Watching Doc's Batman Live clips made me think again about how dated the Dark Knight's most well-known villains are. This has nothing to do with the arena show but it does seem to downgrade Gotham's worse into Ice Capade territory!

The Joker: I have mentioned several times that the Joker has gone beyond the realm of modern believeability. He has become Chaotic Death, yet protected by his fame and merchandise value. In a recent Action, Luthor threatens to kill him, an act he says no one will care about, but the Grinning Ghoul proudly and confidently states that Batman will and he will go after Lex for it. The Joker has committed the most brutal, heinous and unforgiveable murders and crimes (Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Sarah Essen) since he returned to his killing ways in Batman #251 from 1973! Yet he never pays for his crimes and is completely realizes that no hero will try to put him down because that will make them just like him. He's thrown into Arkham Asylum and escapes at will. Chooses a victim and slaughters them at will! Everyone wants to do their Joker story and his slayings multiply. As I say detective comics featured a new style Joker.

More to follow!

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Why do all Batman's foes have to be killers?

A lot of that goes back to the Golden Age. Even after Robin was introduced, the Dynamic Duo spent lots of time fighting ordinary crooks and mobsters, and while Batman and Robin no longer killed, their adversaries certainly had zero compunctions about doing the same.

There were villains in the Silver and Bronze Ages that wanted nothing to do with killing, like the Getaway Genius, and many of Batman's post New Look foes weren't particularly interested in killing anyone unless they felt they absolutely needed to.

I think that when the Joker was re-invented and other creators saw the reaction to that they felt compelled to apply similar traits to other villains, either in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses or to make their own mark on a character. So now villains that are not killers are the rare exception, and since people are buying comics where people are attempting to kill one another right and left, I don't see it changing any time soon.

The threat of murder was always there. There were many mysteries that involved the killing of someone. That's standard in all great detective literature. But now, they want more gruesomeness, more slaughter which would be acceptable but you can't have the Joker killing children, then put him in a coloring book!

I concur with Figs that there has to be some ownership of new characters to get the writers and artists to create new characters. There have been five Superman movies and Luthor was in FOUR of them! We need fresh, innovative and dangerous villains. instead of strip-mining the past.

Well, in the second Batman/Punisher crossover, the Punisher was about to shoot the Joker and Batman grabbed the gun and gave some "Not in my town" speech about not killing him.

Glad I didn't pay a lot for the Marvel/DC collections.

Philip Portelli said:

That's the problem with the Joker because everyone wants to use him and keep upping the ante! In Morrison's JLA, he murders 16 children but that is erased but not the fact that it didn't bother him to do it! He gets worse and worse and no one, super-hero, vigilante, cop, criminal just shoot this non-powered clown! Beam the Punisher to the DCU for a day! Frank knows what to do with homicidal maniacs!


Philip Portelli said:

There have been five Superman movies and Luthor was in FOUR of them! We need fresh, innovative and dangerous villains. instead of strip-mining the past.

So far as I'm concerned, Luthor was in all five Superman movies. The character Robert Vaughn played in Superman III was Luthor in all but name, because, at the time, Gene Hackman wasn't willing to come back to reprise the role. (The producers had a habit of making two movies at once -- for another example, The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers -- but not telling the actors or crew they were working on two movies at once.)

It's sounding like the villains for the 2012 Superman film are shaping up to be Zod, Sam Lane, and Metallo.  I think the Geoff John's Superman: Secret Origin storyline is the main blueprint.


At least with Zod and Metallo, Superman will be able to hit something.

Philip and Figs, you guys always say that the Joker should be killed/retired but whenever a new Joker story comes out, it always sells well.  I think that answers the question: most fans don't want to get rid of the Joker.
Ummm. I said they should be killed off, not that they sell badly in today's shrunken insular backward-looking market.

While the Joker seems kind of tired and played out to me, there's always a story just around the corner that reinvigorates him. Gotham Central's "Soft Targets" is a perfect example -- in that, he was a fascinating antagonist again.

I don't have a lot of interest these days in arguments that say that the Joker has killed so many people that either the state should execute him, or that it's irresponsible of Batman to keep letting him live. I don't think applying real-world rules to the Joker or Batman does any good. The Joker's evil deeds "reset," I think, once no one mentions them for a while. Yes, he killed Jason Todd (though he got better, so there's that), but did he kill Sarah Essen? When's the last time she was mentioned? You'd think it would come up a lot more than it does, if we're supposed to treat it like it actually happened. 

I think there are unspoken fictional rules that allow certain criminals to go largely unpunished, and never for long. Because they're our entertainment, and we'd rather have the genuine article than a pale imitation, even though those are fun to consider for a while -- largely because of what they tell us about the real thing. 

I do think he should be used sparingly. But taking him off the table permanently deprives the next generation of their own Joker stories. 

The problem is, of course, is that if The Joker is killed off, then that means no more Joker stories. 


I'd go for a moratorium, however.

ClarkKent_DC said:

The problem is, of course, is that if The Joker is killed off, then that means no more Joker stories. 


I'd go for a moratorium, however.

Whoops! I didn't see Rob's response before I posted mine, so I'll just say ... what he said!
I agree with everything Rob has just said. Soft Targets was a fantastic story. The Joker is bad news anyway, but the Joker with a high-powered sniper's rifle during an election year? Yippee!

Just to reiterate, I meant kill or retire in the current comicbook sense of just being off the board for a few years. Most properties could benefit from this. Both Bruce and Steve seem to have come back stronger after their little holidays/deaths. I'd want it to be longer but I can see that off the board longer than 5 years might be denying half a generation of creators and readers their fun.

Thanks, guys. (I've had a lot of people agree with me lately. Am I becoming -- choke! --  reasonable? I must be off my meds...)

There was a time back when I was an arts & entertainment editor for a suburban newspaper. I brought in a novice writer to write about kid's events, because while she'd never written professionally before, she had a great sense of the sort of events parents want to take their kids to. Thing was, she used exclamation points like she bought 'em wholesale. So all her genuine excitement read like hysteria.

Eventually, I get tired of taking them out. I told her: "Each week, you've got two exclamation points. That's your budget. Use 'em wisely." And man, did it improve not only the sentences where she wasn't using the bangs, but where she was, as well.

That's how I think of Joker appearances. He (and Darkseid) are special. Don't use them until you've found the absolute best place for them, because you only get one shot at these guys. Then put 'em away for the next writer... who can take them back down from the shelf once he or she's earned it, too.

(Strangely enough, I don't think Luthor works with the same treatment. I don't want him always at center stage, but I like him in the wings, threatening to come on at any time.)

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