I ain’t no joke, like Rakim or a 2nd heart attack

November 18th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , ,

I don’t “get” the Joker. I know he’s Batman’s greatest villain, but I don’t exactly understand why. I find Riddler infinitely more interesting, and think that he’d be a great foil for a man who honed his mind and body into the peak of human condition or whatever.

Anyway, the Joker is the epitome of my problem with Batman’s villains. He’s ca-razy, coocoogococonuts, and insane. He does what he does because he hates Batman, or loves him, depending on your interpretation. That’s basically my least favorite motivation for a villain. At least Lex Luthor believes in the inherent superiority of mankind (Luthorkind). Joker just wants to be crazy.

Luckily, this is comics and there are a number of different Jokers I can pick from. The Joker Alan Davis wrote in The Nail was singularly spiteful, and the end point of where I see the “regular” Joker going.

She's rock, rock, rock, rockin' it.I really, really like Dandy Joker, as played by Cesar Romero in Batman or my good friend Emily Stackhouse of Writer’s Old Fashioned. You can actually see everything I love about Dandy Joker in her pose. It’s relaxed, fun, and most of all, funny. This Joker does things because it is hilarious. Acid in the face? Joker fish? It is all good, it is all in fun, and if a few dozen people die during it… that’s even funnier. Man falls down and sprains his ankle? Sad. Man falls down a manhole? Funny. Man falls down a manhole into a sewer full of grinning crocodiles painted like clowns and dressed like the Daughters of the American Revolution?

That’s amore.

This brings me around to Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker. I’m not really here to review it, other than to say that I enjoyed it like I’ve enjoyed Azz’s other work, but the Joker they portrayed was really interesting to me.

Instead of being the invincible super crazy clown prince of crime, Azz’s Joker is a broken man. He refers to his years in Arkham as the time he was “gone,” and seems hesitant to say that he is crazy. Other people believe he’s crazy, but the only ones that knows the truth are the narrator of the book and Joker’s silent Gal Friday, Harley Quinn.

There’s a scene in the book that solidified my feelings about the Joker in general. The narrator is walking past the Joker’s room, and he sees Joker collapsed on the ground, hugging Harley Quinn, and just going to pieces. This is a Joker I like. He isn’t superhuman. He knows exactly what he’s doing. But, he’s trapped in a prison of his own design.

My idea about this is that the Joker got stuck in his own gimmick. At first, he’d do something crazy to get someone off his back. It was so outlandish and insane that he had to keep it up, or else people would know he was soft. And when you’ve made a living out of being the hardest man around… you can’t afford that.

So, he’s trapped. He can never escape, because escaping means it’s game over. At the same time, Batman is the only one who can save him. The Joker does all this stuff to get Batman’s attention to be put back into jail and away from a place where he has to keep up the facade.

I kind of like a pathetic Joker. It isn’t something I’d like to see always, but it’s a very human and believeable take.

As far as silent moll Harley Quinn goes… wow! I didn’t think I’d dig the take, but it worked out really, really well. In a way, she was one of the most threatening people in the book, and I think it’s because she never spoke. She’s that Stand By Your Man girl. She’s there for support, and sometimes support means machinegunning a dozen people and skinning a man alive. It’s a little scary, and the silence means we get no insight into her character. We just know she likes luxury and stands by the Joker, no matter what. I’m such a stan for Harley, though.

Like I said, nothing I want to see constantly, but a fun little peek into an alternate take. Frank Miller’s not-funny Joker in ASBAR was another one I liked, because it made super murderous Joker into something inhuman, interesting, and actually kind of scary, if more than a little overwrought.

I’d love it if Genocidal Kills a Thousand People a Day Joker retired forever. It’s by far my least favorite Joker, and the least original take on the character I can think of. I like a Joker that goes deeper than just “Waheyhey CRAZY! BY THE WAY I JUST KILLED A MILLION PEOPLE BATMAN WHATCHA GONNA DO HUH?”

At that point, Batman should just take one for the team and give Joker accidentally beat Joker until nothing’s left but a puddle of blood. That Joker isn’t doing anything but hurting Batman as a character. Someone break his neck or toss him down a deep hole or just shoot him in the face, seriously.

And let the Riddler take his place.

(what kind of world is it where i’m the guy wanting less murders in comics?)

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5 comments to “I ain’t no joke, like Rakim or a 2nd heart attack”

  1. if Joker ever gets killed (yeah right), they’ll start giving us a rotating swaithe of the guys. People with “one bad day” tipped over the edge.

  2. I can’t remember where it happens, it might be that Joker Last Laugh mini-series, might be an issue of Nightwing, but did you ever see that comic where Dick beat the Joker into–I guess, technically, he beat him to death? It was bad, I guess, but I always thought that was really funny, like actual “funny”, not weird funny.

    Oh, and All Star Joker trumps all Joker’s just for that Yakuza dragon back tat. After I saw that, I started wishing that Jim Lee would just draw dragon tats on every single character, even Vicki Vale.

  3. I like where you’re going with this, and I don’t like how everyone(even Dini) has made Joker into an arbitrary force of nature than is so unPUWEDICTABO that even more accomplished villains are easily killed by him. I always felt The Killing Joke was a step in the right direction for the Joker, even if Moore hated his own story. It gave an actual MOTIVE for the Joker. Most ironically of all, he only killed ONE GUY in the story. It was all about proving a point, and I felt that TDK Joker took that ball and rolled with it. He’s had a plan from the get-go, even if it branched out in ways he may have not expected. It’s what made him so much stronger in my eyes.
    As for Dandy Joker, he’s been proven to work well in the Animated Series and comics alike, but somewhere along the line in the comics, dandy translated into random (never mind the fact that Animated Joker seemed more obsessed in his pride than anything, he just saw Animated Bats as a threat to it.. IMO, anyway). When did body-count and randomness suddenly become considered a character strength? Is it such a terrible idea to make Joker into a threat WITHOUT having to resort to immediate murder?

  4. I like Joker as a mutable character whose only major definition is 1) he’s humor-themed, 2) he’s Batman’s nemesis, 3) he’s subject to the whims of the writer of Batman to reflect the Batman he’s trying to write. It can be done well or it can be done poorly, but it’s a good character sketch overall, I think.

  5. I think I prefer nihilistic Joker, but not quite far as he’s been taken…Not so much 4-digit body count, there’s-no-reason-why-he-shouldn’t-have-been-killed by now Joker but the guy who just sees life as pointless so he spends all his time trying to amuse himself, and finds nothing more amusing than screwing with Batman. This also keeps the pathetic angle, because as most comedians know, if they weren’t laughing/making people laugh….they’d be crying.