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The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told!

Every day in May we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told!


10. Batman #663 “The Clown at Midnight”

Grant Morrison further develops his thoughts on Joker’s insanity in this one-off revamp of the character. John Van Fleet did the art for this issue which is a text story with illustrations by Van Fleet.

9. The Man Who Laughs

This is Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke’s engaging remake of the Joker’s first appearance.

8. Batman #426-429 “A Death in the Family”

The Joker kills Jason Todd. Written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Jim Aparo.

7. Dark Knight Returns #3

The Joker gets one final bit of revenge on his old foe. Written and drawn by Frank Miller.

6. Arkham Asylum

This is the story where Morrison originates his interesting take on Joker’s insanity. Art by Dave McKean.

5. Batman #1 – Joker’s first appearance

The Joker’s first appearance. Written and drawn by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson.

4. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #65-68 “Going Sane”

JM DeMatteis and Joe Staton show us what would happen if the Joker ever actually SUCCEEDED in killing Batman (or at least THINKS he’s succeeded).

3. Batman #251 ” The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!”

Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams return the Joker to his original homicidal nature.

2. Detective Comics #475-476 “The Laughing Fish/Sign of the Joker”

An intriuging Joker tale in the midst of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’ famous Detective Comics run.

1. The Killing Joke

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland explore the relationship between Batman and the Joker. Moore also provides what has become basically the accepted origin for the Joker. Joker cripples Barbara Gordon.

That’s the list! I’m sure there is a lot of agreement and disagreement with the list out there! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

And please vote for the lists that are still up for grabs here!


No big surprises, but it’s good to see Going Sane rank so high. Even though it has its flaws, it’s still a brilliant story.

Is #10 even a comic? I mean if we’re including that up there, then might as well make TDK eligible.

Words and pictures. Why should it not be considered a comic? Are you telling me just because it’s prose I should pull out my floppy out of its long box and put in on the shelve with the novels?


If you are OCD like that, then sure.

The Ugly American

May 10, 2010 at 4:02 pm

My preference is for the Joker stories in Batman issues #66 and #82.

No Joker OGN? WHAT?

I’m a big fan of Morrison’s take on Mistah J and his metamorphoses, but “The Clown at Midnight” is bad, bad writing and art, regardless of what you want to call the resulting product.

A pleasant surprise to see the Joker’s Five Way Revenge so enjoyed, but these are all good choices.

In my opinion the only rival to Clown at Midnight for best Joker story in the last handful of years was the Dini Detective issue where he had Robin in a stolen car. I’d be surprised, given how recent it is, if it didn’t crack the top 20.

I also quite liked Endgame from the end of NML, without enjoying it one little bit.

gotta say i’m surprised mad love didn’t make it… had i remembered to vote, it would have been my third choice, behind killing joke and going sane. do people not think of it as a joker story? is it somehow ineligible because it’s not in DCU continuity, but rather in animated series continuity? DC just released a new hardcover reprinting mad love and a bunch of other dini/timm goodies, which i highly recommend checking out.

gotta say i’m surprised mad love didn’t make it… had i remembered to vote, it would have been my third choice, behind killing joke and going sane. do people not think of it as a joker story? is it somehow ineligible because it’s not in DCU continuity, but rather in animated series continuity? DC just released a new hardcover reprinting mad love and a bunch of other dini/timm goodies, which i highly recommend checking out.

Yeah, I was surprised by that, as well. It made BATMAN’S Top 10, but not the JOKER’S?


Heck, it wasn’t even in the Top 15, I don’t believe.

@Nawid: It was published as an issue of Batman, as a part of a larger run. It’s weird and I’m not entirely sure myself whether it should be counted as a comic per se, but I don’t think it should be disqualified just because Morrison decided to experiment.

Words and pictures. Why should it not be considered a comic?

Because it’s an illustrated prose story. The pictures aren’t used to tell the story, so technically I wouldn’t call it a comic. That said it was an issue of Batman so I would allow it here.

I’m sad to see Secrets not here. It was one of the best Batman stories in years and never seems to get the love from anyone other than me. Instead we get mediocre stuff like A Death in the Family.

Hell Yeahs.Im glad to see the clown at midnight on here,even though its barely a comic and the prose could be a bit mangled at times.But overall i think it was the perfect exploration of all the jokers “phases”.

….plus he refrenced strippers as nothing but fretwork and scafolding,which was pretty awesome.

Damn – That Anonymous was me

I would have liked to have seen Dixon and Nolan’s Devil’s Advocate. I loved some of the ideas about The Joker, such as how he avoided the death penalty through his insanity defense all these years.

Death in the Family?


When it came out it was widely panned as schlock… and rightly so.

I’m surprised that Soft Targets didn’t make the list.

That title at the top of my computer says Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told! So I don’t see where anybody has to even justify “The Clown at Midnights” comicdom. Feel free though.

Brian, just wanted to say that I always love these kinds of events that you run and appreciate the hard work. Even though I’ve read a ton of comics, I don’t feel qualified to vote on these because I haven’t read everything (although I did read 7 of the 10 above… maybe I should start.)

I hope you consider doing this past May! These “voting” polls are always my favorite things on the site. Thanks again!

The Man Who Laughs really didnt impress me…wonder how much it will stand the test of time

I’m not sure about this list…I think SOFT TARGETS from GOTHAM CENTRAL is missing, along with the aforementioned Mad Love, and the joker ogn and devils advocate would come before many other books on the list


May 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

Brian, one thing that would very helpful for these lists would be to note if some of these storylines have ever been collected into trades. For example, does anyone know if the “Going Sane” or “Laughing Fish” stories have ever been collected in trades?

“The Laughing Fish” is included in Strange Apparitions, and “Going Sane” has its own trade.

[…] got a pic there too! Can’t wait to see more from this one! We can always look at The Geatest Joker Stories Ever Told in the meantime though. Did they leave any off the list? I know the Joker’s first appearance […]

I’ve read a lot of the older Joker stories in the DC Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told bookshelf, so I’d recommend that for anyone who hasn’t seen the older stuff on the list (Batman #1, Laughing Fish, and Five-Way Revenge are there).

On Mad Love, I voted it for the Batman list but left it off the Joker list because it really centers on the conflict between Harley and Batman and gives us a reason as to why Harley hates Batman (he’s in the way of her and the Joker settling down). Much like Killing Joke, I don’t see it solely as an origin story for Harley because even though it has her origin in it, there is far more to it than that (the origin sequence is maybe six pages out of a 64 page story, and it is not her first appearance). The Joker is really a secondary character in it (there at the start, there at the end, all but gone for the middle), so that’s why I left it off this list. As a Batman story, it works because it furthers a relationship between Batman and one of his rogues while showing Batman as beatable. As a pure Joker story, not so much…

The Man Who Laughs and Arkham Asylum…eh. Arkham doesn’t strike me as a Joker story at all; it sort of features all of the inmates, and it doesn’t strike me as just his story (anymore than “The Long Halloween” would, for example). On some level, I liked the Man Who Laughs, but I don’t think it’ll stand the test of time.

The problem I had is that there are maybe 5 great Joker stories and a lot of ok stuff in-between (oddly, the top 5 here). You could have swapped, say, Robin 2, Duty or LOTDK #50 for Death in the Family or Man Who Laughs and I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye at it.

BTW, where did Emperor Joker and The Last Laugh place? Just curious…maybe we could do a “worse Joker stories ever told”?

patrick mccreanor

May 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Im with matthewaos. Where’sthe Joker OGN? Way better than most of whats up there. Great work though, Mr. Cronin, with all these Greatest Stories Ever lists.
Much Appreciated.
Good job!!

not surprised to see arkham asylum , the dark knight returns and death in the family on the list . for those show the joker when he is really insane and pycho. the killing joke figured it would be on the list mostly because it shows how totaly pycho and far the joker will go .

[…] from a few weeks ago: reader picks for the greatest Batman and Joker stories ever told are up at Comic Book Resources. (Batman: Year One is right where it ought to be, […]

Seeing The Joker at Midnight on this list made me regret not being on the site enough lately to have voted. I thought that it was absolutely terrible, to the point that reading it felt more like a chore than a leisure activity. I agree with the above posters that suggested Mad Love instead.

Meant to say “The Clown at Midnight.” Oops.

[…] The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told! (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

I know Morrison Zombies will like everything he does,but “The Clown at Midnight” was terrible.I actually felt embarrassed for GM and the artist after reading that issue.No way it belongs on this list!

Including Brubaker on the list instantly flushes any credability. Morrison’s Arkham, okay, but the recent Grant Morrison? I smell a DC shill.

randypan the goat boy

May 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Going sane…number 4..really? Why not that issue of batman where the Joker had all of his enemies stacked up on a birthday cake[ they were the candles…and i think they were strapped to rockets] Not to mention that the largest arena in Gotham was filled to capacity for free samples from the harlequin bakery. I honestly dont believe the people of Gotham were that stupid …i think they seen that it was the harlequin bakery and knew that the Joker was going to be pulling some wild ass charlie Sheen shit. just my opinion though

was wondering where the killing joke would rank for it showed how insane and nasty the joker truely is. the death in the family surprised it did not rank higher

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