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Detective Comics #64

April 24, 1942

"The Joker Walks the Last Mile"

We just had a Joker story in our last issue of Batman and now we're back with another one. He's not used as sparingly as Penguin and Catwoman which makes me wonder if that has been contributing to his watering down as a character. It would also explain how they were considering him as a character for the 43 movie serial, changing it to the Japanese agent, Daka.

The story opens with a frustrated Joker, free once again, frustrated that he can only move about in disguise because he is wanted for so many crimes. He then comes upon the idea that the Joker should die so that he can live again. He turns himself in to the police.

What follows are a couple of interesting things of note. First, when the news is broken on the radio about Joker's capture, it's during "The True Adventures of Batman". It's a shame we never got a Batman radio show, but rather had the tepid Batman we saw in the Superman radio series of the 40s.

Next, we have Joker having visitors by the thousands. The fact that the prison system would allow this is odd enough, but then Bruce and Dick are among the spectators. Bruce makes the mistake of referring to Dick as Robin in front of Joker's cell. This was a sticking point for writer Jim Beard when he joined me on the podcast for a review of the 1943 movie serial where Batman and Robin were constantly referring to each other by their real names while in costume.

The Joker is then sentenced to death for his crimes. He is led to the chair and killed. But as his body lies in the morgue, his gang attack the guard and carry him away. They force a serum down his throat and he revives.

Now alive, he is free to move about because since he was pronounced dead, he has technically paid his debt to society. Even when Batman tries to take him in, he is told that Joker is a free man. He and Robin begin a round the clock surveillance of Joker's hideout.

Joker maintains his innocence by having his gang commit the crimes. He sets up one in particular where the ice arena is robbed while he, Bruce and Dick are attending the show. He has not only an alibi, but he too is a victim as the gang robs him.

Batman recognizes some of the gang as members of Joker's crew. They need to find a way to connect them though. They head back to the Joker's hotel where Robin realizes that Joker is using the blinking hotel sign to send out his coded messages to the gang. The two climb up the building to turn off the sign and are tricked by Joker to come into his room where the police await them. Joker accuses them of trying to rob him. It looks like the police have Batman dead to rights, but he asks for one minute to prove his innocence.

Joker pulls out his gold watch, the same gold watch that was just stolen at the arena - proof that Joker is connected to the thefts. He leaps from his hotel window to escape. The Batmobile follows, but Batman leaps out as they approach the Wayne home so he can continue the chase in the Batplane.

It all ends when Joker's car crashes and he tries to escape by a high wire. He falls from it, 80 feet into the crashing surf. Batman feels that the Joker could not survive it, but we get a final panel showing us he is with a note saying he will be back in Batman.

This was one of the more imaginative Joker stories, but I must admit, I'm getting a little tired of seeing him as often as we do in these early stories. And what's next? We're continuing the test to see if certain Batman stories are worthy of being called World's Finest. Stay tuned, Citizens!

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