At 12 years old, the conclusion to the Calculator storyline had been so exciting I had not expected much from Detective 469 (May 1977). I was very wrong. It doesn’t start huge, but the Steve Englehart run on Detective that begins in this issue would be the best Batman storyline of my childhood, and would be reprinted numerous times over the years, in whole and in part.
Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom handle the art on this first issue, which opens with Alfred falling mysteriously ill. Bruce rushes him to the hospital, and discovers that people all across Gotham are suddenly collapsing.
Dr. Phosphorus claims responsibility. He is a glowing skeletal form, his skin made of phosphorus, burning when exposed to air. He poisoned Gotham’s water supply simply by immersing himself in it. Batman attempts to fight him, but any contact burns his hands, and the villain flees.
There is also a back-up story in this issue, again by Englehart, Simonson and Milgrom, giving the origin of Dr.Phosphorus.
More importantly, in the big picture, this story also introduces Boss Rupert Thorne, the big power broker in Gotham City.
We see that Dr. Sartorius was a jerk even before the explosion at the nuclear power plant, which gave him his powers. But as with Thorne, the more important element is his connection to the major players in Gotham politics, which would have repercussions next issue.