, and in doing so, get a cut from every fish-sale in America, allowing him to earn millions of dollars a day.

Francis informs Joker that doing so is impossible, as fish are considered a natural resource, and cannot be copyrighted. Furious, The Joker leaves the office, but not before telling Francis that he has midnight to change his mind - or he will be "The poorest fish of all... and dead as a mackerel!" As he leaves, he expresses fury at being "cheated", and tells his men to "alert the other crews", stating that he has just begun to fight. When one of his men questions what he plans to do, however, The Clown Prince of Crime shoves him in front of an oncoming truck.

The story then cuts several hours ahead, to the Tobacconists' Club, where Rupert Thorne, corrupt city council member and head of the Anti-Batman campaign, is seen staring at his watch. He is startled by Marko Paisan, another anti-Batman council member, who questions why he is so jumpy. Rupert assures Marko that he is fine, and goes into the bathroom to calm his nerves. The real reason behind his jumpiness is professor Hugo Strange - or rather, his ghost. Thorne, after all, had ordered the professor's murder [2], but recently, Strange's ghost has appeared several times, vowing revenge on him. [3]

One of the bathroom's stalls opens, much to Thorne's horror. Thorne collapses onto his knees before the figure, whom he believes to be Strange, but instead, it is The Joker. The Ace of Knaves questions Thorne as to what he's doing, and is offended when Thorne implies that he had mistaken Joker for someone else. Joker then warns Thorne that he knows he had attended Hugo Strange's auction for Batman's secret identity, and that he suspects that Thorne is behind Strange's disappearance. He then goes on to say that Thorne should consider himself lucky he does not know Batman's secret identity - after all, it would take away the thrill of their battles.

As Joker leaves the bathroom, Thorne becomes completely overwhelmed by stress and confusion. Much like Silver had hours ago, Thorne leaves Gotham, oblivious to the Bat-Signal that is now slashing across the storm-swept sky. The story then cuts to the home of G. Carl Francis, where Batman, Commissioner Gordon, a horde of police, and of course, Francis himself, are. The television that Francis is watching suddenly displays The Joker's grinning face, and the Harlequin of Hate proclaims that at exactly midnight, he will kill Francis.

Batman, working hand-in-hand with the policemen, inspects every nook and cranny of Francis' home to look for any potential traps or assassination devices. The inspection drags well into the night, all the way until 11:55 P.M. Francis is cordoned off by a horde of policemen, had eaten nothing since Joker's threat, had only drank water from the police lab, and to top it all off, his house is surrounded by even more policemen. Batman, however, is still uneasy, and wishes for something - anything - to break the tension. Francis attempts to make conversation with Batman, asking him why The Joker has singled him out as a target when he does not even make the laws. Batman responds that none of this is Francis' fault - if not him, The Joker would have chosen someone else to take his homicidal urges out on.

Suddenly, clouds of yellow gas spew into the room through the heating ducts, covering everything within seconds. Batman reaches into his utility belt, and fishes out a re-breather that he clamps across Francis' face, to to no avail - as the clock chimes midnight, Francis collapses, dead, with his lips slowly stretching themselves into the Joker's trademark smile. Gordon asks why no one else has been killed by the gas, to which Batman responds that the gas is part of a binary compound - each alone is harmless, but when mixed, they produce The Joker's deadly poison. He reasons that The Joker must have secretly sprayed Francis with the other part of the compound during his threat.

The Joker once again comes onto the television, bragging over his victory. He then goes on to say that if he does not receive a copyright on his Joker-Fish, he will kill another bureaucrat from the copyright office at 3 A.M. The story then cuts to Rupert Thorne, now some three hundred miles away from Gotham. He sees a girl on the side of the road, who turns out to be none other than Silver, suffering from some car trouble. Reluctantly, Thorne allows Silver to hitchhike with him, and as he drives away, a thunderstorm (which had been threatening to occur throughout the entire story) begins.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Detective Comics #474
  2. Detective Comics #472
  3. Detective Comics #473; #474

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