Authors: Craig Shaw Gardner
They don’t know who he really is. They never know where he’ll show up. But the citizens of Gotham City know they have a protector. He’s the Caped Crusader™ with an arsenal of amazing weaponry and a repertoire of incredible acrobatics. He’s the legend they call Batman.
In the toxic brew of big-city corruption, a bone-white, green-haired, eternally grinning
is born. His name is The Joker.™ His lust is for all the wealth, power, and revenge he can grab from the world. And in the timeless, violent war between criminal and crimefighter, Batman vs. The Joker will be the ultimate duel . . .
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1989 by DC Comics, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Warner Books, Inc.
666 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10103
A Warner Communications Company
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: June, 1989
This one’s for
THE MILLION YEAR PICNIC
and all who toil and buy therein.
t was a night like any other in the city—too hot, too humid, too loud. The sound of music mixed with car horns and laughter and the occasional scream. The streets swarmed with life, ten times as busy now that the sun was gone and the scum of the night could crawl from their holes, like roaches who needed the darkness to feed.
Not that the streets were dark. Some of the streetlights still worked, enough to show the pushers wave to the hookers, the hustlers laughing as some sucker got fleeced at three-card monte, the addicts and alkies huddled in their corners, at peace as long as their stash held out. Brighter still were the tattoo parlors, the peep shows, the broken-down saloons—the unwashed windows swarming with their neon imitations of daylight. And over it all, Luna, the full moon, ancient symbol of madness, rose to show its approval.
Welcome to Gotham City.
It was the city at night, full of lost souls and street trash that most places hide in the shadows, sweep in the gutters. But Gotham was too big, too out of control: Here, the hookers and pushers and hustlers and addicts were all on a first-name basis; here, the shadows and the gutters had taken over.
Here, everybody knew the rules. It was one big, happy family—unless you were from outside.
A mother, a father, and a twelve-year-old son, little Jimmy, all too well dressed for this kind of neighborhood, walked down the festering street, out-of-towners trying not to look out of place, which marked them even more. They carried playbills in their hands. They’d just been to a show, but had walked the wrong way and left the theater crowd far behind.
A group of strangers looked them up and down, smiling as they hurried by. A wino staggered in their path. Mother clutched at father’s sleeve.
“For God’s sake, Harold, can we please just get a taxi?”
Harold looked back at his wife with an annoyed, even angry expression, the kind of look that would make him king of the household back wherever they came from.
“I’m trying to get a—” He raised both arms and waved as he shouted,
One cab sped by, followed by two more. Nobody wanted to stop in this neighborhood.
Little Jimmy reached in his back pocket and pulled out a map. He frowned as he started to unfold it.
“We’re going the wrong way.”
Behind them, some of the strangers were starting to snicker.
“Put that away!” the father insisted, trying to keep his voice low, trying not to attract attention. “We’ll look like tourists.”
He led his family toward a pair of cops leaning against a patrol car outside of an all-night souvlaki stand. The cops were too busy chatting and laughing with a fourteen-year-old hooker to pay them much attention. The hooker glanced around and smiled at little Jimmy. Little Jimmy smiled back.
His mother yanked him violently away. She glowered at her husband. It looked as if there was going to be a fight.
“We’ll never get a cab,” Harold admitted. “Let’s cut over to Seventh.”
Their son stopped as they turned the corner. Little Jimmy pointed behind them.
“I know where we are!” his father announced as he marched into darkness. On this street—not much more than an alley, really—the lights were gone. His wife and son followed, all three walking quickly around the derelict cars, lit only by the glare of the swollen moon.
“Hey, mister!” a voice called out of the darkness. “Gimme a dollar?”
A man sat against one of the wrecks. He was maybe nineteen or twenty, his face pocked with acne scars. His torn T-shirt read “I Love Gotham City.”
Father hurried his family along, as if none of them had heard.
“Mister!” the guy who loved Gotham City yelled. “How about it? One dollar?” He lurched to his feet, his voice even louder. “Are you deaf? Do you speak English?”
The family walked quickly to the far side of the alley. The derelict only stood and watched them, swaying back and forth, pushed by a wind that wasn’t there. The father barely stopped himself from glancing behind, to see if they were safe. He didn’t notice the other figure hiding in the shadows, the one with the gun. The gun that came down quickly, brutally, across the father’s neck.
Father fell. Mother grabbed little Jimmy. They backed up against a rough brick wall, too scared to make a sound. The guy who loved Gotham City ran across the street to join his friend with the gun, the friend who was already ripping through father’s pockets to see what he could find. Mother made a mewling noise, deep in her throat. The friend paused in his task and pointed the gun straight at little Jimmy.
“Do the kid a favor, lady,” he said softly and reasonably. “Don’t scream.”
She swallowed her scream instead. Tears streamed down her face. She held little Jimmy tight against her, as if her son was the only thing that was keeping her sane. Little Jimmy didn’t say anything either, as if all he could think about was the muzzle of a gun.
The two friends found what they wanted. They chuckled as they ran away.
Mother stared at her husband, crumpled in the alleyway. He was totally still. She wasn’t even sure if he was breathing.
She couldn’t help herself anymore.
She started to scream.
Welcome to Gotham City.
The scream echoed up and down the alleyway. It mixed with the music, and the laughter, and the car horns down on the street. It rose up past the derelict cars and worn brick walls to sweep through the towers of the old City Cathedral, once the spiritual center of a great metropolis, now fallen into ruin itself. Stone gargoyles watched from the cathedral towers, monsters carved in the walls of the church—so tradition had it—to keep the evil spirits away. But these gargoyles only watched the evil and listened to the screams.
Until one of the gargoyles moved.
Welcome to Gotham City.
The friends—“I Love Gotham City” and the one with the gun; let’s call them Nick and Eddie, now—ran all the way to a safe place, a roof, six stories above the street, to take a look at what they’d found. Nick opened up the wallet and started looking at the cards.
“All right! American Express.” He tossed the card at Eddie. “Don’t leave home without it, heh?”
He turned his attention to counting the cash.
The night wind picked up, blowing gravel across the roof. Eddie looked up. He had heard a noise, like metal clanging against metal.