What does the Joker do when he runs out of cash? When he doesn’t even have enough money for bullets and gas and acid to shoot out of the flower on his lapel? That’s the predicament the Clown Prince of Crime finds himself in at the start of “Joker’s Millions,” one of this series’ funniest episodes. Written by the show’s No. 1 comedian Paul Dini, it’s a hilarious look at what happens when a villain goes broke and then suddenly gains more money than ever, sending the Joker on a roller-coaster journey through poverty to wealth and ultimately prison.
“Joker’s Millions” starts with something we haven’t seen in The New Batman Adventures: a title card. On a giant computer screen, the title is typed out along with the writing and directing credits before the monitor gets shot out by the Joker’s gun, using up one of his few remaining bullets. Joker’s been having some tough times as of late, going up against Batman and Batgirl without loaded weaponry and not even a full tank of gas to make his escape. He really only has a gas-shooting exploding fake eyeball, and it’s not like that can be reused or anything. Only able to afford one ejector seat for his car, Joker is able to flee the scene of the crime, leaving Harley Quinn to get picked up by the police while he goes to his squalid apartment to try and figure out what to do next.
Joker doesn’t have to try too hard, though, because his landlord hands him a letter saying that he’s inherited $250 million from a rival crimelord, Edward “King” Barlow. Based on a story from Detective Comics #180, “Joker’s Millions” continues this series’ trend of updating classic comic-book stories for a modern audience, beginning with Joker hiring Johnnie Cochran as his lawyer. Joker pays off a criminal psychologist with a nice new car and pretty blonde so that he’ll tell the world that the villain is now sane, but Batman and Batgirl are skeptical about the whole affair.
Barbara, Dick, and Dick’s ponytail head to the Iceberg Lounge to investigate further, arriving just in time to stop a shootout courtesy of Barlow’s former bodyguard, who insists that he was the person who should have received the inheritance. This episode marks the first appearance of the revamped Penguin, who is no longer grotesquely deformed, just short and fat. Semi-legitimate businessman Oswald Cobblepot is my favorite version of the character, and he becomes a far more interesting character when he’s balancing the criminal life with his occupation serving Gotham’s elite. When Barlow’s thugs open fire, Barbara and Dick switch into their work clothes, taking out the bad guys and receiving cash from the Joker as their reward. They crumple the bills and drop them in front of the clown in unison, telling him that not only is his cash meaningless to them, but that they’re not buying his act.
After escaping an assassination attempt, Joker declares that it’s time to let the good times roll, cueing a montage of Joker spending obscene amounts of money. Some Little Richard-esque piano music starts playing as Joker buys a mansion that he paints purple and green, then plays golf, interrupting a game Bruce Wayne is playing with a female acquaintance, and finishes by throwing paper airplanes made of cash out of his new car as Gotham citizens chase him down the street.
While Joker is living the privileged life, Harley Quinn is wasting away in Arkham and holding on to hope that Mr. J will buy her freedom now that he’s wealthy. Poison Ivy sets her straight by showing the headline of that day’s newspaper, revealing that Joker is looking for a new henchwoman because it’s cheaper to hire a new one. Joker doesn’t have the best assortment of candidates for his new henchwoman—including a large man who looks an awful lot like this episode’s writer. He ends up going with the bombshell that calls him Mister G and wants a 401k, a character who is exquisitely voiced by Maggie Wheeler. Wheeler brings all the obnoxious nasality of her character Janice on Friends to her small role, getting big laughs with lines like “Honest, they told me it was an Equity gig,” when the police take her away.
After picking a new Harley, Joker gets a visit from the IRS, who shows up to collect Joker’s inheritance tax. He owes $137 million, and if he doesn’t pay, he’s going to jail for tax evasion. “I’m crazy enough to take on Batman, but the IRS? Noooo thank you,” Joker says as he goes through his stacks of cash looking for the money he owes Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, Barlow only left Joker with about $10 million in real cash and $240 million in counterfeit $1000 bills with his face on them, meaning that Joker is now more broke than ever. If he doesn’t pay the IRS, he goes to jail, and if he admits that he’s been conned, he’ll be the laughing stock of Gotham, so Joker has his henchman Ernie dress up as him to distract Batman while he robs the Gotham Mint. Joker tries to avoid any of his signature tricks so that Batman can’t pin the crime on him, but Ernie didn’t put on enough makeup, revealing to our hero that the Joker is definitely up to something.
Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing arrive to put a stop to Joker’s plot, and when the villain is thrown in the back of a police wagon, he gets what’s been coming to him when Harley, disguised as a police officer, beats him with a night stick as they drive off to Arkham. The comic side of the Joker is currently being downplayed in the “Death Of The Family” crossover currently unfolding in DC’s Bat-family titles, so it’s refreshing to see the character at the height of his humorous potential in “Joker’s Millions.” The combo of Paul Dini and Mark Hamill is guaranteed to bring in the laughs, and this episode doesn’t disappoint, telling a delightful story about what happens when a villain gets everything he ever wanted and the hilarity that follows when it all falls apart.
- Batman Beatdown: As Joker lurks through the electronics expo trying to stay hidden from Batman, he walks past a partition with a hole that the Dark Knight sends his fist flying through, making direct contact with the clown’s face. That’s some perfect comic timing on the part of our hero.
- I love the detail in Joker’s apartment: the mold on the walls, empty containers of Chinese takeout, and a lopsided picture of a clown on the wall to make it all sadder.
- Joker sits on a giant Scrabble board that has two words on it: “Stalk” and “Kill.” I wouldn’t want to be the person playing board games with the Joker.
- Harley trying to escape Arkham through the laundry chute and ending up in a washing machine is one of my favorite gags on this show. Paul Dini knows how to do extremely goofy comedy.
- Harley: “What was I supposed to do? Fill the tank, shoot the guy and drive off?” Joker: “Mmm-hmm.” Harley: “Now you tell me!”
- “Do me a favor and eat each other, will you?”
- “If a man’s filled with glee, that man must go free!”
- “Living well is the best revenge.” That’s actually pretty sound advice from someone that is totally crazy.