In Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo, Marc Silvestri brings his unique aesthetic and storytelling sensibilities to the ultimate unexpected DC team-up. After Harley Quinn is abducted, the Clown Prince of Crime and Gotham's most famous son make an uneasy alliance to find her. It's a combination that may have surprised some DC readers, but Silvestri is actually continuing a longstanding DC tradition of strange hero and villain partnerships. Though there are some obvious examples featuring anti-heroes like Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, the joy of DC UNIVERSE INFINITE is that we can dig into the proverbial back issue bins and enjoy some of the wilder, weirder and oft-forgotten times that good and evil have had to come together.
Hercules and Lex Luthor (Action Comics #267)
Lex Luthor has long been one of the most malicious and cunning of Superman's rogues, but did you know he once used his mind—and some ancient magic—to trick the heroic Hercules into helping him escape from prison?
After introducing readers to the muscled demi-god as he helps Superman save Lois Lane, we're quickly thrown when he's summoned to Lex Luthor's jail cell. Spinning Hercules a little sob story, Luthor enlists him to free him and to steal some treasure back that Lex claims belongs to him. The naive super-god goes along with Luthor's ploy for a while, but it's all over once he realizes he's been duped. This is a great example of the kind of ambitious and odd stories that came out of DC in the '60s.
Batwoman and Cat-Man (Detective Comics #318)
In this hilarious Silver Age romp from Henry Boltinoff, Jack Schiff, Ruben Moreira, Joe Certa, Sheldon Moldoff, Mike Esposito and Jim Mooney, Batman drives Batwoman to despair and near-betrayal after her life is saved by an amorous Cat-Man. Batman throws all the blame onto Batwoman, who is already tired of his shenanigans—the pair are dating—and she sneaks off to join Cat-Man. Her costume is infinitely cooler, and (unlike Batman) Cat-Man promises the newly named Cat-Woman a life together as the king and queen of crime.
Their team-up is a powerful one and appears far more beneficial for Bat/Cat-Woman and her role as a potential sidekick/lover than with old Bats. But, of course, it's all just a ploy for Batwoman to show Batman that she's actually a very useful crimefighter. After helping Batman defeat his foe, the story takes an exceedingly dark turn. Cat-Man's boat explodes as the romantic pair look on and smile about the fact he never could have survived. Even grimmer is that Batwoman keeps her Cat-Woman costume as a "trophy."
Wonder Woman and the Monster Prince (Wonder Woman #155)
Does a marriage count as a team-up? And can the Jekyll and Hyde journey of the Monster Prince truly be described as villainous? For the sake of including this totally wild issue by Bob Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito on our list, the answer is a big fat yes! After her three classic suitors—Steve Trevor, Manno the Merman and Bird-Man—each annoy her to a dangerous degree, Wonder Woman meets a mysterious hunk. Little does she know that he's actually a monster.
After stumbling across her villainous would-be groom hidden away in his castle, Wonder Woman decides to try and help the monster, but he viciously attacks her and the Amazons, rejecting their help. Despite that, Diana decides she must marry him to give the Monster Prince a chance at happiness. Alas, the wedding is stopped by Manno and the Prince flees, hoping to save Diana from his monstrous ways. In a shocking twist, after saving Wonder Woman's life during their chase, the Monster Prince transforms into a handsome hunk. Diana is understandably intrigued, but her beau has realized marriage is more trouble than it's worth and rejects Diana, heading home to build a giant "no trespassing" sign.
Wonder Woman and Cheetah (Wonder Woman #792)
From a team-up with one of her most obscure villains to her best known! This Wonder Woman issue from Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, Marguerite Sauvage and Pat Brosseau takes the whole idea of the superhero and villain team-up to the next level. Far from a gimmick or attention grab, this story showcases the best of Wonder Woman and maybe her biggest strength: compassion.
The gorgeously illustrated comic begins as Diana breaks into Cale Industries labs to free her one-time friend and long term foe Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva A.K.A. Cheetah. After a successful escape—including burning the offending lab to the ground—Diana binds Cheetah with the Lasso of Truth in the hope that it will lead the villain back to humanity. It's a vibrantly clever plan and it works, leading to Cheetah joining Checkmate and fighting alongside her sister as a hero and ally rather than the antagonist she once was.
Batman and the Joker's Severed Head (Batman: Last Knight on Earth)
We end with what’s definitely the weirdest entry on our list—and that's saying something. This three-issue miniseries from beloved Batman creative team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (with Jonathan Glapion on inks, FCO Plascencia on colors and Tom Napolitano on letters) took Batman to the edge of the apocalypse with an extremely unexpected companion.
After being shot by a dead body, waking up in Arkham Asylum and realizing that the entire world as he knows it has ended, Bruce Wayne gets yet another rude awakening. His only friend is the decapitated head of the Joker, which he carries in a cracked red lantern. Throughout the strange tale, which is narrated by the Joker, Bruce has to contend with a post-apocalyptic landscape and the inane chatter of his one-time nemesis. And just when you think things couldn't get stranger, the Joker takes on the mantle of Robin in a super high-tech mech suit that holds up his decapitated head.
So far, the Joker's head in The Deadly Duo has stayed firmly on his shoulders...but with three issues still to go, that can always change. It is a DC Black Label book, after all, and if this list has taught us anything, it's that when heroes team-up with their biggest adversaries, the truly strange thing would be to say you know what to expect!
The first three issues of Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo by Marc Silvestri with Arif Prianto are now in stores. Ultra members can also read the first two on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Rosie Knight is an award-winning journalist and author who loves Swamp Thing, the DC Cosmic, and writing about those and more here at DC.Com. You can listen to her waxing lyrical about comics, movies, and more each week as she co-hosts Crooked Media's pop culture podcast, X-Ray Vision.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Rosie Knight and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.