In one of the more insane stories from this Joker mini-series, the Joker and Lex Luthor swap emotional states. For a story written in the late 70’s its super meta because Lex and the Joker don’t exactly swap brains, they semi-swap personalities.
This story is basically a Saturday Morning cartoon in comic book form. (Edit: Saturday Morning Cartoons don’t really exist anymore and if you missed that blessed era in history, I weep for you.)
The story starts out with The Joker sitting in a movie theater wearing a HILARIOUSLY RIDICULOUS AFRO wig (yeah hes’s still got the same pasty white face, red lips and rictus grin) watching a news reel(?) documentary of some of his past highlights.
What? Why would any theater show that? And just for posterity, I have to say it again… HE’S WEARING A GODDAMN AFRO WIG.
Lex Luthor, who also just happens to be sitting in the same theater (WHAT?) hears Joker laughing and turns just in time to see the clown rushing out of the theater. Despite the Jokers HILARIOUSLY RIDICULOUS AFRO, Lex stops him in the atrium and they start talking. Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind of our time and a mass murderer are just hanging out in a movie theater having a chat. Then they go across the parking lot and get a burger. Let that sink in.
Ok, I’m going on too long so I’ll just skip to the good stuff. Here’s the stuff you need to know quickly:
- Lex tries to hatch a plan called Operation Mindbreak. The plan is to put on a stupid looking helmet (think Cerebro from the X-Men) to drain the Green Lantern of his willpower.
- Green Lantern is asleep and Lex is interrupted by before launching his brain rays and is thus unaffected.
- The Joker barges in Lex’s secret hideout (he scaled the building using suction cups) and grabs the other helmet and puts it on.
- The machine somehow manages to force Lex and J to swap personalities.
- The story is batshit crazy (pun intended) and the writers know it.
The Joker is still the Joker, except now he’s not a goddamn maniac. He has the criminal focus of Luthor. However at his core, he’s still the Joker and has the presence of mind to know that he is still in full control of his Id but it’s his ego and super-ego that has been swapped out.
Luthor on the other hand is no longer the cold, calculating, ruthless businessman/super-villain… he’s stark raving mad. He’s in in possession of Jokers ego and super-ego and has gone completely insane. He’s laughing maniacally, is just as unpredictable and what is even more terrifying, he likes it!
In an interesting back and forth, Lex states, “I don’t want to be sane again! When I was sane, I did everything because I hated Superman! Now I don’t hate anyone!”
To which the Joker responds, “You were driven by your hatred– Now you’ll be driven by your madness! You’re still in the same hell — only with different scenery!” For a story so Saturday Morning Cartoon this is surprisingly deep. But then it all goes back to schlock with more suction cup wall walking, jet boots and the Jokermoblile. Eventually Lex and Joker switch identities back, pass out in an alley (on top of each other) and get arrested.
So. Damn. Strange.