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Review: The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime

Collects: The Joker (1975-1976) #1-9

Writers: Denny O’Neil, Elliot Maggin and Martin Pasko

Artists: Irv Novick, Dick Giordano, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Ernie Chan, Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell and Frank McLaughlin


Believe it or not, there was a time when a new #1 issue being released was a rare occurrence.  Add to the fact, that the title character was a villain and not a hero, DC did something a bit different back in 1975.   The Joker got his town title, but it only ran for nine issues.  (The ninth issue teased the tenth issue having the Joker taking on the Justice League, but it never happened.)    DC has now collected all nine issues in trade paperback with great artwork with one of my favorite underrated Batman artist Irv Novick doing a few of the stories.  The artwork and colors in this reprint really came out well. 


What you’ll get:  A very reasonably priced trade paperback that contains nine Joker stand-alone stories that have never been collected in one volume before.  At $16.99 (US retail), the cost is significantly less that the cover price cost of nine current comic books and much, much more less if you were to try to get those original issues in the back issue market now.  


Reprints of the covers of all the issues.  One might expect this; but this should not be understated.  The covers to each issue of this series were very striking in my opinion. 


Light-hearted stories.   This sounds strange, doesn’t it?  Don’t get me wrong; make no mistake, yes, the Joker does kill victims throughout the series run here.  However, the series writers and artists were very careful to toe the line on how the killings are depicted and what violence is shown.  A typical story would have Joker trying to get the better of whatever co-star was in that particular issue with the stakes not seeming to be too great.  There are attempts at comic-relief, such as they are, reflective of the time.  After decades of a dark, serious-toned Batman, I don’t know how well these stories hold up or would be received by today’s fans who were not brought up on anything else.  Granted, the material may come off as less sophisticated or a bit dated. 


A bit of the unusual.  Want to see Two-Face trussing up Joker to a buzz saw?  It’s here.  The Joker and Lex Luthor in a mind swap?  You got it!  Joker matching wits with someone dressed as Sherlock Holmes?  Step right up!  Someone getting the better of the Joker?  Well … yes.  Perhaps it was due to the comics code restrictions of the time, evil not being allowed to fully succeed, but at the end of each story, Joker did wind up either captured, back in Arkham, or being chased by the law. 


What you won’t get:  Any Joker confrontations with Batman; these separate stories spotlighted the Joker with other characters such as Two-Face, the Creeper, Green Arrow, the Royal Flush Gang, Lex Luthor, the Scarecrow and the Catwoman.   Deal breaker?  Perhaps for some of you.  However, keep in mind that two classic Batman/Joker stories from this era (“The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” which came before this series and “The Laughing Fish” which came after) had already been reprinted elsewhere.


Any stories with Harley Quinn.  The stories reprinted here predate Harley’s first appearance by well over a decade. 


A forward text piece putting these stories in any context; the conceptual genesis of the series.  I had hoped at least one of the few surviving creators who worked on this series would’ve been asked to contribute their thoughts and recollections on working on these stories during this time with a couple of paragraphs, or even a comment about the book from a current DC editor or staff member.  Alas, this is a straightforward reprint book with no frills. 


No reprints of the ‘70s ads or letters column.  I certainly didn’t expect to see either, mind you.  I do recall that the letters column did include some nice intentional humorous exchanges between the letter writers and the editor Julius Schwartz.  


Bottom line:  This is a good value for the amount of content.   If you are curious about or want to relive some ‘70s nostalgia in a chapter of the history of the Joker, take a look. 


The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime:


3.5 out of 5 Batarangs


Reviewed by Chris Karnes

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