Early in the silver age, DC wasn't doing so well,
with World War Two over and the demand for heroes fading, DC's titles
started to devolve into a printed sitcom. Complete with bad jokes,
stereotypical role models, and the inevitable return to status quo at
the end of the issue. DC was playing it so safe that many of the comics
went out of their way not to offend the Comics Code Authority.
Instead of fighting crime, their heroes fought aliens. Instead of
dealing with emotional dilemmas, their heroes transformed into stuff
So it completely amazed me that the Comics Code Authority allowed Batman
issue #66 to be released; because the opening story was the Joker's
Comedy of Errors, also known as the infamous boner tale.
Now before I start to review this, I want to mention that 'boner' was a
term that was found in lots of comics at the time, it was still used
over a decade later when Stan Lee was writing The Amazing Spider-man
because even in the 1960's, the term was mainly seen in a non-sexual
context. Webster's Contemporary School & Office Dictionary
defines 'boner' as "a stupid and ridiculous blunder." Sort of like what
happened when presses let this story be released, since even in 1951,
the double entendre was either very intentional, or the writer got lazy
to the point where he should have left his career.
So we get an opening splash shot of the Joker's gallery, collecting
mementos of the greatest boners in history. We see that besides
Columbus finding America, the other greatest boner in history is when
"Merkel of the Giants forgot to touch second," in a baseball game. Also
notice that the signature in the bottom left corner belongs to Bob
Kane, the creator of Batman, who helped draw this masterpiece. I did
some research and found out that Bill Finger, the other creator of
Batman, wrote the story. That's right, this isn't some company taking
away the creators' character and turning it into a joke, this is the
direction the creators themselves took their work.
This page is nothing special. It shows that the Joker is planning to
rob Gotham's electric company. What he's stealing is never made clear.
(Is their a black market for second hand watts?) The Joker shuts off
the energy, but realizes he's trapped on the top floor and can't escape
with the loot in time. However, it should be noted that page 2 is the
only one of this story not to have the word "boner" appear somewhere on
Batman arrives to stop the Joker, but the Joker gets away without the
loot. Word of his boner makes headlines around the city. WUXTRY
This is where the story goes from absurd to asinine. The Joker becomes
obsessed with the word 'boner' and dedicates the rest of the story to
recreating some of histories more famous ones. To be fair to the guys
who made this, I can't think of any similar story that has been made
before or since. So it does come across as original.
Now, the artists and writer are no longer trying to do anything but see
how often they can throw the word 'boner' into the page and get away
At this point, tale either becomes tedious to read, or absolutely
hilarious. Now Joker's main goal in life is to force Batman to pull a
boner, which he reveals to Gotham over the radio. Remember that creepy
scene from the Dark Knight were Heath Ledger records himself on
television and starts threatening to kill random people? Well, the
Joker's broadcast on the radio isn't nearly as threatening.
Robin's response is priceless, as he nervously asks: "What does he mean
Bruce? How can he force you into a boner?"
For some reason, the creators decide to add the (replica of the) wooden
horse of Troy into the mix. Because when writing a superhero adventure
about boners, it just makes sense to add Trojans. I guess there are
stranger ways to teach people about Greek history.
The Trojan Horse thing fails, foiled by Batman and Robin. Batman has to
go to the Coast to testify about whatever. It really seems the guys
lost interest at this point, or were just laughing to hysterically to
think straight. But Joker tricks Bats into going the wrong way.
We get another page of the word "boner" popping up everywhere. As
everyone realizes that the Joker finally forced a boner out of Batman.
But this is the 1950's, so chances are Batman's got a bottle of
anti-boner repellent somewhere in his Bat-plane.
Of course, Batman takes the criticism, but reveals that it was all a
sting to put the Joker behind bars. America realizes it's mistake some
bald guy apologies for America's biggest boner of all time...LOSING
FAITH IN BATMAN Learn from this America; never lose faith in your Dark
Knight, or your billionaires, they only look like they're making
The times the word "boner" was used in this story is just under 40. By
the final panel, the guys seem to realize that they went overboard with
this joke and the last sentence of the story is Batman saying: "Let's
Hope we've learned the last of things like Boners-and Jokers."
Indeed Batman, let's hope we have.
Of course the Joker returned and continues to be Batman's greatest
nemesis, but (to the best of my knowledge) no one in the industry was
able to pull a stunt like this again. My guess is that the editor (who
wisely never got credited) figured out what happened after the issue was
shipped out and started threatening people's jobs.
I don't blame them for pushing the limits of The Comic Authority at this
point, since the guys were overly strict and it healthy to see what
they could get away with. However, this story does come across as lazy,
and if it was published today, we'd all rightfully call it crap and
pretend it never happened. But because this happened such a long time
ago, it remains a fun little distraction of Batman's lamest era. An
example of what can happen to a character once the creators give up on
the core of what made the character great..
Overall, I give this story 3 out of 10, but I think it is a
successful failure, since Kane and Finger's experiment showed that
someone else did it, so now you shouldn't be tempted to try, and as a
result, less people are now being boned for sending similar crap into
the markets. Make no mistake about it, this story is crap, and it's
lazy crap, but I'm still impressed/shocked they got away with it.
Now I'm not an expert in 1950's slang, so maybe boner wasn't a double
entendre back then. Maybe this whole story was just really unlucky, and
it's double meanings where completely accidental...
...Ya, there was no way this was a mistake...there's just no way.
Wait... Wasn't The Comic Authority was started in 1954, three years
after this tale was originally published? Wow, looks like I pulled what
Batman never could: a stupid and ridiculous blunder.
For a long time, there was debate if this actually existed, but DC
recently reprinted this story in the new edition of The Joker: The
Greatest Stories Ever Told (2008,) where these scans were taken
from.* The whole 12 pages of The Joker's Comedy of Errors are
available in this book if you feel inclined to read them.
But giving credit where credit is due, the people to blame for this tale
Bill Finger: Writer
Bob Kane: Artist (Character layouts)
Lew Schwartz: Other Penciller
Charles Paris: Inks
Ira Schnapp: Letterer