This one starts with a boozy sportswriter named Hank Klugmuun waking up in Gotham Stadium, where he’s confronted by a weirdo in a mishmash of sports gear. The weirdo kills Klugmuun with a hockey stick and skates away … over the grass! Commissioner Gordon calls Batman in on the case, since this is the fourth sports-related death in the last couple of weeks. Batman mulls over the report and decides to check out the scene as Bruce Wayne. He notices the marks made by the killer’s skates, something that wasn’t in the police report. Bruce figures the cops couldn’t see the marks at night under artificial light, but they’re visible in the daytime. Bruce follows the tracks to the dressing rooms before losing them, but figures the killer might have a key to the rooms in the stadium … which is interesting, since a groundskeeper was eyeing Bruce pretty closely as he examined the tracks. Bruce figures out that the tracks were from a pair of skates and heads for the local hockey rink as Batman. Sure enough, the killer (calling himself the Sportsman) shows up and wastes one of the hockey players with an explosive volleyball. Batman chases Sportsman, but he surprises the Darknight with his agility and almost slices him in half with a buzzsaw tennis racket. The next day, Bruce takes the racket to the store mentioned on the label and finds out it’s a new model, not even out for sale yet. Bruce recognizes a “salesman” at the store as the groundskeeper from the stadium and chases him. He turns out to be the Sportsman and tries to kill Bruce, who barricades himself in a storeroom before changing to Batman. When he emerges, Sportsman is outside the store, terrorizing mall patrons. He manages to get Batman in a pitching net and obligingly tells the Caped Crusader his origin before finishing him off. Sportsman’s dad was an asshole who pushed his son to be an athlete, but the son wasn’t very good at it. His dad was a sports doctor, so he combined steroids with some weird gene transplant therapy to juice his kid to the max. His wife took the kid and left but the damage was done. Sportsman became a gifted athlete in high school and college, but his father’s tampering caught up to him and he’s now dying of some neurological disease, so he decided to get revenge on the sports world in general. Batman uses an automatic baseball pitcher to bean Sportsman, then decks him.
- The Sportsman’s other victims had real-life counterparts: Billy Robins, hot-headed manager of the Gotham Champs baseball team (Billy Martin); Bruce Spits, swimming star (Mark Spitz); and John Claude Hilly, downhill skier (Jean-Claude Killy). If Hank Klugmuun has a real-life analogue, I can’t think who it would be.
Last issue, Robin got a call from his old pal, Waldo the clown, that something was going on at Hill’s Circus. Robin went to check it out and when another clown (Jo-Jo) was killed, it looked like Waldo was the murderer. Robin couldn’t believe that, so he staked out the big top to see who came to retrieve the bullet; it turned out to be the owner of the circus, Lourna Hill. Lourna says she was getting the bullet to help Waldo, and when the two of them are attacked by a lion and a tiger, Robin believes her. But Lourna knows how to calm the savage beasts, so she was never really in danger. Robin heads outside and grabs Melanie, the lion tamer. She says she was trying to help Waldo too, since the two of them were engaged. She says she and Jo-Jo used to be an item before she started banging Waldo (since when do clowns get so much action?) and admits setting the big cats loose because she thought Robin and Lorna were going to get Waldo in even more trouble with the cops. Robin changes to Dick Grayson and talks to Waldo, who says he and Jo-Jo were arguing over Melanie when Jo-Jo tossed him a gun. Waldo caught it reflexively and it went off right away, but he insists it wasn’t even pointed at Jo-Jo, so how could the bullet have hit him? (And traveled right through his body and across the tent?) Dick has a hunch and goes back to the big top to check it out. He has to fight off the dimwitted strongman (who thinks he’s helping Lourna), but Robin finds an air-gun under the bleachers with a timer attached. Turns out Jo-Jo had terminal cancer and decided to kill himself and set Waldo up for it (with a hair-trigger pistol loaded with a blank) for stealing his woman.
This one starts with Batman in a hospital where a tearful mother begs him to help her daughter, who’s dying of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Turns out she’s Anthony Lupus’s mother, a werewolf that Batman fought years ago; she wants Batman to find her son so he can save his sister. Batman can’t bring himself to tell her that Anthony Lupus was electrocuted during their final confrontation, but maybe he won’t have to break it to her … Commissioner Gordon shows Batman a newspaper clipping about a guy named Anthony Lupus in Alaska who lives in the wild and hunts wolves. If it’s the same Anthony Lupus, maybe there’s hope for his sister yet. Batman’s latest foil, Arthur Reeves, shows up at the hospital with his pet news crew trailing behind. Reeves is running for mayor and has made Batman’s vigilantism a campaign issue. Reeves gets in Batman’s face and gets slapped down, right on camera … which is probably what he wanted. Bruce Wayne heads to Alaska to find Lupus and runs into a guy named Clayton, who works for the EPA trying to protect the wilderness. Bruce flashes some cash and Clayton agrees to take him to Lupus’s remote cabin. When they get there, nobody’s home, so they make themselves comfortable. As night falls, the cabin is attacked by a werewolf. They fight it off and barricade themselves in, but Clayton is so freaked out he decides to leave in the morning. He says he’ll send someone to pick Bruce up in a couple days. Bruce changes to Batman and tracks the werewolf to a cave where he hopes to trap it with a silver net he brought. When night falls, Batman’s net catches something … but it turns out to be a real wolf, not a werewolf. Lupus was too smart to get caught in the trap, but he attacks Batman now. Batman leads Lupus to the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline for some reason and beats the shit out of him. He puts Lupus in the net until he transforms back to human the next morning, then tells him about his sister and asks him to return to civilization for her sake … and his own.
- Batman first fought Anthony Lupus (who was being controlled by Professor Milo) back in Batman 255.
Batgirl – “Hunt for a Hunchback Killer” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella
This one starts with Batgirl going after the Hunchback Killer, who’s been terrorizing Gotham. She saves his latest victim, but gets her ass kicked and the Killer escapes. Batgirl feels like crap for letting him get away and she already feels guilty about her friend (Jeff Cotton), the guy who keeps her Batcycle in his garage. Jeff was almost blown up by Dr. Voodoo while he was trying to get revenge on Batgirl. She goes to see Jeff in the hospital and he tells her not to blame herself; he knew what he was getting into and he likes being part of her crimefighting effort, even if it is just in the background. Batgirl says he can keep helping her, but they need to find a better way for her to come and go from his garage so nobody can figure out their arrangement again. She also reveals her secret identity to him. That night, Batgirl disguises herself as a vulnerable girl to lure out the Hunchback Killer. Her ruse works, but when she tries to use a gas pellet on him, she ends up gassing herself and the Killer starts strangling her. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see how she gets out of this one.
This one starts at a party given bu a guy named Dresden to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his organization, the Hangman Club. It’s not as sinister as it sounds … the Club is just a group that helps ex-cons find honest work so they won’t go back to crime. Dresden talks to some reporter and introduces the Club’s board of directors, all ex-cons themselves; Jim Proxmire, a doctor accused of some “diet drug murders”; Sam Hopkins, thought to be the “Streetcar Strangler”; Marcia Evans Quigley, who supposedly killed her husband and wrote a book about her time in prison; and Thomas Quigley, Marcia’s lawyer, who got her sentence commuted, then married her. Bruce Wayne is at the party too, acting like a horny teenager, but he gets serious once Alfred picks him up in the limo. He gets even more serious when he sees the Bat-Signal and contacts Commissioner Gordon to learn that Dresden has just been hanged. He changes to Batman and heads back to the party to check things out. Turns out all four members of the board came in and found Dresden hanged and Quigley finds a note from someone called the Hangman saying they’re all targets. The note even has the beginning of a hangman drawing on it, like in the kids’ word game. Batman is surprised when Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny shows up and offers to help. He and Batman go to see the Hangman Club’s accountant, but he’s already dead … hanged, of course. His files have been rifled and Batman finds out that the Club has a pretty sizable treasury, which goes to the last surviving member. Why would anyone agree to that? It’s pretty much a recipe for murder. Batman and Ralph decide to watch over the remaining Club members and Ralph runs into the Hangman, who gasses him. Batman gets an emergency beep and suspects a trap, but ends up getting a soporific dart in the chest anyway. The Hangman uses Ralph’s pliable body to try and hang Batman, but the Caped Crusader manages to work himself free. He and Ralph are pissed off that the Hangman killed his intended victim, Marcia Quigley, and left another drawing. They round up the three remaining members of the Club’s board, but they all have alibis. Batman and Ralph mull over the motive for the murders; Batman figures the treasury is a ruse, since by killing the accountant first, the Hangman brought their attention to the money angle. Batman mentions an old trick called the ABC murders, where the killer wants to waste person C, so he kills persons A, B, and D to cover his real target. But that doesn’t tell them who the main target is, nor who the killer is. A chance remark by Alfred gives them both the same idea and they take off. Batman goes to Quigley’s place to tell him he’s the next target and that he’ll disguise himself as Quigley to catch the killer. Batman gets tired and the Hangman slips into the room, musing that his soporific gas has worked again. But Batman is faking sleepiness—he took an antidote to the gas—and Ralph pops out to grab the Hangman, who turns out to be Quigley. Apparently, Quigley wanted his wife dead so he could get her money; Batman realized the first hangman drawing was actually Dresden trying to write the killer’s name on the piece of paper … upside down, the “Q” looked like the beginning of a hangman’s noose, so Quigley said that’s what it was to cover his ass. And Ralph realized that Quigley’s first two victims had looks of terror on their faces, but Marcia was calm, like the killer was someone she trusted. Quigley tries to jump to safety and Ralph snags him … there’s a “snap” and I guess we’re supposed to think Ralph just killed Quigley accidentally, but it was just Ralph’s watch getting busted.
- Batman gives Ralph shit for his cavalier attitude during the murder investigation and Ralph tells him to look up a line from Byron’s Don Juan, canto 4, stanza 3: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’tis that I may not weep.”
Nemesis – “Honor Among Thieves” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle
This one starts with Nemesis taking Valerie to one of his safehouses, in New York City. He’s decided to trust her—to a degree—and says he’ll train her if she wants to help him go after the remaining Council members. Valerie is cool with that, but doesn’t really like being ordered around, and has an annoying habit of ignoring training to do things her own way. She’s a fast learner though and pilots a helicopter while Nemesis tests another invention, a parachute that packs into a belt buckle. Elsewhere, Council member Samuel Solomon reviews the Council’s latest reverses and we learn he’s the one who tipped the authorities about Chesterton’s kidnap scheme last issue; Solomon wants to become head of the Council and figured he’d have no chance if Chesterton’s ploy worked. A few days later, Nemesis finds out that Solomon has left his estate for an extended period, so he decides to drop in to snoop around and plant a few bugs. Valerie drops him off, but when he breaks in, Solomon and his goons are waiting. Solomon ends up zapping Nemesis with a taser in his cane and when Nemesis recovers, Solomon has a proposition for him … eliminate the rest of the Council members so Solomon can take over, or get his head blown off. We’ll see which option Nemesis picks next issue.