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When We First Met – Joker’s Deadly Bag of Tricks

by  in Comic News Comment

In this feature we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!’” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today, based on a suggestion by reader Joe M., we’ll take a look at the introduction of various Joker stand-bys, like the joy buzzer, the acid-squirting flower and the “Bang” flag gun…

The weird thing about the Joker is that the Joker we’ve known for the past forty years is not the same Joker we saw for the first thirty plus years of his existence. When he was first introduced, the Joker was a sadistic murderer who occasionally used clever ways of killing people but for the most part just used guns (either guns with bullets or guns that shot out his Joker venom). That period of the Joker’s existence was prolific (he seemed to show up in every single issue of Batman) but also short-lived. By 1942, the Joker killed the last person he would kill for the next three decades. From that point on, the Joker became more of a prankster. He would still often carry a gun but he wouldn’t actually DO anything with it. This was a dude who tried to stab Batman to death in his first appearance and by the 1950s he was saying, “Nah, don’t kill Batman. I like messing with him.”

It was during this period that we first saw Joker’s joy buzzer in the 1952 story “The Joker’s Utility Belt” in Batman #73 by David Vern, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris…


The story is about Joker trying to even up things with him and Batman by getting his own utility belt…


There’s a sort of a precursor to the squirting flower later in the story…


In the Batman TV series during the 1960s, Cesar Romero’s Joker had a joy buzzer. It was pretty standard fare. Although by the third season, his joy buzzer had finally become deadly (obviously he didn’t actually kill anyone, but it was at least determined to be deadly – thanks to Mike Blake for the head’s up of the third season usage of the buzzer).

When Denny O’Neil revamped the Joker in 1973 and made him deadly again, he gave him a deadlier joy buzzer in 1975’s The Joker #2 (art by Irv Novick and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez)…



However, it would not be until the 1989 Batman movie that the Joker would actually KILL with the joy buzzer…


In 1992’s Robin II: The Joker’s Wild, the Joker seemingly kills Mister Freeze with a joy buzzer…


O’Neil debuted the acid-squirting flower in The Joker #1 (art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano)…


Finally, Len Wein, Walter Simonson and Dick Giordano debuted Joker’s “Bang” gun in the classic 1980 story, “Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker” in Batman #321…


If you have a suggestion for a future edition of When We First Met, feel free to drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com