Joker: Last Laugh #1, 2001, DC Comics, Cover by Brian Bolland.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1960s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Aughts. when the Joker made a very meta reference to a book from the 1980s.
Joker: Last Laugh... Joker’s Last Laugh... Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh. The 8-part miniseries that launched a company-wide crossover event has been inconsistently titled over the years, with each reprint edition featuring different wording, and a slight cover variation. But the initial cover design was about as meta as meta can get.
The cover concept is a direct reference to The Killing Joke (1988), which featured Brian Bolland cover and interior art. Here, Bolland revisits his iconic version of the slickly pompadoured, show-every-tooth-I-have Joker.
The Joker himself refers to The Killing Joke, saying “This one’ll really kill you!” He also breaks the fourth wall and locks his insane, sunken eyes on the reader’s, and speaks directly to them.
As if all this wasn't meta enough, the Joker interacts with one of the cover’s trade dress elements, playfully tossing the DC logo “ball.” Interestingly, in subsequent editions, the DC logo had changed to an-un-ball-like logo, yet was still awkwardly used in the same place as as the previous logo, and just didn't work. One trade paperback edition avoided the logo awkwardness, and used an eight ball (albeit a weirdly oversized one), even though the meta element was lost.
The rest of the trade dress on the cover was very unusual, tightly compartmentalized design and located in the lower left of the cover, tossing aside the traditional top-third-of-cover placement. Why be normal?
This Retro Cover Of The Week is one big meta joke, and another instant Joker classic.
Next week: The Retro Cover Of The Week starts the “cover from each decade” cycle again, travelling back to the 1960s!