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Laughing Gas Joker

Legends of the Dark Knight
by yo go re

When Marvel published the seminal Amazing Spider-Man #121, they didn't put the title of the story - "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" - until the final page, in order to preserve the surprise. By that same token, we're not putting the cardback bio at the top of this review, but instead near the bottom.

Lucky for us, then, that all the Legends of the Dark Knight toys have the same world-building text on the back of the card (mainly to justify all the stupid suits Batman was wearing - trust us, Mattel's Street Luge Batman has nothing on Kenner's Neural Claw Batman):

From a terrible nightmare, Batman awakens to a twisted, parallel world where the criminals are in total, tyrannical control. In this apocalyptic vision of Gotham City, the villains are unimaginably deadly and the Dark Knight finds himself surrounded. To fight back and regain control, he develops Neural Suit technology that acts as an integral part of his being, tapping into his thoughts and impulses an automatically reacting to danger wuthout hesitation. Now, Batman becomes a living, breathing weapon and his adventures become Legends of the Dark Knight!

Laughing Gas Joker came out in 1997, which is why he's dressed like Big Boy Caprice from Dick Tracy - he's large (7⅜" tall) and bulky, and wearing a pinstriped tuxedo. In traditional Joker fashion, it's all garish colors: a purple jacket and orange pants, with the stripes reversed between them. He's wearing a green vest and bowtie over a white shirt, and there are white spats on his black shoes. His gloves are the same orange as his pants, and there's a red flower on his lapel. It's all terrifically hideous, and, along with the beefy body, kind of makes him look like he's an old-timey vaudeville star.

The face is as creepy as you'd hope, even if he does have floppy 1990s Tiger Beat dreamboat hair. Remember how mad idiot fanboys got about Heath Ledger playing the Joker? This Joker looks like a circa-Basketball Diaries/Romeo + Juliet-era Leonardo Dicaprio. Imagine the shitstorm that would have stirred up! Kenner gets points, though, for not leaving the face blank white, but instead leaving a bit of a tint to the plastic so it doesn't just blend in with his shirt. The teeth get paint though, so they're whiter than his skin, and his eyes are solid red - a weird choice.

Joker's articulation is not great. He has swivels at the shoulders and neck, and that's it. Now, Kenner was never known for their abundance of articulation, but this is lacking. The guy can't even get wrists? his only accessory is a chunky black pistol, but it's fairly forgettable - if you have Mattel's first Batman Joker, or Kenner's BtAS Harley Quinn, give their weapons to this guy - he's big enough and zany enough to look right holding them.

Actually, depending on how you count, he might have a second accessory. See, he's got a pack-in, but it's a separate character... or something. Some kind of sidekick, maybe? It's an anthropomorphic playing card - a joker, appropriately enough - and has no articulation. It's 3¾" tall, has an evil smile that covers the entirety of his torso, and a jester's cap that appears to grow right out of his eyebrows. He's mainly white, but has red and green paint (rather sloppily applied, it must be said).

Is this thing alive? Is it a prop? A hallucination? The alternate-reality version of Harley Quinn? It's up to you! Maybe it's some kind of highly advanced robot the Joker built with one of his many scientific degrees. Maybe he's made his hideout in an abandoned casino, and this was a statue that was part of the decor. Maybe it's just a lump of plastic to take up room in the action figure's packaging and make us feel better about paying the exorbitant SRP this line carried (a wallet-destroying "$8.99").

So all that is fine, it's decent enough as far as action figures go, but it's hardly memorable or noteworthy. It's not a Joker we'd be reviewing 17 years after the fact. But remember how we said we were holding off on quoting the bio text? Now it's time to read it!

The sinister Joker has never been so menacing! His highly specialized robotic armor gives him tremendous strength while doubling as a decoy suit that blows apart to reveal his true identity and a horrible punchline: dreadful laughing gas canisters set to put the citizens of Gotham City under his evil control. Wild, the incarnation of the Joker himself, is a disgustingly brutal imp, clever and sneaky, who amuses himself and his master with nasty pranks that are a constant threat to Batman!

That's right! Push the button on Joker's back, and his jacket pops off in two pieces, revealing a much skinnier torso beneath, with his arms cradling a big clock counting down to midnight (or to "J o'clock," apparently). He's got a purple shirt and green suspenders, and four gray bottles of Smilex gas hooked up to his clock. This second design inside the first design adds a lot of flavor to the figure, and makes him one of the most fun LotDK releases.

If you don't like the colors, there was a ToyFare exclusive version that made his suit black and white, his shirt pink, and his vest green (as well as turning his playing card sidekick a bright, bright pink). All the paint masks are the same, it's just the colors that are different. The exclusive one might cost you a bit more - a quick look at eBay shows no one selling it, so either A) no one who has one wants to part with it, and it'll be super expensive, or B) there's so little interest that nobody is bothering to offer it, so it'll be super cheap. Ha ha ha! Dichotomy! Either way, you're in for a long wait if you don't like the normal colors.

Laughing Gas Joker is too tall to mix with most of your Batman figures - even the giant Arkham videogame Batmen are short in comparison! But it's a really cool design, and unless Mattel or DC Direct decide to rip off the basic idea and remake it in the 6" scale, it's entirely unlike any other Joker you could own.

-- 10/09/14

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