Sunday, May 10, 2020

Comics Flashback: Batman 321 (1980)

Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker... !

Batman, Vol. 1, No. 321, March, 1980, written by Len Wein, pencils by Walt Simonson, inks by Dick Giordano, and cover by José Luis García-López. It's The Joker's birthday - and he's celebrating by blowing up some of Batman's partners in crime-fighting in this classic issue from 1980!

The Joker begins a new criminal plot by rounding up his enemies from all around town and strapping them to his special "Victim-Go-Round" in preparation for his "Birthday Party". Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Selina Kyle, and Alfred Pennyworth are all kidnapped and the citizens of Gotham City have been enticed to the newly built Seaside Coliseum with the promise of free samples from the "Harlequin Baking Company".

At the Coliseum, with the audience immobilized, the Joker and his goons take center stage, revealing a gigantic birthday cake with the Joker's victims all all tied to giant explosive candles on the top. Batman shows up, but the Joker tricks him into being tied to the biggest candle in exchange for the lives of his friends. But, the Joker breaks the deal, he planned on killing all of them all along! However Batman got there earlier and has converted the biggest explosive candle into a makeshift rocket, so instead of blowing up, he shoots up into the air! Untying himself, Batman launches a battery of bat-a-rangs, cutting all the victims' fuses and freeing Robin from his bonds.

Robin fights off the goons, as Batman chases the Joker out onto the docks. The Joker tries to escape via motorboat, but Batman grabs a loose rope and waterskis behind him until he can climb onto the boat! During their struggle, the Joker pushes Batman out of the boat, but its too late to keep the boat from hitting the shoals and blowing up! Is this the end of the madman? Back on shore, Commissioner Gordon wonders, but Batman knows in his heart that he always survives.

Last month just happened to be the 80th anniversary of the Joker's very first appearance in Batman #1 way back in 1940. In celebration, I went long box diving and dug out this classic story from the Bronze Age of Comics! Published in December of 1979 with a cover date of March 1980, this comic features one of the most popular Joker stories of all time. It has been reprinted a number times including in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told.

Looking for a definitive Joker story? This is perhaps one of the most definitive Joker stories of them all. Look at all the classic elements present: When the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, he uses the Jokermobile to get away! Later he is seen killing one of his goons with the ol' bang gun fake-out prank! Does he have an insane plan? Check! He's celebrating his birthday by seeking revenge on all his enemies using a giant birthday cake! Both, Batman and Robin appear together. And finally, just look at that classic creative team -- Wein, Simonson, Giordano, heck, even the legendary José Luis García-López is the cover artist! You really can't get any better than this!

Things to watch for:

  • The appearance of the classic Jokermobile!

  • Cameo of the Robin Cycle in a flashback sequence.

  • Classic "Joker moment" in which threatens one of his goons with a with a fake gun shooting out a flag reading BANG YOU'RE DEAD!, only to actually shoot him once he expressed relief at his life being spared.

Here is the whole comic for you to download and read as a CBR file, just follow the link on the left.

CBR files hold comic book pages as images in a compressed archive format enabling them to be viewed, sequentially, from within a comic book reader program or app such as CDisplayEx.

How about this adventure with the Caped Cusader and the Clown Prince of Crime? Do you have a favorite Joker moment? Lets hear about it in the comments below!

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