Joker #6 (March-April, 1976)
“Sherlock Stalks the Joker!
Story – Denny O’Neil
Pencils – Irv Novick
Inks – Tex Blaisdell
Edits – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
The mid-70’s Joker series is one of those books that I’ve had a heck of a time tracking down in the bins. It’s one I see so seldom, I almost attributed this weird mythical status to it. In all my years of hunting, this li’l oddity has always been a “wall book”, ya know what I mean? I’ve often joked about the “Joker Tax” comic shops will tag onto any issue with the ol’ clown on the cover (which, with how we don’t even get a week without a Joker cover appearance these days, makes me fear for future generations of collectors… assuming there will be any!).
Anyhoo, after many dives into the bins… I actually managed to find an issue of the series… for a buck! Needless to say (since you’re reading this piece), that I nabbed the bugger! And what a weird little book this is… I mean, just check out the cover!
You look at a cover like this one… and say to yourself, “Self? How could a story like this ever actually happen?”. Surely, the Joker has never met Sherlock Holmes… so, this has gotta be a gag, right? Well… yes and no… and don’t call me Shirley.
There’s gotta be some sort of explanation as to how this story could ever happen. The real question is: Is it gonna be dumb? Well, elementary my dear readers… in other words, yes… it’s going to be very dumb.
Our story opens in theater residing in a “medium-size town”, where an actor named Clive Sigerson is rehearsing for his role in a play about… Sherlock Holmes. He is confronted by his arch-nemesis Professor James Moriarty… who, pulls a fast one, by going off script and shooting him square in the face… with a boxing glove. “Moriarty” then unmasks, revealing himself to be… the Joker. So, there’s our pieces in place!
Sigerson is both befuddled and annoyed at this chain of events, and goes to confront the clown. Joker picks up Holmes’ trademark pipe, and… clonks the actor over the head with it. He and his gang then start tap-dancing before… exiting, stage left.
The police arrive on the scene some quarter-hour later, and the producer is all out of sorts. I love this guy! He’s really over-the-top here with his “Scandalous!” outburst!
Anyhoo, we learn that this theater is the Bohemia… and, since this is “Scandalous”, Sigerson is reminded of the early Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia. I’m sure that was the first thing that popped into all of our minds as well, right? Right? Yeah, Denny’s a big Holmes fan… so, this one’s going to be kind of reliant on having some knowledge of that character and his lore. Oh! And also, since the bonk on the noggin with the pipe, Sigerson now believes himself to be the actual Sherlock Holmes. He realizes that a photo had been stolen from the set, and through some Rube Goldbergian deduction he thinks he’s figured out promises the Joker’s next move. He heads off. The producer sends a stagehand along to keep an eye on Sigerson. You’d think the Officer might intervene to stop this clearly confused man from stalking a serial killer, but… nope!
The stagehand catches up to “Holmes” and tells him he’s there to “watchdog” him. Through a series of contrivances, Sherlock deduces that this fella’s name will now be “Dock Watson”. Oy. Back at the Ha-Hacienda, the Joker tells his goons why he’s so stuck on screwing with Sherlock. Ya see, he’s got a real problem with Detectives… and would really like to see all of the “biggies” humiliated. Who bigger than Sherlock Holmes, right?
Anyhoo, we rejoin Holmes (and Dock) as they’re pulling onto the Red Circle Golf Course to chat up a J.B. “Red” Wilson… who, we learn is the President of a newly-formed Air Hockey League. Wait’ll we get through this bout of mental gymnastics.
The Joker’s goons rise out of the nearby water hazard to, well, do something, I’m sure. Holmes rushes in and proceeds to box with Southpaw the Goon.
Even Dock Watson gets in on the actions and kapows… Tooth? Is this goon’s name actually Tooth? Eesh. Anyhoo, the Joker then drives a golf ball right into Watson’s dome, temporarily kayoing him.
Holmes then, snags a four-iron, and proceeds to duel with the Joker. He’s able to easily disarm the clown… unfortunately for him, however, the Joker has more tricks up his sleeve.
The Joker rushes back to his golf bag and… fires a net in the detective’s direction, tangling him up but good long enough for him to flee the scene. We learn here that our man was at the golf course in the first place because of the old Holmes story, The Red-Headed League. Ya know, that old favorite! I’m totally speaking out of turn here… I know next to nothing about the character!
Anyhoo, by now Holmes has already figured out the Joker’s next stop. How? Elementary, my dear readers… which is to say, I haven’t the foggiest idea what story contrivances Mr. O’Neil has up his sleeve for us. Speaking of which, we catch up with the Joker in his Mobile Ho-Home, and find out that all he wanted from the golf course was the flag from the fourth green. This is (apparently) in reference to Holmes story, The Sign of the Four… not that I would know anything about that!
We rejoin our “detective” later that evening at the waterfront. There’s a party occurring on board a large ship, called… The Baskervilles. Okay, even I recognize that one. After being denied entry by a police officer, Holmes has to get creative. He shimmies up a line from a small tugboat. At the very same time, our main man “Tooth”… Tooth… is also climbing a line. He lobs a smoke grenade into the party.
Holmes catches up to… Tooth… and nyoinks him off the line. Not before referring to him as a “Blackguard”… which, from my (admittedly) little research seems like something very Holmsian to say… but, maybe it’s just some “2020” over-sensitivity in me, just seems weird in this particular instance… ya know?
After kayoing Tooth with a sock to the jaw, Holmes is finally able to board The Baskervilles. Deep inside, the Joker is using a torch to cut through a steel door.
The Joker explains that this hunk of steel is what sailors use to “Dog down the Hatches”. So, it’s a “dog”… or, ya know… a “hound”. Alrighty then. This is a reference to, duh, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Holmes and Dock Watson then arrive on the scene.
The Joker attempts to flee… but, does not get far. Holmes uses a high-pressure water-gun on the deck to… I’m going to assume blow a hole in the clown’s body. You ever work with a pressure-washer before? Those things could kill! And, I mean… Holmes is attempting to reenact Moriarty’s death scene here, right?
Thankfully (I guess), all this does is knock the Joker out. Sherlock and Dock approach, and it looks as though the Joker has finally been caught. The only question remaining is, was he caught by Clive Sigerson or… Sherlock Holmes?
There are a number of evergreen concepts out there that, outside the main “beats”, I have precious little knowledge of. Things like Robin Hood, James Bond, and… Sherlock Holmes. These are things I feel I ought to know more about… just can’t be bothered to actually put in the “work”, ya know? It’s no secret that Denny O’Neil is a pretty big Holmes fanatic… this issue comes only one year after his attempt to launch that strange Sherlock Holmes ongoing series for DC Comics. Click the cover for the cover…age!
I guess Mr. O’Neil didn’t quite get it all out of his system there, eh? Worth noting that there’ll be some more Holmes-ness in Detective Comics #572 (which was edited by Denny O’Neil)… and if that issue wasn’t like 800 pages long, I’d love to cover it here!
Whatever the case… Denny’s a fan… I, however, am not. Not that I don’t outright dislike the concept, I just don’t know enough about it to feel as though this issue is anything all that special (outside of its odd novelty value). Anybody reading this a fan of Holmes? Are many of his stories quite this contrived? Or are they just playing up his art of deduction for silliness’ sake?
The story… as mentioned, is pretty silly… but was fun enough to follow. This is the only issue of Joker I’ve ever read (or seen priced at under $20), so… is his being captured at the end of the issue like a “running gag”? Does he always get captured? I can’t imagine this would be fun to read over and over again for nine issues… but, I’ve been wrong before.
I’m actually completely surprised that DC hasn’t tried doing another Joker ongoing series in the near-half century since this came out. Then again, with as often as the Joker pops up these days, giving him his own series might actually cut down on his overall appearances . Can’t have that, now can we?
Overall… I’m happy I was finally able to read an issue of this run, and share it here on the site. While it’s certainly not a favorite of mine, I can totally see the entertainment value here… especially if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes. The art, for the most part was sharp and really nice. One thing I often have a problem with when it comes to Joker artists is… the ugly “pursed” mouth they sometimes give him. Ya know, like Caesar Romero through a funhouse mirror? Irv Novick falls into that trap giving our Clown a rather ugly and impossible smile. Otherwise, I got no complaints!
Despite this not being my perfect book, I’d certainly suggest that it’s worth a look. This series has been collected in trade, and this issue is available digitally (for only a buck… just like I paid for it!).