Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Three Jokers Hype and Trepidation

Tomorrow is the beginning of the end of something I have looked forward to since 2016. From the moment Batman's butt hit Metron's chair and Bruce was temporarily transformed into the God of Knowledge I have been hungrily tearing at every possibly hint or scrap of information about the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime's secret identity has been a mystery 80 years in the making. 

Back in 2016 Geoff Johns planted the seeds that caught my attention. 

There being three distinct Jokers made so much sense. If you look at the different major story lines from the Joker over the years it is hard to reconcile that the Joker is the same guy without delving into what has moved him through the different stages of his career. 

The "original" Joker was a criminal with a gimmick. The whole theme just seemed to go along with the personality. Batman spent his career making that Joker frown. He seemed to only be grinning while setting things in motion that would gain him power or money. I think of him as Mobster Joker, but that is just me. I have zero clue who this guy is. I don't think he has a clue as to who Batman is. I don't think he cares. 

The second Joker is Arthur Fleck the failed comedian. He comes to us with an origin story from The Killing Joke. He is a much darker Joker having killed Jason Todd and sexually assaulted Barbara Gordon. I think of him as a psychopath. He takes the clown thing to extremes, but it is more than a gimmick to him. I think that is why we got the smiling fish and complicated death traps from him.

 I really liked Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker playing this version. That movie origin story makes his connection to Bruce Wayne a very personal thing. I wouldn't get my feelings hurt if a version of this made its way into comic book cannon. 

I have to admit I have trouble distinguishing the "third" or "modern" Joker from the second in some ways. I define him as End Game Joker, but because I am uncertain of where the lines are drawn. As a matter of fact I am so unsure on this guy that I can only be sure he was in the New 52 run by Scott Snyder. A big part of me thinks he died there, and the Joker we are dealing with in Joker War is the Arthur Fleck version. 

I do have a theory that Joker #3 is a clone of Bruce Wayne gone bad. I credit this flimsy theory to his haircut which is similar to Bruce Wayne's in the same time frame, his knowledge of the Bat Family, and the similar facial structure as drawn by Greg Capullo. It is totally flimsy, but the thought has nagged at me for a while. 

Joker War Joker could be #2 or #3. I really don't know.

Let me lay out a few things I don't want.

I do not want any version of the Joker to be Joe Chill. 

I also do not want the Joker to have hired Joe Chill to create Batman who later knocks the Red Hood into a vat of chemicals creating the Joker. It is a bit too Ouroboros for me. I am also not a fan of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey continuity.

I do not want all three Jokers to be alive and active. The Jokers would not play well together, but if they did they should be more than Batman can handle. I'd be pretty happy with a retired original mobster Joker, a dead End Game Joker, and an active, insane Killing Joke Joker. Even two active Jokers would be ok, but somehow three is overkill.

I don't want to come out of the even without positive identification on at least one of the Jokers. I really don't expect that we will have all three laid out in full detail, but I will be disappointed if we don't know who at least one of them is. Zero knowledge would make Three Jokers a non event.

I don't want Harley Quinn connected to all three Jokers. I think Harley fits with some of Jokers actions and not with others. She might have been a murderess and a bit crazy for a while. I cannot see her character bedding down with the same Joker who raped Barbara Gordon. I don't know why this is a value to me, but it is. Strange lines. 

I don't want Scott Snyder to have already spoiled the story. The Batman who laughs was created when The Joker of his reality was killed and a toxin from that Joker's heart seeped out transforming Batman into the next Joker. My fear is that the story may not be more complicated than that. Joker 1 is dropped into the chemical bath as a petty criminal the Red Hood. Joker 2 murders him and is transformed. Joker 3 attempts to murder number 2 probably in revenge for some crime. The toxin transforms him into Joker 3, but Joker 2 survives and is slightly less insane for the transformative process. This makes Joker 2 more dangerous not less. It could be a satisfying story, but I don't want to have put that much of it together. This paragraph confuses me and I wrote it and rewrote it twice.

I don't want there to be fake Jokers who were lackeys playing the part. 

I don't want any of the Three Jokers to be from an alternate reality with one exception that I will explain below. I want this to be about Earth Prime Jokers. Otherwise the story should have been called The Jokers from Three Earths. Seriously, this could be bad. 

I don't want Batman to end up liking any of the Jokers or trying to save them. I mean it. Even if one of them is his actual half brother. Bad story. Don't do it. 

I don't want Jack Napier and Arthur Fleck to be completely ignored. No matter which versions of the Joker that those "real" names apply to, I want them to be the real thing. I will even accept that we may not know the real name of Joker #3. 

Now let me mention some twists I would enjoy but probably won't happen.

I would be thrilled if one of the Jokers was actually Bruce's Mom from the Flashpoint reality. In that scenario Batman is confused about the difference between #2 and #3 when they are the same person. Martha Wayne Joker is terrifying for me, and it gives fun future plots that could include the brutal Thomas Wayne Batman.

I would love to find out Alfred is one of the Jokers and has been all along or that the Joker killed the real Alfred and took his place long ago. This is the only scenario where I would be excited about fake Jokers. Alfred Joker would have pulled the ultimate joke and I will happily accept a few body doubles to get there. The only caveat there is I don't want him to be the Joker who killed Jason Todd or did the other thing to Barbara... at least not if it really is Alfred Pennyworth under the clown paint.

Similar to Origin revealing who Wolverine really is, I expect Three Jokers to leave way more questions than it answers. I hope that it is a building block to the future of the DC Universe. 

I want there to be some clear sneaky hints in the cover art choices for each issue. Are the variant arts above 3 different Jokers plus the Red Hood Origin for one? Looking at them I see three different hair styles. The crow bar Joker and the Laughing Fish Joker seem to have a different nose and different teeth. 

It is a mark of how excited I am that I am scrounging for that type of detail hours before I can lay my hands on an issue. Look for my review of issue #1 coming soon. I am way too excited considering I don't expect to learn very much from issue #1. 

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