BATMAN FAMILY’s Greatest Villain: The Joker’s Daughter

In our latest BATMAN FAMILY ALBUM installment, we talk with writer Bob Rozakis about that most Bronze Age of inventions.

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Part 1: The Coolest Batbook of the Bronze Age. Click here.

Part 2: The Ballad of Babs and Dick. Click here.

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Timing’s a funny thing. I’d planned for this to be the next “issue” of BATMAN FAMILY ALBUM, our series looking back at the most consistently entertaining Batbook of the ’70s.

What I didn’t realize is that it would line up with the Joker’s Daughter’s appearance in the new chapter of the digital-first DC Bombshells series.

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Actually, there are two versions of the Joker’s Daughter running around right now: The creepy German cabaret chanteuse in Bombshells and the riot grrrl in the mainstream DCU.

Either is a far cry from the original.

The original Joker’s Daughter was sort of an ur-Harley Quinn (who in another timely mix of modern and Bronze Age, is getting her own Mego. Click here to check her out). She was a madcap adversary for Robin and, later, Batgirl, riffing on her alleged father’s schtick.

Her story culminated in what’s probably the highlight of the series — other than Robin’s declaration of love (or at least very deep like) for Batgirl in Issue #13 — when she really put the family in Batman Family and posed as the Riddler’s Daughter, the Penguin’s Daughter and the Scarecrow’s Daughter.

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This after she passed herself off as Catgirl.

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I suppose she would have pretended to be Ra’s al Ghul’s Daughter but he already had one.

The kicker of course was that she was really, truly, actually — spoiler alert! — Two-Face’s Daughter!

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Loved Irv Novick’s artwork

Yes, Two -Face had a daughter. A daughter named Duela. Duela Dent.

God bless the Bronze Age.

That she was Harvey’s daughter turned Young Dan’s mind inside out: How could Harvey have a daughter that age? Especially a daughter whose name was a play on the number two? She couldn’t possibly have been born after he became Two-Face. That would have put college-student Dick Grayson in his 30s. (And Batman at least pushing 50.)

That even became letter-column fodder.

Anyway, the upshot is that the Joker’s Daughter really didn’t want to be a villain. Really, she just wanted to get Robin’s attention because she wanted to be a hero and join the Teen Titans.

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Which she did! As the Harlequin!

Talk about "selective aging." Is that Duela ... or Carol Burnett?

Talk about “selective aging.” Is that Duela … or Carol Burnett?

All that goofiness didn’t detract from the fact that the Joker’s Daughter’s stories were cracking good fun. So I asked  Batman Family writer Bob Rozakis about the original Clown Princess of Crime:

Dan Greenfield: Tell me about the Joker’s Daughter. Because they’ve reintroduced her at DC …

Bob Rozakis: (Editor) Julie (Schwartz) and I were talking about the fact that Robin didn’t really have any regular enemies. In fact, over his entire career, I think the closest he ever got was he had the Crazy Quilt character back in the late ’40s. So we were just batting it around and thought, what if it was somebody that was like a spinoff of one of the villains? Since Robin is really a spin-off of Batman, we came up with the idea of the Joker’s Daughter. And then once we had done that, it was, OK, we’ve established her as a character, but what if she’s not really the Joker’s Daughter. And the next time she comes back pretending to be the daughter of one of the other villains?

Her first appearance

Her first appearance

Dan: At that point, that would have been Catwoman. That was Catgirl, a couple of issues later.

Bob: Right.

Dan: So was it always the idea that she was the same person? Because the way it was played out, it was basically over three parts over a few issues, where first she’s Joker’s Daughter, then she’s Catgirl and then she’s Scarecrow and she’s this one… Was it all by design to have it play out that way or were you just kinda making it up as you went along?

Bob: Well, once we had decided that she was gonna pretend to be the daughter of the different villains, I had wanted to spread it out over a number of issues. But when I had got to plotting the third one, Julie was, like, “Nope. That’s enough. You’re gonna have to wrap it up and explain the situation in the third one.” So that’s how it became the team-up.

So we had the (full-length story) to do it in and it enabled her to be in three different identities: The Scarecrow’s Daughter and the Riddler’s Daughter and the Penguin’s Daughter. And then, of course, ultimately revealing that she was actually Harvey Dent’s daughter.

Duela Dent - The Joker's Daughter 2

Now, was that the idea all along, that she was gonna be Harvey Dent’s daughter?

I think so because we had established that the only one of the villains who had ever been married was Harvey. We played with what I called “selective aging” (Dan laughs) because after all, Harvey became Two-Face after Robin had joined Batman. But I said, “Dick Grayson’s gone from being about 12 years old and Bruce has aged like a year. So why couldn’t Duela have aged twice as fast as Dick?”

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I remember at the time — this is ’77 so I’m 10 years old — in the letters columns, after it was revealed, that people were up in arms. How could she be Two-Face’s daughter? And of course at that age, it was one of those things that would keep me up at night. Like, “Wait a minute! It doesn’t…” And I would sit there and try to figure out, “If he was born in such-and-such time…” Just one of those things that, as a young fan, I just loved and drove me crazy at the same time.

But what I really appreciate was the sense of fun that you brought to that whole environment. You were really playing with a lot of the history and playing with the different characters. When you’re writing stories like that, it’s fun, it’s lighthearted, and of course fans take this stuff deadly seriously. You yourself were among them when you were a fan. When you’re putting all this stuff together, how much goes into your mind as far as the reaction? Were you just doing it because you were enjoying it yourself?

I always brought that fanboy mentality to what I was doing. I tried to make it fun, I tried to make it entertaining. When I did something on a more serious side, I was still trying to make it something that the average fan would enjoy. Being able to pull out old villains and bring back Batwoman (in the series) and tie all of that together was just a lot of fun.

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Were you aware that they had reintroduced her in the modern DC?

Ummm…Probably. I knew that they had brought her back in the pre-New 52 universe, where they had her coming from some other universe, that would explain why she was what she was, and, of course, in between Marv Wolfman had brought her back in a couple of issues of New Titans and made her like 50 years old and psychotic. There’ve been all sorts of variations. There’s also a version of her in Tiny Titans as I recall.

It was one of those characters that a lot of my compatriots pooh-poohed at the time and yet she ended up being around a heck of a lot longer then anyone expected!

Author: Dan Greenfield

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