WARNING: Spoilers below for Batman: Three Jokers #1
In 1966’s Batman: The Movie, the Batcopter’s rescue mission is interrupted by a small dip in the water when Adam West’s Batman catches a shark on his leg. His faithful sidekick Robin climbs down the ladder and tosses him their can of Shark Repellent Bat Spray, which indeed does the trick. Since then, the lovingly absurd aquatic repellent has made sporadic cameos in other Batman stories. But it might have proven extremely useful in Batman: Three Jokers when Batman, Batgirl and Red Hood‘s trip to the Gotham Aquarium reveals that not only is the Joker treading on familiar ground, but he’s looking to make great whites even deadlier.
In the long awaited Black Label series, Batman and his allies are investigating simultaneous appearances and attacks that all fit the Joker’s M.O. but how can he be at three places at the same time? This mystery leads all three members of the Bat Family to the closed Gotham Aquarium. Discussing the Joker and his tactics, the green-tinted tanks filled with fish serve as an homage to the classic “Laughing Fish” story from Detective Comics #475-476 (1978) by Steve Englehart and Terry Austin, which would be adapted in Batman: The Animated Series and is considered one of the Joker’s signature comic book stories.
It appears that many of the fish in the aquarium have been poisoned by the Joker’s signature chemicals, including an animal of Spielberg-ian proportions. Face-to-face with a great white shark whose appearance gives the kind of smile Martin Brody would dread, all three heroes continue to question Joker’s motives before being confronted by a group of thugs lead by Groggy, Joker’s miniature court jester from yesteryear. As stray bullets puncture and weaken the glass walls of the tank during the fight, it is Red Hood, irritated by Groggy, who fires the final shot. With the glass shattering, the mutated behemoth opens wide in a panel beautifully detailed by artist Jason Fabok as poor little Groggy becomes nothing but an appetizer to the Joker’s great white shark.
As the chemicals drain and the shark lays there with its jaws shut, looking as comfortable as a fish out of water can be, Batman and the others wonder if they’ve thwarted the Joker’s plan. The maniacal clown answers by appearing with a joke and a fishbowl full of party favors. Showing no remorse for the death of his jester, the Joker hits and taunts Red Hood until both Batman and Batgirl manage to knock him out. Although the Joker lays there at their feet, they have to question if that’s really him, especially when Commissioner Gordon tells them they’ve cornered another Joker in a different location in Gotham
Joker’s time at the Gotham Aquarium doesn’t get any better, but one can only wonder if Batman had little canister of shark repellent in his trusty utility belt, just in case it wasn’t safe to go back in the water.