this week’s Batman #135 from DC Comics carries the legacy numbering of Batman #900. The special anniversary issue not only comes peppered with a slew of variant covers for collectors, but its contents contain one of the best multiverse stories written in the medium. Writer Chip Zdarsky used this issue as the conclusion for his latest arc “The Bat-Man of Gotham” and in doing so, spun a major web that tied in countless other variants of Batman from across DC movies, comics, TV shows, and videos games. He also managed to make one of the silliest Batman gadgets to get his moment in the spotlight.
First, some context. At the center of this story arc is Batman being stuck inside an alternate universe. In this world, there is no Joker, only a man named Darwin Halliday who is obsessed with becoming his own version of The Joker. After building a machine that will allow him to tap into the multiverse and experience what it’s like to become the Joker, doing it Being John Malkovich style where he takes a ride inside their mind. In doing this though something becomes clear, all of The Jokers across the multiverse only become The Joker because of him. They fall into a vat of Ace Chemicals and when they notice him inside their mind, it breaks their brains and alters their perceptions of reality so that they fully become the DC villain.
Not satisfied with this, Halliday leaps into his own machine and begins a jaunt through the DC multiverse, resurrecting dead Jokers in various universes and turning living Jokers into even MORE of a homicidal killing machine. Batman, naturally, gives chase, and one of the universes that they stop in is the one home to Adam West’s Batman from the 1960s TV series. Before Prime Earth Batman can leave though, West’s version of the Caped Crusader offers him his utility belt, because all Batmen need one.
Batman chases Halliday to the literal ends of the multiverse, where the villain is seated in a barren Gotham City that floats on the edge of space. Floating toward that city is none other than a giant Joker shark, prepared to devour it. After arriving on the scene and being forced to fight not only Halliday but the Joker shark, Batman produces a gadget from his new utility belt that only Adam West Batman would have, Shark Repellent. Batman then uses it to eliminate the Shark Jokers, finally giving this hilariously campy gadget an epic place in DC lore.
As fans may recall, the Bat-Shark Repellent was used in Batman: The Movie, the feature film that premiered after season one of the show was completed. Batman naturally uses the spray on, you guessed it, a shark. The spray has become a fan-favorite and has been referenced in other Batman comics, games and more. Now however it finally has a place in DC canon where its usefulness will never be mocked again.