The ads for Gotham Season Two hint at the Clown Prince of Crown, but I think it unlikely we'll see him. Still, I'll probably write about him, and the better comic book stories he's been in.

So what are your favorites, Legionnaires? "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge?" "Joker Fish?" "The Killing Joke?" "Arkham Asylum?" Others?And why?

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-I'd nominate the first two, from Batman #1, ahead of all others. I first read these stories very young, and I don't how they'd look to me if I were reading them for the first time today. But the stories have chill moment after chill moment, and the Joker seems diabolically clever. There's the failure of the police guard to save his first victim, the Joker's explanation of how he did it, the poisoned pack of Jokers, the phone murder, the "I hold the winning card!" panel.

Incidentally, if Bob Kane drew the Joker in those stories, particularly the first one's splash panel, he wasn't a talentless artist. You can see he was based on Conrad Veidt.

-There are three more I like from the NAL Batman vs. the Joker paperback. I read these early too, so they're on my list due to imprinting, but they have good premises. In "The Joker's Winning Team!" the Joker swaps gang-members with other mobs like a baseball manager to get the men he needs for particular jobs. In "The Joker's Millions!" a mobster leaves the Joker a fortune in his will. The Joker gives up crime, and then finds out the mobster was playing his own joke. In "The Joker's Journal!" he runs an underground newspaper for crooks.

-"Rackety-Rax Racket!" from Batman #32 has a funny humiliating sequence for Robin. The Joker embarks on a series of crimes modelled on fraternity hazing. He captures Batman and blackmails Robin into buying a doll in a toyshop while going on and on about how much he just loves dolls. With some boys watching. It's actually a set-up for a crime, but Robin doesn't twig to that in time.

From the Golden Age: I like the one in which the Joker was electrocuted for his crimes, then revived by his men. (Interesting note: the Joker, Lex Luthor and the Sub-Mariner were all electrocuted in the chair in the Golden Age.)

 

From the Silver Age: I like Detective Comics #388. This was not only my first Joker story, but also one of my first comics ever (as opposed to ones I acquired years after publication as back issues).

 

From the Modern Age: I like the "revillainization" of the Catwoman story from Detective Comics #569-570 by Mike Barr and Alan Davis.

 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

(Interesting note: the Joker, Lex Luthor and the Sub-Mariner were all electrocuted in the chair in the Golden Age.)


And Mister Mind.

For me, the best Joker stories are not the ones that show him being unpredictably homicidal or simply brutal, but ones that show the intelligence behind the the lunacy. What makes Joker scary isn't his appearance or his body count, it's how intelligent he is--on a par with Batman--that makes him truly a foe to fear.

So yes, his debut story and the Laughing Fish are at the top of my list, along with some of the other more thoughtful stories.

I wish Alan Moore had never written The Killing Joke. In my opinion, it's the worst comic he's written.

I'll second the Joker's debut from Batman #1, Five-Way Revenge, Laughing Fish, and the Detective 569-570 two parter.

To those I'll add: 

Batman 321 "Dreadful Birthday Dear Joker"  On his birthday, the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Robin, and Alfred to lure Batman into a deathtrap.  

Legends of the Dark Knight 65-68 "Going Sane"  The Joker defeats and thinks he has killed Batman, which snaps his mind back to sanity.

Detective Comics #388 was the Joker’s last appearance in the Bat-books until the "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" in Batman #254 over four years later.(1) It reintroduced the depiction of the Joker as a truly murderous villain. His next appearance, a bit over four months later, was in The Brave and the Bold #111, which also depicted him as clever and murderous. The issue opens with Batman investigating a Joker murder. As things proceed Batman becomes convinced the Joker is being framed. The cover represents the tale as a Batman/Joker team-up, but it's effectively a straight Batman story by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo. I remember it as a solid one (which I didn't expect from Haney, who I was averse to at the time). The story must have been a response to the Joker's previous one as it ends in a very similar way: the Joker tries to escape Batman by stealing the Batmobile and something stops him.

In the 70s the Joker had his own title for a while, which I've never read. During that period he didn't appear in Batman or Detective Comics. He appeared in The Brave and the Bold just before it started and in the first part of the Emperor Eagle two-parter just before it ended.(2)

(1) He wasn't absent from new stories for quite that long all told, as he put in appearances in Jimmy Olsen and Justice League of America (in the Snapper traitor story) later in 1969.

(2) Midway through he had a walk-on part in Justice League of America. Afterwards he appeared in DC Super Stars #10 before appearing again in Batman for the first time in over two years.

Source: DC Indexes.

This post displaced the thread Deck Log Entry # 183 The Silver-Age Challenge---So, You Think You K... from the homepage.

There are two more stories in the NAL paperback besides the ones I picked as favourites. The first is "The Challenge of the Joker" from 1960, in which the Joker challenges Batman to solve clues he sends to upcoming crimes based on the traditional elements. It’s somewhat odd for a Joker story in that the Joker’s crime series isn’t joke-themed and he doesn’t use joke-methods. (Instead, for two of the crimes he uses fantastic machines.) But it's otherwise a traditional Bat-story, illustrating the point that there were old-style stories in the period as well as fantastic ones. The climax was likely inspired by the Marx Brothers film At the Circus.

The remaining story in the collection is "Batman - Clown of Crime", in which Batman's and the Joker's minds get switched. I found the story a bit disturbing as a kid. It sounds like a Silver Age plot but it actually first appeared in 1954. There's a scene where the Jokerised Batman sets Dr. Rayburn's beard on fire. When the story was reprinted in Batman #182 the panel was changed so he only almost does so.

No question.
BATMAN #251
iconic cover, scary Joker, beautiful art.
Perfect.

"Knights of Knavery" in Batman #25 was the first meeting of the Joker and the Penguin. It's the earliest story I know where two formidable villains meet, team-up, and squabble. They capture Batman and Robin but argue over who is the greater crook and start competing for Batman's endorsement. The Joker had met Catwoman previously in a story I haven't read in Batman #2.

The Joker was quite heavily used early on. DC Indexes lists 4 stories in 1940, 6 in 1941, 8 in 1942, then 4 a year up to 1952 except for 1949, which had 5. After 1952 he was used 1 to 3 times a year up to the New Look, except in 1956 which he skipped. (All this is in terms of release dates.)

I should note I didn't read the story from The Brave and the Bold #111 when it came out in 1973. By "at the time" I meant when I read it, years later.

Mr. Mind took the longest to "get better."

Luke Blanchard said:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

(Interesting note: the Joker, Lex Luthor and the Sub-Mariner were all electrocuted in the chair in the Golden Age.)


And Mister Mind.

Some of my favorite Joker stories:

---"The Joker's Comedy of Errors!", from Batman (first series) #66, (Aug-Sep 1951), written by Bill Finger, art by Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz, and Charles Paris. Yes, the "Boner" story--I dare you not to laugh; reprinted in the TPB "The Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told" (2008).

---"This One'll Kill You, Batman!", from Batman (first series) #260, (Jan-Feb 1975), written by Denny O'Neil, art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. The Joker tries to make Bats laugh himself to death; last reprinted in the TPB "Batman in the Seventies" (1999).

---"Slayride", from Detective Comics (first series) #826, (Feb 2007), written by Paul Dini, art by Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher. The Joker moonlights for Uber; also reprinted in the TPB "The Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told" (2008).

I just noticed that 2 of my least favorite stories ever featured the Joker: the aforementioned Justice League of America #77 (Dec '69), in which Snapper Carr acts COMPLETELY out of character, and Brave and the Bold #68 (Oct-Nov '66) which is even inane by the high standards set by Bob Haney.

Yeah, I'd forgotten that one, it was brilliant, too.


 Luke Blanchard said:

-"Rackety-Rax Racket!" from Batman #32 has a funny humiliating sequence for Robin. The Joker embarks on a series of crimes modelled on fraternity hazing. He captures Batman and blackmails Robin into buying a doll in a toyshop while going on and on about how much he just loves dolls. With some boys watching. It's actually a set-up for a crime, but Robin doesn't twig to that in time.

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