Saturday, September 28, 2013

BobRo Archives: The Harlequin

As I mentioned in the previous posting, I had written a script for the first in a back-up series and said series would have started in issue #2 of The Vixen, a book that never even had its first issue published. The star of the series was to have been none other than Duela Dent a.k.a. The Harlequin a.k.a. The Joker’s Daughter. From the archives is a lightly edited online column from back in 2000...

Duela’s comics career began in Batman Family #6, where she was introduced as a foe for Robin. She reappeared in following issues, taking on such guises as Catwoman’s Daughter, The Penguin’s Daughter and the Scarecrow’s Daughter. Somewhere along the way, editor Julie Schwartz and I decided that we wanted to keep her around and so we moved her over to TEEN TITANS, where she took on the new identity of The Harlequin.

Oh, yes, and we established that she was actually the daughter of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Using what I called “selective aging” so that Duela could be the same age as Dick Grayson -- despite the fact that Harvey became Two-Face when Dick was already a Boy Wonder -- we glossed over the blatant flaw in her history. This incidence of playing fast and loose has resulted in other writers using the character in ways I’m not particularly fond of -- turning Duela into a patient in a psych ward who doesn’t know who she really is.

But back in 1978, Duela was an accepted member of the DC Universe, so much so that Jack C. Harris, editor of The Vixen, chose her to fill the back-slot in that magazine. As far as I can remember, no artist had been selected for the series I don’t know if I was even paid for writing it. It has been sitting in a file in my basement for more than thirty years, a lost piece of a DC history that might have been if not for the DC Implosion.

Panel 1:           [We’re in an alleyway in the dark. Working with a flashlight, a pair of two-bit crooks – Ace and Biff – are trying to jimmy a lock on a door marked DOUBLE-K HARDWARE – DELIVERY ENTRANCE.  They are startled by laughter echoing in the darkness.]

CAPTION:     MIDNIGHT in a darkened alleyway in STAR CITY…
LAUGHTER: HAHAHAHAHA! (open lettering, floating)
ACE:               Whuzzat?!?

Panel 2:           [Okay, here’s a tricky bit we’re going to establish here and use from time to time. We’re looking over the shoulders of Ace and Biff down the alley. What we see in the dark are the face and white diamonds on the costume of the Harlequin. Make this look really weird and unnerving. She’s still laughing.]

BIFF:              Lookit! Some kinda SPOOK!
HARLEQUIN:       HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 3:           [SPLASH PANEL – 2/3 of the page. Now Biff shines the flashlight on Harlequin and we see she is standing with hands on her hips, staring at the two startled crooks.]

ACE:               Looks like THE JOKER…in DRAG!
CAPTION:     Not quite, friend – and too bad for you… because the laughing lady is NOT on YOUR side of the law!

CAPTION #2:            To your distress, you will learn all too soon that she is one of the good guys – and that her name is…


Panel 1:           [In a multiple image we see Harlequin pulling something from her “bag of tricks” on her hip and throwing it at Ace and Biff. Harlequin is laughing.]

CAPTION:     Though her costume seems designed to amuse, her moves are not those of a clown…
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

 Panel 2:           [Now we see that what harlequin has thrown are a pair of diamonds similar to the shapes on her costume. Both are arcing through the air at Biff, still holding the flashlight.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 3:           [One of the diamonds hits Biff in the arm, causing him to drop the flashlight. The second goes through the top of his jacket, pinning him to the wall behind him.]

CAPTION:     …and, indeed, her opponents will find this no laughing matter.
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
BIFF:              YEEOWW!

Panel 4:           [Okay, here’s where you get to play with some strange lighting effects. The flashlight is now lying on the ground, so the scene is lit only from below, giving it a weird look. We see that Ace has snapped open a switchblade, which gleams in the light.]

ACE:               Cute trick, lady – but let’s hear how much you laugh after I cut you open!
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

 Panel 5:           [Close on Harlequin reaching up and grabbing part of her neck ruffle. She continues to laugh.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)

Panel 6:           [Now we see Harlequin flipping her arm towards Ace, who is approaching her with the switchblade held menacingly in front of him. We see Harlequin’s neck ruffle is loose from around her neck and one end is flying through the air at Ace, while Harlequin holds the other end.]

HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
ACE:               WHA--?!?


Panel 1:           [The ruffle wraps around Ace’s knife hand and the trunk of his body in such a way that the switchblade is now pointed at his own throat.]

ACE:               YIIII!
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHA! Now – give me the answers I want … or that SWITCH-BLADE will end up someplace most UNCOMFORTABLE!

 Panel 2:           [Now we see Ace, sweating, scared as the knife in his hand is held against his throat. Behind him, Biff is struggling to pull himself free of the wall, still held fast by the diamond.]

ACE:               Yeah, yeah – anything you want to know! Just ask… but, please don’t TUG on that thing!          
HARLEQUIN:           Agreed… if you tell me where I can find TWO-FACE!

 Panel 3:           [Ace stutters and gulps visibly. Biff is offering information from behind.]

ACE:               T-T-TWO-FACE?? We ain’t seen him in years… since we quit his old gang!BIFF:              But we heard something through the grapevine… about how he broke out of ARKHAM ASYLUM last week –

Panel 4:           [Harlequin pulls slightly on the ruffle, nudging the switchblade against Ace’s neck. He’s scared, telling Biff to talk. Harlequin is laughing.]

ACE:               AWWK! Tell her, Biff!
BIFF:              The word is TWO-FACE is in NEW YORK, setting up somethin’ LEGIT…

Panel 5:           [Now we’re looking over the shoulders of really scared Ace and Biff as we see only the white diamonds of Harlequin as she disappears back down the alleyway. Ace is rubbing his neck, holding the switchblade in his other hand, staring down the alleyway.

CAPTION:     “…as a front for a new operation! But that’s all we heard – HONEST!”
HARLEQUIN: HAHAHAHA! (open, floating)
BIFF:              WEIRD! All she wanted was that information and she let you go –
“#2:                 -- she didn’t even try to turn us in!

Panel 6:           [Now we are looking at Harlequin as she is into an old, somewhat beat-up small car, along the lines of a Volkswagen Beetle. She’s smiling.]

HARLEQUIN (thot):  Not a bad routine, that! Sort of a cross between BATMAN and THE JOKER…
“#2 (thot):       …and VERY effective!
“#3 (thot):       But I wonder what those two would say if they knew…


Panel 1:           [Now we see Harlequin’s Volks going down a four-lane highway. There’s a sign reading NEW YORK – 60 MILES.]

HARLEQUIN (thot):             …that the frightening woman so interested in TWO-FACE is HIS DAUGHTER!

Panel 2:           [FLASHBACK! See TEEN TITANS #48, page 2, panel 2. Gilda Dent is carrying baby Duela in one hand and a suitcase in the other.]

CAPTION [Harlequin’s head inset]: “A daughter whose mother was driven away by her husband’s mania --
BOTTOM CAPTION:  “--his obsession with the number TWO could not allow him to love or even accept ONE child!”

Panel 3:           [FLASHBACK! Gilda Dent is sitting in a chair with eight-year-old Duela on her lap. There is a photo of an unscarred Harvey Dent on the table next to them. Duela is pointing at the picture.]

CAPTION:     “But Momma always loved him and kept his secret from me for years – praying for the day when he would be cured…”
DUELA:         Momma – when is Daddy coming home?
GILDA:          Someday, Duela… someday soon!

 Panel 4:           [FLASHBACK! Now seventeen years old, Duela is shocked, comparing a magazine page photo of Two-Face to the photo on the table. Same scene as previous panel, just ten years later.]

CAPTION:     “But it was a secret I seemed destined to discover—“
DUELA(thot):            It-It’s UNBELIEVABLE! My father is…TWO-FACE!!

 Panel 5:           [Montage panel across the bottom of the page. The montage shows The Joker’s Daughter battling Robin atop the Hudson University Unispan (from Batman Family#6); Joker’s Daughter with the Teen Titans (TT #48, page 2, panel 4); and Harlequin in her present costume battling Captain Calamity (TT #52, page 4, panel 3).]

CAPTION:     “From that day, I vowed that at least one member of the Dent family would serve the side of the law – to atone for the sins of my father…”
BOTTOM CAPTION: “First by becoming THE JOKER’S DAUGHTER to learn ROBIN’s secret identity –
“#2:     “—which proved to him I was a worthy recruit for the Teen Titans…
“#3      “…where I changed to my HARLEQUIN identity and perfected my act before they broke up!”


Panel 1:           [Back to the present. Now we see Duela Dent getting out of her Volks in a New York City parking lot. She is getting a numbered ticket from the parking attendant. In the background is a sign showing the outlandish parking rates and another that reads NEW YORK'S MOST CONVENIENT PARKING LOT. It is daytime.]

DUELA(thot):            Call it a vendetta…or maybe just the desire to keep it “in the family” – but I feel obligated to bring Daddy back whenever he escapes!
“#2(thot):        Sure, BATMAN or one of the other big names could wrap him up just as fast – but THEY usually wait till he pulls something!

Panel 2:           [Close on Duela flipping through a phone book.]

DUELA(thot):            I’m determined to stop him BEFORE he starts!
“#2(thot):        Hmmm… so many possibilities –

Panel 3:           [Her ‘bag of tricks” doubling as a pocketbook, we see that Duela has disguised herself, placing a short-cut blonde wig on her head. She’s wearing a man-tailored suit with a scarf and boots.]

DUELA(thot):            -- only thing to do is check them all out…but NOT as Duela Dent!
“#2(thot):        Daddy would recognize me in a minute!

Panel 4:           [Weary-looking Duela, still in the blonde wig, is on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, looking southward at the city. The World Trade towers are in the distance. The sun is setting.]

CAPTION:     But, after an exhausting day all over the BIG APPLE…
DUELA(thot):            Whew! I’ve checked everything from SECOND-hand furniture stores to DOUBLE-dip ice cream parlors…
“#2(thot):        …and come up with ZIPPO!

Panel 5:           [Now focus over Duela’s shoulder as she stares at the World Trade towers.]

DUELA(thot):            I don’t think there’s ANYWHERE in this city I haven’t checked…
“#2(thot):        …except…the WORLD TRADE CENTER –

Panel 6:           [Now we’re in the lobby of the World Trade Center. Duela is still in the blonde disguise, staring at the building directory.]

CAPTION:     “—otherwise known as the TWIN towers!”
DUELA(thot):            Curious! One firm has TWO offices – one in each of the towers… and BOTH with the same number!
“#2(thot):        It’s worth checking –


Panel 1:           [Now we’re upstairs in one of the Towers. Don’t make it too obvious, but the office Duela is breaking into is 2222. The office is dark inside.]

DUELA(thot):            Looks like nobody’s home here –

Panel 2:           [In the darkened office, Duela is staring out the window across at the other Tower. There is one window lit and it is directly opposite the room she is in. We can see into the lit office and there is someone sitting at a desk. Duela is removing her blonde wig here.]

DUELA(thot):            -- but somebody is burning the midnight oil in the firm’s OTHER office…

Panel 3:           [Series of tight vertical panels across the middle of the page showing Duela turning her outfit into the Harlequin costume. The wig is turned inside out to show purple hair. The scarf becomes her neck-ruffle. The suit jacket turns inside out to become her top. The slacks unzip at the sides and fold back to show the Harlequin design inside.]

DUELA(thot):            …and the odds are TWO-TO-TWO…
“#2(thot):        …that the “late worker” over there…
“#3(thot):        …is really the ONLY member of the firm –

Panel 4:           [Across the bottom of the page. Give us a nice dramatic shot looking down at the street far below as Harlequin swings via rope from the one office towards the lighted window in the other Tower.]

HARLEQUIN (thot): -- none other than ‘DEAR OLD DAD”!


Panel 1:           [Nice shot of Harlequin crashing through the window into the lit office. Two-Face, sitting at the desk, looks up, only mildly startled.]

TWO-FACE:  Hunh?!
HARLEQUIN:  Hiya, Daddy – bet you never expected ME to come and visit your office!

Panel 2:           [Two-Face is standing up as Harlequin reaches into her bag of tricks. We see his silver dollar on the desk.]

TWO-FACE:  Harlequin…DUELA!
HARLEQUIN: Nice of you to remember who I am –
“#2:                 -- but I must admit this isn’t a friendly visit…

 Panel 3:           [We see that Harlequin has pulled out a small “can” with a screw-top lid, which she is unscrewing.]

HARLEQUIN: …I’ve come to take you back to Arkham –

Panel 4:           [The lid is off the can, and shooting out of it is a “snake” like in those gag peanut butter jars. The “snake” is flying right at Two-face, who stands still, doing nothing to avoid it.]

HARLEQUIN: -- where they’ll try again to keep you WRAPPED up!

Panel 5:           [The “snake” now wraps around Two-Face like a cocoon, making him virtually helpless.]

HARLEQUIN: Hey, are you sick or someting… not even putting up a fight?
TWO-FACE:  No, Duela – I have every intention of returning to Arkham with you… after we TALK!


Panel 1:           [Harlequin is puzzled. Two-Face continues to talk. He motions with his chin towards the silver dollar on the desk.]

TWO-FACE:  I arranged my escape only so that YOU would track me down… I KNEW you would!
“#2:                 If you don’t believe I’m telling the truth, look at my lucky silver dollar!

Panel 2:           [Harlequin is staring down at the silver dollar which lies on the desk, unscarred side up.(The date on it is 1922, by the way.)]

HARLEQUIN: The GOOD SIDE is up…which means –
TWO-FACE:  -- that what I’m about to tell you is reliable!

Panel 3:           [Close on Two-Face, still wrapped up.]

TWO-FACE:  Even in Arkham, the underworld news gets around… and I’ve heard something really BIG is cooking!
“#2:                 One of the ROOTS is growing out of Hudson University, where YOU got to school!

Panel 4:           [Now focus on the puzzled Harlequin.]         

HARLEQUIN: But why this elaborate scheme to let me know? Why not just write me a letter?
TWO-FACE:  Would you have BELIEVED it?
HARLEQUIN: No…I guess not!

Panel 5:           [Two-shot. Harlequin is starting to unwrap Two-Face.]

HARLEQUIN: Wouldn’t it be better to pass the info on to BATMAN… or maybe the JUSTICE LEAGUE?
TWO-FACE:  Possibly, but YOU are my daughter…

Panel 6:           [Tight shot of Two-Face with a bemused look on his face.]

TWO-FACE:  …and at least HALF of me is proud of what you’ve done – and wants to help you to succeed!

Panel 7:           [Blurb across the bottom of the page.]

BLURB:         What information does Two-Face hold? And how will it affect The Harlequin? The answers will stun you… NEXT ISSUE! Be here!

I sure hope the answers would have stunned you, but thirty-plus years after I wrote that script, I have no idea where the plot was going. Since I was scripting the Robin, Batgirl, and Man-Bat series at the time, it’s a safe bet one or more of those characters would have ended up involved. (Two-Face’s comment about Hudson University, where Dick Grayson was also a student, makes the Teen Wonder’s part in it a virtual certainty.)

It’s quite possible that somewhere else in my files is a handwritten sheet of notes outlining plans for the Harlequin… and maybe some day I’ll find it. Till then, your guess is as good as mine.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Joker's Daughter

UKPONDSIDE posted the following message...

Hey, Bob, nice stuff with the pics and stamps and all, BUT COME ON, MAN! Surely you are aware of the HEAT that you have caused, surrounding a certain New 52 DC female character! Uh, THE JOKER'S DAUGHTER, aka Duela Dent!
With the absolute buzz surrounding the 3D cover of Batman - Dark Knight 23.4 (The Joker's Daughter), surely you are willing to give us a behind the scenes expose from the great mind that wrote the original Joker's Daughter script in Batman Family #6, plus many of her other early appearances!
Please enlighten us as to the direction you wanted to take her, and her "intended" identity, and if the current writers are doing your character's story justice!

Actually, UK, I haven't caused any heat regarding the current incarnation of a character I created thirty-seven years ago. I have nothing to do with any of DC's current output nor am I on their comp list, so I haven't even seen the issue. I have taken a look at some of the reviews of it that have appeared online, however (and particularly enjoyed the video of Rich Johnston putting his copy in the microwave). Based on what I've read in those reviews, I have no interest in seeing the actual story.

My version of the Joker's Daughter was created as a foe for Robin when I was writing his solo adventures in Batman Family.

After her first appearance, she returned as Catgirl, claiming to be Catwoman's daughter, and then as the daughter of a bevy of Batman's foes in a Robin / Batgirl team-up story. By the time of that third tale, editor Julie Schwartz and I had decided we wanted her as a hero rather than a villain, so she revealed at the end that her plan all along was to become a member of the Teen Titans.
Oh, yes, and that she was actually Duela Dent, the daughter of Harvey (Two-Face) Dent. Harvey, with his fixation on the number 2, had wanted twins. I got some flak from fans about the fact that Dent had not become Two-Face until after Robin had joined Batman, so how could he have a daughter who was now the same age as Dick Grayson? I explained it away with my theory of "selective aging" -- Duela got older faster, the same way that Dick went from being twelve to eighteen while the rest of the Batman cast remained the same ages. Hey, it's comic books!
Duela did indeed join the Teen Titans, changed her name to the Harlequin, and was with the team when they ended up in a battle with her father.

When Teen Titans was cancelled, Duela joined Dick Grayson as a student at Hudson University and appeared in a few more of his solo tales in Batman Family and Detective Comics. That was the last time she appeared in a published story I wrote. As the Harlequin, Duela was scheduled to appear in a back-up series in The Vixen. I wrote the first script for that series, but it was never drawn, as the book was cancelled before it appeared during the DC Implosion.

Marv Wolfman used Duela in a throwaway bit in his Teen Titans story about Donna Troy's wedding. In it, she is portrayed as an older woman. (Talk about selective aging!) She also turned up in other incarnations, including as a semi-regular in Tiny Titans, and was explained away (and killed) in Countdown, one of the more recent revamps of the DC Universe.

Monday, September 23, 2013

This Month in Alex's World

"Well, this seems to be making Daddy happy, so I'll just go along with it."
   Here's Alex modeling one of his maternal great-grandfather's shirts. He's growing quickly, but I don't think it quite fits him yet.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Getting Along... Swimmingly

    Sixty-four-year-old Diana Nyad made the news last week after she swam 110 miles from Cuba to the Florida Keys. I'm not sure I understand her reason for even attempting this, especially after failing to make it four other times, but I suppose it falls into the same category as George Mallory's reason for attempting to climb Mount Everest: "Because it's there."

  Today's newspaper reports that other long-distance swimmers are questioning the veracity of the story. One swimmer in Seattle is questioning how she could have sped up to 3 miles per hour from her average speed of a mile and a half an hour; her navigator and an "official observer" of the swim assert that she benefited from a swift and favorable current.

  There is also some concern that she did not follow the "English Channel rules" because she used a special mask and neoprene suit to protect herself from jellyfish. So what? This is not an Olympic event where all the competitors have to be on even ground.

  I haven't read of any other swimmers who are planning to attempt this, nor that there is some kind of prize associated with doing it. And I don't think it is going to inspire disgruntled Cubans that this is a good way to flee their country.

  Maybe Nyad gets a swimsuit endorsement contract or becomes a spokesperson for some energy drink. More likely, she has her fifteen minutes of fame and then becomes one more person no one can identify. In the meantime, these naysayers ought to find something else to keep them occupied... like going for a swim.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fools and Their Money

  Yesterday's newspaper seemed particularly rife with ways to separate fools from their money.

  One full-page advertisement hawked a device that would allow all Americans to receive free television. Further, it proclaims that "Federal law makes TV network giants broadcast free TV signals regionally." Readers are advised that after making their one-time purchase (for $49), they will never have to pay to watch TV again. (Buried in the text is a line that says "it saves a ton of money because it won't pull in expensive cable-only channels like ESPN, so there's never a monthly bill." Well, yes, without a cable or satellite hook-up, you can't receive such channels and so you don't pay for them.)

  Potential customers are advised to check the chart on the page for the first two digits of their zip code and to call immediately if they are there. What a surprise -- every zip code in 49 of the fifty states is included! The one state that is not? California, which, I guess, is exempt from federal law.

  So, what is this fabulous device? It's an antenna that allows you to pick up over-the-air TV transmissions from your local stations. Gee, just like we all used to do back before there was cable and satellite TV.

  Bet I can find a better antenna somewhere else for a lot less than $49...


   Another full-page ad says that you should convert your cash to gold immediately because their experts predict that the price of gold (currently about $1380 an ounce) could skyrocket to over $5,000 an ounce in the future.  "In our opinion, smart individuals are moving up to 30% of their assets into U.S. government gold coins."

 Your opportunity to cash in on this incredible windfall is to buy up the $5 gold coins they have for sale. They are offering these coins (each containing 1/10th of an ounce of gold) for the fabulous price of $158 each, or $1,580 an ounce! So with gold currently selling for $1380 an ounce, you are starting out $200 in the hole. This sure seems like a great plan.

  Oh, by the way, if you still want in on this fabulous investment, they will make special arrangements for purchases of more than $50,000.


  My favorite of the ads, however, is the one offering "vault bags of rarely seen U.S. Gov't minted coins." For just $29, you can get a bag weighing "almost a quarter pound," filled with "rarely seen Indian Head collector coins dating back to 1913." You might know them better as nickels.

  How many nickels are in a quarter pound? By my calculations, that would be twenty-two of them, with a face value of $1.10! These "Buffalo nickels" were issued from 1913 through 1938 and there are a few that are worth big bucks to coin collectors. But I think it's a safe bet you won't be finding any of those in the bags.

  The ad advises you to stock up on these "nest eggs" for children, grandchildren or someone you might want to impress. "You just won't believe the expression on their faces when you hand them these heavy Vault bags."  Sorry, but I can just imagine the expression of someone who is handed a $29 bag of nickels!


Two words, folks: Caveat emptor!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Don't Drive Into Classrooms

   As the new school year begins, there are a number of signs posted -- physical ones on telephone poles and electronic ones on highway message boards -- reminding us that "School's Open! Please Drive Carefully!" This is not something new; I can remember such signs from the days when I was in school and they probably date all the way back to the days of Henry Ford's Model T's.

  But what is the point of such messages? Presumably, it's a reminder that we should watch out for school children in the streets. (One has to wonder why we should be looking out for them on the parkways.) But if school is open, aren't they all inside?

  Wouldn't it make much more sense to tell drivers when school is out for the summer? That the kids are all free to roam the streets? And that driver's ed graduates with newly-minted licenses are on the roads?

  Unless, of course, you make it a habit of driving up and down the halls of your local school building. In which case, you are going to encounter some heavy traffic jams between periods.