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Detective Comics #85

January 26, 1944

"The Joker's Double"

Pre-read thoughts: Oh look! Another Joker story! Well, I have to admit, based on the brief synopsis I read, this one may prove interesting. I said in the last entry that having a Rogue's Gallery allows for character development as these characters do keep reappearing as opposed to the random gangsters we see in various issues. Let's see if the story pans out.

This is definitely an interesting one. A group of four men are finishing a game of bridge at a club one night when one needs to leave for his business in North Dakota. Shortly after, a figure dressed as the Joker bludgeons him with a spade. Shortly after, the same imposter kills another of the party in his home in South Dakota with a club. Each time, he leaves the calling card of the Joker as is his pattern.

But there is one person who has a hard time believing that the Joker committed the crimes as they are too brutal, even for him. A strange thing to think when we think of the Joker these days. Bruce visits the club and hears from one of the four, Hart, who is concerned that he and the other surviving member of the bridge party, Harris, are under threat. But the police offer protection and Batman and Robin also plan to keep an eye on Hart.

And what of the Joker? He hears the news of the deaths and he getting the blame and he wants to clear his name of such clumsy crimes. Interestingly, the Joker consults his own files he keeps on known criminals and can find none that would come close to matching the MO of makeup and using crude weapons to attack. He comes to the conclusion that he will have to take the side of law and order in order to bring the criminal down.

Batman and Robin arrive at the Hart printing plant which is on fire. They spot the fake Joker who gives them a good showing in keeping them from catching him. But then the real Joker arrives and mixes it up with the fake one. But when Batman and Robin are threatened with a hot substance falling on them, Joker gives up his target to save them.

But despite Batman's own misgivings, he can't help himself but fight with Joker. Even when Joker makes the effort to rescue Hart who is trapped in the burning building, he still feels they must bring in Joker. It frustrates the Joker so he stuns the two with his Joker gas. He returns them to his hideout where he shows his ability to spy on Batman with a television device. It's funny that this thing isn't that precise that Joker knows who Batman is. (Unless he does, but he's keeping it to himself.). He also shows them his own version of the trophy room, but trophies he has kept from his own crimes.

He drops the two into a pit that leads to a maze. He figures that will keep them occupied while he goes after his double. But the two are able to escape and make their way to the Harris, the fourth member of the bridge team, who owns a curio shop. There, the fake Joker is stealing a safe of jewels when he is interrupted by the real one. The two are at each other's throats when the Dynamic Duo arrive.

Joker reveals that the fake one is Hart who knew his bridge partners' habits which made it easy to kill and rob them. He even turns over the jewels to Batman, but Batman realizes they are fake and the two chase after the Joker. He gets away by jumping a rising drawbridge, but Robin managed to get the jewels back as he grabbed Joker's coattails and ripped the coat away from him.

In the end, I did like this Joker story. I do find the irony that even Batman knew the caper was not like Joker as he's not the violent with his murders. It's almost as though the writers acknowledge they have de-toothed the Joker. I could see this one as a Batman 66 story with even Jose Ferrer, the original actor in the running for the role, playing Hart and the fake Joker.

And what's next? We're on to World's Finest Comics, Citizens!

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