Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle conclude the introduction of Cornelius Stirk in Detective 593 (Dec. 88),with Steve Mitchell joining on the inks.
So in the previous issue, we learned that Stirk intentionally terrorizes his victims,then cuts out their hearts after killing them. What does he do with the hearts? Well, cannibalism is certainly implied by these panels.
And confirmed when Batman comes along. Fear causes certain chemicals to race through the bloodstream, and those are what Stirk desires in his stew. The story does not mention this, but apparently there was a widely held belief that animal meat tastes better if the animal is in fear when it is killed, because of the blood saturating the meat. That belief seems to be essentially the same as Stirk’s.
When Batman finally does catch up to the villain, Stirk uses his abilities to confuse Batman, who winds up attacking a policemen instead of the killer, and gets taken down by Stirk.
The final act of the tale, while having great art, is just the tiniest bit of a let-down. Stirk has bound Batman, and is using his mental powers to penetrate Batman’s mind to seek out what makes him scared. It feels like I am reading a Scarecrow story all of a sudden.
And of course, no one can manipulate Batman’s sense of fear. It’s just a matter of time till he breaks free and takes down Stirk.
Cornelius Stirk would return quite a few times over the next couple of years.