Stop Joking

January 16th, 2008 by | Tags: ,

I am kind of tired of seeing the Joker show up in non-Batman comics. Very rarely does it work, especially when he’s put alongside of other, much more useful or powerful characters. Writers tend to overstate his importance in the DCU, not because it makes any sense, but because the Joker is a popular character. Emperor Joker is the one exception because the entire point of that was showing what would happen if Joker truly did gain god-like power. Otherwise? Keep him in a context where you don’t need to artificially inflate his abilities for him to fit in or flat-out give him abilities he really shouldn’t have. (Disclaimer: While this argument could be applied to Batman’s position on the JLA, at least Batman already has abilities and resources that make him an actually valuable member.)

The incentive for this plea was the Salvation Run comic: It features two groups of villains, one led by Lex Luthor, the other by the Joker. Joker vs. Luthor? Too obvious, too forced. I don’t know how much of it is the writer(s)’ idea and how much of it is editorial mandate, but it doesn’t work. It’s pitting DC’s two most popular villains against each other in a context that doesn’t make sense. Luthor as a leader is fine, but Joker? Joker is insane. He doesn’t have much in terms of charisma or leadership skills and has nothing to offer beyond unpredictable, deadly craziness, so the writers need to jump through hoops to make him a prominent leader. Suddenly Joker is now a person who makes reasonable arguments. Suddenly everyone fears and respects him. Suddenly the human-hating Gorilla Grodd is taking orders from him for no real reason. Suddenly he’s able to kill Psimon with a rock. Come on now. I’m not a Psimon fan and I really don’t like arguments about the power levels of fictional characters, but the guy destroys planets. He killed Brainiac once. This really just doesn’t make sense and is only detrimental to the characters.

Speaking of Salvation Run, I wish they’d just gone with the original pitch and make it an Elseworlds. Seems like it would have been much more interesting.

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5 comments to “Stop Joking”

  1. My biggest problem with the Joker is that even in Batman he is rarely written well. Usually the writer makes the Joker just plain bug nuts, when his character has much more depth than that. I’d say that few authors are actually up to the task of writing the Joker.

  2. It’s really sad that they managed to screw up Salvation Run, which was a great concept and something I really thought might be a diamond in Countdown’s rough: someone finally addressing the question “Why don’t they just shoot Earth’s supervillains into space/to another dimension/etc.?” in a way more serious than 42 in Marvel, and with tons of chances for good development. The Joker’s prominence is similarly spot on in concept but bad in execution: he’d be perfect as a force of chaos fucking with Lex’s plans, but hardly as an overpowered leader beating Psimon’s head in with a rock.

  3. It’s a good thing I have an article on the way, because all things considered, that probably shouldn’t be the top headline right now.

  4. Wow. That would have been awkward.

  5. My biggest problem with Salvation Run is that someone dug Skorpio out of Priest Book Limbo because of his visual, but left out the much more awesome Doctor Arthur Villain. Well, that and I am sick and freaking tired of Grodd taking orders from humans. Grodd took orders from Alex Luthor in the Society (and Captain Cold during Rogue War because “the Society says I must”) and Lex Luthor in the ILU and now he’s the Joker’s #2? The only way that works at ALL is if he’s subtly manipulating Joker via Force of Mind, but we all know DC editorial won’t allow that.

    Sorry, my nerd is showing. To be honest, I think the Joker is the single biggest problem in the DCU, simply because he shouldn’t be allowed to survive. He’s not fit to stand trial so he can’t be executed, but there’s no sense in the idea that a US government that has authorized more versions of Task Force X/Omega than there are dead New Gods wouldn’t just have Deadshot get “committed” and kill him in Arkham. He works fine as a “Batman villain” and he’s probably too iconic to kill, but for my money he needs at least a five year moratorium just because a villain who goes on a triple-digit murder spree twice a year and can’t be reasoned with screws up a lot of other sandboxes.