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Other Thoughts On The Joker Debate

If it hadn’t been for the reaction and commentary to the Joker themed Batgirl variant cover I would have happily ignored DC’s Joker variant covers for many of its June release comics just as I tend to do in general with variant covers from any publisher. This month’s movie poster variants and Darwyn Cooke’s illustrations are two rare exceptions for me. The Joker themed illustrations come as part of the commemoration of Joker’s 75th anniversary, having first appeared in Batman #1 in April 1940.

I hate — no, loathe — the Joker. I loathe that Joker has become a murderous sociopath though I suppose he may have been one long before 1988’s A Death In The Family and The Killing Joke and it’s my preference for the previously just insane Joker, my past naivete and defunct Comics Code restrictions that prevented me from seeing this sooner. I suppose Joker’s successful efforts at thwarting imprisonment and Batman’s unwillingness to permanently stop Joker shouldn’t bother me. This is comics, right? Only fiction. And there’s money to be made despite my wishes that Batman — who knows full well the pain of losing one’s parents, would put an end to Joker, who certainly has murdered men and women, many of whom must have been parents — put an end to Joker. Batman may not be a killer but I think Batman fails as long as this sociopathic version runs amok. On another Joker related note, I reject the notion that Joker has any sort of sexual or romantic interest, however twisted, in Batman because a sociopath will use any and every means at their disposal to do as they wish without regard for another person.

That’s my personal context that pops up every time I encounter this post Killing Joke Joker.

The image of a terrified Batgirl, Joker style grin painted on her face, in the embrace of Joker seemed in poor taste and made me uneasy. My perception of post Killing Joke Batgirl/ Barbara/ Oracle is that she would never be frozen and trapped in fear and terror as she is in this one off illustration in which time seems to stand still. What about the claims that it referenced a crucial event in the character’s history? It’s important to point out or remember that neither Alan Moore nor DC had no future plans for Barbara after Joker victimized her. Oracle only came about because Kim Yale and John Ostrander transformed Barbara into Oracle and lay the groundwork for later writers like Gail Simone. The process of commissioning and creating variant covers at DC is one of which I’m ignorant. I’m not privy to the conversations between the editor and artist over considerations and other ideas, if any, that were discussed before the illustration in question was started. Thankfull DC editorial had the good sense not to commission a cover with Joker humiliating a collared and naked Jim Gordon (referring to another scene in Killing Joke) or one depicting a murdered Robin because those are obviously bad ideas. How I wish the editor had visualized a cover idea showing Batgirl triumphant over Joker; perhaps Batgirl standing over an image of the Joker’s face projected downward onto the cover foreground, maybe with a faded out image of Oracle as the background. That didn’t happen. Instead editorial exhibited poor judgment in my opinion by greenlighting the image in question and the internet exploded, DC got publicity it didn’t want, some fans raised the charge of censorship while another group of fans were threatened, and Rafael Albuqerque empathized with upset fans and asked DC to pull the cover, which it did, and then some fans created a useless petition to get DC to print the Joker cover anyway, and here we are, some of us in divided camps.

I never thought I’d yearn for the merely insane Joker.

March 19, 2015
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