Batman Knightcast 32: DETECTIVE COMICS #617 and BATMAN #321

80 years ago, DC Comics created a throwaway villain called The Joker, who has hardly been heard of or talked about until this episode of Batman Knightcast. Now Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin plum the depths of comic book obscurity to find two tales featuring the so-called Clown Prince of Crime. First up is DETECTIVE COMICS #617, the single issue that launched Ryan's comic collecting habit three decades ago. Then, BATMAN #321, which celebrates the Joker's birthday in deadly fashion.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “It's My Party" by Lesley Gore; "200 Balloons" by Prince.

Thanks for listening!

13 responses to “Batman Knightcast 32: DETECTIVE COMICS #617 and BATMAN #321

  1. Chris had an accident? To quote Marc McClure from the end of the first Back to the Future movie: “When the Hell did this happen? Why wasn’t I told? Why am I always the last one to find out about these things?”

  2. Weirdly, Leto hasn’t been mentioned as being grossly abusive by Cyborg …

    You guys can have Dark Knight, Dark City if we can have the Gerry Conway/Don Newton issue that brings Hugo Strange back.

    Hugely enjoyable to listen to, as ever.

  3. Thanks for another fantastically fun piece of podcasting. I must admit, ‘not again’ was indeed my first reaction on hearing this was another episode with the Joker – and two stories! Still, whatever Batman books you talk, I always enjoy the chat.

    And what great comics. I enjoyed both of ‘em loads. That Joker on Norm Breyfogle’s cover is delightfully peculiar and, happily, motivated by the tarot card inside. I know it’s a common name for fictional precogs due to the Classical character, but for a second I thought that card reader was going to be Phantom Stranger’s old pal Cassandra Craft. But of course, she’s blind and looks entirely different. How great, though, that this Batman remembers that he doesn’t HAVE to disbelieve in the supernatural because he knows Phantom Stranger, Deadman, Zatanna and the like. I love that moment in Alan Grant’s script when Batman comes back through the beaded curtain with a hesitant ‘we-ell…’

    This is such a great issue, all those bat-bits, it was like an issue full of Silver Age DC fact pages – you know, Flash Facts or Wonder Woman’s ‘Love Traditions of the World’ (one of which advised that ‘if you sleep with a bowl of water under the pillow, you’ll dream of the man you’ll marry’… or drown). And the facts lead to a wonderfully intense spread.

    And then Chris gives us some background on the term ‘redneck’… podcasts am educational! Maybe it’s not a mistake by Alan Grant, though, perhaps in comics Bruce is putting on a fake Good Ol’ Boy accent. Yeah, that’s it.

    I also had a mother who bought me comics – she worked in a newspaper shop for a few years and every couple of weeks would come home with all the new imported Marvels and DCs. I was a very lucky boy.

    As with the Detective Comics issue, I bought the second comic when it came out, I love that cover… and have never noticed the ruddy pink Joker head cake!

    Given that the Joker always reappears after disappearing into a watery abyss, has anyone checked in for a teleporter in his pocket?

    You’re right about the deliberate efforts to make Gotham city a more distinct environment – Paul Levitz, when he joined a Batman book as editor, said in an early letter column that he wanted people to become as familiar with the streets of Gotham as those of their own town – probably his first, issue 310.

    In a ‘why so serious?’ way, how the heck can the Jokermobile and our villain dressed as an old lady not be universally loved? (I wonder if Donald Trump will be building a Trumpmobile as he turns to post-White House supervillain-hood.) I think this, and the discussion of the candidates for candles and Batman’s Rocket Hobby Hints, are examples of what you chaps often mention – looking at popcorn comics with a super-serious magnifying glass (I’m not one to talk…).

    Chris, as regards It Happened One Night, you were thinking Claudette Colbert, not Mary Astor. Which you likely remembered ten seconds after wrapping the show.

    I mentioned Batman #310 back there. Would you consider that for a future edition? Amazing cover, comedy accents, a Bat-disguise… and much more, as Levitz, Wein and Novick begin a BND for the series. And the following issue, #311, sees Steve Englehart and Dr Phosphorus return to Gotham, prompting Batman and Batgirl’s first team-up in a decade (it sez here).

    Over to you!

  4. Another fine episode. While, unlike Ryan, Detective 617 wasn’t the first issue of my Batman-reading career, it was one of my early ones, being among the many, many people drawn in by the ’89 film. And I too remember it very fondly (never forgot that double-page spread of Bats shearing off the top of the Joker’s car). Here’s something bizarre: I believe—I could be wrong—but I believe that this is the ONLY full-length Joker story ever drawn by Norm Breyfogle. (He made cameo appearances in others—in my beloved “The Last Arkham,” for example, Bats gets to punch him in the face.)

    I too like “Dreadful Birthday,” but to nit-pick, I find Simonson’s art to be a little inconsistent—particularly with how he draws the Joker’s face. Comically bulbous chin on page 4, chipmunk expression on page 10, monkey nose on the final page. I don’t know, maybe that adds to the sense of the Joker’s mania, but I’ve always found them distracting.

    Finally, yes, there was a “Legends of the DC Universe” story, written by Englehart and set immediately after the end of “The Laughing Fish,” in which Aquaman and the other Atlanteans recruit the Joker to help them remove the smiles from their finny friends. It’s not very good: Apart from the aforementioned nonsense of Batman beating up Aquaman, it makes all of Atlantis look like morons (they believe the Joker’s line that he’s king of the surface world) and features some extremely lackluster work from Trevor von Eden. Skip!

  5. I bought Death In The Family on Chris’ recommendation and quite enjoyed it. The gimmick was fun and its isn’t as simple as “choose your own ending.” The rating though may be for the Sgt Rock short rather than the main feature. The UK release is only a 15 rather than the R equivalent, an 18.

  6. I was collecting all of the monthly Batman comics in the period when Detective #617 came out. Man, I loved that issue! Much more than the kinda-sorta crossover issues in the Batman title. Not that those issues were bad, not at all. But this one just sings. So good!

    And again, showing how little I’ve read of older Batman comics, #321 was a first read for me before listening to this podcast. Agree to the wonkiness of Batman’s plan, so I tried to stay in the silver age mindset while also enjoying the artwork.

    The problem with Joker disguising his face to dress as a woman. That reminded me of a story in Batman Family. Let me look up which issue it is. (“Moooon Riveeeeer”) Ah, #8, the Copycatgirl Capers, where a new femme fatale appears calling herself Catgirl, and Robin has to catch her before Catwoman does. At the end, it’s revealed to be Duela Dent, with her elongated Joker-like chin, which apparently just disappears when wearing disguise makeup, because COMICS!

    Great episode, knightcasters!

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