Well this one doesn’t need much of an introduction. Debuting in 1940’s Batman #1, The Joker has stood the test of time and then some as he continues to be one of the most beloved characters in the DC universe. More than that he’s one of the most famous and recognisable villains in the history of fiction. So here he gets his own Kinker Korner list courtesy of a request from my boy Ryan Porter. If you have any requests then hit me up as usual….Oh and I did a list of the best Batman stories which is in the archive here so any Joker stories on that list are excluded from here.
32.Lovers And Madmen-2007-2008
Starting with something of a controversial pick from the pages of Batman Confidential. Lovers And Madmen was another retelling of The Joker’s origin which without even reading it got people backs up because many people hold The Killing Joke to such a high standard that it’s considered the official origin…..or at least the story he wants us to think. While nowhere near the quality of Alan Moore’s classic it’s still an interesting story with some great moments such as Joker blowing up a blimp that sends poisonous shards of glass hurtling towards the people in Gotham bellow. Gritty and merciless.
This is the story in which Paul Dini brought his Batman/Zatanna childhood connection from his lauded episodes in Batman The Animated Series into main comic continuity. A popular magician named Ivan Loxias is coming under fire after his assistants are dying from tricks gone wrong. It’s later revealed that Loxias is in fact The Joker. It’s a great 2 part story and as with most of Dini’s run it featured a beautiful cover from Simone Bianchi.
30.The Joker’s Utility Belt-1952
A lot of people seem to think that the success of the 1966 television series was what turned Batman from a gritty detective comic to a campy, over the top crazy adventure series. Not true as it really didn’t take long for that to happen and although some of it is fun to look back on….most of it is pretty hard to stomach. This is one example of when t he craziness paid off. The Joker is jealous of Batman’s belt so decides to make his own and we get to see all the fun inventions he added to it.
29.Death In The Family-2013
Scott Snyder’s run on Batman will go down in history as one of the most beloved, especially in modern times. Put it this way, in this day and age where everyone hates everything it’s very difficult to find a large number of people in agreement that a currently ongoing run is great. That was the case for Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run though and after their first arc “The Court Of Owls” this one is up there as their best work. The Joker had been away from the comics for a year at this point and had removed the skin from his face before he left….long story. This picks up with Jokey picking up his discarded face from the police station and murdering a bunch of cops, he then proceeds to hit Batman where it hurts most, his extended family. Snyder is a horror writer at heart and he’s clearly at his best when he’s delivering tense and terrifying tales. It would be higher if not for the anti climactic ending which was derided for it’s weak payoff.
World’s finest sees an odd team up with Lex Luthor and The Joker coming together to take on Batman and Superman in one of the prettiest prestige comics you’re likely to see. The art from Steve Rude is frankly stunning and his visual storytelling is exquisite with every set piece dazzling and jumping from the page. As usual with A Lex story there’s real estate involved with him trying to buy an orphanage in Gotham and striking deals with The Joker. There’s a cultural exchange as Lex and Joker swap cities with the respective nemesis following their every move. Fun stuff.
27.Batman/Dark Joker:The Wild-2000
An Elseworlds tale in which Batman is a half man half beast with wings. He is the son of two sorcerers murdered by The Dark Joker who has taken over the wild. Written by Doug Moench and drawn by Kelley Jone (who was not on his A game) who often collaborated and it’s a really interesting alternative universe story with The Joker at his strongest.
26.The Great Calyface-Joker Feud-1963
The second Clayface Matt Hagen morphs his appearance to that of The Joker which our man doesn’t take too kindly to. He then challenges Hagen to sort of competition to see who is the best supercriminal and uses disguises to outsmart Batman, thus proving he’s bettter at changing than Clayface. It’s all silly, goofy fun from the legendary creative team of Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.
Anyone who follows my lists will no doubt have seen my admiration for Sam Kieth’s work, particularly as an artist but when he’s on top form he can write a hell of a story too. I remember this not being well received at the time and I guess I can understand that as the setup is a little ridiculous. Joker is let out of prison for good behaviour (sigh it’s getting like Sideshow Bob now) and hits the talk shows to promote his new book. We learn about Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Mooley who is now a respected journalist and a secret that Bruce has been keeping since he was a child. Kieth’s usual expressive and unique art is the star of the show and the satire of modern media holds up better than ever.
Joker tricks Mr Mxyptlk into giving him his reality altering powers and proceeds to go nuts on the world. It’s a look into the villains mind as the world becomes his vision. It’s not without it’s issues as the pacing is a bit odd but overall it’s a hell of a lot of fun that ran through the Superman titles in 2000. Joker’s Aquaman is particular highlight for giggles. Oh and of course there’s the famous scene where he eats the whole of China….so there’s that.
23.Only Angels Have Wings-1982
A fun tale from The Brave And The Bold in which The Penguin is seemingly murdered on live tv by The Joker despite his genuine protests. In an incredible twist Batman teams up with his arch-nemesis to find the real killer. All kinds of twists and shenanigans then occur in this caper from the early 80s.
22.The Great Pretender-1994
A bizarre story in which Joker is double crossed by his henchmen and comes into contact with a serum that takes us into his mind (again). In there we see that he is an ordinary man with a wife and a dull job so he does what he feels is necessary with this new life…..he kills his wife instantly and paints himself up. It just shows that this is what he’s meant to be and he makes sure of that. A very interesting concept from writer James Robinson with great art that reminds me of The Crow at times from Christian Alamy.
21.The Sign Of The Joker-1978
Set directly after the famous Laughing Fish story (more on that later) Joker is still on the rampage and threatening to kill bureaucrats if he isn’t granted a copyright for his signature fish. Reading that back….that’s a mental sentence. Part of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers legendary run on the title, this is a great story that really set the tone for the time as the character was starting to go into the darker realms it’s known for today.
20.Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker-1980
The brilliant Len Wein writes this fun issue where The Joker celebrates his birthday by going on a Joker spree….bad news for the people of Gotham City. He rounds up members of the bat family and ties them to the victim-go-round which is awesome in an of itself and it’s up to Batman to figure out a way to save the day. Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano handle the art and as always they are excellent.
19.The Joker/The Joker Returns-1940
Well here it is, the first ever appearance of one of the most enduring and popular villains of all time. In all honesty you’ll struggle to find a better golden age debut from any villain, it’s great. It’s fitting that when Batman got his own series after starring in a few issues of Detective Comics his first issue would pit him against a character that would end up being a character so popular he’s still his greatest nemesis nearly 80 years later.
In 2001 The Joker got his own crossover in which he discovers he has a brain tumor and accepting his fate, decides to go out with a bang. While incarcerated he manages to create a Joker toxin and poisons the other inmates, creating an army of Jokers. All hell breaks loose as the rampant Joker minions cause havoc and president Lex Luthor declares war on them. Crazy stuff.
17.The Joker’s Wild-1991-1992
Chuck Dixon, the master of the extended bat-family writes this story in which the new Robin (Tim Drake) meets The Joker for the first time. The Joker had killed previous Robin (Jason Todd) not too long before this and so is shocked to see a new kid donning the outfit and as Batman is out of town Tim faces his biggest test by taking on the villain by himself. Tom Lyle’s action set pieces are excellent and very cinematic.
16.Do You Understand These Rights?-2008
No doubt cashing in on the spectacular prison scene in The Dark Knight which hit cinemas in the same year, here we see a story from early in Batman’s career when he first had The Joker arrested. Being placed with the other criminals obviously causes things to go terribly wrong and chaos ensues.Andrew Kreisberg, known for his work in Hollywood on shows such as The Flash and Arrow wrote this with the talented Scott Mcdaniel providing the pencil work.
Well that’s part one done and the finale won’t be too far behind. Let me know your thoughts folks and as always send your requests to @swing_kinker or if you just want to have a blether about my lists. It’s always fun to discuss these things. Take care and see you soon.