Once upon a time, dosage there was a little boy with a sugar-bowl haircut and a plaid Garanimals turtleneck whose grandmother used to drag him along to craft fairs at one of the roughly billion Protestant (never Catholic, drugs no sir) churches in Boston’s northwest suburbs.
This little boy was bored to tears by these trips, but also knew they were the price to be paid for a trip to Zayre’s and a shiny new Hot Wheels car. Sometimes, however, these ecumenical fundraisers would turn up more than the usual arrays of pipe cleaner angels and terrifying clown figurines, especially those fairs which included a “white elephant” table or three full of creased ‘n’ tatter paperback collections of Peanuts strips, old issues of Nat Geo featuring sharks/shipwrecks/skeletons, and — on one memorable occasion — a foot high stack of uncirculated copies of Teen Titans #47 (April 1977)…
I’m not sure how someone ended up with three dozen copies of this particular issue, but I can understand why they would have wanted to get rid of them on the cheap. The Bronze Age revival of the Teen Titans epitomized the surreal mediocrity which gripped many DC offerings prior to the (unfortunate yet entirely forseeable) market correction known as the “DC Implosion.” The Titans’ creative team tried to shake things up a little, but the results amounted to little more than a bunch of trite plots and increasingly laughable additions to the cast.
And none were as laughable or regrettable as Duela Dent, “The Joker’s Daughter.”
Duela made her debut in Batman Family #6 (August 1976) as a franchise-expanding foil for Robin the Boy Wonder. If Robin could be seen as Batman’s “son,” then why not throw in a teenage version of the Joker? And why not make her a woman so you can tap into that old school pulp “frenemies with benefits” vibe?
What’s that? You can think of several good reasons not to do that? Me, too, but we’re not some overworked editor looking for adequate-and-on-time content to fill the back pages of an ailing anthology title.
So pleased were DC’s powers-that-were over their new corporate-owned IP that they repeated the tale no less than three times, each one swapping in a new member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery for the amply-chinned lassie to pose as a younger incarnation before drifting into the superheroic camp and joining the Teen Titans on their entropic spriral into absurdity.
Along the way it was revealed that the Joker’s Daughter was actually Two Face’s long lost daughter who adopted a Joker-centric persona as an act of adolescent rebellion against her bipolar pa.
Hey, it happens. My greatest fear is that any children I might have may someday adopt the guise of “The ISB’s Daughter” and commit all sorts of wrestling and BBQ-related crimes of vengeance.
She also gained some (vague and soon forgotten) ESP powers and an even stupider name/costume ensemble.
Duela all but up and vanished once DC took the 1970s Teen Titans out behind the barn, her appearances limited to the rare occasions when the importance of a Titans-related event required completely dumping out the franchise’s junk drawer. “They called in Joker’s Daughter, Bumblebee, and Golden Eagle? Whoa! Things must have really hit the fan!”
These appearances also reopened the mystery surrounding Duela’s real identity, which begged the question: “If a character is given a mysterious origin and nobody gives a shit, was it really worth killing a tree over?”
Duela never received a dedicated Who’s Who entry or (as far as I can tell) a Crisis on Infinite Earths cameo, but was instead allowed to decend to that substrata of funnybook history where “shit best left ignored” dwells.
Continuity being a scab which invites — nay, begs — some obsessively unhealthy picking, it was only a matter of time and creative desperation before Duela clawed herself back into the public eye. After a justifiably forgotten stint in the justifiably forgotten Team Titans ongoing, Duela was set up to play a MAJOR ROLE in the drain-circling wankery surrounding Infinite Crisis and its aftermath.
Duela, who had reverted to her villainous ways, was revealed to be an illegal immigrant from a parallel world and was promptly wiped from existence by a Monitor who claimed she had no reason to exist.
Way to go, DC. It took you thirty years to reach the same conclusion as a six year old paste-eater who thought Far Out Space Nuts was high art.