DCAU #10: Be a Clown

IN THIS ONE... The Joker accidentally kidnaps the mayor's son.

CREDITS: Written by Ted Pedersen (another Smurfs/Thundarr alumni, with other credits for Godzilla, Flash Gordon, and TMNT) and Steve Hayes (wrote for the Rambo animated series), directed by Frank Paur.

REVIEW: To date, the Joker has appeared in a full third of produced episodes (though there were set more apart in airing order); too much? Whatever your answer, I completely understand why. Bringing in the Joker uses a "name" villain without it having to be an origin story, which at this point, has been the rule. Truth be told, this is a stronger episode than either Christmas with the Joker or The Last Laugh. The Joker's shticks are more thematically coherent, for one thing, and more clever. The abandoned fairgrounds are extremely well used, with an explosive roller coaster climax, a creepy funhouse, and a Ferris wheel casting a spider web-like shadow. The Joker throws sharpened steel cards at Batman (giving the term "card sharp" a new meaning), hides a computer console inside a clown face, forces Batman to play Houdini, and shows off his magic tricks. He's a one-man carnival - no giant robots (I don't count the springy, but see Sounds Like), no civilian minions, no garbage barge submarines; it's all quite Jokery.

Be a Clown perhaps cheekily also  refers to Mayor Hill, a politician who really does deserve to be taken down a peg. His humiliation, first when his speech about the gentrified Gotham Towers being a safe haven from crime is literally crashed by a police chase, and then when his "safe" mansion is infiltrated by the Joker during a birthday party, is exactly what the audience wants to see happen. What a douchebag! He boasts that he can make Gotham as safe as his own mansion... MANSION! Then has a birthday party for his son to which he only invites the city's rich and famous - it's a damn networking occasion! Crass! So when his boy Jordan is seemingly kidnapped by the birthday clown, he's getting a lesson in what's REALLY important. And he gets it, though I somehow doubt the character's been redeemed for more than a few hours. He'll probably be back to his old tricks in future episodes.

What actually happens is that Jordan, lacking a father figure and very interested in stage magic, kidnaps himself! He climbs into the Joker's van (or Jekko's, his assumed identity) and follows him to the fairgrounds. To his credit, the Joker isn't a child killer. At the party, he considers the Mayor, the spoiled brat, and the exploding candle on the cake is meant for him and his friends. He even tells the kids to leave, and later takes Jordan under his very dangerous wing, which he sees as a kindness. It helps that Jordan is, from everything his father's told him, afraid of the Batman. The tables are nicely turned. Of course, Batman eventually gets Jordan to trust him. Batman and kids, right? I also like how Bruce Wayne is the only guest remotely interested in the birthday boy and not photo ops. When he saves the day by pulling a clumsy Clark Kent and knocking the cake bomb into the pool, I cheered.

SOUNDS LIKE: The threatening "robot" on a spring's laugh is apparently an uncredited Tim Curry. He was originally supposed to play the Joker, but the laugh gave him a sore throat and he bowed out. Mark Hamill got the gig, but we do get a taste of what he would have been like here. Jim Cummings plays the real Jekko, a thin part for the man who voiced Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Darkwing Duck! Justin Shenkarow who played Jordan was a child actor whose biggest role was on Picket Fences.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The best Joker episode yet. The only thing missing, perhaps, is a crazy princess for the Clown Prince of Crime.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Terrible story. Worst episode of the entire DCAU stable of shows.

... nahh, just kidding, but admit it, you were expecting something like that.

Siskoid said...

Nah. I never know what to expect.

LiamKav said...

It's certainly the best use of the Joker so far. And the plot of the Joker trying to win others over to "his way" comes up again and again, on Harley and most disturbingly in "Return of the Joker". (By the way, I dunno how much of the DCAU you are familiar with Siskoid, so if there are any areas where you want us to tread lightly so as not to spoil you, let us know.)

I do wonder how the episode plays if you are a young child, especially if you have anabsentee father.. I first saw it relatively recently, so I don't know.

Pity it's still animated by Akom though. I can't wait to see an animation studio that can draw this Joker design decently. (Although it does explain a lot of the thinking behind the simplified Joker design in TNBA.)

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I... don't really have any strong opinion on this one. I don't know that I remember it as a 'high'; it was always a little more of a nonentity... but not bad. Just kinda... there.

This is more telling about me, and how much I can manage to blabber when I have nothing to say, then about the episode. :-)

Siskoid said...

Liam: Well, the only shows I missed were Batman Beyond, Static Shock and Zeta or whatever. Don't know how good my memory is on the rest, but it's usually familiar enough. I'd say I remember the Justice League episodes the best.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

What about Gotham girls? The Lobo flash series? The rabbit-hole runs deep, my friend... :-)

Siskoid said...

I've seen some if not all of Gotham Girls. I know I haven't seen the Batwoman movie.

LiamKav said...

I'll keep quiet about "Return of the Joker" then, as it's the Batman Beyond movie. The only thing I'll mention is that the Joker returns.

Maybe.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

The best part of that film is definitely the unexpected Boss Hogg cameo. It is also the movie where Bruce's parents come back.

Whoops. Spoilers. ;-)

Dale Bagwell said...

Definitely one of my favorite Joker episodes and that's hard to do with so many Joker-centric ones. Tim Curry as the Joker eh? Damn, that would've been very interesting, but would it have been as iconic as Hammil's? The world may never know....

 

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