Monday, May 02, 2016

The Holy Grail of Lost Comics

Apparently, the Holy Grail was discovered.  Five years ago. And no one told me.

At least, MY Holy Grail. Specifically, the "lost comic" Joker #10.  For those who don't already know, the Joker had his own comic book in the mid-'70s, which was, well, insane.  Here's a single-panel that should make that point:

That is the Joker in an afro-wig having lunch at a burger joint with Lex Luthor.
You can never unsee that; you're welcome.  

Those nine issues were the stuff of lunatic legend. Are they good?  That ...that word simply is not relevant to The Joker series.  Go buy the collected edition on Comixology and see for yourself.

What is NOT in the collected edition, however, are the Letters Pages from those issues.  Including the one from #9, which announced that in the next issue the Joker would be taking on the Justice League in a story called "99 and 99/100 % Dead!"  Imagine the excitement of that announcement for tweener-me.

NOW imagine my disappointment when...they canceled The Joker. BEFORE Issue #10.  What the HECK was going to happen in that story?  For 40 years I have not known and it was the general consensus that NO ONE would ever know.  The art was lost, the story was lost.  Irv Novick died and the artwork didn't turn up.  "99 and 99/100 %"  might as well have been one of the lost plays of Aeschylus.

Until 2011, when apparently writer Marty Pasko found some xeroxed pages of it in the bottom of some storage boxes and auctioned them off on eBay.  I didn't hear about it at the time but I stumbled across this info yesterday while researching something entirely different.  The available pages are inserted below (as is the text of the ebay auction, which if I had known about, you can be damned sure wouldn't have stopped at $200).  

The missing pages make it a little hard to follow's a The Joker story.  Having all the pages wouldn't make it more comprehensible, it would just make it more FULLY incomprehensible.

As breath-taking as the experience of finally reading (most of) a comic that I thought had never even been drawn has been... the story is the first of a multi-parter, which a huge cliffhanger.  Which I now have NO HOPE of ever uncovering.  Which is driving me crazy.

Which, I suppose, is how The Joker should be anyway.

The ongoing liquidation of the vast comics and memorabilia collection of TV animation and comics writer Martin Pasko (“Thundarr,” “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” “The Tick,” Superman,” “Dr. Fate,” “Blackhawk,” et al.)

“I acquired this as the writer of what would be the final issue of DC’s short-lived THE JOKER ongoing monthly.  It comprises 17 Xeroxed pages at the same size as the originals (12 x 17), folded in the center.  The sheets are plain paper rather than thermal and only slightly yellowing.  They are still supple.  Because they’ve been sitting at the bottom of a box 35 years, under several pounds of papers stacked atop them, they remain comparatively unworn and are eminently readable, if that’s why you’re interested.This issue was never published, but it was NOT, as has been erroneously reported on the internet, a victim of the so-called “DC Implosion” of 1976, meaning IT WAS NOT EVEN INCLUDED IN THE RARE AND EXTREMELY VALUABLE “CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE” ASHCAN!!  The original boards were returned to penciller IRV NOVICK and inker VINCE COLLETTA, both of whom are dead.  I’ve never seen any of those boards “in circulation” among dealers, however.
Because this story, entitled “99 and 99/100% Dead,” was “forecast” in JOKER #9’s “Coming next issue” blurb, many Joker fans over the years have asked me whatever happened to it.  When I told them I thought I had a copy of the art in my files, they EXPRESSED THE BELIEF -- WHICH I CAN’T CONFIRM OR REFUTE -- THAT THESE XEROXES MAY BE THE ONLY RECORD OF THIS STORY THAT SURVIVES.  This seems credible because, as of 8/6/11, a Google search -- of both images AND text -- turns up no results, and a search of the Heritage Auctions database comes up empty as well.  Moreover, Editor Julie Schwartz did not keep a Xerox to later bequeath to DC, and only the Novick and Colletta estates would know whatever became of the boards.  So, at last, here it is!
FYI, the story is a piece of absurdist humor, written by me with a plotting assist from PAUL KUPPERBERG, in which The Joker tells a psychiatrist of his efforts to kill THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, of whom we meet GREEN ARROW, WONDER WOMAN, & THE FLASH.  It’s not a self-contained story, but rather was planned as the first part of a 2- or 3-issue arc.  Ah, the best-laid plans, etc...”  -- Martin Pasko