Thursday, October 3, 2019

Last Laugh For An Old Joker

While a lot of attention has been given to heroic doppelgangers, the bad guys haven't necessary gotten their equal due.

So, today, in fairness, a quick little look at the elder statesman of crime, the Golden Age Joker!


The Joker first appeared in Batman #1 (Spring, 1940 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane) with a pair of stories, returning multiple times (starting with Batman #2 of Summer, 1940, meeting with Catwoman), and continued to menace the Dynamic Duo for well over a decade.

To be fair, sources have picked different issues for the last Golden Age appearance of the Joker, but the most logical seems to be Batman #80 (December-January, 1953/1954), as the next issue has the first appearance of the Earth-1 Two-Face (as evidenced by the fact that Harvey was remade into Two-Face in this issue, and an appearance in Superman Family stated that the Earth-2 Harvey Dent had never had his surgery undone).

JLA/JSA Crossover

Be that as is may, the definite first appearance of an Earth-2 Joker (which is to say, an appearance of the original, Golden Age Joker after Earth-1 and Earth-2 where named and set) was in Justice League of America #136 (November, 1976)...

...where a semi-retired Batman and Robin, the ex-Boy Wonder worked with the JLA, JSA and Squadron of Justice (heroes of Earth-S which didn't belong to the Marvel Family like Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Bulletman and Bulletgirl) against villains united by Captain Marvel's old foe, King Kull, such as Dr. Light, the Shade and the Weeper.

The story, "Crisis On Earth-S" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Marty Pasko, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin didn't really show much different in this Joker than his Earth-1 counterpart...

...other than that he was an age appropriate analog for the older Batman of the Justice Society of America (though he did have a little more of Dick Sprang look to him, at least on the inside of the book, than the current, more Jim Aparo, thin look which was on the cover by Ernie Chan and Frank Giacoia).

He barely even appeared in the issue...

....just a mild distraction for a couple of pages, as he was working with the Weeper.

Joker Vs. The Batman's Daughter

The Earth-2 Joker pretty much remained incarcerated during the 1980s, at least until after the death of Batman. 

The Joker did return, to face Batman's daughter, the Huntress (Helena Wayne), in a run of her back up stories from Wonder Woman #280 to #283 (June to September, 1981, in stories by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell).

The first story, Wonder Woman #280 (June, 1981), didn't have much in it, as Huntress was concluding her battle against Lionmane (a foe that had forced Helena's mother, the Catwoman, out of the criminal business), but, the battle began in earnest in Wonder Woman #281, as Huntress investigated what Joker did to Harry Simms, and then, the Joker also got his toxin into Commissioner O'Hara as well!

Helena took some time to try to track down the Joker via the ingredients in his toxin in Wonder Woman #282, as well as taking a trip back to her childhood home, Wayne Manor.  There, she hope to come up with an idea to stop the Joker.  Meanwhile, back in Gotham, the Joker himself made an interesting discovery....that, his eternal foe, the Batman....may still be alive????

Yes, a showdown was about to happen....a battle royal between the original Batman and original Joker in Wonder Woman #283.....or was it?  Using the Bat-Signal on police headquarters, Joker hoped to lure Batman to him.  Huntress came because of the alarm in the Bat Cave under Wayne Manor, and was able to defeat the Joker (thus retrieving the anti-toxin to save Simms and O'Hara), with "Batman" watching.

But, who was that "Batman"?  Here's a hint (and he appeared in the next issue in his usual identity).

Last Laugh

The Earth-2 Joker had his last appearance, finally accepting the death of Batman, in Brave and the Bold #200 (July, 1983) by Mike W. Barr, Dave Gibbons and Gary Martin in "Smell Of Brimstone, Stench Of Death".

The Joker, ever the instigator, is the roommate of the mostly comatose since the 1950s Brimstone (Nicholas Lucien), a villain who faced the Earth-2 Batman and Robin in a cleverly made flashback tale (though he felt much more like a 1960s TV Batman villain, with a flame motif), but fell into a coma after his first battle after being battered around by Batman, only waking up in prison after the Earth-2 Batman was dead.

Joker inspired him, perhaps unintentionally, to switch Earths, and try to enact his vengeance on the Earth-1 Batman (as Joker made him so mad that Lucien was able to project his mind into his Earth-1 doppelganger), in what was the closest to a team-up of the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen.

This also allowed the Joker a bit of a legacy, inspiring an evil which could even cross Earths, all before the Crisis On Infinite Earths!

1 comment:

  1. In the early '80s it seemed like the back-ups were better than the lead feature in Wonder Woman's comic book.