ISSUE #27: No Laughing Matter

A TOP 11 LIST SPECIAL EDITION: BECAUSE TOP 10 IS NEVER ENOUGH

 

Welcome back, dear readers. Someone forgot to tell Nashville that it’s October as it is still 90+ degrees outside. I’m looking forward to Autumn and the biggest cosplay event of the year – Halloween. I hope you all enjoyed the past two weeks as we paid homage to deceased artists and some of their amazing, but less expensive, covers. I appreciated the suggestions I received for a similar future feature. Stay tuned for that.

For this week, let’s try something new. This time, I’m going to focus on a specific character for the first time and change up the format a bit. Let me know if you prefer this set-up as I will give quick hits on each cover and give you covers along a timeline to show the progression of the character, over time. As always, the covers chosen will be non-key/non-incentive variant covers (“B” covers are allowed) and all must be relatively inexpensive for their respective era.

 

THE JOKER:

DC’s best villain and arguably the best villain of all time has got to be the Joker. He is, at the very least, one of the most recognizable characters (villain or hero) in comics. With an origin film in the works (which seems as though it may be a bit of a misstep from DC… shocker… DC with a film misstep? Never!) it is worthy to note that the character has undergone many changes over the years.

Different media forms, artists and writers have utilized the character in a variety of ways, all of which have been disturbing and menacing for their respective purposes. Introduced in 1940 in issue #1 of Batman, Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson created one of comics’ best loved/hated characters.

The palette of the Joker (literally and figuratively) and the ambiguity of his background makes for an infinitely malleable canvas to paint/act/write on. As such, there was virtually an endless list of covers to choose from. I could make at least 3 or 4 of these lists, but I had to whittle it down.

 

THE BAD NEWS:

Regrettably, most of us will not ever easily be able to afford a Golden Age Joker cover example. As such, there is no way to include any of them on a Cover Tunes list. With that said, you all should still check out the awesome covers which grace Golden Age Batman and Detective Comics.

 

THE GOOD NEWS:

However, we can begin to inexpensively collect amazing Joker covers starting with the Silver Age. Inasmuch, this week’s list will begin there and move through every few years, thereafter. Choosing only a few Joker covers is extremely difficult and I originally had 29 covers chosen (check the very end of the article for a few runners up), but here are my top 11:

 

1. Batman #186 (1940 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – November, 1966

ARTIST: Murphy Anderson

 

Well, this is as early as you’re ever going to get, cheaply. For some reason, all of the covers that come before this are worth considerably more, but at this issue, the prices drop off significantly, for a brief time, until Neal Adams takes up the mantle and prices go back up again. There’s no visual reason for it as this cover is just as old-school and awesome as the ones that surround it. It can easily be gotten in mid-grade for less than $20. This is a HUGE steal, in my opinion.

 

2. Detective Comics #388 (1937 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – June, 1969

ARTIST: Irv Novick

 

At the tail end of the Silver Age comes this insane cover. I love, love, love this one. Bold, old-school Joker, Bats and Boy Wonder and color that pops. This screams iconic cover. Another Silver Age beauty that can easily be snagged for under $20 in mid-grade which seems like highway robbery if you ask me. There is just no earthly reason why it should be this inexpensive.

 

3. The Joker #2 (1975 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 1975

ARTIST: Ernie Chan

 

This cover reminds me so much of the Neal Adams uber-famous (and very expensive) Batman #251; the colors, the perspective, the cards… it even has the subtitle strip in the same place. That one goes for $175-$250 raw and this one goes for a whopping $5. The world just isn’t fair.

 

4. Batman #294 (1940 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – December, 1977

ARTIST: Jim Aparo

 

This one has that classic Ha! Ha! Ha! theme utilized on so many of the Joker’s classics and it’s mixed in with great line and depth. From one of the masters of Batman covers, this Aparo says everything a Bronze Age Joker cover should. It’s got fantastic color, superb drama and is dirt-cheap at $5 or less.

 

5. Batman #429 (1940 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – January, 1989

ARTIST: Mike Mignola

 

A classic story arc and other issues in the 4-issue set sell much higher (#426 and #428), but this one doesn’t. As far as Joker covers go, this one is hardly under the radar for most people (everyone probably knows it whether they’re Batman fans or not), but it sells so darned cheap, it makes no sense. This is a milestone in Batman storytelling and all of the covers are amazing, this one especially. All of the negative space coupled with the unique portrayal of the character really make this one a stand-out amongst Joker covers.

 

6. Wonder Woman #96 (1987 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – April, 1995

ARTIST: Brian Bolland

 

Just a straight evil, maniacal cover from one of the masters of the WW cover, Brian Bolland. Man, this is a dark moment. That’s what I always love about the joker; such macabre mood juxtaposed against bright colors. It is such a dichotomy. This is a prime example of that and can be gotten for less that $10 as it is not the “one” everybody wants from this series.

 

7. Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #126 (1989 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – February, 2000

ARTIST: Alex Maleev/Wayne Faucher

 

I absolutely adore this idea of the Joker playing chess with his enemies as the pieces. So clever and dastardly. The game board also adds a really cool depth perspective to an already fantastic composition. The idea that the Joker is legitimately always having fun by doing evil things is extremely apparent, here, with the literal and metaphorical game-play. This is a favorite of mine.

 

8. Batman #614 (1940 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – June, 2003

ARTIST: Jim Lee

 

Jim Lee. Joker. Hush story arc. Mic drop. Saying anything else would do this cover a disservice. Just as good or better than the recent Jim Lee semi-virgin done for Justice League.

 

9. Batman: Secrets #3 (2006 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – July, 2006

ARTIST: Sam Kieth

 

Man, this is one creepy rendition of the Joker and leave it to Sam Kieth to do it. Kieth’s overly-exaggerated style that worked so well on Maxx, is perfect for the Joker Character. It accentuates all of the wild madness of the character in it’s “outside-the-lines” style. It wouldn’t work for other things, but it is perfect, here. Grab this one for cover or less, too. With the new Batman/Maxx series that just launched, last week, collectors may start to look more closely at this one.  

 

10. Batman: Arkham Unhinged #3 (2012 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 2012

ARTIST: Dave Wilkins

 

Wilkins, a favorite among many current collectors, has an awful lot of buzz, these days. It is obvious why when one looks at this exquisitely rendered cover. This version of the Joker has a bit of a Tim Burton feel and that works really well, here. The mastery of the medium is quite apparent and this is another really cheap book that deserves more love from an artist who is pretty hot.

 

11. Green Arrow #41B (75th Anniversary Joker Cover) (2011 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 2015

ARTIST: Bill Sienkiewicz

 

A favorite cover from my favorite artist. I actually already mentioned this one in Cover Tunes #13 (the all-Sienkiewicz issue), but am mentioning it again because I think it is that dope. This cover is just downright disturbing. It is stark, has attitude and is an entirely different rendering of the Joker. No shock since it comes from Bill Sienkiewicz who is known for his strange character portrayals. The sketch quality and the macabre comedy of it make this a classic. It can be snagged for cover price or less. It was technically a “B” cover variant, but was cover price on release day.

 

RUNNERS UP:

Because, well, even 11 isn’t enough… No descriptions, just a few more to look out for.

 

 

RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK:

This week, the Venom film seemed to really polarize viewers as the critics panned it while the common viewers seemed to largely like it. Much like comics, I say see what you like and don’t worry if it’s “spec worthy.” I mean, do we really need every comic-related movie to alter the axis of the planet? It’s just entertainment, folks. I’m just thankful I get to see some of these characters realized on the live action big screen. Outside of animation, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to when I was a kid.

 

*****

Well, here we are at the end, again. Always sad. I hope there was something in here for everyone. I had a blast researching this one and can’t wait to find some of these that I don’t already own. For other Joker covers I’ve featured in past issues of Cover Tunes, check out issue #3 (Green Lantern #41B – Oliver) and the aforementioned issue #13 (Green Arrow #41B – Sienkiewicz). As always, thanks for reading, please, feel free to comment to fill me in on your further thoughts and happy hunting.

 

 

 

 

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