Detective Comics Issue 332- “The Joker’s Last Laugh!”
Published October 1964
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Bob Kane
Another day in Gotham City, another new jewelry store opens to little fanfare. The police are posted right outside for security, and everybody else goes about their business until… A station wagon pulls down the block with a giant loudspeaker blaring “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Yes, that sort of a lame joke, considering it’s the Joker we’re dealing with this episode. The passersby agree but when the punchline is told, the whole block explodes with laughter!
While everybody is too busy laughing, the Joker comes out of the wagon riding a giant chicken and crosses the street into the Red Ruby Jewelry Store to rob them of their wares with a net. He rushes back to his vehicle, telling his men it’s time to make a getaway. Even after they left, everybody is still laughing as if it’s George Burns or Groucho Marx doing a bit on tv.
Batman and Robin have just received the news about the Joker’s escape and head out to stop him. While driving into the city, the Commissioner calls and tells them their next destination, a Harlan Square art gallery. Over there, the Joker arrives in a fire truck, using the ladder to easily get into the top floor and steal the works. The spectacle of a fire truck where there is no fire is enough to stun the crowd long enough to carry out the crime. For the getaway kicker, the Joker tells another grade-school joke, “Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?” The answer will not be knee-slappin’.
The duo arrives to stop him, but their nemesis tells the same joke again, causing them to laugh alongside their fellow citizens. Struggling to compose themselves, Batman and Robin basically let the Joker’s gang get away cleanly. Minutes, possibly half-an-hour, later everybody regains their senses and goes about their daily lives. Batman notices a fine layer of dust covering their bodies, despite that it rained earlier in the day.
They head back to the Batcave and through a thorough analysis, they find the dust to be a virulent form of the loco weed. This is not to be confused with the locoweed that livestock commonly find and eat, which can cause them to go crazy and mad. The “loco weed” or “Jimson Weed” is a powerful hallucinogen used in medicine, and must be used in prescribed does. The dust that the Joker used thankfully caused them to be overcome with laughter rather than the gas that is introduced in later stories. To stop themselves from being affected by the pollen, Batman takes out some antihistamines. Yes. The key to stopping the latest plot is a Claritan.
When they arrive on the scene of the Joker’s next caper, the jester of mayhem turns the tables on them and shoots a stream of crying gas. Luckily the effect wore off much faster than the dust and they chase after the suspect right to a police station in the outskirts of town. Robin makes the observation that it was rather easy to capture the Joker, especially since they found him and this place so soon. The Joker doesn’t say a single thing and is led to a jail cell. Just when they place him in there, he says “here comes the great switcheroo!” Now, the crimefighting duo are locked behind bars!
The Joker laughs at how stupid his do-gooder enemies are, and explains that this whole police station is phony and a trap! He takes the cell key, and tells them that the whole building is set to blow within an hour. They’ll never be able to catch him at his 50 million dollar robbery, especially when they’ll be naught but pieces! Ho ho ho!
Instead of panicking or using some explosives to blow the door open, Batman picks up a stool and demands utter quiet. He takes out a penknife and starts cutting at a leg and after a few minutes, he whittles an exact replica of the jail key. Yes, Batman is THAT good. Too bad the modern ones have to resort to some sort of expensive device, when this one got them out with relatively a few pennies. The key works, and they rush into the city. The 50 million dollar robbery can only mean one thing!
At the Omega Nucleonics Corporation, a television presenter is previewing a fancy new space satellite that was just completed here in Gotham City and will be shipped to Cape Kennedy tomorrow. It’s not turned one and it shines a radiant glow under the studio lights. It’s worth an enormous amount of money due to the many precious metals and jewels used in building it, from gold and platinum to diamonds and emeralds! The people of Gotham City sure do make extravagant things.
The Joker and his gang arrive and begin their heist, curiously not bothering to use the loco weed pollen. Batman and Robin arrive at almost the same time and start beating up the gang, leaving the mastermind free to go at them at his own leisure. He rides a tv camera truck straight toward Batman, intending to ram him, but Robin’s quick thinking causes it to skid to a halt, forcing its rider to fly through the air. Batman punches the Joker and that takes care of this caper.
The Joker’s re-arrival at the Gotham City Penitentiary causes him to be the butt of the joke, and Batman remarks that he did get the last laugh after all.