Batman 1
Batman #1
Publication Information
Published Spring 1940
Executive Editor Whitney Ellsworth
Cover Artist(s) Bob Kane
Writer(s) Bill Finger ("The Joker" and
"The Joker Returns")
Inker(s) Jerry Robinson ("The Joker" and
"The Joker Returns")
Letterer(s) Jerry Robinson ("The Joker" and
"The Joker Returns")
Editor(s) Whitney Ellsworth ("The Joker" and
"The Joker Returns")
Alternate Covers

Previous Issue
Next Issue
Batman #2
Gallery of Images · Main Discussion

Batman #1 is an American comic book, released in Spring of 1940. It is the first published issue of the Batman comic book series, and perhaps most famous for introducing the characters of the Joker and Catwoman.

"The Joker"Edit


A couple is seen relaxing in their house during the night, listening to the radio. Suddenly, the airwave is hijacked by the Joker, who announces that he will kill millionaire Henry Claridge the next day at midnight and steal his most prized possession, the Claridge Diamond. The wife is worried, but her husband dismisses the threat as a prank. It is soon discovered, however, that the threat was not part of the programming.

Frantic with fear, Claridge calls the police, who agree to protect him. As the minutes tick down to midnight, Claridge is surrounded by a cordon of policemen, confident that nobody could get through. At the stroke of midnight, Claridge is relieved that nothing happened to him, but his relief is cut short when he falls over dead. As the police approach his body, they notice that the muscles of his mouth have been pulled into a grotesque smile.

Joker's first appearance

The Joker, appearing for the first time in comics.

It is soon discovered that the diamond had already been stolen, and a glass fake left in its place, along with a Joker playing card. Back at his hideout, the Joker muses to himself about how easy it was to fulfill his threat - yesterday, he had injected Claridge with a toxin that took twenty-four hours to take effect, and stolen the diamond as well. Several days later, he makes another threat over the radio, this time targeting millionaire Jay Wilde and his most prized possession, the Ronkers Ruby.

Once again, the police form a human cordon around the intended target, but once again, their efforts are in vain. At the stroke of midnight, Jay Wilde suddenly drops dead as well, and a thick gas suddenly fills the room, paralyzing all of the police officers and freezing their mouths in smiles similar to that of the deceased Wilde. The Joker, revealed to have been hidden in a suit of armor in the room the entire time, reveals himself and the method he used to kill Wilde (a dart gun), and proceeds to steal the Ronkers Ruby.

Batman versus Joker

The first confrontation between fated archenemies.

The police comb the city for the Joker, but without success. Meanwhile, the city's various criminal organizations also begin to take interest in the Joker - particularly, in how he had taken two of their intended targets. Mob boss Brute Nelson, in particular, declares war on the Joker. News of this spreads throughout the city, attracting the attention of not only the Joker, but Batman as well.

The Joker attacks Brute Nelson inside his suburban home, but is ambushed by several members of Nelson's mob. Meanwhile, Batman has also arrived on the scene, and while he battles Nelson's underlings, the Joker takes advantage of the distraction to shoot Nelson dead. As he makes his escape, Batman follows, and jumps onto his getaway car. The two engage in a fierce battle, which the Joker manages to win by kicking Batman off of a bridge.

On yet another night, the Joker delivers a third death threat across the radio, this one targeted at Judge Drake. This time, however, only the police chief is left to watch the judge, as all of the other policemen are guarding the outside of his mansion. The judge is all but ready to forfeit his life, but the police chief, in an effort to allay his fears, invites him to play a game of cards. As the game draws to a close, the judge laments his inevitable loss, to which the police chief responds by showing him the Joker's infamous smile - he is the Joker in disguise.

Joker's vow of vengeance

The Joker vows to return.

After killing the judge, the Joker puts his disguise back on and makes his escape. Unknown to him, however, Batman had assigned Robin to tail anyone who came out of the judge's mansion, and the Boy Wonder follows the disguised Joker into an abandoned house. The Joker, however, turns the tables on the Boy Wonder, knocking him out and tying him up. Just as he is about to kill Robin with his Joker Venom, however, Batman (who had been inspecting the judge's murder scene) bursts in and punches the Joker into a table laden with chemicals.

The chemicals burst into flame, a distraction that the Joker uses to hit Batman with his paralyzing gas gun. Batman, however, is able to stave off the paralysis and rescue Robin, narrowly escaping a fiery death. Robin mentions that the Joker had bragged to him his next target would be the Cleopatra Necklace, which is owned by Otto Drexel. The two dash to Drexel's penthouse apartment, where they are finally able to defeat and arrest the Joker. The final panel of the story shows the Joker inside the State Penitentiary, plotting his escape and his revenge.


"The Joker Returns"Edit


Continuing directly from the events of "The Joker", Joker is still furious at a man of his intellect being jailed, and, less than two days after his capture, escapes from prison by mixing together chemicals hidden in two false teeth, creating an explosion that destroys the door to his cell. News of the Harlequin of Hate's escape soon reaches every ear in Gotham - including those of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. As the Dynamic Duo ponder this report, The Joker makes his way to a secret laboratory hidden beneath a cemetery, vowing to prove to Gotham's citizens that he is still "The High Card".

Joker soon goes back to his old tricks, announcing his future victims' names over the radio airwaves. In this case, the target is Police Chief Chalmers, whom the Ace of Knaves swears to kill at ten o' clock. As the time draws near, the police chief finds himself protected by a cordon of officers inside the police station, and nervously assures himself that The Joker would not dare attack him. At that very moment, the police station receives a phone call from someone who wishes to speak to Chief Chalmers.

The chief answers the phone call, but complains that the speaker is talking too quietly. All of a sudden, the caller yells "JOKER" at the top of his lungs, and, as the clock strikes ten, the chief drops dead, his face contorted into a smile. Seconds later, the officers in the room deduce how Joker had committed the murder - there had been a dart smeared with Joker Venom hidden in the telephone receiver, and the yell had sent it flying into the chief's ear, fatally injecting him with the poison.

As the days wear on, Joker commits two more crimes - stealing a rare painting from an art gallery (and leaving his signature card in the blank frame) and stealing a rare gem (not to mention killing its owner). One night, Joker announces another crime over the radio - that he will infiltrate the Drake Museum and steal the Cleopatra Necklace at eight o' clock. Bruce, however, vows that The Joker will not succeed. As usual, a horde of policemen are inside the museum, attempting to protect the necklace, but their efforts are in vain. At the strike of eight, The Joker emerges from a sarcophagus in the room and overpowers the policemen with his gas gun.

Batman versus Joker II

Joker & Batman's second confrontation.

The Joker gleefully claims the necklace, but soon finds a raging Batman charging at him. The two men do battle, and Joker is able to knock Batman unconscious, but before he can kill the Dark Knight, the Harlequin of Hate hears policemen from the floor below heading up to their floor. Not wanting the police to find him, Joker decides to run away instead, leaving an unconscious Batman behind. The police soon arrive, and though they have once again failed to catch The Joker, realize that the blow is softened a bit by the fact that they had caught Batman. One officer in particular reaches for Batman's cowl, intent on unmasking him. At the last moment, however, Batman regains his consciousness and bats away the policemen, before crashing through a nearby window and swinging onto the roof to complete his escape.

The next morning, reformer Edgar Martin makes a public speech to the citizens of Gotham: if the police cannot catch The Joker, then they must do it themselves. The Joker is furious at Martin's declaration, and announces over the radio that he will murder the man at nine o' clock the next night. As the fateful hour draws near, Martin is understandably panicked, but the police chief assures him that no one could sneak into the policeman-filled house, and urges him to play some solitaire to calm his nerves. Martin agrees, and shuffles the cards, remarking upon their sharpness after accidentally cutting himself. As he draws the first card, however, he realizes to his horror that all of the cards in the deck are Jokers. As the clock strikes nine, Martin collapses to the ground, dead. Subsequently, the police realize that the edges of the cards had been smeared with Joker Venom.

Joker's first 'death'

The Joker's "death" and "rebirth".

The next day, Bruce meets with Commissioner Gordon to discuss how to catch The Joker, and comes up with a clever plan - to lure him into a trap with a valuable jewel. Gordon agrees to the plan, and has the local newspapers give publicity to the legendary Fire Ruby, owned by millionaire J. Johnson. As Bruce has predicted, Joker is drawn to the jewel like a moth to a flame, obsessed with its beauty. The Harlequin of Hate announces over the radio that he will steal the ruby at nine o' clock the next night, and, indeed, arrives at Johnson's penthouse at the appointed time. There, he is ambushed by several policemen, but, despite their gas masks, the cunning criminal out-guns all of them.

Joker flees onto the roof, where he enters a brief skirmish with Robin before getting away. As he makes it down into the streets, however, Robin comes after him again, attacking him in tandem with Batman. Joker finds himself slowly being overpowered by the Dynamic Duo, and, in one final act of desperation, lunges at the Dark Knight with a knife. He, however, accidentally stabs himself, and as he collapses, dying, he suddenly begins to laugh madly, until he finally falls from the wound. As a policeman comes upon the body, Batman and Robin vanish into the night, but a subsequent discovery from a doctor reveals a shocking fact: the wound had not been fatal, meaning that The Joker is going to live after all.


  • The story known as "The Joker" was originally untitled; for reader convenience, it was entitled "Batman Versus The Joker" in the various editions of the The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told trade-paperbacks, and entitled "The Joker" in volume one of The Batman Chronicles.
  • Joker Venom in this issue is shown to be lethal in liquid form only, and only when injected into the bloodstream. As a gas, it merely paralyzes.
  • The 2005 graphic novel The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker is a retelling of "The Joker", as it describes the first meeting between Post-Crisis Batman and Post-Crisis Joker.