Hello everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every issue of Detective Comics ever published in random order, and with basically no context. And, as you can tell from the cover above, this week we’re tackling another story featuring the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. But, thankfully, this is a story from the Golden Age, meaning that we aren’t going to be seeing Joker ripping people’s faces off or beating children to death with crowbars, which is always a good change of pace. No, we’re in the era when Joker might be concocting a wild plan to pie the mayor, or something like that. But, who’d have guessed that instead we’d be getting a story that really feels like it should have featured the Riddler, if it hadn’t been written years before he was created.
The issue begins with the Joker hanging out in his hideout, relaxing with a good book. Specifically some leather-bound collections of newspaper headlines about his various crimes. The Joker flips through the book, reminiscing about the various insane crimes he’s committed, and getting frustrated by the fact that Batman has always foiled them. However, he does have a few that warm his heart about him giving Batman the slip, including his last escapade where he escaped Arkham by impersonating Batman. But, he’s been hiding out for a while now, and has decided that he’s getting a little bored, and needs to do something to get some more headlines. So, he decides to plot a new crime, and specifically call Batman out. He ends up paying for an ad in the paper taunting Batman about his new crime spree, which will involve him nightly revealing a new letter in an acrostic which will contain clues about what he’s going to rob that night. Which, of course ends up summoning a whole flock of Gothamites to come check out the Joker’s scheme.
So, as Bruce and Dick hang out in Gotham Square, they spot a plane flying overhead, skywriting the letter J. And, due to the Joker’s rules that means they’re looking for a potential theft involving the letter J. And, after some brief thinking, they decide that Joker’s going to be robbing the Gotham City Hall of Justice, to get information about criminals being sent to jail. And, despite the fact that that’s pretty damn shaky, it’s right. Because Joker is inside the Hall of Justice, breaking into a massive safe that contains crucial evidence that will convict various criminals, which he plans on ransoming back to the city. Because that’s how any of that works. But, as Joker is leaving with the evidence Batman and Robin come racing in, only to find that Joker has come equipped with a javelin, that when thrown explodes into a series of metal ropes and fishhooks, which manage to distract Batman and Robin long enough for the Joker to flee.
Licking their wounds, Bruce and Dick return to Gotham Square the next night in order to see the Joker’s next letter. And, just as Bruce assumed, it’s the letter O, shown by blacking out a large advertisement. And, they happen to be right next to an opera house which is opening for the season by performing Othello. So, they suit up and race inside, and end up hearing a maniacal laugh coming from behind the stage. But, this is a trick, because the Joker is actually up in the audience, robbing people while a recording on his laughter tricks the Dynamic Duo. They eventually realize what’s going on though, and race to stop the Joker, who ends up spraying them both with oil, causing them to slip and fall, letting him escape yet again. And the Joker loves it. He’s getting all sorts of articles written about him and his ingenious plot which is foiling Batman and Robin, exactly why he did the whole thing in the first place.
The next night Bruce and Dick head back to the square, and end up seeing a man carrying around a sign with a distracting letter K on it, continuing the JOKER acrostic. And, having thought ahead, they found that a local jewelers is holding the Khan diamond, belonging to the King of Moravia. So, they head to the jewelry store, and end up getting inside before Joker can finish with his crime. He’s in the process of breaking into the safe when the Dynamic Duo arrive, meaning he’s going to have to give them the slip. Luckily, he has a fighting kangaroo with him, and a high-powered light kaleidoscope powered up which disorient them long enough for him to escape.
At this point Bruce and Dick are pretty furious, so they decide to get to Joker’s next location before him. They assume the next letter will be E, and find two possible locations, Electrical Engineering Enterprises and Excella Ermine Exhibition. So, they decide to split up, and each take a location. Robin takes the engineering firm and Batman takes the ermine warehouse. Unfortunately, Robin gets lucky, and stumbles upon the Joker. He gets the jump on Robin, and manages to tie him up while he continues his robbery. But, Robin manages to trigger a large electrical shock, which lights up the room, and signals Batman, since the ermine place is next door. Batman comes rushing over, and catches Joker before he can finish his crime, and kill Robin. He then starts attacking Joker, spelling out BATMAN while beating the crap out of him, before Robin finishes things off by throwing giant letters at him, which spell out Batman. At which point Joker is sent to jail, mad that he wasn’t able to finish spelling his name, until a newspaper points out that because Robin foiled the plan, he kind of did. And, small victories are all you can hope for sometimes.
Like I said earlier, this is a fun little story, but it certainly feels like a precursor to a Riddler story. Seeing the Joker concoct a goofy crime spree involving him teasing batman with a series of puzzles and riddles doesn’t really feel like his shtick, but it’s still a pretty fun little issue. There’s really nothing funny about the crime, unless you count the fact that Joker’s just trying to humiliate Batman, and yet it works. It’s nothing too earth-shattering but it’s a decent little Golden Age story, which I’ve really grown to love over the years. Plus, we get to see insane things like Joker having a trained fighting kangaroo with him, or Batman creepily lurking around a warehouse full of fur coats, which really adds to the silly nature of the story. I much prefer this type of Joker story, and it’s fun seeing him scheme up some silly little plan that mainly revolves around Batman looking dumb, not like, suffocating orphans in front of him.
“Acrostic of Crime” was written by Don Cameron, penciled and inked by Win Mortimer, and edited by Jack Schiff, 1946.
Categories: Bat Signal