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CSBG Archive

When We First Met – Joker’s Deadly Bag of Tricks


In this feature we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!’” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Joe M., we’ll take a look at the introduction of various Joker stand-bys, like the joy buzzer, the acid-squirting flower and the “Bang” flag gun…

The weird thing about the Joker is that the Joker we’ve known for the past forty years is not the same Joker we saw for the first thirty plus years of his existence. When he was first introduced, the Joker was a sadistic murderer who occasionally used clever ways of killing people but for the most part just used guns (either guns with bullets or guns that shot out his Joker venom). That period of the Joker’s existence was prolific (he seemed to show up in every single issue of Batman) but also short-lived. By 1942, the Joker killed the last person he would kill for the next three decades. From that point on, the Joker became more of a prankster. He would still often carry a gun but he wouldn’t actually DO anything with it. This was a dude who tried to stab Batman to death in his first appearance and by the 1950s he was saying, “Nah, don’t kill Batman. I like messing with him.”

It was during this period that we first saw Joker’s joy buzzer in the 1952 story “The Joker’s Utility Belt” in Batman #73 by David Vern, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris…


The story is about Joker trying to even up things with him and Batman by getting his own utility belt…


There’s a sort of a precursor to the squirting flower later in the story…


In the Batman TV series during the 1960s, Cesar Romero’s Joker had a joy buzzer. It was pretty standard fare. Although by the third season, his joy buzzer had finally become deadly (obviously he didn’t actually kill anyone, but it was at least determined to be deadly – thanks to Mike Blake for the head’s up of the third season usage of the buzzer).

When Denny O’Neil revamped the Joker in 1973 and made him deadly again, he gave him a deadlier joy buzzer in 1975’s The Joker #2 (art by Irv Novick and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez)…



However, it would not be until the 1989 Batman movie that the Joker would actually KILL with the joy buzzer…


In 1992’s Robin II: The Joker’s Wild, the Joker seemingly kills Mister Freeze with a joy buzzer…


O’Neil debuted the acid-squirting flower in The Joker #1 (art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano)…


Finally, Len Wein, Walter Simonson and Dick Giordano debuted Joker’s “Bang” gun in the classic 1980 story, “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker” in Batman #321…


If you have a suggestion for a future edition of When We First Met, feel free to drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com


Wait, Wein and Simonson invented the fake bang flag gun (or at least the Joker’s use of it)? I just thought they perfected the joke… I had no idea they thought it up! That’s awesome.

huh… How interesting that the Joker joy buzzer was not used to kill until the movies. It seems like such a standard comic book trope by then.

I’ve always hated Irv Novick’s Joker. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but nobody has ever had a skull shaped like that.

Grotesque as it looks, I still like it cool arrow.
It’s a shame Cesar Romero wasn’t able to be homicidal. He was such a jubilant, happy clown on the TV show I think if he’d been able to use acid flowers and lethal joy buzzers it would have been insanely creepy (way more so than Nicholson’s Joker).

The Joker has a ‘small cork’? Snicker.

Man, just like the trope of Batman disappearing from Gordon, I would’ve guessed that all of these schticks dated back farther than they did.

Speaking of the trope of Batman disappearing in the middle of a conversation, I just read a 1975 issue of Wonder Woman where the Phantom Stranger does that to Batman, who irritatedly dismisses it as “cheap theatrics.” Hilarious. http://theidiolect.com/comics/taking-liberty/

interesting never knew that it was not till the first batman film by burton that the joker used his deadly buzzer to kill always thought it was just a part of thing. along with his other weapons including the little bang gun. and surprised no mention of the jokers cane

There’s something different about chad today. Can’t quite put my finger on it…

“Love that Joker!”
Ha! Good stuff!


March 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I thought the same exact thing buttler.

I recall the Phantom Stranger pulling the disappearing act on Batman in an issue of BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS, and Batman thinks, “I wonder if that’s how people feel when I do it? I hope so!”

Actually, Brian, your piece on Bruce Lee vs. Burt Ward in Comic Legends linked to a YouTube video of the fight that in turn had a link to “The Best and Worst of Batgirl”, where the Joker incapacitated Batman & Robin, and chortled that his new joy buzzer would kill them in five minutes if they didn’t get help.

Batgirl came along and saved them.

I find it amusing that most items in his utility belt are more practical jokes than deadly weapons. As for the last item in it, all I can think of is a line from the Who’s Tommy:: “You know where to put the cork.”

Thanks, Mike, the Joker often TALKED about his joy buzzer being deadly, but in the times I had seen him use it it wasn’t, so it is good to know that at least by the third season it actually WAS deadly.

As for people pulling the disappear on Batman, don’t forget “Kingdom Come”! He’s giving Superman the lowdown, and notices when he’d done that Kal-El is long gone. He thinks, “So that’s what that feels like”. Of course, presumably Supes didn’t miss any info because of super-hearing.

Do I want to know how he used the cork?

Joker and Mr Freeze, another example of the mysterious tendency of handshakes in comics happening with the left hands far, far, far more often than they do in the Real World (TM).

[…] three decades of being depicted as little more than a wacky prankster, under O’Neil the Joker returned to his roots as a sadistic murderer. His take on this rogue […]

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