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By Thomas Wheeler

Hasbro looks to produce a few remaining very impressive items before the DC/Warner license transfers to Mattel in 2003. One of these is the Target exclusive 9" Joker figure!

Although it is marketed as a "Secret Identity" figure akin to the Batman and Superman figures released some months ago, at least if you check the shelf tag and price tag, there is no "secret identity" for the Joker. However, there's an abundance of accessories, and the figure is very nicely outfitted, making him worth the $19.99 price tag.

This is the first villain to be released in Hasbro's DC 9" line, which to date has included classic versions of Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Green Arrow, K*B Toy exclusives for Superman Blue and Martian Manhunter, a Silver Age Batman & Robin two-pack that was an online exclusive, and a couple of versions of Superman and Batman that were Target exclusives.

The Joker, is, of course, Batman's most prominent foe, and one of the most well-known villains in the DC Universe. While perhaps not as powerful as some, his murderous insanity has given him a reputation even among other super-villains. A lesser villain named the Trickster once described the Joker in the "Underworld" mini-series this way: "Nice going. Bring in the one guy no one wants to be in the same room with. When villains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories..."

The Joker's origin over the years has been somewhat vague, except for certain key points. His real name remains unknown. It is unlikely that the "Jack Napier" used in the first Batman movie is regarded as official comic-book continuity. The Joker's most detailed and recent origin comes from a graphic novel entitled "The Killing Joke", details of which are recounted on the toy package, which has the man who would become The Joker as a down-and-out failure of a stand-up comedian, conned into becoming part of a chemical factory robbery. When Batman broke up the crime, the man fell into a vat of chemical waste, which bleached his skin white, turned his hair green, and pushed him completely over the edge into insanity. The Joker has been the most vicious thorn in the Dark Knight's side ever since.

The figure is very well done. One cannot help but make comparisons to the 8" Mego figure of The Joker from the 1970's. Not to malign Mego in any way, but they printed the Joker's rather flamboyent garb onto a single piece of fabric, adding coat and shows separately. They also molded the figure's body in normal flesh tones, only making the head and hands white.

The Hasbro figure is far more "authentic", for lack of a better phrase. The trousers are separate from a combination shirt-and-vest combo, with a little string tie attached. Both the vest and shirt have snaps. The coat is a separate piece and is very nicely tailored.

The head sculpt is superbly detailed, but perhaps a little narrow. Also, finding one that is decently symmetrical is a bit of a problem. The first one I came across was a trifle lopsided. This could be a problem in the molding. I recall a 9" figure of Jadzia Dax from Playmates' Star Trek line that had a similar problem. The shape of the head and hair caused the hollow plastic head to look a little more "pinched" than I think was intended. The Joker has a similar problem, to a lesser degree.

Granted, the Joker's head is far from ordinary. Between the insane grin, the elongated chin, and the bulged out cheeks, this can't have been an easy sculpt to begin with. I will say this -- the wild, wavy green hair is masterfully done. And it's not impossible to find a symettrical head, although the head overall looks just a little too narrow. But I won't argue for a minute that the head sculpt is overall very well done, although it looks a bit better from a 3/4 angle or from the side. And there's no question that this is the "vicious" Joker, the insane killer that is Batman's most implacable enemy, not the "comedic" Joker from the Silver Age that threw pies into the faces of the Caped Crusaders. This despite the package having the phrase "Clown Prince of Crime" on it. At least they used the Joker logo, slightly modified, from the short-lived 1970's comic book. DC seems to have forgotten it, and it's a good logo.

My only other complaint about this figure is the color of the clothes. The prototype shown on the back of the box shows very distinctly purple coat and trousers. The actual figure's coat and trousers is more reddish-purple, despite the molded plastic purple gloves. At least the dark purple stripes in the trousers match the gloves, but I would've preferred a darker purple overall. There's something about this reddish-purple that reminds me of the 1960's Joker from the campy television series. I'm not sure any of us need that sort of flashback, no disrespect intended towards the late Cesar Romero.

However, I should stress that these are relatively minor complaints regarding an otherwise excellent 9" Joker figure, with which I am highly impressed and very pleased to own, and which I would recommend to any fan of the DC Universe. The Joker is a most worthwhile addition to that rather limited collection of 9" DC figures from Hasbro.

There's word that we might get The Penguin before the end of the line, as well! Something to look forward to.