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You Decide: What Was the Best Done-in-One Joker-Centric Story?

When we decided to do a poll on Joker-centric stories, we figured it would be better to avoid one-shots because we knew that the Killing Joke would likely dominate. Once we got the multi-issue vote out of the way, though, we thought, “What the heck, let’s see what people think about the done-in-ones as well!”

Click here to vote.

Read on for a more detailed list of the nominees (as once again, there’s not a lot of room in the poll for information)!

“Arkham Asylum” OGN
“Batman: Hunt the Dark Knight”
“The Batman Adventures: Mad Love”
“The Clown at Midnight” (Batman #663)
“Death Has the Last Laugh” (Brave and the Bold #111)
“Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker… !” (Batman #321)
“The Great Clayface-Joker Feud” (Batman #159)
“Joker” OGN
“Joker: Devil’s Advocate” OGN
“The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (Batman #251)
“The Joker’s First Appearance” (Batman #1)
“The Joker’s Utility Belt!” (Batman #73)
“The Killing Joke” OGN
“The Man Behind the Red Hood” (Detective Comics #168)
“The Man Who Laughs” OGN


Click *where* to vote?

My vote goes to Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk. Any votes for “Emperor Joker” in the other poll should go to Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk as well.

Whoops, sorry, Chris. The link is fixed!

Ha! I just figured the link was near-invisible like they’ve been ever since the latest redesign, but I guess this time it really isn’t there.

I’m surprised the Slayride issue of Detective comics by Paul Dini isn’t in there. Also, I hope the comments don’t turn into a middle finger waving, opinion slamming jerk contest like last time.

Yeah, my immediate thought was that Slayride would make it a tough decision.

It has to be The Killing Joke for me. (Spoilers for The Killing Joke below.)

It’s hard to say why. The art is wonderful, of course. The idea of a backstory for the Joker isn’t a very interesting place (who cares?) but it’s handled wonderfully, then thrown aside at the end with the “multiple choice” line in a move that had to influence the excellent multiple-backstoried Joker of The Dark Knight.

Maybe because it was one of the first Batman comics I ever read, and it stuck with me.

Maybe because the idea of a Joker lookalike hiding out in Arkham was an interpretation of the classic “Joker escapes from Arkham” that sidestepped the awkward parts of the idea (how the F does he keep doing that?) and gets right to the menace – he’s on the loose, and god only knows how long.

The shooting of Barbara Gordon is horrifying, brutal, and perverse, but exactly the sort of brutality the Joker casually inflicts on others. Again, this note is perfectly hit. There’s a reason this became such a defining moment for the Batman franchise.

But, of course, I’ve been dancing around the real reason. You’ve thought of it too. That final scene, in the right, with the lights of the cop cars approaching, Batman catches the Joker and they have a brief, impossible heart-to-heart. For just one moment, the implacable foe shares a laugh our hero, and we see a glimpse of the madness in the heart of our protagonist. Two madmen, one trying to stop the other, endlessly succeeding and endlessly failing. There’s a reason I like it when writers imply that Batman is almost as crazy as the villains he faces (like when Morrison has Jezebel Jet try to talk Bruce into seeing his mission as the war of a poor, lost boy against a world he can’t possibly change) and it’s because here the seeds were planted.

That finale sticks with me. Two men who hate each other, who have hurt each other, briefly having a moment of humanity. Nothing has changed, this is no story of redemption or corruption, but through all the stress, adrenaline and madness, they find themselves sharing a moment. We all have these moments, all the time. In the real world, we just call it “life”. When it happens in a Batman comic, I don’t think it’s out-of-character or improbable, I think it’s realistic and touching.

Plus, you know that Batman is about to beat the living hell out of the guy when the book is over.

I know Alan Moore has made comments that are critical of this book, but screw it, I enjoy it anyways. There are plenty of great Joker stories, but this one deserves a place at the top.

Anyone who doesn’t vote for Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker needs an education about the Joker.

It’s a delightful (18-page!) story where the Joker twists a concept on its ear, turns it into a gruesome horrorshow, and still gets laughs all the way through. It’s got tons of classic Joker gags: the “Bang! You’re Dead” gun gag, the most iconic “is he dead?” ending (that actually stuck for OVER A YEAR in real-time!), the brilliant, twisted wordplay (“You’re out of your MIND, Joker,” Robin sneers, but Joker just smiles. “GLORIOUSLY so! Isn’t it WONDERFUL?”)

You get more characterization for the Joker in this one story than in 5 overly-drawn out massive cross-overs where he’s supposed to be the villain.

Plus, the art by Simonson is a delight.

It’s fun, funny, and is just a great match-up of two brilliant forces of nature in a classic story that should forever be remembered by all. It made the Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told collections for all of these reasons and more!

This is a ridiculously good done-in-one Batman/Joker story which nobody seems to have read.

Slayride is a good one.

I wonder if “Batman:Hunt the Dark Knight” isn’t getting many votes because people don’t realize it’s Dark Knight Returns #3? It took me a few seconds to realize what story that was based on the title alone. Then the ol’ fly zapper buzzed back to life and I remembered. I think I’d probably go for that one, just because of the gruesome nature of the final scenes. Plus, David Endochrine!

Yeah, I like Killing Joke, but I think there are too many problems with it, particularly the end.

I like how in the Oracle Year One story (in Batman Chronicles 5, iirc), Babs confronts Batman about that when he visits her in the hospital. “I hear you were laughing with the man who put me here. WTF?” And of course, social misfit Batman has no answer to that (since there IS no good answer to that), so he just disappears. Dick.

The correct answer is “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” by the master of comics, Denny O’Neil. Not only is it an excellent issue where Joker recognizes the depth of his rivalry with Batman, but it restored Joker to his status as maniacal killer, without removing the veneer of wicked mirth. One of the best single issue I’ve ever read.

LOVE “Mad Love”, although it’s more Harley-centric than Joker-centric.

It’s a shame “The Man Who Killed Batman” episode can’t be included, cus that’s a great Joker story.

You forgot that one about the Joker’s boner.

I honestly think it’s hard to argue that anything other than The Killing Joke is the greatest single Joker story of all time. All of the stories listed here are great, but The Killing Joke is a) just that good and b) just that influential. The only story that has an equal influence is The Joker’s Five Way Revenge and that story, while excellent, doesn’t quite get to the core of the Joker as much as The Killing Joke does.

That being said, I still voted for The Clown at Midnight.

Eric L. Sofer, the Bad Clown

February 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

Wasn’t “The Great Clayface-Joker Feud” actually in World’s Finest #159 instead of Batman?

penguintruth is correct. With the Moore idolizing here at the CBR it’s no surprize that the Killing Joke would win out though. Bolland does do an exceptional job and the effect it HAD on the DC universe was immence (am I the only one who believes that having Babs paralyzed and to a lesser extent Roy one-armed was a great way for DC to show the price,sacrifice,yada yada, of heroism?), but the end was just too out of character, especially after what Joker had done.

Wasn’t “The Great Clayface-Joker Feud” actually in World’s Finest #159 instead of Batman?


The Joker’s Five Way Revenge was robbed.

I really gave this some thought and almost went for “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge.” But I felt I had to go with The Killing Joke.

Even though I have more reservations about some parts of it than I do with 5-Way (nothing’s perfect), in the end it came out on top for me.

Another write-in for “Slayride”!

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