...that was so important to someone else, yet you couldn't tell them?
This was a situation readers of the comic Batman Adventures found themselves in with the story Fear Itself which appeared in issue 17. The issue marked the last of the Batman Adventures comics and featured a familiar villain, more significant to Batman than the Joker, Ivy, Two-Face, Freeze or any of the other infamous rogue's. As the story kicked-off there was an alleyway, two shots fired, a boy sitting over the bodies of his dead parents and an explanation that said "It’s always the same. The murder in the alleyway". It was a familiar scene, echoed across numerous Bat-titles over the years, that was as much a part of Batman as his cape and cowl, as it centred around the death of Bruce Wayne's parents. That time however as the scene played out it wasn't being remembered by Bruce Wayne like every time before, but by the other person who walked away that night, the man who fired the gun; Joe Chill!
For those not in the know, Joe Chill was a petty thief who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne and left their son Bruce an orphan. It was an event that had led Wayne to become Batman, but it had also changed Chill's life. Everywhere that Chill went he was haunted by the image of Bruce Wayne who he had watched from the wings, oblivious to who he was. The more he thought about Bruce, the more he became convinced he was everywhere. He saw Wayne as he walked the streets, as he passed through his building and with each day it got worse. Bruce was the only link to his involvement with the crime, but it appeared that a Detective who was working on a non-related case held a piece of evidence that also connected him. Fearing he would finally be connected, Chill sought out the detective, but his plans to silence him were interrupted by the arrival of Batman which resulted in a tussle where Chill unmasked the Caped Crusader. The problem for Chill was that he believed he was still seeing Bruce Wayne's face everywhere and the shock of seeing Wayne's image starring back at him once the cowl was removed caused him to fall over a balcony to his death. Batman attempted to save him but couldn't, but the real irony was that he didn't know that his past was connected to Chill. Writer Templeton cleverly made use of Chill's own insecurities as the set up, but his masterstroke was the revelation that Batman was oblivious to how important Chill was to him. In terms of the overall journey Batman was on, by keeping Chill a mysterious ghost in Bruce’s past, it was something that always drove him forward and never let him rest, but if it had ever come to light then there was the possibility that Bruce would have had some closure. As Chill's connection was never revealed, it meant that Batman would forever remain on the path he was on and it was far more poignant for the reader who was the only one in on the secret. Some secrets are best kept by the one in the know and in the case of 'Fear Itself', the secret was far too powerful to let out as it could have finally signalled the end for Bruce's days as the Dark Knight. BETWEEN YOU AND ME: *Joe Chill never appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, nor was he ever mentioned.
*The Batman Adventures was a comic based on the Animated Universe, but it wasn't the only one. Ever since Batman: TAS aired on TV, there was a comic based on the show and it was continually rebranded as the show changed names.
*Of all the comics based on Batman: TAS (not including the Superman/Justice League books), the book titled Gotham Adventures lasted the longest with 60 issues.