Here we go then, part 2, the best of the best. Thanks again to Ryan Porter for the suggestion, this has been a tough one as there’s been so many great Joker stories. Also keep in mind as said in part 1, anything that made my Batman list isn’t eligible for this so if your favourite is missing then check out that list and see if it’s there. Ok let’s do this.
15.Laughter After Midnight-1994
The Batman Adventures series was a great extension of the animated series and the first annual had a cool bunch of short stories, the best of which was this one. Paul Dini always had a great grip on The Joker and here we see him recovering from a beating and trying to think of the most creative hi-jinks he can get up to. Seeing him catch a glimpse of himself and his beat up face and burst into hysterical laughter, waking up the residents is fun stuff.
Any time Alex Ross is drawing a comic it’s an event and such was the case when he collaborated with popular writer Paul Dini. Any regular readers of Kinker Korner will know that Ross is pretty hit and miss with me. His work is stunning but not the most expressive or fluid in terms of storytelling at times. Here in this short story it’s an absolute star and basically a showcase of his incredible page layouts and when he’s got a model like The Joker to work with it’s a thing of beauty. After another admission to Arkham Asylum, psychiatrists are unsure if he actually is ill or just committing sane crimes under the guise of insanity.
13.The Riddle Of The Missing Card-1940
From the very early days of Bill Finger writing and creator Bob Kane drawing and this particular issue features one of the first appearances of the batmobile as we would recognise it today. The first couple of years of Batman were excellent with noir stories that reflected the cinematic themes of the time. The Joker meets a gang of crooks themed on different playing cards and understandably craziness ensues.
12.The Joker’s Tale-2000
A tense psycho thriller in which Oracle interrogates The Joker. Pretty much the whole issue is set within a cell so the writing from Chuck Dixon had be tight, fortunately it was. The art from a debuting Butch Guice helped the storytelling with incredibly expressive and action filled work that helps keep the story from being too stationary.
11.Return Of The Joker-1990
There’s an imposter Joker committing crimes in his name while the real Joker stews in his hideout recovering from the events of Death In The Family in which he nearly died after killing Jason Todd. To feel inspired, he dons his old Red Hood moniker to commit crimes. It’s a bizarre but fun story in which you almost feel sorry for a down and out Joker….who had just killed a child not long ago. Great storytelling from Marv Wolfman with art from the great Jim Aparo.
After the incredible success of Harley Quinn in Batman The Animated Series and the immense popularity of the character DC decided to bring them into the comic book world. Firstly they adapted and expanded upon one of the most popular episodes, Mad Love and then after the further success of that she was added to the DC continuity. Mad love is written by Paul Dini and drawn by Bruce Timm who created Harley for the cartoon and Timm’s distinctive style fits brilliantly onto the page. It’s an origin story that manages to be both tragic and hilarious with her descent from talented doctor to falling head over heels for her subject….The Joker.
9.The Joker Is Wild-1983
Interesting fact….this is Jason Todd’s first appearance as Robin……no? I thought it was interesting anyway. This was when he was just a Dick Grayson clone before the reboot made him a streetwise punk kid. Batman and Robin fight The Joker on top of a giant temple in Guatemala and there’s an appearance from the Joker-copter. If that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.
The story received mixed reviews when it came out but Lee Bermejo’s ridiculously stunning art was universally lauded for it’s grimy and gritty style that looks like brush strokes that have been dragged through hell. It’s Brian Azzarello and it’s a gangster story so you know what you’re getting….it’s up to you whether you like that or not. I sound like I’m down on this but obviously with such a high placing I’m very fond of it but at times Azzarello’s work can be frustrating in it’s similarity. This plays out like a depraved and incredibly violent underground gangster tale with Killer Croc as The Joker’s muscle, Harley Quinn as a stripper and The Riddler is a disabled weapon dealer so it’s out of continuity. If you have a set view of what The Joker is then set it aside because this is a unique take and is hyper violent with people being skinned alive and other depraved acts. Despite what seems like a negative review it’s incredibly entertaining stuff with amazing art.
7.The Laughing Fish-1976
Pat of the wonderful run by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers that really helped bring the noir element back to Batman and Detective Comics (along with Denny O’ Neil and Neal Adams) after decades of….well…..crap really. When O’ Neill brought The Joker back he returned him to the psychotic criminal he was when he was first introduced….more on that later. Here we have a premise that really could have been as campy as the 50s stories but somehow they managed to make it sinister and disturbing. The Joker’s poisonous fish killing those who ate it and leaving their corpses with a rictus grin went from silly to intense in the blink of an eye. It was developed into one of the more popular episodes of the animated series.
Jeez Paul Dini is hitting the top half of the list a lot more than I thought he would. I love these one shot stories, especially these days where everything is part of a thousand series crossover that you need to read every comic the company are releasing just to figure out what the hell is going on. Sometimes it’s great just to pick up a one and done comic and this one is absolutely brilliant. Joker kidnaps Robin and goes on a crazy murder spree in his car…lovely festive fun.
5.Batman And Robin Must Die-2009
Part of Grant Morrison’s epic run on Batman in which Bruce Wayne was presumed dead and to keep face Dick Grayson took the mantle of Batman and Bruce’s son Damian became the new Robin. It was more fun and less heavy than most of his run and it was all the better for it as it was such a blast to read and you didn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of the DC universe to enjoy it. Here we see The Joker locked in a police interrogation room with Damian Wayne (there’s a theme here) and Robin is not in the mood for laughs……and he has a crowbar. Really interesting art from Frazer Irving too.
Part of a series of crossovers with 2000AD poster boy Judge Dredd, all of which were pretty great and written by Scottish super team Alan Grant and John Wagner It’s complimented wonderfully by the painted art of Glen Fabry who did covers for the likes of Preacher and Hellblazer. I’m a huge Dredd fan and obviously a Batman fan too so I just loved these crossovers and with Grant and Wagner being two of my favourite writers it’s a home run all round. The Joker frees Judge Death and the other dark judges from his containment crystals and and all hell breaks loose.
Gotham Central was an absolute masterful series written by two of the greatest writers of our generation Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. One of the best arcs was Soft Targets in which the Joker decides the best way to celebrate Christmas is to start shooting random people with a sniper rifle. The great thing about the series was that Batman was rarely involved and it really focused on the lives of the Gotham City Police Dept so when Joker starts taking out cops it has real meaning as we’ve built relationships with them. There is a timer being broadcast until the next sniper shot so it’s a game of cat and mouse that’s incredibly taut and heart pounding to read. Michael Lark’s depiction of the character is terrifying in his calmness and neat, retro appearance.
2.The Joker’s Five Way Revenge-1973
Perhaps the most important Joker story of all time as after a long spell out of the comics Denny O’ Neil and Neal Adams brought him back and took him away from all the silliness, making him the menacing psycho he was always meant to be. The art from Adams and Dick Giordano is simply ridiculous and iconic, I actually have a poster of the incredible cover. From the opening page to the last it’s some of Adams best work. The Joker is out for revenge (obviously) against his former gang who sold him out and got him taken to the mental health hospital. Long gone are the days of giant telephones and water squirting flowers in favour of maniacal violence. An iconic landmark issue for the character.
1.The Man Who Laughs-2005
Well I said earlier that Ed Brubaker is one of my favourite writers ever in any form so it’s fitting that he tops the list with this brilliant re imagining of The Joker’s first appearance from 1940.Lovely art from Doug Mahnke helps the story along and it’s one of the most enjoyable reads that I can’t believe I hadn’t read when I did my Batman list….this would definitely have been high on it if I had. There’s been a lot of re-tellings of classic Batman stories but where many of them feel like fun gimmicks, Brubaker makes this his own with love and care given to the original without pandering too much. It’s an incredible piece of writing that deserves it’s place at the peak of the list.
Well what a giggle that was eh? Enough clowning around now (I’ll stop now) it’s the end of another Kinker Korner and time to move onto another one. As always give me a shout if you want any lists done @swing_kinker and let me know what you think of this one. Byeeee x