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Drawing Crazy Patterns – Joker Falls “to his Death”

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics).

After the Joker’s seeming death in Batman #40, we will take a look at five times in early Batman comics where the Joker supposedly fell to his death.


The Joker recently seemingly was killed in Batman #40…


This reminds me of a remarkable stretch of stories in the early history of Batman.

As you might already know, Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson planned on killing off the Joker in his second appearance in Batman #1. Editor Whitney Ellsworth “saved” the Joker’s life by adding a bit where an EMT remarks that the Joker somehow survived his seemingly fatal knife wound. Thus began a remarkable string of comic appearances where the Joker would show up, fight Batman and Robin and then seemingly plummet to his death at the end of the comic, only to show up the next time around.

It begins with Detective Comics #45…

Then it goes into the pages of Batman, where it gets really weird.

First, Batman #4…

Next, Batman #5 opens with a funny panel:

“Well, I’ll be damned. He actually DID die.”

But, of course, he did not. But at the end of the issue, does he die?!

Nope, as he returns in Batman #7….

I love how Batman is even starting to think, “Eh, whatever, dead…not dead…who cares?”

Things take a turn with the following issue as Joker is ARRESTED instead of killed! This leads to a string of arrests for Joker rather than “deaths,” which is why, I suppose, Batman is so willing to believe that this next death in #12 is for real…

Silly Batman.

Oddly enough, when the Joker shows up the next issue, Batman doesn’t even acknowledge his “death” the previous issue…


This then leads to the Joker going back to being just arrested, which continued for many, many years.

If you have a suggestion for a future Drawing Crazy Patterns installment, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com


Nitzan Rotschild

July 14, 2011 at 3:52 am

Really, Batman? “Come to poppa”?

William Hodge

July 14, 2011 at 3:59 am

They were pretty casual about the deaths.

Nitzan, I take it you haven’t seen the panel where Batman says “papa spank!” :)

I knew you’d have a lot to choose from when I saw the title of this post, but I’m still surprised you were able to get up to 5 by Batman #12. They sure stuck to an idea they liked back then.

To be fair William Hodge, it’s not that they were casual about death – at this point – The Bat-Man who carried a gun and had machine guns on the Batplane was more casual perhaps.

But rather the fall, crash, etc to your death – but oh no – not really, event was part of the readers fictional expectations. If you have seen any of the Saturday Movie Serials made at this time you’d see that kind of impossible/implausible escape from death happens all the time – in other words unless the comic shows the dead body with someone saying “he’s dead Jim” over the dead body, it’s not certain. And even when there is a corpse it’s still not certain.

I guess the closest modern-ish version is the way in which no one was ever shot on the A-Team TV series.

Back in the 60’s Marvel’s villains constantly seemed to die especially Dr. Doom. However, they were very good about explaining how they managed to survive when they showed back up. These days, they don’t even bother. If anyone dares ask about continuity they get called a whiny fanboy.

Yep time to pick up some more Batman Chronicles.

To me, this just makes the Joker look clumsy.

The lighthouse scene reminds me of the CSI: NY finale from last year.

Matthew Johnson

July 14, 2011 at 7:28 am

I’m amused that in #5 Robin seems to quite consciously and deliberately try to kill the Joker: in the second panel he intentionally puts himself into a position where he can only flip the Joker over his head and off the railing, presumably down to this death. That’s one bloodthirsty little kid!

The Joker is secretly Wolverine under the white makeup, that’s why he’s able to keep coming back from those massive falls. He’s the best he is at what he does, and what he does is terribly funny.

I would think that after the 2nd fall, Batman and Robin would at least try to see if they can locate the body. They just seem like they stared down and said “oh well, he must be dead” and called it a day. I know that Jack Nicholson’s Joker died by falling in Batman, but I forgot what happened to Heath Ledger’s, although I do know his Joker fell also. Maybe the Joker should stop wearing those big clown shoes?

I love how bored Robin is due to the lack of criminal activity following the Joker’s death. That’s, like, mission accomplished, isn’t it? No crime, the citizens of Gotham safe? :)

Mental note: When trying to kill the Joker, make sure there aren’t any bodies of water for his ‘corpse’ to disappear into….

Heath Ledger’s Joker was left tied up, hanging upside down with a coat full of knives. How could he NOT get away? But if he comes back, I think he’ll be looking REALLY different.

And Lordy, I didn’t realize the Joker seemingly dying was from way back! I wonder how many times the Joker has seemingly died vs. captured/Arkhamed.

I’m amused that in #5 Robin seems to quite consciously and deliberately try to kill the Joker: in the second panel he intentionally puts himself into a position where he can only flip the Joker over his head and off the railing, presumably down to this death. That’s one bloodthirsty little kid!

He killed people even in his first appearance, knocking them down to fall to their deaths. Batman seeemed quite amused by it all. It’s kind of funny that later on when it was implied that Jason Todd knocked someone down to their death in the 80s it was a big problem for Batman.

I’d love if they kept that characterization for Dick Grayson: callous, bloodthirsty kid, but with the happy-go-lucky aw-shucks attitude!

Wow, that computer re-coloring is hideous. Especially that first panel with Robin, but really all of it.

I knew there’d be tons of stories to fit this pattern, but, dang, five in the first year the Joker was around? That’s insane. Absurd, even.

When you factor in how many times he’s fallen “to his death” since these, and that, when they finally got around to giving him an origin, it involved him falling “to his death” in a vat of chemicals, you’ve really got to wonder if the writers are just playing a huge joke on us, seeing how many times they can get away with this. Either that, or the Joker has a bizarre fetish that makes you wonder if he secretly commits crimes to get enough money for his bungee jumping/skydiving fixation.

I knew there’d be tons of stories to fit this pattern, but, dang, five in the first year the Joker was around? That’s insane. Absurd, even.

To be fair, Batman was a quarterly for its first four issues and then a bi-monthly book after that, so it was a little over two years between Joker’s first appearance in Batman #1 and his fifth “death” in Batman #12.

once or twice it is an accedent after that the guy is just clumsey . truthfull conisidering the first time he fell to his death was when he was the red hood and he landed in the chemical vat bleaching his skin I think he need to talk ot a docter about an inner ear infection

Googam son of Goom

July 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Getting socked in the jaw by the Batman and plunging to your apparent death doesn’t make you clumsy. Batman just has a wicked right hook.

Even today, killing the Joker seems to be rather a difficult proposition. Just off the top of my head, there was the end of “A Death in the Family,” where he took machine-gun fire to the chest at virtually point-blank range, after which he fell out of a helicopter to the water below; and the “Gotham Central” arc where he went on a shooting spree in the squadroom at GCPD headquarters before being shot multiple times in the back by Maggie Sawyer (which, by the way is exactly how cops are trained to shoot: Aim for center mass and empty the clip); and of course he most recently got SHOT BETWEEN THE EYES.

I like the idea that when the Joker is “dead”, all Batman and Robin do is sit around and yawn and talk about the Joker.

This also happened in the animated series episode, “The Laughing Fish”.

This even happened recently, in this week’s Batman #17.

Carr D'Angelo/Earth-2 Comics

March 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

Joker also falls into the ocean in the original comic book version of The Laughing Fish. Years later, Steve Engelhart wrote a follow up which showed the Joker bedeviling Aquaman in Atlantis. So at least we know where he ends up after all those falls in the water.

Oh yeah, that’s what I look for in a mansion: it should have “sewage waters running beneath” it. Preferably with a vertical shaft pre-installed in the living room so I won’t have to dig my own. Aw, sweet poop fumes, too good to be wasted on the poor!

From now on, I’m declaring that any story I read in which Joker isn’t wearing a huge Elizabethan neck ruff is NON-CANON. And yeah, I’m calling him “Joker” from now on because I think letting him have a definite article when refusing to say “the Batman” is a double standard.

If that get-up Dick is wearing at the end of Issue #5 was considered acceptable street togs for a kid, then no wonder his Robin outfit wasn’t outlandish. Those pants!

So when Snyder brings the joker back his face should’ve just healed itself. Right?

Wasn’t the Joker killed via the electric chair in Detective Comics 64? I think that’s the issue. He’s revived following his execution and is free to cause havoc since he paid for his crime.

capt usa (jim)

July 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

If anyone watched MacGyver, there is a virtual clone of this. Murdoch dies at the end of nearly every episode he is in, and many of those he fell to his death screaming “MacGyver!!!!!!” on the way down. (at least two that I can recall I should say, one he fell off a mountain ledge, and another into a mine shaft, but I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple more)

I did not expect a spoiler from a modern Batman comic at the top of this article.

I’m confused. Why is there a date of 2011 on this article if it’s now on front page? Is this a revisit of old article prompted by the Batman #40?

interesting to see that the joker was in his early days becoming almost the kenny of the dc universe. given how batman has every chance to make any new death of the joker last for good.plus the fact that bruce and dick seem to be way back when oh did the joker die or not who cares.

The Joker Fer Realsies

July 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm

It’s an Inner Ear Problem I have. Stop making fun of me. I can’t help the way I was born, ok!

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