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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy April Fools with the clowns of comics!

Bring on the clowns!

Of coarse everyone knows the clown prince of crime, but there are many other clown themed heroes and villains throughout comics history.
Clowns have been in our cultures consciousness for hundreds of years going all the way back to the 16th century Italy and their Commedia dell'arte with it’s Pulcinella and Harlequin

Harlequin was one of the great tricksters, always getting one up on the pompous Pantalone. Pulcinella is his one of his dim witted cousins. 
With them occupying such a large spot in our cultures consciousness it’s no small wonder that the superhero genre would adopt images of them for superheroes. One of the first is still one of the greatest – The clown prince of crime himself, the Joker! He has been entertaining us with his nastiness since his first appearance in Batman #1, April 1940.



Another early clown hero is Quality Comics’ The Jester who first appeared in Smash Comics #22, May 1941. The Jester was created by the incomparable Paul Gustavson who was behind many great heroes of the Golden Age including the Angel, the Spider and the Human Bomb


Another Golden Age clown is the Green Lantern's pernicious nemesis/love interest the Harlequin. She was an athletic, love starved girl who fell in love with the Golden Age Green Lantern and became the Harlequin to get his attention.

Harlequin first appeared in All American Comics #89, Sep 1947 and was a frequent guest/foe thereafter. They eventually married in Roy Thomas' Infinity Inc.
The Golden Age Jester eventually retired to comic book obscurity so in the late 60's Stan Lee and Gene Colan resurrected the name for an opponent of Daredevil. The Jester was a failed actor who resorted to a life of crime.

The Jester first appeared in Daredevil #42, July 1968
One of the stranger clowns of the superhero set is Mark Grunwald and Paul Neary crazy clown character,  Madcap. Madcap debuted in Captain America #307, July 1985. He was a man who emerged from a deadly accident with powers of regeneration and bat$#!+ crazy.


One of the most fun of the clown crime fighters is Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's Jack-In-The-Box. He is Zachary Johnson, a toy manufacturer who fights crime using weapons he developed in his company such as entangling confetti, and shock noses.

One of the more original of the criminal clowns is Alan Moore and H. J. Williams III's Painted Doll who appeared as one of the prominent villains of Promethea. He is a ruthless killer that takes great joy in creating fear and chaos wherever he goes.


And for the last entry in clown criminals we come full circle back to Harlequin or Harley Quinn as the Joker's girl friend is called. Her creation is one of the more interesting stories of comicdom. Her first appearance wasn't in a comic at all but rather the Batman animated series. She proved so popular and enduring that she was eventually introduced into the DC Comics universe and she has been very popular ever since.

Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dinni and Bruce Timm who would later produce the immensely popular Mad Love about her tumultuous love affair with the Joker


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