Friday, March 12, 2010

A Comic Book Commentary

I was hanging around the East Cobb Borders this morning, killing time until I met up with a friend for lunch, and a comic book on the rack caught my eye.

It was Brave and the Bold #31, in which lesser-known DC hero Atom is paired off with the Joker.  It turns out that the Arkham Asylum medical staff needed help treating the Joker for a brain disease and Atom, against his better judgement, decided to help them.  Given his ability to shrink to microscopic size, he ended up literally getting inside the Joker's head.

It was there that he ended up viewing and being affected by the Joker's memories.  This gives us (drumroll) another Joker origin.


In this one, the Joker clearly had issues from the beginning.  As a child, he pontificates to another child about how he's going to make the world as weird as he is.  Then he goes berserk on a bully to the point the bully needed stitches (and a meeting between his mother and the school principal makes it clear that excessive violence is a problem the kid has had before).  The next memory is him as a teenager, preparing his house to burn while his parents discuss how they know he's been torturing and killing dogs and cats (BIG sign of psychopathy).  The pre-Joker jams the doors shut and the next panel shows him walking away from the burning house.

We later see him and some hooligan types robbing a convenience and, just when they're about to leave, he shoots the shopkeeper for kicks.  Another gang member tells him that they had agreed not to actually kill anyone so the whole group wouldn't be charged with murder--the pre-Joker responds by telling him it's fun to kill and then shoots him for challenging him.  We later see a montage of Joker-related mayhem clearly based on The Dark Knight, including him robbing the bank and challenging Batman to hit him with his bike.

I'm not really a big DC comics aficionado (beyond having seen the films and being really good at mimicking the Heath Ledger Joker, much to friends' and siblings' aggravation).  I did like the artwork for this one, especially the creepy way the pre-Joker was drawn.  His green eyes in particular stood out.

However, I liked the Joker origin story in Batman: The Killing Joke better.


In this one, the pre-Joker is an engineer at a chemical plant who quit his job to become a comedian.  He wasn't very successful and his wife was pregnant, so he let some gangsters talk him to sneaking them through his old factory so they could rob the place next door.  His wife and unborn child are killed in an accident and he tries to back out, only for the gangsters to outright bully him into going along.

They get into the factory (the pre-Joker wearing a costume to make it look like the gangsters are the accomplices of a supervillain) and Batman and the police intervene.  The pre-Joker ends up falling into a vat of chemicals and when he sees his disfigured face, he loses his mind.

This origin would explain his obsession with making people laugh (there's a scene where the pre-Joker complains to his wife about how nobody laughs when he tells jokes) and his technical skills, as well as him trying to prove the world is as bad as he is (the graphic novel revolves around him trying to prove "one bad day" would affect Commissioner Gordon as severely as it affected him).  It would also make him more human (and thus a more complex character), as opposed to the born-evil "bad seed" of The Brave and the Bold.

Of course, even in the primary Batman canon, the Joker's origin isn't entirely clear.  The Wikipedia has a quote from TKJ in which the Joker comments on how, as far as his past is concerned, he'd like it to be multiple choice.  It also has other scenarios besides TKJ and The Brave and Bold (which I added earlier today).

Any comments?

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