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I just finished reading the Batman arc Death of the Family, and I loved every part of it, but I didn't understand one thing. In the climactic scene toward the end of the story, we find out that...

...the Joker has kidnapped the rest of the Bat-Family, restrained them, and cut off their faces so he could reveal them on silver platters at his "dinner party."

It's a suitably terrifying moment, especially given Joker's own condition at the time. However, by the end of the scene we discover instead that...

...it was all a lie, the faces were fake, and the Bat-Family was unharmed.

Aside from "because he's Mr. Super-Crazy-Pants," why would the Joker do this? Over the course of that one story we'd seen him do some pretty horrific things, and he seemed to be genuinely trying to get back to the "good old days" when it was just him and Batman, without all the others who were "just getting in the way." So if he didn't just take them out because he didn't want to ruin his surprise, why didn't he at least follow through on his apparently-already-executed plan?

Was this just a convenient way for the writers to have a horrific moment without ending five other franchises along the way, or was there an in-universe reason for this reversal that I missed?

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    I may be biased towards TAS, but it seems like the Joker's MO to trick people into doing horrific things on false pretenses - it's possible he wanted to ruin Batman through this revelation, only to reveal he never harmed any of the Bat family. Presumably, he'd revel in the irony. – Zibbobz Oct 21 '14 at 17:17
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The joker seems to thrive on unpredictability. Sometimes, he will commit a horrific crime, sometimes he won't. In Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, he claims to have blinded a woman with a pencil over the phone, and asks Batman to "bring a white cane." When he gets there, she is fine, and the Joker shouts "April Fool!!!" Then he murders one of the security guards to spur Batman into action. You never know.

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