Joker’s biggest nightmare has been revealed in the Joker: 80th Anniversary 100 Page Spectacular, which proves even monsters have bad dreams.
Turns out even a monster like the Joker has bad dreams. In a new story out this week, we get a rare glimpse into the psyche of the Clown Prince of Crime as we learn of the nightmare that keeps the legendary member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery up at night.
Since his debut in 1940, Joker has done some pretty heinous things. Whether it was beating a young Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, crippling Barbara Gordon in front of her father, or (in one timeline) using godlike powers to destroy an entire country, senseless cruelty has been his trademark. So it’s somewhat surprising to see a vulnerable side to him as we learn that his worst fear revolves around what his final encounter with Batman might look like.
Appropriately titled “The Last Smile,” the story is part of the Joker: 80th Anniversary 100 Page Spectacular which celebrates the renowned villain and showcases tales from some of the biggest names in comics. Paul Dini (whose writing on Batman: The Animated series helped to define the Joker for an entire generation of Dark Knight fans) pens the story, with illustrations by Riley Rossmo (Martian Manhunter) and colors by Ivan Plascencia (Batman: Gotham Nights). In the dream, it is the day of his execution as the courts have finally ordered for Joker to be put to death. Of course, a date with the electric chair fails to produce an ounce of fear or remorse in the clown, with his only regret being that “none of the A-listers” like Two-Face, Penguin, or The Riddler could see his final performance.
But a figure from his past IS there to see him fry, as Batman steps out from the shadows while Joker’s executioners make their final preparations. With the switch about to be pulled, the Dark Knight slowly but steadily begins to cackle with delight as his arch-nemesis faces a fate he would never allow himself to deal with. To his horror, Joker realizes that this final defeat at the hands of the man he has obsessed over for so long will be his last moments on earth. Batman has had the last laugh.
In the final panels, we see that all of this is being told by Harley Quinn to Poison Ivy over drinks at a bar. As she reveals this window into the “fear and sorrow” of Joker’s soul, her friend questions if the dream was the reason why she stayed with him for so long. She replies, “No. It’s why I finally left. I was never in it.” It’s a great closing line, and serves as both a fitting end to the story and to the relationship that Dini created back during his days with The Animated Series.