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Friday, 14 July 2017

Batman Family 6 - Batgirl in a stampede, and the Joker's Daughter debuts

Batgirl and Robin get individual stories in Batman Family 6 (July/Aug 76), which also features an Alfred reprint from the 40s, and the second Mad Hatter tale, from the 60s.

Maggin, Delbo and Colletta send Batgirl to a reservation in her story, in her capacity as a Congresswoman. A mining company wants to take over the land, and Barbara is one of three politicos who head out to learn more about the situation. The company has been trying to buy her vote, and presumably has been bribing the other politicians. As far as the story goes, Barbara Gordon seems to be the only person against giving the company the land.

This is why she is the only one who gets set up to be killed in a bison stampede. She manages an impressive costume change in the middle of it, turning into Batgirl and mounting a horse to get control of the animals.

She also exposes the supposedly friendly native guide as also having taken money from the mining company, and being behind the murder attempt. Still, one has to wonder at how long the people will be able to maintain their land after some other mining company comes along.

The far more interesting story for me, as a kid, and now as well, is the Robin tale by Bob Rozakis, Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, which introduces the Joker's Daughter.

The story plays off of the (at that time) very recent death of Agatha Christie, and the publication of the final story of Hercule Poirot, written years earlier but kept aside until the author's death. In the Robin story, the deceased novelist is called Christine Ariadne, a name derived from Christie as well as the character Ariadne Oliver, a murder mystery novelist who appeared in Christie's books. Hudson University happened to have the vault where the author kept the final story of her detective, Ulysses Pilate. The vault gets opened, but no book is there.

The Joker's Daughter shows up, claiming to have stolen the book, and Dick Grayson switches to Robin to try to stop her. He doesn't do a very good job.

Later, the Joker's Daughter arranges to meet with Robin on the top of a crosswalk over a highway, and they fight again. This time she insists that she never had the book at all. And once again, with her weird Joker-type weapons she trounces Robin and escapes.

She leaves a doll behind, telling Robin that her goal is to learn his secret identity. Robin later explains to the police that there must never have been a book in the first place. That the author could not bear to kill off her beloved detective, so left an impossible locked room mystery to torment readers after her death. A good mystery in itself, the Joker's Daughter makes an effective decoy. 

The Joker's Daughter returns a couple of issues down the road.

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