By Bill Finger, Bob Kane, David Vern, John Broome, Denny Oâ€™Neil, Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, Paul Dini, Tom Seeley, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Brown, Irv Novick, JosÃ© Luis GarcÃa-LÃ³pez, Don Newton, Don Kramer, Sami Basri, Otto Schmidt, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, Charles Paris, Joe Giella, Dick Giordano, Dan Adkins, Alfredo Alcala, Wayne Faucher & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9441-0 (TPB)
When this year started, I expected to spend lots more time celebrating and commemorating the comics anniversaries that had rolled around. We all know how and why that didnâ€™t happen, so with some frantic re-jigging Iâ€™ve shoehorned one of the most enduring arch-foes in fiction in to this Halloween segment.
Itâ€™s safe to assume that almost everybody knows some iteration of the Joker – probably more than one – so kudos to the editors of this curated historical compilation for unearthing some of the less well-known clown-clashes here. Therefore, sit back and ponder just why the Monarch of Malignant Mirth known got to survive 80 gory-ous years and enjoyâ€¦
However, fascinating and informative as those features are, the real literary largesse is to be found in the 19 stirring tales which comprise the bulk of this tomeâ€¦
A good old-fashioned chronological compendium of the Harlequin of Hateâ€™s ever-changing, so-mutable antics and aggressive transgressions, this trade paperback/digital treat re-presents stories from Batman #8, 67, 145, 260, 353, 366, Detective Comics #388, 833-834, The Spectre #51 and Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Harley Quinn vs The Joker #1, and opens sans preamble with â€˜The Cross Country Crimesâ€™ (Batman #8, by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson & George Roussos; December 1941/January 1942) which sees the plundering poltroon rampage across America in a classic blend of larceny and lunacy.
A decade later, the edgy, implied violence was replaced by smart plotting and bizarre situations as David Vern, Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz & Charles Parisâ€™ â€˜The Man Who Wrote the Jokerâ€™s Jokesâ€™ (Batman #67, by October/November 1951) sees the Crime Clown hire literary ghosts to plot his capers before ultimately overreaching by blackmailing Batman into writing his next – and last – heistâ€¦
Finger & Sheldon Moldoff t told a tale within a tale as â€˜The Son of the Jokerâ€™ (Batman #145; February 1962) sees butler Alfred penning his own brand of fanfic, detailing how the next generation of Caped Crusaders (an adult Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayneâ€™s son) clash with the inheritors of the Clownâ€™s coloursâ€¦
Detective Comics #388 (June 1969) saw John Broome make a major course correction, moving the Joker away from buffoonery back towards the insane killer we all cherish in â€˜Public Luna-tic Number One!â€™ – a classy sci-fi thriller totally reinventing the Laughing Loon, in no small part thanks to the artistic efforts of artists Bob Brown & Joe Giella.
â€˜This Oneâ€™ll Kill You, Batman!â€™ by Denny Oâ€™Neil, Irv Novick & Dick Giordano from Batman #260 (January/February 1975) sees the grim, po-faced Darknight Detective racing to save his own life after being poisoned by Joker Toxin that acts like an irresistible, lethal laughing gas, after which â€˜Last Laughâ€™ (Batman #353, November 1982) sees Gerry Conway, the incomparable JosÃ© Luis GarcÃa-LÃ³pez and inker Dan Adkins detail the Mountebank of Mayhemâ€™s latest ego boost, by attempting to immortalise his face in mountainous stone whilst getting rid of his greatest enemy foreverâ€¦
Batman #366 – from December 1983 and courtesy of Doug Moench, Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala offers some contemporary unrealpolitik as the Joker brings his singular taste for chaos to war-torn Guatemala as he attempts to take over the nation. He is foiled by a unique team consisting of journalist Vicki Vale, Batman and the heroâ€™s latest recruitâ€¦ a masked kid named Jason Toddâ€¦
â€˜A Savage Innocenceâ€™ (The Spectre #51, by John Ostrander & Tom Mandrake; March 1997) takes a peek behind the lunacy, as Godâ€™s instrument of Divine Wrath faces the Crazy Clown. After the Joker kills everyone in New York comedy club The Killing Joke, the Spectre enters the maniacâ€™s mind and is horrifically compromised and convertedâ€¦
Crafted by Paul Dini, Don Kramer & Wayne Faucher, â€˜Trustâ€™ (parts one and two, from Detective Comics #833-834; August and September 2007), ostensibly feature an encore performance for warped and homicidal stage magician Ivar Loxias, but all too soon, the chilling tale of slaughter and trickery guest-starring the bewitching Zatanna turns up a Joker in the stacked deckâ€¦
This box of exotic delights ends with a recent but thoroughly entertaining slice of catharsis from Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Harley Quinn vs The Joker #1 (August 2018). Written by Tom Seeley, with art by Sami Basri, Otto Schmidt & Jessica Kholinne, â€˜Till Death Do Us Partâ€™ finds the Grinning Ghoul diverted from his intended disruption of Batman and Catwomanâ€™s wedding, by old flame Harley Quinn, who feels there are unresolved issues from their own unique romantic interlude. She wants to talk it all out and sheâ€™s brought the necessary restraints and weaponryâ€¦
The Joker has spanned DCâ€™s entire continuity, adding mirth, mayhem and madness to the shining clockwork universe. If you need to walk a bit wild and enjoy straying from the paths most taken, this intriguing confection might be just up your dark and threatening alleyâ€¦
Â© 1941, 1951, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1982, 1983, 1997, 2007, 2018, 2019 DC Comics. All rights reserved.