The Joker: His Greatest Jokes


By Bill Finger, Bob Kane, David Vern, John Broome, Denny O’Neil, Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, Paul Dini, Tom Seeley, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Brown, Irv Novick, José Luis García-López, 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 didn’t happen, so with some frantic re-jigging I’ve shoehorned one of the most enduring arch-foes in fiction in to this Halloween segment.

It’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 enjoy…

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 tome…

A good old-fashioned chronological compendium of the Harlequin of Hate’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 ‘The Cross Country Crimes’ (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 Paris’ ‘The Man Who Wrote the Joker’s Jokes’ (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 – heist…

Finger & Sheldon Moldoff t told a tale within a tale as ‘The Son of the Joker’ (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 Wayne’s son) clash with the inheritors of the Clown’s colours…

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 ‘Public Luna-tic Number One!’ – 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.

‘This One’ll Kill You, Batman!’ by Denny O’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 ‘Last Laugh’ (Batman #353, November 1982) sees Gerry Conway, the incomparable José Luis García-López and inker Dan Adkins detail the Mountebank of Mayhem’s latest ego boost, by attempting to immortalise his face in mountainous stone whilst getting rid of his greatest enemy forever…

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 hero’s latest recruit… a masked kid named Jason Todd

‘A Savage Innocence’ (The Spectre #51, by John Ostrander & Tom Mandrake; March 1997) takes a peek behind the lunacy, as God’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 maniac’s mind and is horrifically compromised and converted…

Crafted by Paul Dini, Don Kramer & Wayne Faucher, ‘Trust’ (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 deck…

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, ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ finds the Grinning Ghoul diverted from his intended disruption of Batman and Catwoman’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 she’s brought the necessary restraints and weaponry…

The Joker has spanned DC’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 alley…
© 1941, 1951, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1982, 1983, 1997, 2007, 2018, 2019 DC Comics. All rights reserved.