This continues the story from last issue and we get a quick recap; Skull Dugger can’t feel joy so he built a machine to steal joy from others right at a moment of exhilaration, but it has the unfortunate side effect of killing them (and leaves a skull-shaped mark on their foreheads). Batman figured it out, but thanks to one of Dugger’s machines, the Caped Crusader now feels intense agony any time he’d normally feel joy. Consequently, he’s isolated himself from the world and we see Dugger taking advantage of that and claiming another victim, this one a gambler who wins big at the roulette table. Bruce Wayne reads about it and tries to force himself to interact with other people by going to play tennis with some babe who looks like one of the Landers sisters. Her company is too much for him, so he takes off. At home, Alfred lets him know about a call from Doctor Somer (who got in shit last issue for calling in Batman on the case) and he changes to Batman and heads out. On the way, he stops a mugger and enjoys pounding him so much it almost kills him. At Commissioner Gordon’s office, Dr. Somer tells Batman the victims died of an internal electric shock and the skull-shaped marks could be stigma caused by trauma. Batman figures Dugger’s machine is responsible and stakes out his place. He follows Dugger to the home of some billionaire, where his will is being read. Batman interrupts Dugger before he can steal the heir’s joy, but Bats is so wracked by pain he can’t do anything else, so Dugger slaps him around. The people at the will reading find that hilarious, so Dugger steals the joy from one of them and takes off. Batman goes to the prison and tricks Dr. Tzin-Tzin into making him immune to pain, but it’ll only last for an hour. He goes after Dugger, but he’s not home, so Bats waits for him. He only has ten minutes of pain immunity left when Dugger gets back. Dugger cures Batman’s condition so he can steal the joy from that moment and kill him. But Batman is actually horrified that he’s about to die, so Dugger’s machine doesn’t drain him. They fight and Dugger gets electrocuted by his own machine, with the skull appearing on his forehead like some macabre form of poetic justice. Back at home, Bruce enjoys some good food (and I’m sure he got some action later on as well).
- How did Dugger get inside the billionaire’s mansion? And how come nobody noticed him skulking around?
- We don’t find out what happened with Tzin-Tzin, but Bruce says he doesn’t feel bad for tricking him, since he gave him hope for an hour. Isn’t that kinda worse than no hope at all?
This continues the story from last issue. We see a back room meeting of Rupert Thorne and other city councilors. They recap the last couple of issues (Dr. Sartorius builds a nuclear plant offshore, there’s an accident and he turns into Dr. Phosphorus, he tries to get revenge on Gotham and blackmails the council into cracking down on Batman, then Phosphorus disappears while fighting Batman. Thorne’s glad to be rid of Phosphorus, but he wants to keep up the pressure on Batman to advance his own power. The others aren’t too keen on pissing off Batman, but Thorne overrules them. They hear a noise from the chimney, but when they look, there’s no one there. We see Batman on the roof and find out his wounds still haven’t healed from when he fought Phosphorus—and they’re still radioactive. He decides he needs actual medical care instead of whatever he’s been doing for himself. He tells Alfred he’s going (as Bruce Wayne) to a fancy clinic for rich people called Graytowers. He breaks a date with Silver St. Cloud and Alfred wonders if she’s “the one”. Oh, Alfred, how many times have you wondered that? He checks into the clinic and is conked out by Magda the nurse’s toxic perfume. He has some crazy-ass nightmares and wakes up screaming. He’s informed that he’s not in a clinic, but an insane asylum. Silver comes to visit Bruce, but is turned away by Magda and the doctor, who says Bruce has radiation poisoning and can’t have visitors. Bruce dumps his drugged food and changes to Batman. He busts out of his room and heads for the roof, where he’s jumped by a couple of gigantic thugs. He kicks their asses and smashes into the doctor’s office. The doc turns out to be Professor Hugo Strange and they chat for a while. Strange confesses that he’s turned all the rich patients at Graytowers into mindless, mutated slaves, and forces them to recruit their rich friends as more victims. Batman isn’t too impressed and decks him, but Strange has an ace up his sleeve—well, a mamba, actually. It bites Batman, but Strange gives him an antitoxin because he’s enjoying the game too much to let Batman die now. When Batman wakes up, his mask is off and Strange knows his secret identity.
- Silver tries to figure out why Bruce is going to Graytowers and says that he should be suffering from exhaustion “after the other night”; that’s a pretty raunchy reference for a mainstream comic in 1977. (Of course, a modern comic would show them actually fucking …)
- Bruce tells the Graytowers staff the place was recommended by his friend, Jerry Robinson.
- Bruce is supposed to be falling for Silver, but it sure doesn’t stop him from putting the moves on the nurse, Magda.
- Bruce’s Batman costume is hidden in the false bottom of his suitcase, but would he really be allowed to keep his suitcase after being kidnapped?
- Apparently, Hugo Strange’s last appearance was way back in Detective #46, which I think was in the 1940s!
- It’s nice to see a villain who does the logical thing for once, and removes the hero’s mask while he’s unconscious. That “logic” is a hallmark of Englehart’s brief run and it extends to some of the other characters too—notably Silver St. Cloud.