JOKER WEEK: Realllllly going out on a limb with this list…

It’s JOKER WEEK! We’re celebrating comics’ greatest villain since there’s a big ol’ major motion picture coming out this week. For the complete index of features, click here. — Dan

I’ve already rolled the dice by ranking the TOP 13 JOKER STORIES EVER (click here), so I figure, hey, why not get even more foolhardy with a ranking of the TOP 13 JOKER COVERS EVER.

Given the volume of material available across almost 80 years, this makes me feel like Robin on the cover of Detective Comics #40:

Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson

But “Danger” is my middle name (actually it isn’t), so I figured I’d throw caution to the wind and give you an impregnable, undeniable, not at all subjective, 100 percent iron-clad list of the TOP 13 GREATEST JOKER COVERS — RANKED.

I just wish that Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson’s classic 1960s pin-up had been used as a cover, because this is easily one of the greatest images of the Clown Prince of Crime ever published:

A little cockeyed, but it’s the best I could find.

Hey, you can’t have everything.

Still, let’s give this a shot, shall we?

13. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #81, by Glen Orbik and Laurel Blechman. I love it when artists can show you what a comics character could actually look like in real life, without sacrificing the details that make them recognizable – in this case, the Joker’s classic long chin and high cheekbones. This is prime Joker.

12. Batman Meets the Green Hornet #4, by Alex Ross. Let’s stick with the painters here. The masterful Alex Ross gives us the greatest illustration of Cesar Romero’s Joker ever published in comics.

11. Batman #321, by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. All things considered, this story written by Len Wein and illustrated by Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano probably should have made our TOP 13 JOKER STORIES EVER. It’s great but there’re only so many spots. Anyway, the cover’s damn good too, so here you go.

10. The Joker #1, by Dick Giordano. Chiefly on the strength of its historical importance. It’s a great concept – I love the Joker asserting his dominance over Batman’s other great villains – but his face always looked a little wonky to me. Still, I had to include it.

9. Batman #286, by Jim Aparo. A personal favorite of mine, going back to childhood. You get two, two, two Jokers in one! And I love how one of the Jokers just swats Batman away, dismissing him. Like a boss.

8. Batman #366, by Walter Simonson. There are covers I like better but you cannot deny the Eisner-influenced artistry here. I remember being mesmerized by this cover when it came out and it still looks special whenever I see it on a wall at a comics show.

7. Detective Comics #69, by Jerry Robinson. This is one of the most famous – and homaged – covers of the Golden Age. It’s classic Robinson, with his penchant for gigantic Jokers menacing the Dynamic Duo.

6. Detective Comics #475, by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. One of the most famous covers of the Bronze Age. Truth be told, I actually prefer the next issue’s cover with its shot of a grinning Batman and the ominous words THE SIGN OF THE JOKER ensconced between the edges of his cape. But the Joker himself doesn’t appear, so I went with this classic instead.

5. Detective Comics #388, by Irv Novick. I’m probably giving an inordinate amount of love to this comic (the story improbably made the TOP 13 JOKER STORIES list) but man if this isn’t one of the all-time great Joker images. The size of that face! Sure, Novick’s working off Carmine Infantino’s Silver Age house style – echoing that famous pin-up above – but does it work. Love it.

4. Batman #37, by Jerry Robinson. Just the whole idea of the Joker tormenting Batman by stealing his proverbial playbook is a great deal of fun. But the composition and colors – especially the night tableau – are what elevate this to classic status.

3. Detective Comics #365, by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. DC in the ’60s was known for wacky cover concepts meant to force legions of Johnny DCs into giving up their well-earned 12 cents. This one is fittingly over-the-top — an inventive and clever concept that works so well because it was executed brilliantly, from the composition to the color – this time an atmospheric purple. I cannot imagine a kid walking by the newsstand in 1967 and passing this up.

2. Batman #11, by Fred Ray and Jerry Robinson. This is my favorite cover of the Golden Age, period. (It’s on my wallet and the back of my cellphone, actually.) It’s a cleverly classy and chaotic construction that stands as a brilliant piece of graphic design. You can’t not stare at it. It is my Holy Grail, the one high-end Batman comic left that I really want in my collection. (Besides, y’know, Detective Comics #27 and Batman #1.)

1. Batman #251, by Neal Adams. A double win for Adams: The issue also capped our TOP 13 JOKER STORIES list. This is everything you want in a Joker cover: magnitude, danger, outlandishness, atmosphere and note-perfect color. I like to tell people that when I go to the comics shop on Wednesdays, I walk across Park Avenue, below where the giant Joker would be looming. I can’t help but look at the sky and imagine him there every time. Oh, and wanna know what Adams has to say about the cover? Click here. And you can also get an EXCLUSIVE INSIDE LOOK at the Batman #251 Facsimile Edition — out Wednesday — by clicking here.


— The Complete JOKER’S WEEK Index of Features. Click here.


Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. The BATMAN #11 is my oldest comic in my collection.

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  2. Personally love the cover for Joker #5, prefer it to #1

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  3. Batman 44 has a great Joker cover.

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