I knew Batman 321 (March 1980) was destined to be a classic the day I first bought it and read it, and indeed, to date this tale has been reprinted five times.
Wein, Simonson and Giordano have a ball with this tale, in which the Joker decides to throw himself a big birthday party, kidnapping a number of Batman’s friends and allies to decorate his cake with. Commissioner Gordon is the first one we see get taken, though chronologically, Robin had been captured earlier.
Lucius Fox and Selina Kyle appear in the sequence in which the Joker bursts into the Wayne penthouse to grab Alfred. The Joker recognizes Selina, but assumes she is there undercover, as part of some scheme as Catwoman. The Joker takes her out, but leaves her behind.
The Joker lures a huge crowd to an auditorium on the harbourfront, offering free cake. Once the building is filled to capacity, he seals the people in, and drugs them into submission, providing himself a captive audience, as he reveals his giant cake.
Batman shows, as the Joker expects he would, and even offers himself in exchange for the other captives. The Joker agrees to the deal, but quickly reneges once he has Batman tied to a giant candle. But Batman was expecting that, and had already rigged the centre candle to fire as a rocket. Some nice batarang action cuts the fuses on the candles the others are tied to, and frees Robin, allowing him some action in the tale.
A great story from start to finish, quirky, funny and deadly.
The Joker returns the following year in Detective Comics.