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Detective Comics 332
Detective Comics #332
Publication Information
Published October 1964
Executive Editor Julius Schwartz
Cover Artist(s) Carmine Infantino; Sheldon Moldoff (Inside art)
Writer(s) John Broome
Inker(s) Joe Giella
Letterer(s) None
Editor(s) Julius Schwartz
Alternate Covers


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Detective Comics #333
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"The Joker's Last Laugh!"Edit

SynopsisEdit

A new jewelry store called "The Red Ruby" has just opened in Gotham - one that prides itself on selling nothing but the biggest, most extravagant rubies. Not surprisingly, the store has a large number of guards, alert and ready. One of the guards sees a sound-truck across the street, and goes over to check it out. The truck, at first, seems harmless - it merely offers free entertainment in the form of old, corny jokes. The first joke that tells is the classic "Road-Crossing Chicken" joke, which the passerby find enormously unfunny; when the punch line is given, however, the crowd surrounding the truck - the guards included - suddenly find themselves laughing without any control.

The operators of the sound-truck are revealed - The Joker and two of his men. While the crowd is paralyzed with laughter, the Clown Prince of Crime bursts out of the back of the truck on a giant animatronic chicken, and effortlessly robs The Red Ruby, all the while thinking about the cream of his jest: a chicken crosses the road so that he can rob the new jewelry store. After Joker finishes his robbery, he simply runs back inside the sound-truck and drives off; the witnesses, after all, are completely helpless with laughter, and the guards lack even the strength to blow their whistles for help.

Batman and Robin soon get word of the robbery, as well as Joker's newest trick. Not wasting a moment, the Caped Crusaders patrol the city in the Batmobile, searching for The Joker for hours on end. It is only by nightfall, however, that they finally get a lead - Commissioner Gordon reports that a large crowd had gathered in Harlan Square, in downtown Gotham. Believing that The Joker may be behind it, the Dynamic Duo speed toward Harlan Square. Commissioner Gordon's report is soon proven to be correct, as a large crowd has gathered in the square, all staring at a hook-and-ladder fire truck that had stopped outside an art gallery. The townspeople believe that the art gallery is on fire, but in truth, it is The Joker and his gang, disguised as firefighters as to steal paintings inside the gallery.

As the "firefighters" emerge from the building, carrying priceless paintings under their arms, the townspeople's suspicions are raised. In an instant, several police officers arrive at the scene, but The Joker shows no worry - in fact, he boldly reveals himself to his "audience", and tells another corny joke: "Why does a fireman wear red suspenders? Why, it's to hold up his pants!" Just like before, the crowd is paralyzed with uncontrollable laughter, and when Batman and Robin arrive, they fare no better. Once more, The Joker is able to get away with no trouble at all.

Hours later, the Dynamic Duo and the townspeople are finally able to stop laughing, and Batman's sharp eyes are able to spot an important clue: the entire area is covered with a faint dust, but it had rained earlier that day, so there should not be so much dust. Batman then theorizes that it had not been The Joker's joke which had made them laugh after all, and he and Robin immediately head back to the Batcave to analyze the dust. In the Batcave, Batman's suspicions are confirmed - the dust is the pollen of a plant known as the "Loco Weed", which, when taken into the body, affects the central nervous system and causes various kinds of fits - such as bouts of uncontrollable laughter. The Joker's corny jokes are simply a cover; it is the dust that makes everyone helpless with laughter.

Now that they have figured out The Joker's newest weapon, Batman and Robin take to defend themselves against it. They do so by swallowing antihistamine pills, since the fits caused by Loco Weed pollen are extremely similar in concept to the symptoms of an allergic reaction to something. A grim search for The Joker ensues, and for days on end, the Dynamic Duo have no luck. One day, however, The Joker finally commits another robbery, this time at a loan company in broad daylight. The pills work, and Batman and Robin are not seized by laughter like the rest of the townspeople, but The Joker is prepared - he sprays them with a vial of special gas that makes them break out in tears instead, allowing him and his men to temporarily escape.

As they drive away, Joker states that he knows they are being followed by the Batmobile, and had allowed it because he had prepared a trap to stop Batman and Robin from interfering with their next robbery. The chase continues, finally ending on the outskirts of Gotham City, where Joker suddenly leaps out of his sound-truck. In an instant, Batman and Robin grab the Macabre Master of Mirth, and comment on their good luck - there is a police station literally right beside them. The Dynamic Duo lock Joker inside the station's holding cell, but are treated to a nasty shock - as they turn the key in the lock, a turntable beneath the cell activates, trapping them in the cell instead. The Joker celebrates his victory over the Dynamic Duo, grabbing the cell's key out of their hands and taunting them - the police station was phony, and had been prepared especially for them.

Joker continues to gloat, stating that the only way to escape the cell is with the key, which he is taking with him; any other attempt to escape the cell will cause it to explode. He then turns around to leave, telling the Caped Crusaders that while they serve out their "life sentence", he and his gang will be pulling off a fifty million dollar robbery. The minute that Joker leaves, however, Batman asks Robin to stay silent, takes a pen-knife out of his utility belt, and begins carving something on the leg of a wooden stool in the cell. The Boy Wonder is nearly overcome by curiosity, but does as he is told, and is greeted with a pleasant surprise - Batman had carved an exact duplicate of the cell's key out of the wood. Batman explains that when The Joker had held up the real key to taunt them, he had memorized the shape, and had asked Robin to not interrupt him so that he could keep its image in his mind. Once the two of them are free, Batman questions how the two of them are to find Joker, and Robin reminds him of The Joker's plan for a fifty million dollar robbery. This is enough of a clue for Batman, who hops into the Batmobile, Robin close behind him.

The story then cuts to the Omega Nucleonics Corporation in downtown Gotham, where a reporter is covering a story about a fifty million dollar space satellite that the corporation had just finished working on. The satellite, he goes on to say, is made entirely out of precious metals and stones - gold, platinum, diamonds, emeralds, etc. His report, however, is interrupted by The Joker and his men, armed to the teeth and ready to steal the satellite. Before they can do so, however, Batman and Robin arrive on the scene, and make short work of The Joker's men. The Joker, furious, attempts to run over Batman with a TV camera-truck, but the ploy backfires, and he winds up being beaten with a single punch from the Dark Knight. Later on, The Joker is seen incarcerated in the local penitentiary once more, forced to endure the mocking laughter of the guards and his fellow prisoners. As Robin states, this proves that one thing about The Joker is certain - he has no sense of humor when the joke is on him.

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