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Anonymous Theater Manager

The Joker had a short lived series lasting 9 issues from 1975 to 1976 with the writing switched off between Denny O’Neil and Elliot S! Maggin, and drawn by Irv Novick and Ernie Chua. Sometimes the Joker faced off against other foes like Catwoman and Luthor and other times he was vexing heroes like the Creeper and Green Arrow and Black Canary. In issue #6 (March-April 1976) faced a different kind of protagonist when the Clown Prince travels to an unnamed medium sized city several hundred miles from Gotham where a touring company is rehearsing for a play based on A Scandal In Bohemia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story. The Joker has developed an obsession with carrying out crimes based on different Holmes stories, and here impersonates the actor playing Moriarity. A trick gun shoots a boxing glove at Sherlock Holmes actor Clive Sigerson. The force of the punch causes the actor great confusion as Moriarty unmasks to reveal he’s the Joker. In the mayhem Joker and two henchmen steal a portrait that is a clue in the Bohemia story. Minutes later the police arrive and interview the stage manager of the Bohemia Theater. The clues that the manager is a flaming queen are fairly obvious. The uncredited letterer emphasized several words from O’Neill’s dialog. While “Bohemia” refers to the theater and the Holmes story it also has a slang connotation for gay. The use of “scandalous” in this context screams gay. Irv Novick drives the point home with body language, hand gestures, and long hair which is still a counter cultural affectation in 1976. Compare the policeman’s traditionally handsome and stoic face and chiseled jawline to the manager’s long, thin face with arched eyebrows and a sharp nose framed by a limp wrist. In four out of five panels in which he appears, Novick drew motion lines near his wrists.

For what it’s worth I believe Denny O’Neill may have simply wanted to write a gay character and test the Comics Code Authority. The policeman, stage hand, and actor don’t react to the manager’s stereotypical qualities. Seven years earlier O’Neill wrote a scene in Showcase #82 (May 1969) in which band singer Jim Rook is attacked by a trio of homophobic bigots, propelling him on a journey to a fantasy world where he became the hero known as Night Master. You can read about it here!

Many thanks to Andew Drace who shared a scan of the theater manager in Gay League’s Facebook group.

Anonymous Theater Manager first and only appearance is in Joker #6. This story is reprinted in The Joker: Clown Prince of Crime TPB available at mycomicshop.com and Amazon. Images scanned from an original copy.

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