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"The Joker's Practical Jokes"Edit
Once again, Bruce and Dick discuss The Joker's fate from their last adventure , and whether or not the Harlequin of Hate has finally met his end. Unknown to them, however, Joker is already planning his next caper, with the insertion of an innocuous-looking advertisement (signed "I. Rekoj") into the morning newspaper, calling for practical jokers.
"I. Rekoj", an old, bespectacled man, interviews and audition each of the practical jokers who had responded to the ad, thinning out the crowd until all he has are the ones whose pranks are truly dangerous. The Ace of Knaves then invites the "humorists" to pick up several objects on a table. After they have done so, "I Rekoj" gleefully informs them that each object had been part of a major crime, and now that their fingerprints are on them, he can turn them over to the police and implicate them as suspects.
The blackmailer gleefully rips off his disguise, revealing himself to be The Joker, and informs the pranksters that they have a choice: to work for him, or to risk prison and possibly execution. All of the pranksters agree, much to Joker's glee, and as a result, increasingly deadly pranks begin plague Gotham. False fire alarms are sounded, shower taps are swapped, and counterfeit money is tossed onto the streets, inciting riots. Joker is immensely pleased, and notes to himself that these pranks are merely to prepare the "humorists" for more vicious tricks.
The Ace of Knaves' words prove to be true; the "humorists" begin to swap street signs, causing car accidents, swap medicine bottles with poison, and interfere with railroad switches, resulting in derailed trains. As the death tolls for the crimes continue to climb, Joker openly taunts the police by having a plane drop leaflets into the city, mocking them as well as informing them that he intends to steal a valuable gem. Commissioner Gordon is incensed, but a ray of hope comes in the form of a man named Henry Verde. Verde claims that The Joker had sent him a note that morning, informing him that he will enter his home the next night and steal a diamond in his possession. Gordon assures the man that when The Joker enters his home, all he will find is a trap.
At that very moment, however, The Joker is more smug than ever, confident that his plan will catch the police off-guard. On the proposed night, policemen are indeed stationed outside the Verde home, but they do no good - by the time Batman and Robin arrive, both have already been killed by Joker Venom. The Dark Knight smashes through the front door of the house, only to find Joker pointing a gun at Verde's throat.
In an instant, Batman charges the Ace of Knaves, but as Robin steps in to help, a second opponent appears, identical-looking to The Joker in every which way. As the Dynamic Duo continue to fight, even more Jokers pour into the room, though a punch from Batman reveals that they are merely normal people - The Joker's pranksters - with masks attached to their faces. In another part of Gotham, the real Joker is seen threatening a man at gunpoint, demanding that he give up the diamond in his possession.
Batman and Robin fight valiantly against the horde of Jokers, but are eventually overpowered by the sheer numbers. One "Joker" considers killing them, but another one dismisses the notion, stating that the real Joker wants them alive. The Dynamic Duo are thus left alone in the Verde house, and, when they finally come to, find Verde's "diamond" on the floor, along with a note stating that the "diamond" is merely a glass doorknob, "as phoney as my name".
As the Dynamic Duo ponder the note, a nearby phone rings, the caller being none other than Joker himself. The Ace of Knaves gleefully informs Batman that while he had been trying to save a fake diamond from a man in his own employ, he had stolen a real gem. He concludes the mocking phone call with a riddle: "When is a duke not a duke?" and hangs up. Batman is left fuming at Joker's triumph, while Joker is ecstatic at his victory.
Several nights pass, and Bruce is still no closer to solving the riddle. One day, however, a newspaper article provides the answer - Duke Michael, head of a war-torn country, will be holding fund-raising dinner in Gotham that very night, during which a valise containing $10,000 will be given to him. Bruce realizes that this is the key to Joker's riddle, but Joker himself is one step ahead - at that very moment, he infiltrates the hotel where the duke and his two aides are staying at, and knocks all three men unconscious with his gas-gun. He subsequently disguises himself and two of his pranksters as the three, and attends the dinner, intending to take the valise for himself.
Right after the disguised Joker accepts the valise at the dinner, however, Batman and Robin burst onto the scene. Though The Joker's many pranksters rush to his aid, Batman and Robin are able to defeat them all, thanks to the many "weapons", such as dishes and tablecloths, available to them. As the fight continues, Joker makes his escape, having already hidden the money and intending to come back for it later. Batman and Robin waste no time in going after the criminal, though they are plagued with a stroke of bad luck - the car that they had selected to chase Joker's car with is much too slow.
Joker's car suddenly stops by a railroad station, as he intends to make his final escape by train. As the Ace of Knaves climbs onto the train, however, the Dynamic Duo drive alongside it in the car, and are able to leap onto it as well. A fierce and tricky fight ensues, as Joker is nearly able to leave the two behind by disconnecting the cars of the train. In the end, however, a punch from Batman sends him hurtling off the train, several hundred feet into the ground below. Once more, Batman and Robin question whether or not Joker will cheat death yet again, but Batman states that, if nothing else, they at least had the last laugh on Joker for the time being.
- ↑ Batman #5