That is a SHOCKER of a comic book cover! Somebody needs to tell Superman that green eye shadow doesn't work with his outfit - I don't care if he's been hit with Joker venom or not, it just doesn't work. And those eyebrows! Damn. Somebody get the Queer Eye guys in here, 'cause Superman needs some manscaping, stat.
I am an unreserved fan of John Byrne's relaunch of the Superman books in the mid-Eighties. Byrne wrote and drew a completely revamped Superman with the ground-breaking mini-series Man of Steel, then followed up with a new Superman comic and a brand new Action Comics team-up title. Times were good for Superman fans.
In this issue, written and pencilled by Byrne with inks by Karl "Under Twelve Parsecs" Kessel, The Joker decides that Gotham isn't challenging enough so he comes to Metropolis to screw with Superman. That's just asking for trouble. But The Joker is crazy and ambitious, so it's understandable if not wise.
The story is short, but longer than you would think a Superman vs Joker match-up would run. I'd say it would last all of three panels under normal circumstances, but John Byrne uses The Riddler Factor to good effect here, postponing the inevitable and lopsided showdown between godlike alien being and skinny clown for as long as possible.
As stated elsewhere, The Riddler Factor is:
"...that combination of luck, moxie, and plot contrivance that allows lame
villains to survive when they are hopelessly outclassed by their superhero
The whole thing begins with a clone of Superman robbing the Metropolis Diamond exchange by getting all Jokery and releasing deadly green gas from his robot ears. Like so:
Turns out the Superman robot has a live thermonuclear bomb in its chest, which Superman takes care of by flying it into space, of course. That sort of begs the question: if The Joker has enough resources to build a nuclear bomb gas-spewing Superbot, why is he using it to rob jewelry stores? Because he's batshit insane, that's why.
Actually, the whole thing is part of a plot to screw with Superman. Because, as The Joker says, "Why not?" Oh, Joker, you so crazy!
One thing I am not crazy about is Byrne's take on the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. If memory serves, Byrne was just carrying over the Joker character design he used for the Legends mini-series. I'm a big fan of Legends, but that doesn't mean I like this look for the Joker. Check him out in this crappy scan which I swear I did not do at work:
The Joker looks creepy, but not in a scary psychopath way. It's more of a funhouse mirror kind of creepy.
Look at him. He's got David Byrne's puffy suit wardrobe, Karen Carpenter's diet plan, Donald Trump's eyebrows, George Washington's teeth, and Alien jaws. What the hell, man? I mean, clearly he's exagerrated for effect, but how does his mouth work? What would the Byrne Joker's skeleton look like, a Whitley Streiber alien? Hey, don't get me wrong, I think The Joker should be grotesque but I also think he should be recognizably human. Just a little nitpicking for you.
Minor quibbles aside, this issue was great. I'm a huge fan of Kessel's inks over Byrne's pencils and I thought this was just a great light-hearted done-in-one story.
This issue also features a fantastic Lex Luthor back-up story that deserves a post all its own.
In the short story, Lex stops his limo at a roadside diner for some bacon & eggs and a little casual, life-wrecking cruelty.
He picks a foxy married waitress named Jenny and offers her one million dollars if she'll jettison her life and come to Metropolis with him for one month. That's one million dollars for thirty days of sex with Luthor. I'd ask for two million. He tells the waitress he'll wait in his limo outside for ten minutes and then his offer will be off the table. Oh, BTW can he have his breakfast in a to-go container? KTHX
It is established that the waitress is married to a bit of a jerk, but the decision is gut-wrenching. Should she dump him and leave her simple life for a month of God-knows-what in Luthor's crib? Oh, what to do?
Of course, Lex drives off before the ten minutes have elapsed. In his limo he gloats, "Jenny Hubbard will never know what her final choice would have been. And that question will torment her for the rest of her meaningless life!" We learn that he does this stuff all the time.
I love that story! It should be called "Lex Luthor: Total Asshole."