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Laughing to Death: Joker or The Shadow?

garwalf

Registered User
Validated User
A few weeks ago, my local public radio station played an old episode from The Shadow radio serial, "The Corpse Laughs," in which a mad chemist kills his rivals with a poison that forces the victim to laugh to death.

Naturally, I wondered if this had influenced the development of The Joker or vice versa. However, a quick search of the Interwebs reveals that "The Laughing Corpse" was broadcast March 10, 1940 and The Joker first appeared in Batman #1, listed as "Spring 1940," and he was using "Joker Venom" in that story.

So it looks like the two stories appeared simultaneously and presumably independently, but it seems too close to be a coincidence--especially considering how much Batman was modeled on The Shadow. Does anybody in the RPG.NET hivemind have any thoughts or further information?
 

MrDTWX

Head Dragon Fiddler
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It might actually be a coincidence. The same thing happened with Giant-Sized Man-Thing and Swamp Thing if I recall correctly.
 

GaoGaiGar

Is anyone REALLY a
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There was a 1936 Shadow pulp in which he fought a master criminal in clown makeup called the Joker. A Shadow reprint volume touched on the subject, there's an ad for it here.
 

suedenim

Active member
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I've never heard anyone bring up the Shadow episode before, and I read a lot of stuff about old comics.

Which doesn't rule out the possibility of copying... but the on-sale date of Batman#1 argues strongly against it:
http://www.comics.org/issue/724/

Is it possible that Bob Kane listened to The Shadow on March 10, 1940, and decided to rip it off for a comic book that went on sale on April 24, 1940? Seems at least extremely unlikely, and perhaps flat-out impossible, though I'm not sure exactly what the script-to-newsstand timing would have been in 1940.
 

suedenim

Active member
Validated User
It might actually be a coincidence. The same thing happened with Giant-Sized Man-Thing and Swamp Thing if I recall correctly.
Yeah, those two characters were created independently of each other, though both were themselves heavily influenced by an earlier comic book swamp-monster feature, "The Heap."

Another oft-cited example is the parallel development of the Doom Patrol and the X-Men, which shared a lot of similarities, but just about everyone now agrees were created independently.
 

LibraryLass

Feminazgûl
Banned
Validated User
I've never heard anyone bring up the Shadow episode before, and I read a lot of stuff about old comics.

Which doesn't rule out the possibility of copying... but the on-sale date of Batman#1 argues strongly against it:
http://www.comics.org/issue/724/

Is it possible that Bob Kane listened to The Shadow on March 10, 1940, and decided to rip it off for a comic book that went on sale on April 24, 1940? Seems at least extremely unlikely, and perhaps flat-out impossible, though I'm not sure exactly what the script-to-newsstand timing would have been in 1940.
Yeah, that sounds like a close call even for what I'm sure must have been the hastier, less-detailed methods of yesteryear.
 

Rabbit

Registered User
Validated User
Is it possible that Bob Kane listened to The Shadow on March 10, 1940, and decided to rip it off for a comic book that went on sale on April 24, 1940? Seems at least extremely unlikely, and perhaps flat-out impossible, though I'm not sure exactly what the script-to-newsstand timing would have been in 1940.
People do die of laughter, it's rare but not unknown. All it took was a case to be widely reported towards the end of 1935 or the beginning of 1936 and it could have inspired both of them. (Side note, did some google and there was a case in Philadelphia in 1936, but I can't find the month.)
 
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Ascanius

Use the singular they!
Validated User
See also Dennis the Menace; the British character first appeared in print on March 7, 1951, while the American character followed on March 12, 1951. Just a coincidence of timing and somewhat natural nomenclature - "Dennis" rhyming with "menace", the Joker being both a playing card and a term for someone who tells jokes or plays tricks, that sort of thing.

It almost has to be that way when the names are close or identical; if you want to rip something off, you usually at least change something like the name or elements of the costume even when the "inspiration" is obvious - Deathstroke and Deadpool, for instance, or Mandrake the Magician and Zatanna. If Bob Kane had heard the radio play and decided to rip it off for a Batman villain, he'd probably at least have gone with "the Jester".
 
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