You don't need to tell me twice! :D
Seriously though, outside of pornographic fanfiction, where would you expect to read such a piece of explosively salacious promotional advice regarding Mistah J?
Why, on the box for the Kenner/DC Super Powers Joker of course!
Twenty-five years ago, DC joined forces with Kenner to produce a line of toys previously only dreamed about. A line of toys that would change the world of toys as we knew it. A line of toys that were destined to become a line of toys held so sacred by toygeeks everywhere you will break down sobbing that you took that one Green Lantern you got for Christmas out of the packaging and played with it until its legs fell off when you find out what it gets now MOC on eBay. A line of toys that would be named... THE SUPER POWERS COLLECTION.
The Super Powers collection were marked out by hidden mechanism they featured that would trigger a particular “trademark” action when the arms or legs were squeezed – that they were hidden meant that the figures themselves remained unmarred by visible levers or buttons, retaining a purity of resemblance to the characters they were based on.
In addition to these uber-cool, brightly-coloured and faithful rendition of some of DC's best-beloved characters, the action figures came with a mini-comic book sharing thrilling adventures and sly advertisements with those kiddies lucky enough to be the proud owners of them. If you're like me, you never really knew what they contained as you never dared remove the wrapping from the precious, precious hunk of painted plastic it protected. They were mysterious – but very pretty because they were so nicely preserved safely beneath that solid coat of plastic. Yay, colours! Perfection, forever!
But that time of darkness is over for, through an inclusion that legitimises Love Dat Joker as a real, proper, awesomely cool contribution to the annals of informational geek-out blogs, I have been invited to partake in a massive cross-blog celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the release of these figures known in the blogosphere as the CRISIS ON EARTH BLOG. Blog.
Apart from the unending appeal of squeezing the Joker's thighs together to delight in the activation of his madcap mallet power, the accompanying comic books in which he made an appearance are an interesting slice of that cross-over period between silver and bronze age, further eccentricised in its focus towards children. A recipe for cracky, retro win!
But even more interesting to me is making connections between the Joker of these comics and elements of the Joker today.
The Joker appeared in three comics in total – one that accompanied his action figure and two that accompanied the Batman figure and the Green Lantern figure. Each have interesting points of their own, although the stories themselves are very simple, straight-forward, quickly and conveniently wrapped up kiddies' fare.
But by now, you know me. If there's some subtle nuance to be found, I'll unearth it.
Hilariously, each of these comics begins in the same way – LAUGHTER! A peal of laughter, the shattering sound of laughter, a maniacal laugh – there's no time wasted in suspense, the Joker's making himself felt from point dot, in his very favourite way.
The Joker's own comic is pretty transparently a plug for the sold-separately modes of transport to accompany the toys. It opens with a pretty par-for-the-course robbery committed by the Clown Prince – looking quite dapper and dynamic in a style at once reminescent of Jim Aparo and Marshall Rogers combined. Of course, Batman is quick to show up but not as quick to foil as he often is in these brief kids stories because first, he and Joker have to have an extended chase scene in which the features of both Jokermobile and Batmobile can be extolled, building up the consumer market's excitement to a fever pitch.
What struck me most about this one is how evocative of Dini's Joker Mistah J's dialogue is. Yes, the jokes are hackneyed, the exposition is leaden, the story itself is simplistic and tied up very pat but there's something so neat and character-filled about the way the Joker expresses himself and it has a distinctly Dini flavour – to my reading anyway – that this is quite an enjoyable little read.
And what does that mean? It means it's good dialogue. Now Dini has come long after these comics were released and he himself was influenced by the work of those who went before him, but no one can argue he's one of the best Joker writers around. Anything that makes me think of Dini is top-quality Joker material. I could even imagine Mark Hamill delivering the lines.
In the Batman comic, we get a preposterous Joker scheme in which Mistah J uses a modified form of his toxin to make stacks of innocent citizens resemble him. They immediately beging wreaking havoc on the city.
Hurm. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Anyone at all? Chuck Dixon, what do you think?
Did Chuck Dixon really write his swan song Joker story, Joker's Last Laugh, utilising a plot element from a promotional add-on to a children's toy?
I believe in coincidences. I also believe in homage, and the whackiness of the older comics is often quite delightfully paid heed to in contemporary twists, especially particularly obscure references. Who can say how it falls in this example. Once again, there's some great Joker dialogue and Wonder Woman drops in to lend a hand.
It's the Green Lantern story that, for me, reflects the most effort poured into creating an actual “Joker” crime. It's as classic as you can get – he wants to create his own “Royal Flush” and so kidnaps people variously known in society as “King”, “Queen”, Ace”, etc. It's nonsensical and his motivations for it are unexplained (or simply non-existent) though Green Lantern very kindly explains the actual crime to us, but it's a classic golden-silver age style of crime underlined with a sense of menace in the fact that it's actual people he's kidnapping – in fact, that we never find out exactly why he wants his own Royal Flush adds to the menace.
Probably the best part of this story, though, is when Robin shows up to act in his perennial role of Boy Hostage. Seriously. It's hysterical. Especially the extremely suggestive panel in which Joker makes his move *snicker*.
In this issue, Joker is reminescent of Graham Nolan's take on the character – one of my top faves.
I think, overall, what has struck me most about all three of these stories is, despite how kiddie-oriented, obscure and 'little' they are in the scheme of the DCverse – you can still find intriguing elements that have contributed to or reflect the overarching mythology. Evocations in the art, the stories, the dialogue - I find the parallels to be fascinating, not least because they reaffirm my belief in the idea that the core of these characters exist in a state of power we have to acknowledge when we wish to create with them - if we want to produce something quality, that is.
As simple and short as these stories are, they nail the essential heart of the characters, their powers and their interactions.
They may not rank as the greatest Joker stories ever, but they make good use of the space and, as with the action figure designs themselves, they're a genuine and faithful representation of the characters we love so much. Some effort and care has been taken with them – as there was with the toys themselves – and the final result is something that can be treasured not simply as a collectible but as yet another lovely facet of the incredible, layered diversity of the Batverse, one more little daub of paint that adds overall to the entire picture – no part more true or less valid than any other.
Interested in what my fellow bloggers have to say? Check out the below links to those who've joined in!
Being Carter Hall
Dispatches from the Arrow Cave
Justice League Detroit
Idol-Head of Diabolu
... nurgh ...
Doom Patrol blog
Fortress of Baileytude
Once Upon A Geek
ps: this post comes to you, live, from the future