Batman #23 - Story 1

April 12, 1944

"The Upside Down Crimes"

I do like this cover for Batman #23. It encapsulates the relationship between Joker and Batman at this point in the series, a game of chess where each has to plan their move before making it in the hopes of one upping the other. And from the looks of it, there are no other pieces on the board, so it could symbolize that the game never ends. In many respects, we continue to see this relationship with the two in the 66 series.

The story opens with the Joker visiting a Fun House. He has to admit, for amateurs, they did get a laugh out of him. The upside down room gives him an idea and he begins a series of mischief moments, turning cars over on the street. He continues with paintings in a museum and a movie in a theater. It's all part of a plot that includes sending a message to Batman via the police.

Now, Bruce and Dick see both the backwards skywriting Joker displays and the Batsignal. OK, let's go to Gordon's office via the Batplane. The Batplane? Where are they landing it? On the roof of police headquarters? Why were the writers more enamored of the plane over the Batmobile in the 40s?

The note speaks of a robbery Joker will commit, but the location and name make no sense. Batman works out it's the opposite, an Indian leader who is visiting the US with a display of jewels. Sure enough, Batman and Robin interrupt the robbery, but not before Joker has a chance to switch out the real jewels with fake ones. They chase Joker to the roof where he steals the Batplane! Batman leaps on the dangling rope ladder and climbs on board. But he manages to knock himself out with the Joker's gas gun. Joker flies off with his loot, the plane and Batman.

He makes one mistake though and doesn't check Batman who still has his radio on. Robin hears where they are going. Meanwhile, the Joker challenges Batman to a fight in an upside room. The two are suspended via electricity from the ceiling and Joker has an electric poker. Robin arrives and the two are able to round up the gang. It seems the case is closed as Batman and Robin leave them tied up for the police.

But Joker gets away as Batman carelessly leaves them behind along with the poker, which Joker uses to free himself and the others. Joker once again sends a clue as is his want which tells Bruce that he is targeting a costume ball for the rich where everyone is dressing up as movie stars.

I am loving these page length panels.

Joker throws the lights and begins grabbing jewels from various women, but Batman and Robin are on the scene. They get the lights back on and take out his men, but he escapes in the confusion with a smoke bomb, losing his ill-gotten gain in the process.

This is a really good one, one worthy of being adapted into a Batman 66 episode. It just needs a better Battrap, or perhaps something to the effect that when Batman is fighting Joker in the upside room, he is knocked out and Joker advances on him when Robin appears for part two. It even has a corny ending as Bruce and Dick go out to eat and the waitress offers upside down cake as desert.

We'll pick this up with the second story tomorrow, Citizens!

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