Today, I'm going over DC Comics' own Clown Prince of Crime...The Joker!
This was a comic that was way ahead of its time due to the fact it was one of the first comics to headline a villian instead of the usual "hero". For the uninnitiated out there...the Joker has been Batman's main nemesis since his first issue way back in the late '30's. The Joker has had a lot of different interpertations over the last 70 some odd years. He first appeared as a spooky, meticulous murderer constantly outwitting the police and Batman. Eventually, he was turned into a bit of a nutjob that pulled off "clown" centered crimes that would rather pull a prank on his enemies instead of killing them. Later, DC would give back his "push-you-in-front-of-a-moving-truck" attitude, but add in a touch of insane lunatic. Nowadays, he'll kill you and then cut his own face off....just 'cause he can.
This comic, however, was his more goofy attitude that made you think twice about how murderous he really was.
Issue #1 was published in 1975. It only lasted 9 issues due to DC's implosion that cancelled a zillion of their more interesting comics! The first 3 were written by the legendary Denny O'neil and penciled by one of my personal fav's...Irv Novick.
There was a basic theme for all 9 issues. Joker hatches a plot, meets up with a villian, goes to jail..and sometimes escapes said jail. And just in case you were wondering, Batman ever shows up in any of the comics. The first issue involves Joker matching wits with another baddie, Two-Face. It's a pretty fun ish with a lot of death traps, maniacal speeches and criminal rivalry. Issue #2 gets the Joker involved with an uninspired cornball villian named Willie the Weeper. I'm not sure why the character was ever created, because, even as a kid reading this, I knew I hated this guy. He wept, I threw up. One thing that this book included tho, was the Joker Mobile! It was a garishly green car with the Joker's face mammothly painted on the hood. Why a crazed, escaped murderer with every cop on the planet (not to mention, every Super Hero) looking for him would drive around in the daylight in a car that looks like him was stretching the belief system of an innoent, naive waif of 8. I just couldn't wrap my brain around that.
Issue 3 really got my attention tho...it guest starred one of Steve Ditko's coolest creations, the Creeper! With inks by Jose Louis Garcia Lopez, this issue was my all time favorite! Good story, great art, and a cool guest star...you can't ask for more.
Issue 4 had the writing chores change hands to the prolific Elliot S! Maggin. On his premiere story, Mr. Maggin pitted our main Villian against Green Arrow. While the story was pretty entertaining, it didn't include the art of Mr. Novick. Lopez did the penciling here and Vince Colletta did the inks. Irv Novick came back on the next issue tho, but the writing was now done by Marty Pasko, the guy DC editors nicknamed "Pesky" when he was a constant fan letter writer in his earlier years. Not content with just having one guest villian, Pasko introduced an entire group of baddies, The Royal Flush Gang! It actually seemed a logical choice for a Joker comic.
Ish #6 was the hardest for me to find over the years. No one ever seemed to have this one and I only purchased it over a year ago. The wait drove me nuts! But... It was a great read as Denny O'Neil was back behind the keyboard....umm, I mean typewriter for this fun fest meeting with the great Sherlock Holmes.
N0. 7, now again writen by Elliot S! Maggin, had Joker meet up with Lex Luthor! It was, plot wise, a pretty darned juvenile story...but it did include one of my favorite scenes ever! Joker, in an afro, tells Lex one of the funniest jokes I'd ever heard as a kid, (and still, I think its a riot!) The comic only told the punchline. It wasn't until issue 9 in the letters page did the editor tell the entire joke.
The Scarecrow appeared in #8. This issue was a little bit of a return to Joker's true murderous roots as Joker went around killing people willy nilly. Then, towards the end of the story, we get this totally Un-PC moment.....
Finally....issue 9 featured Joker going up against Batman's greatest female foe, The Catwoman! The usual gang (hah) of creators, Elliot and Irv produced this final issue.
Unfortunately, the story was still along the goofy side. At one point, a guy is running away from Catwoman and he says, "Catwoman's NOCTURNAL! She won't follow me here in the daylight!" Again...I was 8, and I knew Catwoman didn't have any type of cat powers. She was a normal human that could happily walk out in the daylight at any given moment. Uggghhh!
DC Comics' "The Joker"!
A surprisingly light hearted, fun read.....go get it!