I’ve been playing this game based on the Apprentice television show over at the Brian M. Bendis forum on Jinxworld. (For non-comic readers, Bendis is likely Marvel’s more prolific writer. Avengers and all that.)

I’ve never watched the show but the game I’m playing basically consists of writing prompts. Coming up with story arcs, coming up with alternate takes on heroes, plotting out an entire Marvel line reboot and even plotting an entire year of an animated series.

It’s been great for generating ideas and characters, especially with all the plot bunnies. But it also is giving me a taste of what it would be like to write these characters, which is absolutely a blast.

Our last big assignment as a team was to come up with a #1,000 anniversary issue. Either Spider-Man or Action Comics (Superman) or Detective Comics (Batman.)

Naturally, I insisted on Batman. And then I got stuck for what I thought might be a big game changer. After all, sidekicks have all been killed before, Batman’s been defeated before, he’s even been considered dead fairly recently. Can’t really marry him off, he’s Batman and it wouldn’t stick. So then I looked at the villains and thought, well, the #1,000 issue demands the most iconic Bat villain.

The Joker.

So here’s our take on Detective #1,000, which might occur ten years down the line, if DC goes back to the regular number system. (They swapped all numbers back to #1 with the reboot.) This is not solely my own creation, I had the help of Kedd & Gary Sloan from the Bendis board. :)

I’ll give you a hint. Something very bad happens to the Joker. Second hint: Batman doesn’t do it to him.

Third hint? Look to the image.

Also, a certain redhead who’s been missing from the Gothamverse for a while makes a re-appearance.

Detective #1,000

Batman started fighting crime in a corrupt system back during the Great Depression, a problem that remains today in places like Detroit, New Orleans, and Camden, New Jersey. Batman still stands for the common person who gets back up off the ground and not only survives but vows to make certain that others never again suffer the same kind of pain. He is the guardian of the night whose quest is endless as no one person can eliminate the horrors of life.

Still, Batman will always try.

Over the years, Batman has trained a number of exceptional young men who have suffered similar losses, gained an ally in a thief whose life taught her that the ‘law’ is often a tool for the unjust, and made perhaps his truest friend in a man who, many times, provides his strongest link to the law.

As Batman: Year One was the parallel story of two men searching to serve justice, one outside the law, one inside the law, Detective #1,000 is meant to be a bookend to Year One, the story of the parallel tracks the actions of Batman and JIm Gordon and where those tracks have taken them.

This issue contains the story that allows the Batman mythos to move into the future with a somewhat altered status quo both for the Batman characters and for the city at large. Along with that, the back-up stories will showcase the best of the characters in Gotham and the work of the creators who’ve had such an impact on them.

Gotham’s Last Laugh

The story opens as Commissioner Jim Gordon and Batman meet on the rooftops of the GCPC in the darkness, as the Bat signal is off. Gordon passes on the information that a number of teenage boys are missing from the foster care system. He knows that Batman and his allies are the only ones who can cut through the bureaucratic system fast enough to prevent another disappearance.
Batman contacts his allies. Nightwing is in the middle of taking down several mob enforcers, Red Robin is drawn back from the Titans, and Damian is allowed in on the conference. The most surprising call goes out to Jason Todd, the former Robin going by the name of the Red Hood who has been estranged from the group. Batman is convinced that he will have unique insight on the state system as a former foster child.
As his current and former sidekicks gather in the Batcave, Batman visits Catwoman to provide her with the information he received from Gordon.  Batman knows if there is one group Selina Kyle will protect, it is vulnerable children and she has street contacts that he does not.
Batman and the Robins determine the missing teens all fit the profile of the Robins: Dark hair, about 15-17, all boys, and none of them have close friends or family members. As he’s the right age, Tim Drake (Red Robin) agrees to go undercover in the foster care system. Jason, who is familiar with the ins and out of foster care, will act as his handler. Neither
Tim nor Jason is thrilled with the arrangement but acknowledge it’s their best chance to solve the mystery.
It is revealed in the story that Killer Croc has control of the teens, keeping them captive in an abandoned tannery. He systematically waterboards them over and over to see who can take it and who cannot. The reason remains unclear but he meets up with an ally who is fond of maniacal laughter.
Batman, Nightwing and Robin (Damian) concentrate on the other end of the mystery, guessing one of their foes is ultimately behind the scheme, one who knows quite a bit about the history of the Robins. Possible villains include Two-Face, Joker, Black Mask, Ra’s Al Ghul, the Penguin, Bane and several others.
Over at FBI Headquarters in another city, FBI Special Agent Sarah Essen is looking over file folders. She has left Gotham behind but it has never truly left her. After receiving news that a cousin is missing, she researched like crimes or disappearances in Gotham and found that over ten women and men have vanished in the last two months. Their only trait in common: red hair. She applies for leave to investigate on her own and receives it.
The Joker is supposedly locked up tight in federal custody. Batman sneaks inside to see him, to determine if Joker is truly in prison. An attack on the Robins seems just like him. The two exchange insults. Joker says he’s been such an inspiration to Gotham that now people are imitating him.
Nightwing infiltrates Penguin’s illegal gambling casino and shuts it down. The Penguin snarks that he’ll have it up and running again in no time. But at the end, the GCPD led by Harvey Bullock come in and arrest Penguin and his top men. They’ll make bail in no time but that gives Nightwing some time to examine records and question Penguin’s employees about the missing teens.
Undercover, Tim settles into a run-down high school where he instantly gets in trouble for starting a fight. That was his plan, as the last teen that disappeared did the same thing at the same high school. At night, Jason sneaks up on him and they fight, until interrupted by their informal liaison with the GCPD, former officer Renee Montoya. The trio arranges several more meet times as an extra check to ensure Tim’s safety.
Next up, Two-Face. Batman and Robin go into action against his and they play good cop/bad cop (with Damian as bad cop), to trick Harvey Dent into flipping the coin, which comes up on the good side. He’s off to prison and it’s a victory but it puts them no closer to the missing teens.
Tim discovers the last kid gone missing was a drug mule who was secretly protecting several younger foster kids. He and Jason take on that role, get the kids out of a dangerous situation and take down the drug ring. Unfortunately, the missing teen was killed by ring on the day he disappeared, leaving the younger kids without a protector. Jason and Tim come to a meeting of the minds and vow to use their money and influence to make certain the kids will stay together and go to a good home.
Distracted by their victory and their rapprochement, they are grabbed by Killer Croc and taken. Catwoman witnesses the kidnapping, as her sources led her to the scene, but she’s too far away to prevent it. All she can do is report to Batman to plan the next move.
And as Sarah Essen walks from her cousin’s home, having discovered nothing of value, she thinks it’s time to contact Jim Gordon, despite how they parted personally years ago. She sees a robbery in progress and rushes in to help. It’s a trap and the young woman being held at gunpoint behind the liquor counter is revealed as Harley Quinn.
When Essen’s FBI superior contacts Gordon, he realizes he has two parallel cases, the missing teens and the missing adults. Even though he double checks to make certain his daughter is safe–she moved out of Gotham several years ago-he still has Essen to worry about.
Harley Quinn and Killer Croc break Joker out of custody, confirming Batman’s worst fear. Now he has two groups of people to rescue and one of them includes Tim and Jason.
To celebrate, the Joker goes with Harley Quinn to the storefront where she’s holding all the missing red-heads. Joker asks for a volunteer to take a message to the police, emphasizing they will get to go free. A man and a woman volunteer. Joker says they should fight it out. The man wins. Joker asks the winner if he’d like to take the message to the GCPD and Batman by having words carved into his chest or with his mouth. The man answers “mouth.”
Joker promptly kills him with Joker gas and stuff a note in his mouth. He instructs Harley to leave the corpse hanging from a street light outside the GCPD headquarters. Sarah Essen quietly frees herself from her bonds. Distracted by the gloating, Harley & Joker don’t notice.
Joker wants confrontation. He wants the GCPD and Batman to show up in full force because he and Harley have wired the entire building with explosives.
Batman, Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin discover the tannery and the missing teens but they have two problems. One, Killer Croc and his goons are guarding it. Two, if they spend time at the tannery freeing the teens, Joker will be able to kill his hostages. Torn, Batman lets Gordon know he’s entering the tannery for a rescue. He owes Tim and Jason his full attention.
Gordon agrees and readies his SWAT for an assault on Joker’s hideout. He’ll go with them. It’s likely to be a bloodbath but he knows every moment that passes puts the hostages and his officers in more danger. You cannot reason with the Joker. As the Joker moves to kill one of the hostages, Gordon is ready to give the order to move in.
Across the city, Damian is instrumental in getting through a crawl space to free Tim, Jason and the other teens. He and Nightwing free them as Batman and Catwoman defeat Croc.
Batman, knowing time is running out, takes off to confront the Joker. Jason, who suffered the most at the hands of the Joker, demands to go to kill his enemy. Nightwing and Robin stop him.
As the Joker points a gun at her head, Sarah Essen taunts him, leaps forward, and smashes into him. They both crash through the window on the second floor of the building and hit the concrete together. Essen, though injured, rolls free. The Joker rises, laughs, and seeks to pull something from under his coat.
Gordon kills Joker a single shot to the head.
Gordon immediately orders a cease fire because he’s worried the body is wired to explode. He’s partially right as the Joker’s death triggers an explosion inside the building where the rest of the hostages are being held.
Batman struggles to save all the hostages from the inferno and leads them out. When he has a choice to go after Harley or save a life, he allows Harley to escape.
Batman and Gordon examine the Joker’s body. As Batman disarms the remaining weapons on the corpse, they pull the Joker’s hand out from under his vest. He is clutching a white handkerchief and was presumably going to surrender.
Two Epilogues:
One:
Gordon is on the rooftop of his home. Batman is there with him. Gordon is berating himself for making the mistake and shooting when the Joker was about to surrender. Batman counters by pointing out it could have still been a trick and that Gordon followed every proper police procedure. Gordon confesses that may be true but in that last moment when he had to decide to shoot, he wanted the Joker dead.
Batman: Would you have fired if he hadn’t reached under his coat?
Gordon: No. At least, I hope not. I don’t know. I’ll never know.
Batman: You followed the right procedure.
Gordon: Would you have killed him?
Batman: I don’t kill. It’s a line I shouldn’t cross. You’ve shown me that, again and again. But you’re an officer of the law. You’re legally required to use the power of lethal force to protect Gotham.
Gordon: I wish I wasn’t so damn happy about it.
Epilogue 2:
An anonymous teen, his skin chalk-white, huddles on the bank of the river, a towel around him. He shivers and a laugh begins.

**************
Short stories from Batman’s history, past and present, meant to showcase all the Bat characters.

The Jokers Always Laughs Twice–5 pages
Written by Frank Miller

Art by David Mazzuchelli
Hanging from the rafters in chains is not the ideal place to find oneself, yet that is the predicament Batman finds himself in. From this disadvantage Batman must engage the Joker in a battle of wits as he attempts to deduce the target of the Joker’s gas attack, all before the Joker sets into motion his newer plan to once and for all kill the Bat! Will Batman outsmart the Joker or will the Joker have the last laugh? 

Batgirl Interrupted–7 pages
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by JH Williams III
Who is the Annihilator? And what is his connections to those who have held the mantle of Batwoman? Witness his battles over the years with each successive Batwoman and learn his shocking secret origin and why you’ve never heard of him!!!
*The story ends as the last image fades out until we see an eye. As we pull further back we see a man in a hospital bed who is dying from a brain tumor. The issue having been a trip through his delusional mind and his fixation with Batwoman.

The Gordons: Father and Daughter: 8 pages
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Batgirl returns to Gotham and tries to help her father come to grips with the fact that he killed the Joker when he was trying to surrender. As Batgirl, she secretly follows him to the decrepit East End of Gotham fearing he’s about to do something final. She foils a bodega robbery on the way, loses track of him for a time, only to find him meeting in the remains of a derelict diner with former police officer Renee Montoya, who can update him on the status of the gangs and police corruption.

Gotham Private Eyes: 10 pages
Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Darwyn Cooke.
Matches Malone gathers the private detectives in Gotham to find information on corruption in the legal system, to gather as much evidence as they can. Jason Bard, Slam Bradley, Ron Raymond and Edward Nigma are each given a task to investigate an official who may or may not be corrupt. Even new FBI Special Agent in Charge for Gotham Sarah Essen is on the list.

The Tears of a Clown–3 pages
Written by Karl Kessel
Art by Terry Dodson
The Joker is….dead? Harley Quinn struggles to accept Mr. J is no more, that he has ceased to be, that he is bereft of life.  As she struggles to walk a straight line down memory lane, of the best and mostly worst of times spent with Mr. J, Catwoman and Poison Ivy do their best to help a friend deal with the death of a loved one.

Batman: Black and White:–7 pages
Writer: Paul Dini
Art: Tim Sale
Batman chases a band of munitions dealers into an abandoned eight story mall that used to be a department store. He takes them out one by one with the help of cover from items left for dust in the mall, including some sports equipment, black light left over from an old Spencer Gifts store, and various hangers and other debris left lying in dust in an old clothing store.

Batman: It’s a Wonderful LIfe Batman Story –10 pages
Writer: Dennis O’Neil
Art: Neal Adams
Horrified that a number of teens were tortured by Killer Croc before he could rescue them, Batman questions what Gotham life might be like without him. After all, if his parents had not had a child, they would not have gone to see the showing of Zorro, and they would never have been killed. Travel through the future of the Waynes as a childless couple, trying to deal with an increasingly bleak Gotham.