Joker #6 (1976)

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!).

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20 thoughts on “Joker #6 (1976)

  • Grant Kitchen

    I was going to reference Detective Comics 572 where the "real" Sherlock Holmes appeared but you beat me to it. That was a fun issue too. In fact I like most of Mike W. Barr's run on Tec (569-581). It was an interesting time where they were transitioning from pre-Crisis to post-Crisis continuity but weren't really sure what was what. Officially, they switched over to post-Crisis as of 568 ( a Legends tie-in) but in 569-570 Batman and Catwoman knew each others' identities even though it would later be established that post-Crisis they did not. Also, Jason Todd was portrayed during Mike's run as his happy go lucky pre-Crisis self but by in Mike's final storyline (579-581) Jason Todd references his post-Crisis origins. Also, Batman: Year Two is in that run which you covered. Then, after Mike left Jason stopped appearing in Tec altogether except for s brief cameo in 582 (a Millenium tie-in). I think they weren't sure how to write him after his backstory was changed so they just left it up to the Batman writers and we all know how that worked out.

    Back to this story to answer your question, yes from what I've heard the Joker is captured st the end of each issue. I think that was the only way they could get the Comics Code Authority to approve a series starting a villain but then again Secret Society of Super-Villains didn't seem to have that restriction.

    Tbh I don't like the modern portrayal of the Joker. Nowadays he's just a murdering psychopath and I'm just turned off by seeing gratuitist innocent death especially when Tec 1008 proved it's possible to tell a decent Joker story with minimal loss of life. That said, I'm not crazy about the way he was portrayed here either as more of a nuisance than a threat. I think he was at his best when they would split the difference. There was a time when even he and Carnage had a disagreement over this sort of thing how Joker didn't want to just kill people for the sake of killing them like Carnage wanted and he still was more interested in making it a big theatrical production. I guess I said all that to say I liked when he was still a genuine threat but not, well, creepy like he is today. The Robin II miniseries was a good example of that I just find the current Joker stuff to be disturbing.

    • If I'm not mistaken, I wanna say I've actually covered that Joker/Carnage team-up here on the site. Could'a sworn I did… though, I wouldn't swear to it. There are so many books I spent hours writing about that I can hardly remember anymore!

      The modern Joker is a disaster. It's almost like he's been made purposely irredeemable (not that he was ever "redeemable" per say, but he's just horrendous since the New-52). Maybe Geoff Johns will try and clear this up during that THREE JOKERS thing… if it ever winds up happening?

    • Grant Kitchen

      Yep you covered that Batman/Spidey/Joker/Carnage book on here.

      And even if Three Jokers ever happens supposedly the "Black Label" stuff won't be considered in continuity so…

    • I think DC is going to try and "eat their cake and have it too" when it comes to BLACK LABEL. I think they'll pick and choose what bits from there will be part of the canon. If the THREE JOKERS thing a) happens, and b) is a hit, I don't doubt for a moment that it'll be tied into the "real" continuity (whatever that even means anymore)

  • Wayne Allen Sallee

    I had hoped DC would have done a Showcase version of this series (BAT LASH and ECLIPSO were fairly small)and my favorite issue involved The Scarecrow.

    • That would've been a fun collection! Had they done that, I'm sure I'd have actually read this before now! I have a weird soft spot for the weird thinner SHOWCASES… I think DIAL H got a skinny one too!

  • Back in the day, I bought Joker#4 where Joker goes to Star City, crossing paths with Green Arrow after the Joker kidnaps Dinah Lance. By Elliot S! Maggin, José Luis García-López and Vince Colletta. Funny bit where the Joker goes into Dinah's florist and orders flowers. (I think he had on make up over his clown face.) Dinah asks he if he wants them delivered and the Joker replies, "No, I'll eat them here!"

    It's been a while since I read this issue. I think the Joker was in town to steal the giant star from the Star City Bridge for… reasons.

    It's odd that it was only a couple of years after Denny O'Neil had restored the Joker as a murdering psychopath in "the Joker's Five Way Revenge" away from his prankster capers of the previous 2 decades. But this series, including O'Neil's own stories, brings him back around to the mischief maker of mayhem.

    I concur with your concerns about the modern take on the Joker. He can't enter a room without killing some damn body which gets a bit tiresome. I think the best story to thread the needle of the mischief maker of mayhem AND the mass murdering madman is Steve Englehart's The Laughing Fish. Putting clown faces on fish was mischief but this mad clown really thought he could make money at it. And if anyone couldn't see that very sensible position, well, they had to die.

    Thanks for sharing this issue. I am familiar with Sherlock Holmes and the plethora of Holmesian references are so belabored and groan worthy. But I liked the concept of the actor becoming Sherlock Holmes, a nice way to bring the Victorian era Sherlock to face a modern day super villain.

    I will disagree with you about Irv Novick's rendition of the Joker. I've always liked Irv's take on the Joker with his lanky frame and his distorted facial features, kind of like Chuck Jones' Grinch having a wonderfully awful idea. I think Irv's Joker looks better with an inker with a smoother line like Giordano or McLaughlin.

    • Haha, I'm happy that even a fan of Holmes found those references groan-worthy! I was afraid that was just me, as an outsider!

      The modern Joker… just stinks. First, he's just ALWAYS around, second… he's too twisted and dark. I wonder if the (eventual) THREE JOKERS deal that Geoff Johns has been promising for a half-decade now (I believe it's actually been solicited… but, that was pre-Pandemic) will clear any of that up? Maybe this more madcap and zany Joker is independent of the New-52! and beyond version?

    • Grant Kitchen

      They actually explained Joker's escalation in violence in a recent issue of Batman. Tynion's current run not King's obviously.

    • About time! I've got those issues piling up, gotta eventually get to 'em!

    • Grant Kitchen

      Tynion's run is, well, I don't want to say it's great but it's a breath of fresh air after King's run.

    • I think being locked in a room full of swamp-gas might be a breath of fresh air in comparison to the King run!

  • Matthew O'Hara

    I'd just like to mention DC SPECIAL SERIES #8. It's got Sgt. Rock, Deadman, a mad bomber named Lucifer, Batman, the fallen angel Lucifer, a life-sized bronze statue of Batman that works like a voodoo doll, the Loch Ness monster, and (in no particular order) ghosts of Nero, Benedict Arnold, Jack The Ripper, Hitler, Guy Fawkes, Bluebeard and … wait for it … Sherlock Holmes.

    Take a bow, Mister Haney.

    • Good Grief, but that's a lot of guest stars!

      Being so busy with the blog and the shows, I don't get much time for "fun reading"… I also avoid the "fatter" books, since I don't think I'd ever have the time to do an exhaustive write-up for 'em! The DC SPECIAL SERIES is definitely one of those things I've missed out on as a result!

    • Grant Kitchen

      Ah yes DC Special Series #8 a.k.a. The Brave and The bold Special. There waa an interested Hostess ad in that issue. Only interesting because it featured Mera and Aqualad but no Aquaman and Black Manta's henchmen but no Black Manta. And not to spoil it but Mera saves the day by distracting the Manta Men with fruit pies which they are underwater somehow. Okay maybe not that interesting but it just stuck out to me as a unique one.

  • I remember having issue 9 when I was a kid and was excited to see that the Justice League would be featured in the next issue. I'd look for it and was disappointed I never found it( though I always managed to find something to take home – I couldn't think of a better way to spend my $1 a week allowance). At that time I had no idea the book had been cancelled and forgot about it as time went by.

    • Grant Kitchen

      You'd think that story would have found it's way to Cancelled Comic Cavalcade but sadly it did not.

    • Oh man, that stinks! This is the only issue of JOKER I've ever read… never knew the League was supposed to show up in the never-to-happen-10th issue! That sounds like it would have been a lot of fun!

    • Jose Gregorio Bencomo Gomez

      The previously unprinted 10th issue was included in a recent book collecting the whole seventies Joker series, in the event you didn't know yet.

    • Heyyy, thanks for that information! That's great to know


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