Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Detective Comics #475 (1978)

    (This review has been edited from its original posting on May 16, 2012.)

   Writer Steve Englehart started his run on the Detective Comics with an excellent two-issue tale drawn by Walt Simonson, and then he launched into an amazing six-issue series with the talented Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.

   In the span of those issues, Englehart managed to redefine Batman as a sane man, a great detective and hero who must deal with a crazy world; he gave Bruce Wayne his first believable love interest in the sexy Silver St. Cloud; and repurposed several Batman villains into serious threats, including The Penguin, Hugo Strange and Deadshot; and recast The Joker into a truly scary and unpredictable force of nature. 

   This is the Joker we've been seeing ever since. Dennis O'Neil had returned the Joker to his original status as a madman (as opposed to the almost lovable clown from the TV show), but Englehart took the character to the next step - a character arc that culminated in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises and the brilliant portrayal by Heath Ledger.

   This issue is the next-to-the-last in the Englehart / Rogers / Austin run, and the Joker shows up with a truly insane scheme - one that involves fish with the Joker's face.

   When a bureaucrat stands in his way, the Joker vows to take his life at midnight - even though the man will be held in a locked room, with the police and Batman on hand to protect him.

   It's a dark delight of a story, with a Joker both completely unpredictable - and quite deadly.

   Not only is it an outstanding story, but the art is amazing. Rogers makes Gotham come alive, his characters are precise and lively, his women beautiful, his villains chilling, and his Batman dramatic and invincible (love that huge cape).

   The only strike against it is the poor printing, which smudged some of the darker scenes. But in a way, it just adds to the mood. 

   It's a fantastic comic, and the Joker nudges this one to the top of the list. And Batman has never been better!

   One more issue to go!

Grade: A+



Rusty said...

Great review Chuck - I'm really liking these reviews of classic, older comics! Nice timing for this one too, as CBR makes a reference to this issue in its article about Three Jokers and the new Joker-ized fish! https://www.cbr.com/three-jokers-art-batman-red-hood-batgirl/

El Vox said...

I have this story #475 (The Laughing Fish story) & #476 in the collected book, The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told. If someone wanted to read them, that might be a good, inexpensive way to do so rather than buying those individual issues. Plus you get a bunch of other Joker stories in it to boot!

You can find the #274, The Deadshot Ricochet from Detective Comics from 1978 in collected book, The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, along with an interesting text piece before it from DC Special Series #15, called Death Strikes At Midnight and Three. Plus again, a bunch of other cool stories to read.

Chuck said...

I also think DC is planning to reprint the entire Englehart / Rogers / Austin run - maybe?