The Matt Signal – Episode 92: Joker’s Millions

Plot summary: Joker goes from rags to riches after he inherits $250m from a former rival.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Joker’s Millions’

Original Air Date: February 21st, 1998

Directed: Dan Riba (13)

Written: Paul Dini (26)

Based on the 1952 comic of the same name, officially credited to notorious asshole Bob Kane, but actually written by David Vern Reed.

A sequel to the events of a trilogy of Superman: The Animated Series episodes called ‘World’s Finest’, wherein Batman & Superman team-up to stop Joker and Lex Luthor.

The final two auditioned replacements for Harley are patterned after Paul Dini and Fran Drescher.

Recap

We begin in media res as Joker shoots wildly at Batman at some kind of tech expo. He and Harley narrowly manage to get away despite running out of ammo and acid for his trick lapel flower, remarking on how broke they are.

Making matters worse, neither secured the loot they were trying to steal in the first place. Bats chases them down in the Batmobile, so Joker escapes thanks to an ejector seat, leaving Harley to be arrested as he could only afford one.

Joker returns to a squalid apartment (where he’s behind on rent) and learns that an old rival, Edward ‘King’ Barlowe, has left him $250m in his will.

He immediately puts his fortune towards a Johnnie Cochran parody who manages to expunge his entire criminal record!

Barbara takes Dick to Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, where Mr. J has thrown himself a party. Barlowe’s old henchmen attack, furious they weren’t left a penny, forcing Batgirl & Nightwing to rescue the Murder Clown.

After a rich guy montage of Joker living large, an incarcerated Harley swoons at the TV coverage of her puddin’… that is until Poison Ivy reveals he’s auditioning replacement sidekicks…

Moments after casting a new shrill-voiced woman in the role of Harley, Joker receives a visit from the IRS and learns he owes an enormous amount of inheritance tax.

Things go from bad to worse when counting his fortune, as it turns out only $10m was real money and the rest of the bills have King Barlowe’s face on! He also finds a tape in amongst the cash, a testimony of Barlowe revealing this was his final revenge against Joker.

Joker sweats his decision between tax evasion and public humiliation in the Iceberg Lounge… only it turns out it’s one of his henchmen in disguise, which Bruce sees straight through and interrogates in the bathroom.

The real Joker seizes a ship carrying several armoured trucks full of cash… for about thirty seconds, until Batman, Batgirl and Nightwing board it and kick his ass. An escaped Harley, posing as a policeman, tortures Joker on his way back to Arkham.

Best Performance

It’s the Mark Hamill show, folks! I’ve probably been downplaying how fantastic he is during Joker’s last few appearances, but that’s more to do with me running out of ways to say it and instead opting for the variety of picking somebody else in this category. But he’s very much large and in charge here, bringing the giggles and sass in spades, as well as the short-tempered fury when we learn he’s been duped. His delivery of the line about being crazy enough to tackle Batman but wanting nothing to do with the IRS is p. great.

Arleen Sorkin is tremendous but doesn’t get enough lines to properly steal the show. Kevin Conroy’s seething rage at Joker getting the best of him is well done too. Allan Rich was on to something with King Barlowe, a mobster on his last legs. Too bad.

Ranking

I can’t help but compare this to the other Joker-centric episodes, and I think it sits just above ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ and ‘Joker’s Wild’, but falls well short of ‘Joker’s Favor’. The premise is rock solid, and there’s a great time to be had along the way, but I don’t think it sticks the landing well enough to rank in the top part of the list.

The idea of Joker simply running out of resources to do what he does is an interesting one (hence failing to pull off a heist at the start, but then being forced to try another one when he has to repay the IRS at the end), and his journey from poverty to extreme wealth and back down again is well-executed, in particular the montage of him playing golf and getting a mansion painted purple and green. I’m also a huge fan of Joker’s psychiatrist denying allegations he was bribed and then driving off in a sports car.

I just think there’s perhaps a few too many things going on between Joker, Harley, Penguin, King Barlowe and the heroes, leading to a rushed ending that doesn’t bring all the chaotic elements together in a satisfying manner. Probably one of my least popular rankings , but hey, stick to your convictions and all that!

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Riddler’s Reform
  8. Double Talk
  9. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  10. I Am the Night
  11. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  12. Baby-Doll
  13. Sins of the Father
  14. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
  15. The Man Who Killed Batman
  16. Perchance to Dream
  17. Two-Face Part I
  18. You Scratch My Back
  19. Bane
  20. Batgirl Returns
  21. A Bullet For Bullock
  22. Joker’s Favor
  23. Read My Lips
  24. Feat of Clay Part II
  25. Catwalk
  26. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  27. Harley and Ivy
  28. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  29. House & Garden
  30. Beware the Gray Ghost
  31. Holiday Knights
  32. Second Chance
  33. Mad as a Hatter
  34. Heart of Steel Part II
  35. Appointment In Crime Alley
  36. Two-Face Part II
  37. Pretty Poison
  38. Deep Freeze
  39. Harley’s Holiday
  40. Lock-Up
  41. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  42. Feat of Clay Part I
  43. Cold Comfort
  44. His Silicon Soul
  45. Off Balance
  46. Vendetta
  47. Birds of a Feather
  48. Joker’s Millions (NEW ENTRY)
  49. Heart of Steel Part I
  50. Never Fear
  51. On Leather Wings
  52. See No Evil
  53. The Clock King
  54. It’s Never Too Late
  55. Make ‘Em Laugh
  56. Joker’s Wild
  57. Eternal Youth
  58. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  59. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  60. Zatanna
  61. Day of the Samurai
  62. Avatar
  63. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  64. The Mechanic
  65. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  66. Terror in the Sky
  67. P.O.V.
  68. Christmas with the Joker
  69. Fear of Victory
  70. Be a Clown
  71. The Worry Men
  72. What is Reality?
  73. Fire From Olympus
  74. Night of the Ninja
  75. Mudslide
  76. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  77. Nothing to Fear
  78. The Lion and the Unicorn
  79. Prophecy of Doom
  80. Tyger, Tyger
  81. Blind as a Bat
  82. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  83. Dreams In Darkness
  84. The Last Laugh
  85. Cat Scratch Fever
  86. Moon of the Wolf
  87. Paging the Crime Doctor
  88. Time Out of Joint
  89. Sideshow
  90. The Under-Dwellers
  91. The Forgotten
  92. Showdown
  93. The Terrible Trio
  94. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

The Joker (Mark Hamill) (sixteenth appearance)

Making Joker a far more literal cartoon character for a while is good fun and allows Mark Hamill to shine. I also like the touch of pointing out Joker would have enemies on the wrong side of the law as well, and the notion one of them would go to such extreme lengths to get one over on him one last time before he croaked is amazing. It also reveals the extremity of Joker’s ego, which is rarely touched upon, as he could make the whole thing go away if he admitted the money was fake, but that would mean public humiliation that Barlowe got the better of him.

There’s also definitely a touch of that in his decision to leave Harley behind but then audition a replacement instead of breaking out the genuine article. Pride? Fear? Convenience? Guessing is half the fun of the character.

Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) (tenth appearance)

I thought we might be free of the Joker/Harley dynamic until ‘Mad Love’, but alas, here we are again, ending an episode with her getting over him only to no doubt end up right back at his side next time. I understand you have to put in a few rotations of that cycle to make ‘Mad Love’ work, but given that dance played out for decades, I’m a little impatient to be done with it.

Anyway, she’s fun enough here, but obviously takes a backseat compared to most of her appearances. She’s still pretty funny though, and I especially like the idea of her only finding the motivation to escape Arkham to get revenge… which will presumably lead her straight back to her cell.

The Penguin (Paul Williams) (eighth appearance)

I know I’m in a slim minority of people who hate Batman Returns, and particularly Danny DeVito’s iconic take on Penguin, but you’re all just going to have to live with that. Consequently it means I love the re-design in TNBA, drawing him to match the aristocratic character treatment they were already giving him. No more vile mutant creature!

Even though he appeared in the season 2 episode ‘Second Chance’, it feels like it’s been forever since Oz graced us with his presence… and it’s still only a cameo. He’s pretending to have gone legit, but there’s clearly more going on that we’ll learn about later.

I feel harsh to bump him down when he’s barely a factor in the episode, but his huge rise was followed by a gradual decline, and I feel I can only let that slide for so long. I’m sure he’ll claw it back.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. The Riddler
  9. The Phantasm
  10. Baby-Doll
  11. Bane
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  14. Clayface
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. Lock-Up
  17. Penguin
  18. Lloyd Ventrix
  19. Scarecrow
  20. Killer Croc
  21. Rupert Thorne
  22. Count Vertigo
  23. Clock King
  24. Nivens
  25. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  26. Enrique el Gancho
  27. Josiah Wormwood
  28. Talia al Ghul
  29. Sid the Squid
  30. Queen Thoth Khepera
  31. Maxie Zeus
  32. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  33. Tony Zucco
  34. Man-Bat
  35. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  36. Hugo Strange
  37. Red Claw
  38. Arnold Stromwell
  39. Mad Bomber
  40. Tygrus
  41. Kyodai Ken
  42. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  43. Grant Walker
  44. Gil Mason
  45. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  46. Cameron Kaiser
  47. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  48. Mad Dog
  49. Ubu
  50. Professor Milo
  51. Romulus
  52. Arkady Duvall
  53. Sewer King
  54. Boss Biggis
  55. Montague Kane
  56. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, has now begun coverage of Loki. New episodes every Monday… obviously.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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