Not Past It - How The Joker Came To Be

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Hey, not past it listeners.

We’re back with another history.

Domino episode.

You know that thing where you line up a bunch of upright dominoes and then you tip over that first one and it hits the next one and the next one and the next one and it goes like, well, in our version, each Domino is a mini history story that leads you to the next event in a chain reaction, and will end up at a completely different and unexpected place than where we started.


Because y’all know, it’s all about the journey from gimlet media.

This Not passed it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind.

I’m Simone palana and on today’s episode and honor of April Fool’s week.


We’re starting 222 years ago with a hilarious Discovery by a British chemist and going all the way to the spring of 1940.

When the world is introduced to a comic book, villain a real.



We’ve done the hard work folks.

The dominoes are Are all lined up and we’ll knock him down after the break.

Would it be fair to call you of comic expert?



Why not?



It’s a great clothes that, you know, yeah, I do have the claimant, have to clean my Powers because it is since today’s history Domino.

Journey takes us through some unexpected, comic book history.

I wanted to invite Evan narcissus.


He writes for comic books video games animation.

You may have seen his name on such things as rise of the Black Panther by Marvel Comics genlock.

On HBO Max or the video game, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales.

So I’m fish on there.

That’s what it says on my business cards, which I don’t have anymore.


Well, I’m excited to talk about maybe one of the better-known comic book stories.

But before we get to the comics, we’re going to have to go back. 222 years ago to the late 1700s to a rather, amusing scientific discovery.


Domino, number one.

We’re beginning at the end of the Enlightenment period.

Oh, okay.

So, you know, this was a time where Western European thinkers were dramatically changing, you know, thoughts around science, philosophy literature.


If I can remember correctly.

There’s a lot of philosophical discussion about the intrinsic Rights of Man and societal structures that they build.


I mean, you know, sort of rethinking man’s place in the World that was a big conversation, but also a lot of big scientific discoveries happen.


During this time.

You’ve got like Sir Isaac Newton, you know doing his thing and Mathematics discovering gravity.

Thank you Sir.

Isaac Newton during this time.

You’ve also got the discovery of carbon monoxide of oxygen and of nitrous oxide.


A colorless gas.

That’s a compound of nitrogen and oxygen.

Ian then at the turn of the 18th century, a 21 year old British chemist named humphry Davy, he starts experimenting with the effects of this nitrous oxide.


Basically Davey and his assistant, they would take some ammonium, nitrate crystals, you know, heated up as you do on Fridays as one does, you know, and now I’m a free afternoon, they’d collect the gas.


They’d sift it through.

Water vapor and they would inhale almost like an old-timey bomb.

If you will.

Do you have any guesses as to what it is that Davey and his assistant might have been huffing.

I mean if they didn’t die right away, that is probably my guess is laughing gas, right?


That is correct.


Nitrous oxide or laughing.

Gas is what they were huffing back.

And basically there’s no other way to put it.


There’s no other way they, you know, for the benefits of chemistry for the advancement of science.



That’s yeah, so, you know, he’d be huffing the nitrous oxide and he describes the feeling he would get as a Sublime emotion connected with high Vivid ideas, which I feel like is like Quite a poetic way to basically be like I was high off my ass.


Yeah, we get lit up in here.

The thing that I love to as he wasn’t just like, you know doing the Laughing Gas straight.

He would sometimes mix it with wine to see, like, what the combined four sides.


It’s well to take it even further.


He built a special Contraption which he called an airtight breathing box in which he would sit for hours and inhale.

Amounts of laughing gas.

This is appointment.

Like knocks me the F out off this stuff hours.



Special room built for it like hotboxing, laughing gas for hours at a time.

Okay, and I’m glad you brought up the dentist actually because humphry Davy is the guy who gets credit for identifying laughing gas as a potential and aesthetic, as he was documenting his experimentation.


He wrote The Following Nitrous oxide and its extensive operation, appears capable of destroying a physical pain.

It may probably be used with Advantage during surgical operations in which no great effusion of blood takes place.


It’s not until a few decades later.

And 1844 that a dentist in Connecticut, would actually start using nitrous oxide as an anesthetic wherever that dentist is in Connecticut.

We all owe you one.


I got a lot of the kid.

But having laughing gas as an adult was like, wait a minute is this legal like, yeah, right.


I definitely remember getting laughing guys as a kid at the dentist.

And I don’t know, looking back.


I’m like, huh?

I feel like technically that was the first time I got high.

Anyways, so humphry Davy, you know, he identifies laughing gas as an anaesthetic.


But before it had that more medical application, laughing gas was Used for entertainment and that takes us to Domino number two.

So Back In 1832 there is this young man.


He started using laughing gas as the main act and his traveling Sideshow.

His name was Samuel Colt.

Does that name ring any bells?

Does that mean anything to you?

It makes me think about the gun maker, but the mixture of laughing gas and guns makes me a little bit nervous.


So we’ll see what happens.

Well, you might be onto something Evan, but first, let me tell you a little bit about Samuel Colt’s.


He was born in 1814 in Connecticut.

And he learns about nitrous oxide.


At some point in his late teens.

It’s not super clear where some say, he learned it through a chemist friend, or maybe he learned about it in his father’s textile plant, which is where Sam worked, but it’s clear that he does at some point and he sees it as a way to potentially fund some other business.


Ideas that he has.


So the young Colt, he grows a beard and he starts calling himself, dr.


And he creates a portable laboratory that he can take on the road and perform demonstrations.

One of, which is he calls people up from the audience and asks them, to inhale nitrous oxide.


People really took a side household.

I’m granting myself, a medical degree and then taking on the road, please continue.

I’m intrigued.

So the show Is called the celebrated.

Dr. Cult of New York London and Calcutta countless kids from you, from Connecticut cult.


That’s just claim your set.

Stop talking about The Branding, you know.

So cold, you know, he travels from Buffalo to New, Orleans stopping, in lecture halls and museums performing these demonstrations for 25 cent tickets.


He got a reputation as a very charismatic showman and salesman.

So for the actual show, I mean he had like the Frat party like staple of the funnel and a hose.

So he’d have a funnel and a hose and he would ask for volunteers.


Crowd to come up and try and inhale the gas.

They would take like huge Huff’s, the nitrous oxide and start jumping around on stage and laughing hysterically.

And you know, Samuel Colt would be like lecturing about the nitrous oxide as if he’s this like, you know, chemistry genius and the crowd would just eat it up.


Oh, man.

And then on top of that he was offering private Huff’s of his nitrous oxide for twice the price of a show ticket.

That’s a hustle like luxury drug experience.

I mean that’s a night out.


Get up and your fancy clothes put in your silk cravat and your top hat from France or some shit and meet some guy to get high for science.

You know, I forget for science for science.

So Samuel Colt was able to make a decent amount of money doing these Traveling Show.


As he was really doing these shows to fund his other business interest, which you actually did guess correctly.

Yes, not just a traveling medicine man, but he had dreams of making guns.


So he was running guns and drugs out of some wagon and mid to late 19th century.

This is in lying on his name and where he’s from.

This is like 19th century Breaking Bad.

Like this is what is amazing is Vibes.

So the reason Colt got into guns was he actually owned a pistol as a kid.


It was something that belonged to his grandfather who had fought in the American Revolution, and then a little later in life and his adolescence.

Many teens he kind of goes through like a pyro phase.

He sets off a local Cannon.

He also starts a fire which gets him expelled from school.


Like he’s getting into Shenanigans.

That’s one thing like Spirit of history.

That is so crazy because like you can literally be a wild boy, right?

You’re firing cannons in your neighborhood in your municipality like and you still get to be like a captain of industry.


People start calling you Doctor.

Yeah, he was Lucky to have his like, old tweets, following him into his adulthood.

Uh, yeah.

Very much.

A troublemaker as a young kid and his father actually sends him off to work as a seaman on a ship traveling to India.


Oh, okay.

You still got from there.

You may visited there.

But okay.


Yeah, you don’t get the clean Calcutta just because you visited.

Does that make me Parisian?

Yeah, sure.

Hey of cult could do.

Why not the rest of us, right, right, so it’s actually on this trip that he supposedly designs.


The first prototype for his handgun, which he carves out of a block of wood, you know, with the revolving chamber and everything and with the money from the Laughing Gas show.

He is able to start funding his gun dreams and at the tender age of 22 in 1836.


He finally gets his first patent on his cult.

Evolver, which is the really famous six shooter.

And you know at first he actually struggles to get buyers.

There’s not that much demand for this gun.


Okay, however about 10 years after he starts manufacturing them, the Colt revolver becomes really popular among Texas Rangers who are fighting in the Mexican-American War.


There’s even a quote from one Texas Ranger captain and he said to cult your pistols are the most perfect weapon in the world to keep the various warlike.

Tribes of Indians and marauding Mexicans in subjection.

So, I mean the legacy of the Colt revolver is truly problematic and blood-soaked and like, you know, Colts resume is full of Dirty Deeds.


Let’s just say that to say that the very least, however, he’s making a ton of money doing this, like, by the late 1850s.

He was considered to be one of the richest men in America, like he probably had a private.

Full of laughing gas to get high off of right.


O probably all these money selling guns.

Who wants another Huff.

Yeah, exactly.

So, Colts doing amazing, and then eventually the civil war starts and that takes us to Domino number 3.


Initially Colt was selling guns in the South but when the war breaks out, he starts exclusively selling guns to the union, kind of sort of on the right side of History.

I want that councils the right side of History, though, like, you’re still a profiteer at this point.

Yeah, you’re right.

I mean, Samuel Colt does very well during the Civil War, you know, it’s reported that the u.s.


Government buys over like 100,000 revolvers.

The Colt.

Revolver is like by far the most popular handgun that is used on both sides of the civil.

Or you’re still, like producing a tool whose sole purpose is meant to Rob humans of their lives, but you’re still making money because the US government is buying, you know, hundreds of thousands of these guns from you.


Like you’re still amplifying, the amount of death and violence totally.

And it’s an extremely, you know, violent and bloody war that they’re fighting.

So, you know, naturally the soldiers when they’re not in, Combat, they’re looking for some way to handle this stress and often the thing that they would reach for in their downtime as a deck of cards during the Civil War.


Actually, a lot of German immigrants were fighting actually on both the union and the Confederacy sides and they brought with them, their own, you know, Regional card game, this French German game.

Well, if you want to be technically very precise until Sation game.


And they called it.

You Kirsch feel.

It’s not a game that you’ve ever heard of Evan.

You just feel in his original form.

No, but I have heard of you Cur.

I’m guessing that’s a truncated English of you Christian.

So that’s my guess.

That is correct.


You, cursed feel gets shortened to Uecker and it is apparently a very popular card game in some parts of the US.

I had never heard of it are you?

But I also can’t place bait so, you know, Oh, wow, are we should I even say that can I don’t know anything because I don’t know how I feel about sharing this information publicly.


But leaving your truth.

We are the tough spot, you and II to do not know how to play Spades and it’s too late.

I can’t ask anyone to teach me.

It’s a great shame, but apparently this is how you play Euchre.

So it’s a card.


Game played between two teams.

Trying to win the most hands which are called tricks.

So face.

Cards have the most power and Jax are the most powerful cards of all, and they are called Bowers.


But Jack and Bauer makes me think Jack Bauer and Kieffer said, I’m 24.


And torture, you and maybe violate some a human rights, but the Damien.

Yeah, right, right.

Not that specific Jack Bauer.

This is the bower card, Bo wer, but the Americans.


They’re like, no, that’s not enough.

We need a card that’s even more powerful than the bower card.

So people would start taking a blank card or making their own additional card and calling it the best Bauer.

Which is even more powerful than the Jack.

Now this game is getting very popular.


People are playing it more and more.

So eventually in 1863 a deck of cards was created, that included an official best Bauer card called the Imperial Bauer.

Do you have any ideas as to what this card might be?


Oh, totally.

It’s The Joker, right?


In 2011, your so on top of it.

But we discussed any kind of reward tiers, but I feel like I’m fucking hitting out the park here.

Yes, you’re nailing it.


So the Imperial Bauer would go on to be called the Euchre or as we now call it the Joker, remember this is a brand-new card hitting card deck since 1863 and this card would serve as inspiration for a young artist many years later and that takes Us to our final domino.


Domino number four.

So in 1939, this young artist named Jerry Robinson, he’s working away and his little room and the Bronx that he’s renting from his aunt.


He just started at Columbia University as a journalism student, but on this particular evening, he’s not working on a school assignment.

He’s working on something that he had to do for work, you know, you could probably picture him sitting at his desk with a pencil in hand, like working away.


A like sweat dripping down his brow and he’s like, trying to come up with this, like, really ingenious idea.

Now, for a little context.

I need to tell you about how Jerry got this gig in the first place.

I’m with you.

So a few months prior Jerry had just graduated from high school.


You know, he had these Big Dreams of accomplishing all these things in journalism and art and it’s like the summer before his first year of college, right?

He goes to a resort in Upstate, New York.

York to play tennis have a good time, chill, whatever.

And on his very first day at this Resort, he is sporting this very unique outfit.


He put on this linen painters jacket on which he had like hand Illustrated some drawings and so he’s like wearing this on his way to the tennis court or whatever.

And on his way there, he meets this young, very tan man who sees the jacket.


He’s like immediately intrigued the And who happens to see this jacket is Bob Kane, but what do you know about him?

So, Bob Kane is credited as one of the primary creators of Batman but you know, historians and Scholars have include people like Bill finger and Jerry Robinson as key partners of Cain.


Who contributed significant foundational.

Elements To What We Now?

Understand is a Batman mythology.



Yes, exactly.

What it, which kind of brings us back to Bob, Kane and Jerry.

Robinson, the young illustrator.

So, Bob goes up to Jerry, and he’s like, love, your jacket really cool drawings, who drew all those figures and the kids, like, oh, I did that.


So Bob’s like I like your style kid, like why don’t you come work for me?

Jerry moves to the Bronx after that, summer and starts working with Bob.

Yeah, and his first assignment is to come up with a new story for the Batman, which would also include I’m kind of villain.


So he’s thinking thinking thinking and then he has this like light bulb moment and like goes and grabs, you know, the nearest deck of cards.

And he pulls out the Joker card.

He decides on that imagery.

So he sketches out this villain concept.


Brings it to Bob and his co-creator, bill finger shows them the illustration.

And there were like, great.

Sounds good.

From that point, Bill Finger did come in and Flesh out the character and this is where we get the first-ever Batman comic issue.


Number one, the spring issue.

And this is where we meet the Joker.

One of the most iconic comic book, villains of all time, who from time to time uses laughing gas as his own tool for Mayhem.



And and revolvers.

There you go.

It’s all connected.

So in that first issue the Joker unleashes, a gas on the city of Gotham that leaves a sort of Macabre grin on the faces of the victims, a type of laughing gas, if you will, if you want to just bring it all together.


And that is how the world is first introduced to the Joker.

If I remember correctly, he kills, like four or five people in that it and their first appearance, like, and they’re dead dead.

And I can see that in my mind like that, that leering menacing grin.


Like, you know, it’s interesting how you get characters like the Joker who were like, seemingly fully-formed Straight Out The Gate.

Yeah, for you.

What, what does the Joker do for you?

As a villain character?

Is not just that he’s a creepy-looking clown, dude.


It’s like there’s some premeditation and some planning and an element of criminal genius to his character.

Yeah, totally.

I think one of the things that’s chilling about the Joker’s, the characters, like whether he’s pointing a gun at you or pumping some gas into your room.


You still know that like once his presence has entered your life, like death is not far behind.

The Joker has become like synonymous with Rim painful, and often ironic demise and I think that’s one of the things that is not changed about the character like he Revels in in causing pain.


Yeah, totally.

I mean, he’s this really dark disturbing character, which I feel like we’ve really seen played up especially in like the more recent movie portrayal of the character, but I feel like that makes for a very interesting Dynamic and rivalry with Batman, but before We get into Batman vs Joker.


We’re going to take a quick break.

And when we come back, I can promise you, my very best Christian Bale as Batman impression, which I feel like you’re going to want to stick around for.

So stick around.

Welcome back.


Man, that’s tough.

Okay, before the break.

We followed the history dominoes from the discovery of laughing gas, through gun-toting during the Civil War to the creation of the iconic Joker Batman’s.


It’s a rivalry that’s kept audiences entertained for decades and has some interesting Roots.


So, let’s get back to Gotham City with Evan Narcissus.

Then that first issue the Batman has an opportunity to kill the Joker and he doesn’t what like, what’s up with that Batman.

Number one, he doesn’t let the Joker die here.


There, get there on a fight on a roof or somewhere and Joker falls off, but he catches him and he says, you’re too valuable a prize to lose, you know, you can interpret that a bunch of different ways, right?

But what’s funny about this moment is that that beat becomes a defining element in the relationship between Batman the Joker, right?


Fuel are always, you know, on that man, sometimes in the fiction itself.

Why don’t you kill him, you know, like the world be such but much better place and, you know, one of the answers that Batman has tended to give them.

These stories in those moments has been like, he doesn’t want to send two jokers level and I think that’s important.


I personally am not a fan of a bad man, who kills.

And, you know, in a lot of ways that man, still is like the major Exemplar of that are A type of the brooding Avenger of the night.

That’s scary.

But is on the right side of Justice.


I think superheroes are symbolic and metaphorical in their power, and having characters who tend to Dole out death, as a means, of solving problems is not terribly aspirational, and I feel like that’s probably the reason that men doesn’t kill Joker in the story that will Batman represents In This Moment is like we can be better than that.


And I think that’s a powerful part of the character, too.

I never thought about it that way, but I see what you mean by aspirational like this the sense of like you want to see yourself in the hero who still struggling to make the right decision or, you know, even if it’s not the easiest thing to do like but ultimately, a striving for that.


Well Evan, we are at the end of our Domino Journey.

We started off at the end of the Enlightenment with good old chemist, humphry Davy huffing laughing, gas for science.

Be asleep.

Then Samuel Colt funded his guns with his laughing gas shows.


And then finally years later.

We have the Joker using guns and laughing gas to bring Mayhem to Gotham City.



Yeah, you know, we don’t typically give out prizes on our show, but you got so many correct answers.


I feel like you have earned that title of world’s greatest detective.

So I bestow it officially upon you, okay?

Congratulations, I’ll wait for my certificate in the mail.

Yeah, it’s coming.

It’s coming.

Thank you so much for joining me going through all these dominoes.


It was dark, but it was fun.


I mean the Joker himself.


There you go.




Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.

This episode was produced by Ramon, A Philip next week.

We’re revisiting one of the trickiest moments in baseball history.

There were times when the ball was hit back at me.


I jumped because I thought it was coming fast, but the ball was coming, slow.

And sometimes when he came back to me look, big as a balloon, and then sometimes you look small the rest of our team.

Our producers.

Amy, Padula and Sarah Craig.

Our associate producer is Julie, Carly.


Laura Newcomb is our production assistant.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison, editing by Zach, Stewart Ponte and Andrea be Scott fact-checking by Jane, Ackerman sound design.

And mixing by Hans Diehl.

She original music by Sachs kicks, Ave.

Wheelie, Green, Jay bless, and Bobby.



Our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin.

And Talia Rahman, the executive producer.

DSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.



If you want to read some of Evans work check out the graphic novel rise of the Black Panther where he dives into t’challa’s backstory.

Special thanks to Mark, Tyler.

Nobleman Jen’s Robinson, Alexis Williams, Tyree rush.


And to Lydia Pole, Green Dan Behar Jen hon.

Emily wiedemann list Styles and Joshua Bianchi, follow not past it.

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You can follow me on Twitter at Simone palana in.

Thanks for Hangin.

We’ll see you next week.


Okay, let’s go.

What’s gonna happen?

What’s happening?

Welcome back.


Oh God.