Bizarro Back Issues: The Strange Saga Of The Joker’s Daughter (1976)
If you’re keeping up with current issues of Batman, then you already know that the “Death of the Family” event is based around the Joker getting the idea that Batman’s “family” of sidekicks and assorted hangers-on is making him weak. As a result, he’s targeting the entire gang, taking them out in an effort to get Batman back to being an a solo act. And really, the whole thing’s pretty hypocritical.
I mean, it’s not like the Joker never had his own family, right? Specifically, an alleged daughter who showed up and proceeded to vex Robin and Batgirl through the medium of gender-swapped cosplay, creating a mess that even Maury couldn’t sort out. The seventies were a weird time, folks.The Joker hasn’t exactly been a loner for his entire career, of course. His first notable sidekick was the genuinely terrifying Pagliacci-lookin’ little person called Gaggy Gagsworthy back in the ’60s, and in that brief period where he had his own short-lived solo series before the DC Implosion hit he had his own cast of expendable henchmen. Nowadays, of course, there’s Harley Quinn, who can be seen both in the pages of Suicide Squad and at every single comic book convention ever.
But between those sidekicks, there was the Joker’s Daughter, who made her first appearance in 1976’s Batman Family #5, making an unsuccessful bid to steal a fabled manuscript that did not actually exist. It wasn’t exactly a great beginning, but to her credit, she also used a “lipstick gun” that shot non-lethal (but presumably annoying) kisses directly at Dick Grayson’s face. So… that’s something, I guess.
Over the next few issues, though, JD’s gimmick would change a little, as she started dressing up as other villains, starting with a brief tenure as Catgirl that pissed off Catwoman to no end due to the insinuation that she was old enough to have a teenage daughter, because that’s what supervillainesses had to deal with for motivation back in the ’70s. Today’s selection, however, comes from Batman Family #9 and Bob Rozakis, Irv Novick, and Vince Colletta‘s “Startling Secret of the Devilish Daughters,” where the Joker’s Daughter decides to throw all manner of logic right out the window, and the storyline comes to what can only be called an abrupt conclusion.
Since you’ve already got the background — which is more than you usually get in a Vince Colletta comic — let’s jump right in:
Of all the weird things about this comic, that opening panel and its immediate segue from “a shocking crime!” to “eh, we’ll get around to it” may be the weirdest. Also, I’m a college dropout, so maybe you guys know if universities routinely get together to select their favorite freshman congressperson.
Either way, it gives Barbara Gordon — in that strange and often forgotten period where she was a lawmaker by day and a masked vigilante by night — an excuse to drop by Hudson University, where she meets up with Dick Grayson and his extremely clingy girlfriend Lori. As you can see above, though, not everyone is thrilled by the visit, which leads “some crud” to start throwing tomatoes and eggs at the group. I don’t think it’s ever actually revealed what has that longhair so riled up, but I’m just going to pretend that it has something to do with Barbara pushing through a bill that would require all police departments worldwide to switch exclusively to spotlight-based communications.
While Lori, Dick and Barbara are trying to sort themselves out, Hudson University’s woefully inadequate chief of security wanders over to inform them that someone stole that plaque they were going to give to Barbara. And while the eggs and tomatoes might be super gross, they do give everybody a nice opportunity to change into their superhero costumes:
Let us all take a moment to appreciate Dick Grayson’s van. There is no way that thing does not have full carpeting in the back. Ladies.
While Dick’s investigating, Barbara goes ahead and starts her speech to the assembled Hudson U students, only to be interrupted by… The Scarecrow! Or… a picture of the Scarecrow projected on a screen behind her, which is apparently so scary that the entire student body flips right the hell out and runs, leaving Barbara so alone in the auditorium that she feels comfortable changing into her Batgirl costume right there on the stage.
And no sooner has she unfurled her cape than she is joined by the felonious projectress, the Scarecrow’s Daughter, who promptly gets into a hellacious fight in one of those empty featureless boxes that Colletta was so fond of inking:
Say what you will about Batgirl, but that is a Dolemite-level backhand.
Eventually, The Scarecrow’s Daughter gets tired of being socked in the face and pulls off her mask, revealing that it’s actually the Joker’s Daughter underneath the costume, rocking some severely arched eyebrows and my grandmother’s haircut:
As for all that stuff about “suspects,” JD’s goal throughout her appearances was to discover Robin’s secret identity for what everyone just assumed were nefarious purposes. And the next step in her plan is to crash a dinner at Ernie’s Oriental Palace, because apparently when members of congress come to town, you take them to the storefront buffet.
At the end of the meal, Dick gets a mysterious fortune cookie describing him as an “unmasked superhero,” and after a quick change in the bathroom, he runs into the kitchen and is confronted by the Riddler’s Daughter. It’s worth noting that his first assumption is that she’s actually the Riddler, and really, not to be all gender prescriptivist here, but you’d think the skintight costume would’ve been a tipoff that something was up.
They start to scuffle, and that’s when the Riddler’s Daughter pulls out what might be the most useless weapons I’ve seen in a lifetime of reading comics:
I love Robin’s choice of “Hawkman’s son” there. I never really noticed before, but the DC Universe sure does have a weird fixation on birds.
Anyway, you can probably tell where this is going, but after Robin calls her a “whacky broad” and decides that punching her right in the face is in order, she’s unmasked and revealed to be The Joker’s Daughter. But this time, when she’s unmasked, that s**t explodes.
I would never endorse calling a young lady a “whacky broad” (I prefer the alliteration of “dizzy dame”), but if ever there was an act that would warrant it, I’d say wearing explosives on your face to a Chinese restaurant would do the job. In addition to covering her escape, the bomb also burns off Robin’s domino mask, and even though he’s able to fashion a replacement from a paper towel (hilarious) by the time the police get there, there can be no doubt that JD knows his secret identity.
An hour later — and keep in mind that everything in this story so far has happened on the same day — Barbara makes her second attempt at giving her speech, and sure enough, it gets interrupted again:
The reaction from the crowd is about as wrong as it could be, but I’m willing to look past it and just be happy that we got a comic with the line “Hey, it’s the Penguin… In drag!”
This time, though, she ends up facing both Batgirl and Robin, and after the heroes form a Rockettes-style kickline in order to disarm her (oh, comics), JD gets unmasked for the final time!
Oh, okay, that makes perfect wait what.
Yes, it turns out that The Joker’s Daughter is actually Two-Face’s daughter, who decided to become a superhero by dressing up as a guy who has tried to kill Robin (and everyone else) a couple dozen times and committing crimes. But it’s okay, she explains, because they were just misdemeanors and she paid for all the stuff that was broken. Except for that time she set off explosives close enough to burn Robin’s mask right off his face, but what’s a little C4 between friends?
Also, I love how this story implies that Two-Face — not Harvey Dent, but Two-Face, complete with his obsession with twins and the number two — was going around knocking ladies up trying to get some kids. What the hell was that Craigslist ad like?