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BATMAN Reanimated – It’s Pennies from Heaven in ‘Joker’s Millions’

BATMAN Reanimated – It’s Pennies from Heaven in ‘Joker’s Millions’

Well, it’s now been six episodes since the premiere of The New Batman Adventures, and that means we’ve had a month and a half since “Holiday Knights,” the first appearance of the Joker in his new, goofier-looking animated guise. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time in ’97 when this series premiered, but there really seemed to be an effort to soften the Joker, who was often terrifying as well as hilarious in Batman: The Animated Series, in the Kids WB years. That trend definitely continued in his second outing, the intensely silly “Joker’s Millions.”

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This episode had the luxury of being written by the great Paul Dini and directed by the equally fantastic Dan Riba. And, if Dini does anything well (who am I kidding, he does MANY things well) it’s deconstruct the villains in the Batman rogues gallery. This episode puts the Joker in a somewhat sympathetic position, which is certainly new and different for the character, even in the animated version. He’s still definitely a villain, but now instead of being a homicidal maniac…he’s just kind of an asshole.

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Joker starts the episode very down and almost out, running away from Batman and the cops with Harley following a robbery. Too bad they’re so broke they can’t even afford to fill up the tank on their getaway car, or buy more bullets. Joker even only had enough for one ejector seat in the car, which he uses, getting away while Harley gets arrested. Later at Joker’s hideout, his pet hyenas are starving but he can’t afford to feed them. All of this changes when he gets a letter proclaiming that the recently crime boss King Barlowe had left Joker all of his hundreds of millions of dollars, even though the two men hated each other. Joker’s in the big time!

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After paying a team of high-priced lawyers to get his criminal record expunged, he pays shady psychiatrists to get him declared sane, so he’s free and clear! He spends money hand over fist; hell, he’s got $250 million, right? He even auditions a new Harley, picking a girl who’s got the right figure but immeasurably dumber and with a more annoying voice. Naturally, Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing aren’t ready to accept Joker’s gotten away with something and spend most of the episode trying to catch him doing something illegal. Joker hangs out at the Penguin’s ritzy club, and Nightwing and Batgirl even unintentionally save his life when one of Barlowe’s underlings comes wanting the money that’s rightfully his.

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But it can’t last forever. He learns all too late that Barlowe’s finally screw-you to him was only giving him $10 million real dollars, and the rest all had pictures of Barlowe on them. Barlowe knew the Joker wouldn’t check and would blow it all before paying his inheritance tax, meaning Joker needs to get some real money quick, or risk running afoul of the IRS. He’ll fight Batman, but never the IRS. As you might expect, he doesn’t know how to do anything other than steal things, and the Bat family is already on his trail… Plus, Harley’s not gonna be happy when she gets her hands on Mr. G J.

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So, this is a pretty cute episode, but I feel like it almost does a disservice to the character as created in the animated series up to this point. The idea of Joker having a ton of money and a clean record are great, because Batman’s enraged reaction to him throughout his living largeness is wonderful. Batman’s usually so cool, even when he’s angry, that the idea of the Joker finally getting to him—because of using the system to his advantage—is delightful to me. What I object to, however, is the idea that the only thing keeping the Joker a criminal is his need for money. He’s a the psychopath to end all psychopaths; I feel like he’d be totally unmotivated by money. He’d light it on fire as a joke and shove it down a homeless guy’s throat until he asphyxiated. Obviously they’d never do stuff like that in a cartoon, but his M.O. was always about chaos and making Batman look stupid. But, hey, as I said, it was a softer time for the Clown Prince of Crime.

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Next week, we get a weird episode about Robin attempting to help a mysterious lost little girl. The surprising “Growing Pains” is next time. Until then, share your opinion of “Joker’s Millions” in the comments below!

Images: WB Animation


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s written the animation retrospectives Batman: Reanimated, X-Men: Reanimated, Cowboy Rebop, and Samurai reJacked. Follow him on Twitter!


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