Batman #234 (August, 1971)

Over the course of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’s classic early-’70s collaboration on Batman, the team was responsible not only for introducing one major new adversary (Ra’s al Ghul) to the ranks of the Darknight Detective”s greatest foes, but also for reclaiming and refurbishing of two vintage baddies who’d fallen out of favor in recent years.  The second of these restorations to appear, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” (Batman #251 [Sept., 1973]), is doubtless the best-remembered of the two, due to its ultimately having had such a dramatic impact not only on the Bat-mythos, but on the DC Universe as a whole — rehabbing what had become a joke of a character (no pun intended) during the camp “Batmania” era of the mid-Sixties into the comics medium’s quintessential avatar of psychopathic evil — a character arguably more popular than all but a small handful of DC’s best-known superheroes, and one with enough cultural gravitas for screen portrayals of him to have earned Academy Awards for two different actors.

I didn’t buy that one.  Read More

Batman #181 (June, 1966)

Most of the villains generally considered to be on Batman’s “A-list” of foes were introduced in the first decade or so following the Caped Crusader’s first appearance in 1939.  The Joker first arrived on the scene in 1940, barely a year after his heroic adversary’s debut, as did Catwoman.  The Penguin and the Scarecrow followed soon after, in 1941, while Two-Face first turned up in 1942.  Even the Riddler, a character who wouldn’t really take off until the mid-Sixties, debuted as early as 1948.

I may be as old as dirt, but even so, I’m not quite ancient enough to have been around for any of those characters’ introductory appearances.  On the other hand, I am old enough, and also fortunate enough, to have been present for the debut of another member of that top rank of Batman baddies — the villainess known as Poison Ivy.      Read More