BHOC: BATMAN FAMILY #9

This issue of BATMAN FAMILY featured the culmination of writer Bob Rozakis’ short Joker’s Daughter mystery, a storyline that would hereafter continue into the pages of TEEN TITANS. I picked this one up at my usual 7-11 back in the day–I was a regular reader of the series at this point, the only Batman title to hold that distinction. And all, ultimately, because I liked thick comic books and I liked reprints.

The story opens with Barbara Gordon making a visit to Dick Grayson’s Hudson University where she’s being awarded a plaque for her excellence in government. But the plaque is stolen, causing both Robin and Batgirl to swing into action individually. First, Batgirl runs afoul of the Scarecrow’s Daughter, a distaff version of the perennial Batman foe who clobbers Batgirl before being unmasked as the previously-seen Joker’s Daughter. Holy multiple identities! The JD’s not interested in battling Batgirl–as always, her true objective is Robin.

Later, Robin is lured into a trap by the Riddler’s Daughter, whom he similarly unmasked as the Joker’s Daughter. Worse for Robin, he’s rendered unconscious by his foe’s exploding mask, when he comes to his own domino mask is missing–the joker’s Daughter knows who he really is. I very clearly recall this sequence where Robin crafts himself a makeshift mask out of a towel in the restroom, ridiculous as it is. 

Finally, at the awards ceremony, the true thief of the plaque shows up with it–he purloined it as an act of civil disobedience, as he doesn’t trust any politicians. But it’s quickly swiped from him by the Penguin’s Daughter.

In this instance, both Batgirl and Robin are in attendance, and they capture both parties–and Robin not only unmasks the Penguin’s Daughter as the Joker’s Daughter, he also goes one further to reveal that he’s worked out that she’s really Duela Dent, the daughter of Two-Face. She’s done all of this because she wants to join the Teen Titans and hopes that Robin will sponsor him for membership–and he says that he will! Nobody seems concerned about the idea that Two-Face has a grown daughter who was born after Harvey Dent had become a criminal–which is to say, after Robin was already a super hero. Yeah, this doesn’t really work at all. It’s also the strangest audition to join a super hero team ever seen–why in the world did Duela think that this was a good way to go about things?

After that came the first reprint, another Jerry Robinson-illustrated Alfred solo story from the 1940s. It’s a lightweight and whimsical affair, in which Alfred runs down a pickpocket, catches some criminals and saves the life of a renowned chef who thereafter comes to Wayne Manor to cook an extravagant meal for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. But it wasn’t really a super hero story, and so it was only of limited appeal to my young self.

The final story in the issue was really the big winner of this outing–the second appearance of the Blockbuster, as illustrated by Carmine Infantino. Blockbuster in these days was a sort of quasi-Hulk sort of a character, the brother of a criminal who had been turned into a super-strong, marauding menace, and who had been taught to hate Batman on sight but loved Bruce Wayne because Wayne once saved his life. Typically, Batman could bring his rampages to a halt by unmasking himself in front of the Blockbuster–but that doesn’t work this time!

Batman’s discarded cowl leaps back upon his head, causing the caped crusader to have to fight blow-to-blow with the raging Blockbuster. This is all the secret work of the Outsider, that mystery villain of the 1960s whose true identity was a mystery, but whose story wended through a number of separate adventures in which he struck from the shadows, usually through other agents, in an attempt to dispatch Batman and Robin. If the Blockbuster was Batman’s Hulk, then the Outsider was the Masked Manhunter’s Green Goblin.

In a rematch, Batman doctors his mask so that, when a particular light is shined upon it, it projects the face of Blockbuster’s criminal brother, allowing him to calm the Blockbuster down. But the Outsider intervenes, causing objects from all around the room to fly at and batter Robin so that he can’t keep the light shining on Batman. Defeated, batman is placed into a device that will rapidly age him into a mummy by the Outsider–but the mystery villain hasn’t reckoned with the Blockbuster’s unreasoning strength. At the mercy of his one-time pawn, the Outsider’s goose looks cooked until Batman manages to free himself from the trap, kayoing the Blockbuster in the process. As usual, the Outsider gets away undiscovered, his true identity remaining a tantalizing mystery–and for those who are unaware of it, I’ll continue to keep that secret for now.

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