The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge… Nope, you won’t get any innuendoes out of me!
Welcome to the 1970’s. The music ranged from good to “Disco Duck” (seriously, that happened), the clothing styles were weird, and comics started to get a little darker. In the 70’s DC tried to revitalize most of its characters like Batman and Superman. While some of Superman’s changes didn’t stick, a lot of Batman’s changes stuck and still stick to this day. From what I’ve read, the 60’s was full of wackiness for Batman. In order to save the character, the editors decided to bring Batman back to his pulpy, grim roots.
In 1973, they decided to bring the Joker out of retirement as well in this story. Batman #251 was released around September of 1973. I first read the story in a hardcover of Neal Adam’s work on Batman. I’m actually pulling this story from “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” trade. The writer is Dennis O’Neil. The artist is Neal Adams. You might have heard of these guys since they made names for themselves during the 1970’s. They revitalized Batman as well as a other heroes for DC. So, let’s see how Batman fares up against this deadlier Joker.
Batman #251 – The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge
Writer: Dennis O’Neil
Artist: Neal Adams
Editor: Julius Schwartz
After we get a page of the Joker laughing like some sort of maniac, we find out that he’s broken out of the insane asylum. When one of his former henchmen turns up dead, Batman knows it’s the Joker because of the nice smile on the dead man’s face. Batman knows of four other henchmen who may have ratted out the Joker, so he heads into the night to find them. The first one he finds is Packy White and yes, that’s a weird name. Packy works in a boxing gym and after a little sparring match, he is about to leave with Batman when he dies via poison. While Batman searches for another of Joker’s men, The Joker finds one of three remaining men and kills him via exploding cigar.
Batman finds the next henchmen, Bigger Melvins at the docks. The guy gives chase but is caught in hilarious fashion by Batman. Since Bigger doesn’t want to be taken in by anyone, he actually gets to knock out Batman. A low-level thug’s knocking out Batman? You’d never see this in today’s comics where Batman is unto a god! Yes, I’m being snarky about this since it’s rare that we see Batman actually not be perfect and mess up from time to time these days. Anyway, Batman wakes up and heads to the thug’s apartment. Unfortunately, he finds the man dead. The Joker then comes from behind him and knocks him out as well. Joker almost kills Batman, but he decides to wait for later and leaves the apartment.
Batman wakes up again and heads to find the final henchman, Bing Hooley. When he finds out that the Joker already has him, Batman pieces together where Joker’s hideout is. He heads to an aquarium by the beach and Joker is waiting for him. Joker gives him an ultimatum: either turn himself in or the last victim dies via shark. Batman turns himself in and the Joker ties him up with chains. He dumps Batman and the last survivor into a pool with a shark. In awesome fashion Batman is able to kill the shark and save the man. The story ends as he catches up with Joker and captures him.
This was a nice story. I will say that the significance isn’t hitting me because I’ve seen a more dastardly Joker than the one portrayed here. Still, it’s cool to see where he was retooled. The dialogue was also pretty good even if it was old-school. Batman was in fine form. He may have gotten knocked around a bit, but he made up for it with the blow to the shark. That was pretty awesome. By the way, that whole scene got adapted on Batman: TAS. I also liked the urgency of it all with Batman and Joker looking for the men.
The artwork was in fine form. Adams’s versions of Batman and Joker are really good and look iconic in my opinion. I’ve seen other artists imitate these designs throughout the years. The action looks good as well. It’s clear and it flows really well. Check out the story if you haven’t. Well, I got two more comics to post about and I’m done with this month. Peace, God Bless, and don’t accept cigars from clowns.
NEXT TIME: THE WEIRD AND WACKY 60’S!!!