Batman’s first documented encounter with Zsasz occurred after he was already incarcerated at Arkham Asylum, in connection with a series of four murders which fit his modus operandi during his incarceration. Examining his body for new tally marks yielded no results — although they failed to check the bottom of his foot for four new cuts. It was eventually discovered that Zsasz had used the remains of his fortune to bribe a contractor into including secret passageways out of Arkham during the facility’s last remodeling, allowing him to come and go as he pleased to claim new victims. When Batman discovered this by going undercover as an Arkham inmate himself, Zsasz hastily killed the contractor in order to cover his tracks, but was outed nonetheless thanks to the assistance of Nightwing.
Despite blocking off Zsasz’s secret passageway out of Arkham, the killer managed to escape the facility several more times over his career. When Bane freed all the Arkham inmates during “Knightfall,” Zsasz took an entire girls’ boarding school hostage before a beleaguered Batman arrived to stop him (BATMAN #493, 1993). When the city was plunged into the chaos of “No Man’s Land,” Batman’s frequent ally, critic, and confidante Dr. Leslie Thompkins took him under her care, refusing to shirk responsibility to help any Gothamite in need, no matter how depraved (BATMAN CHRONICLES #18, 1999). But perhaps Zsasz’s most notorious attack came after he escaped during a psychiatric evaluation to attack a charity event hosted by Bruce Wayne, where he managed to stab Bruce’s stalwart butler Alfred Pennyworth — and hastily marked himself for the kill’s credit. Fortunately, Bruce was able to get Alfred medical attention in time to save his life. But that unearned tally mark would crawl forever on Zsasz’s skin, not letting him rest until Alfred was dead, and the count made right (DETECTIVE COMICS #815-816, 2006).
Streets of Gotham (2009-2010)
After the disappearance of Batman in FINAL CRISIS, a new Black Mask arose to take control of Gotham City (BATMAN: BATTLE FOR THE COWL, 2009). As part of this bid, the new Black Mask- later revealed to be Arkham Asylum director Jeremiah Arkham- employed Zsasz to oversee a child trafficking operation where abducted minors would be forced to fight each other to the death. In return, Black Mask provided the means for Zsasz to continue his mission to bring death to the citizens of Gotham by the edge of his blade. This child death pageant was eventually infiltrated and broken by the newly minted Robin, Damian Wayne — who, in a new level of personal restraint contrary to his upbringing with the League of Assassins, defeated Zsasz while allowing him to live (BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #2-11, 2009-2010).
Even after the universe altering events of FLASHPOINT, Zsasz’s nature as a self-marking serial killer remained virtually unchanged. When The Penguin’s majordomo Ignatius Ogilvy executed his play for the big bird’s nest egg as Emperor Penguin, Ogilvy hired Zsasz to keep the Bat-Family busy with a specially treated knife which would transform his victims into Man-Bats (DETECTIVE COMICS #18, 2013). Later, Zsasz redeveloped his methods to kill his victims in extreme ways which brought them to new levels of pain (ALL-STAR BATMAN #1-5, 2016-2017). As such, Zsasz found himself the subject of one of the very first cases undertaken by Batman and his newest crime fighting partner, Duke Thomas — later known as The Signal.