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The Joker meets the Creeper in the Crazy Laughing Outhouse Rat Nutcase Olympics – The Joker #3

March 25, 2012

Okay, who wants to bet which of these fruitcakes is the first to start cartwheeling around in a Daffy Duck WOOHOOWOOHOO conniption? And what’s the over/under going to be on how many pages before it happens?

Any time a villain is the star of the title, there’s a built-in interest factor. Instead of the hero foiling the baddie of the week, it’s the baddie getting foiled by the hero of the week. HEY, THAT”S DIFFERENT. There’s perhaps no more pronounced exemplar of this sub-genre than the Clown Prince of Crime’s short-lived (nine issues) 1970s series. The Joker is the comic book villain of comic book villains, so if there’s one to occupy the top of the marquee, it’s him. (Some might say that dubious villainus supremus honor belongs to Lex Luthor, but he doesn’t have green hair or red lips, now does he? “Sit down, baldie. And get some lipstick.”) And this series continued the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams updated interpretation of the character as a crazy killer, a trip back to scarier roots that made him more John Wayne Gacy and less Bozo.

There are no murders in this installment (Cover: Dick Giordano, Script: Denny O’Neil, Pencils, Ernie Chua (Chan), Inks: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez) , which has the Joker matching wits with Jack Ryder’s alter-ego loony. In fact it’s very silly, more worthy of the Joker capers of an earlier time. I’m not sure what to make of it. But hey, the two leads can compare green hair rinses in quieter moments. There is that.

The impetus for their meeting is, no surprise, a Joker crime-spree, stealing various goofy yet valuable objects. In the first he pilfers a yellow clown mask and does away with Armed and Dangerous rent-a-cop rejects using, naturally, laughing gas and oversized gavels:

POINT OF LAW.

In the second crime, the theft of an ancient joke book — Latin jokes, which one imagines must be real knee-slappers — it’s a scrap-yard magnet that does the trick. Apparently these Paul Blarts thought a nighttime detour through such a known crime hangout (construction sites and scrap-yards are the Wi-Fi hotspots of the underworld) would be a good idea:

The Creeper is on the case, though — he was blamed for the first crime because someone saw the yellow clown mask that a gas-obscured Joker was holding and thought the Creeper was behind everything — and they engage in asylumish banter and insane fisticuffs:

The Joker is presenting. YUCK.

Whenever I see the Joker fighting, my first instinct is to roll my eyes and think There is no way in hell that this skinny bitch could go toe to toe with anyone. Okay, maybe Arnold Stang. Then I think back to all the fights I had as a kid with my dumber peers, and how they were always the scariest people to tangle with. Too stupid to know any better. And that’s the case with the Joker. Here, just when he looks like the Creeper is about the give him the Ned Beatty Deliverance special, he turns the tide, garrotes the Creeper into unconsciousness (and amnesia) and wins the day — or night.

He makes the Creeper his slave and goes back to his goofy lair, where he relaxed by reading the most transparent Peanuts parody that the world has ever seen:

I wonder what the Cashews universe’s Snoopy-proxy is like. Would they make a pencil-sharpener in his image? The mind runs wild…

The Joker’s such a fan of the strip, he enlists the Creeper’s help in kidnapping Cashews artist Sandy Saturn, which is accomplished with little difficulty. Oh, and look, the Joker has a Batman punching bag! (You know what? OF COURSE he does.):

The odd Billy Batson cameo above begins activating the Creeper’s old memories, while the Joker unleashes Saturn’s dark side in some commission work — it turns out being kidnapped by Gotham’s worst criminal can be a bundle of joy:

And a deep, abiding friendship is born.

Then comes the final showdown between our two stars (one that’s interrupted when the Creeper turns back into Ryder and then back into the Creeper in a plot device that is far beneath Mr. O’Neil — let’s leave it at that.) The great Russian writer Anton Chekhov once said this: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” Applying this to comics, if your comic has a Batman punching bag, it must be used to KO the villain by the end of the issue. CHECK AND MATE:

And that’s it.

Both these guys are too crazy to care. Like boxers that charge at one another with no bobbing, no weaving, and start windmilling punches and don’t stop until one of them collapses either from a beating or exhaustion. And when the Creeper is the sane one in any equation, you have an overabundance of cuckoos on your hands. I suppose their mixture could make for good reading, but it doesn’t here. This plays like filler, and O’Neil, who’s great, could and can do much better. And the Creeper, in the right artistic hands, can make for striking visuals. Not so much in this instance.

That said, the secondary items that make this story worth the read. “Charlie Cashew.” Billy Batson, the nervous WHAM-TV newsreader. The Batman punching bag. These are the garage sale selections that can turn comics into an enjoyable experience even when the comic book proper is a bit of a bore.

This story was reprinted in the Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told collection released almost a quarter of a century(!) ago. I’m not sure how it made the cut. If it had been the Greatest Batman Punching Bag Stories Ever Told, well…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2012 11:07 am

    of all the things joker could have had the artist draw, it’s kicking a baby that he chooses. such a lofty dream for a “master criminal”.

    • March 28, 2012 4:08 pm

      It begs the question: Which Peanuts character would people most want to punt. I’d go with Peppermint Patty.

  2. April 2, 2012 11:49 pm

    The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told was nearly 25 years ago? You’re kidding. It seems only about 5 or 6 years back. Suddenly I feel very old.

    • April 4, 2012 8:46 pm

      I could remember seeing it on shelves when the post Dark Knight Returns/Tim Burton Batman fever was cresting, so yeah, it was a “time flies…” eye-opener for me too.

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