Batman Knightcast 31: Detective Comics #475 and #476

Put on a happy face! On this Batman Knightcast, Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin bring the epic Englehart and Rogers Batman saga to its dramatic conclusion with DETECTIVE COMICS #475 and #476. These issues tell the infamous "Laughing Fish" story that pits the Dark Knight Detective against the Clown Prince of Crime in one of his all-time nuttiest capers. Plus, Bruce's relationship with Silver St. Cloud and Batman's trouble with Boss Thorne reach, sorta dramatic resolution.

Also, hear the fellas discuss the latest movie news and trailers to come out of the DC FAN-DOME media event, as well as listener feedback from last episode.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Smiling Faces Sometimes" by The Undisputed Truth.

Thanks for listening!

28 responses to “Batman Knightcast 31: Detective Comics #475 and #476

  1. To the brutality in the trailer for The Batman- I did cringe, but then I realized that Batman may have been taking the single guy down so hard to stave off fighting the whole group. It seems tactical, and sure enough, one of the gang is on the verge of tears.

    At least, I hope that’s what I am seeing.

    Also, for the people upset that Gordon is played by a person of color– screw off. Jeffery Wright is all the awesome, and was cast because of his incredible acting chops.

  2. “Any chance we can get to expunge Damien from existence….. This is the hill I choose to die on, I hate Damien.”

    I won’t say I wasn’t offended, Chris. You haven’t even met me.


  3. It was sad that you didn’t manage to get the latest Batman movie news into your episode that Batman has covid. That movie seems to be cursed and no amount of eye make up can save it.

    Listening to your discussion I was trying to decide if Steve Englehart ever managed to really land an ending. I’m really struggling to think of a book where he ended his story well. A number of his most famous works ended acrimoniously and the endings were rewritten (Avengers, WCA, F4, Silver Surfer, GLC etc). Even the limited series he did were often just set up for other series. I wonder if anyone else can think of an ending that really worked.

  4. Listening this now, but wanted to jot this down before I forget. But you guys clearly struggled to find any joy in the new Batman greater media products. I don’t think you’re going to find a sweet spot for Batman in anything other than a Brave and the Bold-type animated series – and I’d be surprised if we get something like that any time soon.

  5. Wait guys! The gang in laughing fish is Absoulutely NOT generic Southpaw (blonde dude) Blue eyes (paul Newman guy) Sweet tooth (black guy) it’s the gang from JOKER SERIES WHICH HAD A NAME i cant remember

  6. Are there any other Aquaman fans out there who feel sorry for those poor innocent fish that Joker poisoned?

    Also, I wonder what happened to Jackson’s cat after the events of 476. I think it would have been appropriate for Bruce Wayne to adopt it, given that the cat is now a poor orphan, who’s owner was tragically murdered before its very eyes (and teeth and claws).

    Thanks for another amazing animal-filled episode of Knightcast.

    1. Brian, the deaths in these issues seem to bother you more than the all-mammal deaths over in the latest Midnight. I call icthy-favoritism from the fisheries biologist!

      Okay, seriously, that sounded like a lot of poisoned fish. I am legitimately concerned about the environmental impact, and I don’t even make a good hippie.

      New topic: If Bruce adopts the cat, I’m all for a Skottie Young series where Jokercat and Ace the Bat-Hound are bitter rivals who occasionally must set aside their differences to save Gotham and members of the Bat-family.

      1. 1) You caught me. I am biased in favor of aquatic animals.

        2) I would happily surrender my hard earned money for a Bat-hound and Jokercat series.

  7. Nice podcast, but could you coordinate with Michael and Andrew over at the Overlooked Dark Knight to stop dropping within a day of each other? Too much goodness! One per fortnight would be great.

    Spare me the Snyder Cut. The minute I hear Hallelujah I switch off, what a depressing dirge, totally overused in TV show-ending montages.

    The Pattinson Batman looks really depressing, what’s with the stupid greasy eyes – give him the cool mirror lenses! I agree, we need a different tone in a Batman movie – how about a live action Lego style-film as everybody loves Lego Batman

    On to Detective Comics 475. That scene with Batman coming to Silver St Cloud as she’s in a towel – even as a kid reading it I was uncomfortable, it seems so creepy and prurient

    I like the Letraset/Zip-a-tone wallpaper on Silver’s wall. Bob Layton was using this sort of thing in Iron Man at the same time… Am I wrong in seeing, on copyright agent Francis’ wall, looking like an eye test chart, a piece of copyright information for Letraset?

    That panel of Silver at Boss Thorne’s car window, is it based in Farrah Fawcett? It always seemed super-toothpaste cheesy. Oh, and Chris has just referenced Charlie’s Angels. There you go!

    In 476 that panel of Batman/Jackson shutting the glass door from behind – brilliant. Shame about the dialogue all over it. Not that we don’t need the words for the story, but you know what I mean.

    Joker turning the page from p5 to p6 is brilliant. Why don’t more comics play with the format like this?

    Lord, I hate Silver smoking. I may have mentioned that.

    So far as the convenient lightning bolt and the like go, I’m OK with a few deus ex machina, this is a superhero comic. Just give me drama without things that could NEVER happen.

    That last page, though, I never liked the lens flare either, I got it, but it was unmotivated, and too precise, too neat. I also thought someone was aiming, Deadshot maybe. None of which stops this being a classic image!

    Isn’t it weird that from the time Julie Madison left until the debut of Silver St Cloud, Bruce Wayne never had a regular girlfriend? If Vicki Vale has been presented as more than a pest, Alfred would never have had to die.

    Good to hear you chatting about the Neal Adams-drawn FF: Antithesis comic – you likely never saw my blog review of the first issue, but I suggested Marvel collect it as a treasury edition, and courtesy of Dan at 13th Dimension I now know it’s happening. So I hope we get to hear it discussed on Treasury Cast. (Oh, and the Fantastic Four Adams drew in Avengers were Skrulls, so they don’t count!).

    Come back soon!

    1. Oh, I forgot, as regards Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane smoking, Brian Bendis, in a couple of recent DC stories, showed Lois to be a secret smoker. Ugh*

      (*I request that you if you read this comment out, it’s with one of Cindy’s patented ‘Ugh’ noises – Chris’ version would do!)

      1. Nice podcast, but could you coordinate with Michael and Andrew over at the Overlooked Dark Knight to stop dropping within a day of each other? Too much goodness! One per fortnight would be great.‘

        I’m talking nonsense, we don’t have a new ODK show, it was two differently-logoed versions of this appearing on my feed! Carry on.

    2. Mart, I agree with you on many points, as usual — LEGO Batman and Silver smoking, to name only two — but I appreciated Rogers’ amping the awkward up to eleven with the towel, and not just because Silver looks great in a towel. When you consider that Bruce and Silver have already been intimate at this point, it makes it a little more understandable that he didn’t have an overwhelming urge to dive back out the window. But the fact that he didn’t made him seem even more like Bruce Wayne.

      Towel aside (figuratively, I mean — it’s a Code-approved comic) I think he thought that by shocking Silver in his cape and cowl, he’d make it more difficult for her to hide what she knew. There is a logic to that. For example, if she just waved him in without raising an eyebrow, it’s a safe bet she knows he’s Bruce.

      But he underestimated her intelligence and poise, he underestimated his own vulnerability to her, and he certainly didn’t think through all the ways that conversation could play out. I imagine one gets complacent manipulating only street thugs and mentally ill super-villains. This is where spending more time in corporate boardrooms would actually up his game.

      I read your fine review of FF: Antithesis over on Too Dangerous, and I am encouraged. I love Adams’ rendering in every era, but in his modern work, it often seems like he doesn’t know his own strength, especially regarding facial expressions. The over-grimacing effect ranges from making his characters seem less attractive and likable to making them seem violently insane. (Batman: Odyssey, I’m looking at you — fearfully!) But your recommendation plus the images you posted probably means another treasury purchase in my future.

      Man, isn’t it awesome that treasuries are back? (I know; wrong podcast.)

      1. It is, though! Treasurycast persuaded me to buy the New Fun Comics #1 book, and I love it. I hadn’t realised the earliest comics were actually that size.

        Thanks for your thoughts on the Silver and Bruce business, you make lots of sense!

        And cheers for the kind words about the blog.

  8. Ryan and Chris, from the movie talk to the comic itself, you expressed so many sentiments I agreed with, and expressed them so well, I thought I’d have nothing to say. But then we got to the end!

    Why the Multiple Deus* Ex Machina Work in My Head
    *Deii? Does anybody know Latin?

    1. Could the Hugo Strange have produced a harmless chemical taggant that absorbs into the skin and stays detectable, wash after wash (at least for a week or so)? Of course! That might be doable in real life, and it’s certainly doable in comic book science. I mean, permethrin bug repellant stays in your fatigues for twenty laundry cycles.

    Seriously, though, this is another example of wasted potential as a productive, law-abiding citizen. Sell that stuff to the intelligence community and law enforcement, buy a mansion in the islands, and call it a day.

    2. Finding the vapor analyzer? A criminal mastermind put it there for him to find. Strange wants Joker caught, because, as a psychiatrist, he knows Joker will see Strange’s knowledge of Batman’s identity as a threat to his malevolent fun. Done! Next batter.

    3. Ahh, the lightning strike. First, let me concede that the Franklin ending is far superior, because it does everything I’m about to praise the lightning strike for EVEN BETTER. Now, with that annoying bit of intellectual integrity out of the way, I shall begin.

    a) It’s entirely plausible that some idiot playing on a construction girder umpteen stories in the air in a thunderstorm would get struck by lightning. Conveniently timed? Absolutely, and that’s part of why Chris’s is better, but when you go around murdering people and taking stupid chances, it will eventually come back to bite you, so I approve. Of course, in Chris’s, Joker’s own attack defeats him, which is consistent with how villains fall in the book of Proverbs, the Quran, and probably Hindu karma. Poetic as all get out, too.

    b) Batman typically has so much agency (Re: “Bat-God”) that the books lose all dramatic tension. In Englehart’s stories, Batman could lose. Sometimes, the challenges are so tough, that he has to get a lucky break or the villain has to make a mistake for him to win. That’s wonderful. And it still gives him more agency than Indy at the end of Raiders, and I love that story, too.

    Thanks for a great discussion of a great story, gents!

  9. That page with the hitchhiking Hugo Strange ghost strangling Thorne is so perfectly, uh, executed, that it genuinely scared me when I was a little kid. I had ended up with a coverless copy of the comic and that I had never seen a sequence like that in a superhero comic–perfectly paced and laid out.

    Not that everything needs to be “upgraded” to a movie, but I have always thought this sequence would make for an AMAZING “cold open” to a Batman movie if they ever decided to do Hugo Strange as the villain. It would be abjectly terrifying and really set the stage for HS being a powerful force to deal with.

    These issues are just so good, it’s amazing. Not Max Allen Collins and Don Heck good, but good.

  10. On Silver St. Cloud, to loosely paraphrase Jessica Rabbit: “I’m can’t help it if I’m sexy, I’m just drawn that way.”

  11. Just to follow up on the Hugo Strange bit, Gerry Conway addressed this in Batman #356.

    Strange was very much alive, and developed a bit of a man-crush on Batman. He was manipulating Thorne behind the scenes, building up to appropriating Batman’s identity.

    Maybe it was better that he was a ghost.

  12. I don’t have a lot to add about the discussion of Laughing Fish/Sign of the Joker. I pretty much agree with everything Chris said, but he was able to bring up his points with it more intelligently and without my thick accent. I agree this was the first perfect mix of the Joker as killer and clown, something very few writers have gotten right since. This is still my second favorite Joker story ever, with Len Wein/Walt Simonson/Dick Giordano “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker” taking Englehart’s Joker template and perfecting it.

    My only gripe with the story, and probably the arc as a whole, is the Vapor reader gadget. Like you, I would have preferred Batman use his detective skills, plus the gadget confirms that Strange is really a ghost. If Englehart removed that scene, readers can decide if Strange is really a ghost or if Thorne is just going insane…whatever works best for them.

    I’m a good bit older than you guys (born in 1971 with my first comics having September or October 1976 on sale dates). I think I’ve listened to every episode, but I don’t remember what period of Batman Ryan first read. Chris seems to have been indoctrinated in the Bronze Age pretty early. I wonder if I may be more forgiving of rushed Bronze Age endings because they are what I grew up with. Writers had to come up with three or four stories a month, since they were usually working on multiple books. Obviously, they couldn’t spend as much time developing their ideas as modern writers, who come up with one idea and milk it for three or four years. Still, I would rather read a Bronze Age story that leaves me wanting more than a modern one that leaves me wondering, “When is this going to get over?”

    On the subject of pacing, if you guys ever cover any Bill Finger stories, notice how well they are paced, no matter what page length he has to work with. I think it was in the Steranko History of Comics, but there was an interview where Finger copped to the fact that he ripped off “Case of the Chemical Syndicate” from a Shadow story. No one may have known if Finger hadn’t admitted it himself. That aside, Finger is a creative man and deserves our respect.

    In 1976-1977, I was introduced to so many types of Batman. O’Neil/Adams/Novick/Giordano in treasuries, David V. Reed in Batman, Haney/Aparo in B&B, Englehart/Rogers/Austin in Detective and Fox/Broome/Infantino in Batman Family reprints. No wonder my taste in Batman is so schizophrenic. Heck, the second Batman story I read was “Gorilla Boss of Gotham City.” You guys will have to let me know what type of podcast equipment I need, so I can guest when you cover that story. I Kid! I Kid!

    I like Silver but I don’t like her smoking. Smoking was just more prevalent in the 1970s. Often it was presented as sexy and sophisticated. Don’t forget that in the Golden Age, Batman (well, Bruce) smoked a pipe on occasion, and Bruce was shown smoking a cigarette in Batman #5. Catwoman was shown smoking in Batman 47. I had to look these up, but I have the stories in the Batman omnibuses.

    Bruce smoking in Batman #5

    Catwoman smoking in Batman 47

    Continuity was really important back then, either. There were a couple of issues where Catwoman had blonde hair.

    As for Bendis having Lois smoke, Yeah, that’s terrible. This isn’t the 70s anymore, as much as part of me wishes it was (not for the smoking…for the music, movies, comics and Corvettes). Considering the glacial pacing of most Bendis stories I’ve read, has he done two or three straight issue that were just Lois smoking? I try to be positive, but I’ll charitably say I’m not a Bendis fan. Could you tell?

    Finally, I HATE the eye shadow on Batman in the movies!!!!!!! Always have. See Pattinson with his emo eyeshadow and goth hair (Real billionaire playboy) makes me want to give the movie a hard pass. If only Clint Eastwood had starred as Batman in a series of movies in the 1970s.

      1. Oh, since you brought up the “Leatherface” Joker…that wasn’t the only idea DC got from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. In Death of the Family, the “Leatherface” Joker has the Bat-family tied up at a dinner table (TCM 1 & 2); the story mainly takes place in a series of caverns (TCM2); there are explosives under the table; (in TCM 2, Cook has a hand grenade hidden in Nubbins and pulls it out under the table); Batman and Joker battle in a higher cavern while the Bat-Family is below and the Joker falls off the edge (Chop Top and Stretch battle in a cavern above Lefty and Leatherface’s dual, and Chop Top falls over the edge of the cavern where Grandma is located, although Stretch does chainsaw Chop-Top and Batman doesn’t chainsaw the Joker.)

  13. So many great comments in the show and here, I have little to add. Just thanks for covering these issues since it gave me a chance to read this run for the first time. Loved it bunches, even if the ending was too editorial-reset-rushed. Appreciate it, Knightcasters! (And also thanks for playing The Outcasters trailer and mentioning the show!)

  14. Okay, I wasn’t quite to the end of the podcast when I wrote, so a few more points:
    1) My argument above is dependent on the “not-a-ghost” retcon. I agree with all your points about the ghost, Ryan.
    2) I’m very, very happy that Englehart portrayed Thorne as a more gentlemanly gangster, realism be damned. I don’t even think it’s that unrealistic, as criminals generally see some crimes as worse than others, the same as law-abiding citizens (according to a friend who used to be in law enforcement). There was enough tension as written. I don’t want to think about Silver dealing with the trauma of an attack, even if it were unsuccessful. It would make this comic far less enjoyable for me.
    3) Ryan, I agree 100% with your point about the Joker’s unrealistic survival. In fact, you remind me of a very intelligent friend who once said, “I’ll believe a man can fly before I’ll believe the Joker would still be alive.” I actually don’t like reading new Joker stories now because they require too much suspension of disbelief. But the old ones like this one get a pass, for some reason.

    if I were a citizen of Gotham, and something awful happened to the Joker on his way to prison, I wouldn’t be very motivated to question it either. I’m not saying excessive force is ever justified — the lack of justification is what makes it excessive — but some crimes are far more understandable than others.

  15. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. I always liked this story. And thought it was funny when BAS changed it from Oh my God. Into Great Scott. And the Joke goes from saying Ware?! in fear. Into Actually I’m Irish. This was a pretty fun comic. And ya’ll did a good job of coving it. I like how The Dr, Hugo story ended. Since it ends with him as being alive the crit of him being a ghost doesn’t fit…..however. Even if it hadn’t y’all said it doesn’t fit the book?

    Doesn’t this run start with the Adams ands O’Neal run? What was the first issue of that again? Oh…right, Ware they dump Bats in a Hamer film. Agaist Mr. And Ms. Morta. Whom are imortal till they get near their graves and die….. yeah I think that ship has sailed sorry. Moving on why is Strang helping bats? His obsetion. As we find out he wants to be Bats. So in his mind. He thinks he’s working as his partner. So latter he can prove he can replace Bruce as Bat Man.

    Yeah the Bat Man capage in this is awsome. Homes is a great Artist. The lighting thing is fine. Kind of fits the Vampire 70s movie thing that was on Bats at the time works. It gets more of a cop drama latter, but for now it’s fine.

  16. Late to the game.

    I have always loved the Laughing Fish arc for many reasons. The art is wonderful. Englehart channels the early Joker story perfectly, making it an homage not a copy. And remember, back then, these things were deep cuts for knowledgeable fans. Not everyone had access to early Joker stories to read about the effects of Joker venom. And of course Silver St Cloud.

    As for the last issue being a bunch of non-Batman finales, I think sometimes you just have to let the story wash over you and let the events unfold. Yes, Batman could have solved everything … but after decades of him being omnipotent/omniscient I don’t mind a story where he wins because a ghost left him a doohickey.. And the idea that Strange could make so much happen from beyond the grave amped him up in my mind as a villain. For sure I thought that someone of his power wasn’t dead and would show up later.

    Even the lightning strike didn’t bother me because so many Joker stories end with him unwittingly leading to an apparent demise. Falling off of moving trains into giant smokestacks, crashing a boat into rocks when his ‘fake hand up the sleeve’ trick leads him to look away, etc. So standing on a metal beam high in the air in a lightning strike seems par for the course.

    I do think that when you read comics to critique sometimes you can get caught up in the minutia. But my guess is that this ‘flawed’ issue still ranks higher than a Max Allan Collins issue which didn’t have any deus ex machina.

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