Over in Howard Bagby's discussion "A Batman A Day", I mentioned that after Denny O'Neil became editor of the Batman titles, we saw the beginning of the overexposure of the Joker. O'Neil became the editor with Batman 401 and Detective 568, cover dated November 1986. In addition to a number of appearances in each title over the next few years, the Joker was featured in The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, a number of other Bat-related one-shots and minis, and he also popped up in other parts of the DCU - an issue of Byrne's Superman, the first JLI annual, and probably other places I'm forgetting. By the 1990's, as the number of Bat titles grew and grew, the Joker just kept showing up again and again and ... well, you get the idea. His whole thing, in case you forget, is that the Joker kills people. The body count must be in the tens of thousands, at a minimum. He killed Jason Todd (Jason got better) and crippled Barbara Gordon (her legs didn't get better, but I prefer Barbara as Oracle rather than Batgirl anyway). Between 1986 and today, in my opinion, we have long passed the point where it makes any sense for the Joker to still be around. Neither jail nor Arkham Asylum can hold him, and as I said, he's killed thousands and thousands of DCU residents. To me, there is no logical argument that he hasn't been subjected to capital punishment yet, unless it is completely outlawed in the DCU. Furthermore, I wonder if the overexposure, at this point, kills the need for any further Joker stories. What else can you say about him at this point?

At the very least, a moratorium on further appearances would be welcome, in this corner. There was a time, after all, when the Joker hadn't appeared in a DC comic - at all - in nearly four years. Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams brought him back from limbo in the classic Batman 251, "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (Sept 73). It was the Joker's first appearance in a Bat title since Detective 388 (June 69). The only appearances in between were Jimmy Olsen 125 and Justice League of America 77 (both Dec 69). Up to Batman 400 (Oct 86), compared to today, there were only a handful of appearances, less than 30 stories over 13 years, plus his own 9 issue series from the 1970's - and yet many were great and classic stories.

Here are some of my favorites:
Batman 251 - "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge"
Brave and Bold 118 - "May the Best Man Die"
Detective 475-476 - "The Laughing Fish"
Batman 321 - "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!"
Batman 365, 366 and Detective 532 - Doug Moench's three part Joker story set in Central America

and even though it's part of the Denny O'Neil period , it's very early into it, I really enjoyed Detective 569-570 by Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis where the Joker, er, "re-villainized" Catwoman (don't look at me, that's what Denny called it).

By the way, I harbour no ill will towards Denny. I'm looking at this with the benefit of hindsight. I'm sure Denny didn't set out to over-saturate the DCU with the Joker, he just wanted to give readers what he felt were the best stories possible; turns out a lot writers had a Joker story in them.

I would love to hear from the rest of you your thoughts on the Joker.

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One of the (many) things that Kingdom Come did right was having Magog kill Joker. It would be out of character for Batman or Superman to do it but completely believable for Magog or even an ordinary person with a grudge. While it wouldn't be a spectacular story, it would make sense for an Arkham guard (with a loved one murdered by the Clown Prince of Crime) to sneak in a gun and murder Joker, perfectly willing to accept the consequences of his actions.
There is a logical argument for why The Joker hasn't been subjected to capital punishment: He's insane.
I know I have mentioned it before but I've had my fill of Joker stories (even if I am picking up his appearance in Brave and Bold). I think after Last Laugh there should have been like a five year moratorium on Joker stories.
ClarkKent_DC said:
There is a logical argument for why The Joker hasn't been subjected to capital punishment: He's insane.

Excellent point: the sort of thing that's easy to forget in a superhero context (willing suspension of disbelief, and all that). Of course that doesn't explain why nobody's killed him for revenge yet: he must have thousands of enemies, if you count up all the friends and family of the people he's killed.
Mark Sullivan said:
ClarkKent_DC said:
There is a logical argument for why The Joker hasn't been subjected to capital punishment: He's insane.

Excellent point: the sort of thing that's easy to forget in a superhero context (willing suspension of disbelief, and all that). Of course that doesn't explain why nobody's killed him for revenge yet: he must have thousands of enemies, if you count up all the friends and family of the people he's killed.

ClarkKent_DC said:
There is a logical argument for why The Joker hasn't been subjected to capital punishment: He's insane.

Just my opinion: yes, he's insane, but not so insane that he doesn't know what he's doing. I don't think he has a problem dealing with reality, distinguishing right from wrong, or understanding what is normal and rational behavior. It's just that he chooses to absolutely and completely reject it all.
I agree that the Joker is way overexposed. The Joker's Five Way Revenge is my all-time favorite Batman story. With his track record of randomly killing henchmen, how does he get anyone to work for him? I also agree with Mark, someone, somewhere, would have taken him out by now. I have no desire to read any more new Joker stories. Then again, outside of Brave And Bold and JSA, I am not reading any new DC Universe tales.
Certainly, someone would likely have taken the Joker out by now. But the same could be said of Batman, I think. There's no way he could keep his ID a secret for as long as he has (just follow the money, and how many people could it be?) -- and the enemies Batman makes are far more prone to violent solutions than the enemies the Joker makes.

Even in a "street-level" book like Batman often is, too much realism can make the whole thing unravel.

It doesn't mean the Joker can't fade into the background for a while, though. Me, I blame Alan Moore for the overexposure. While the Joker was experiencing a resurgence of popularity before The Killing Joke was published, that book really cemented the "opposite number" aspect of the character, in my opinion. Since then, if you want to tell a definitive Batman story, the Joker has to be a part of it, since he's become part of what defines Batman.
Yeah - the hyper-rational good guy who dresses like the devil and an irrational homicidal psychopath who dresses like a funny children's entertainer is just too good a dichotomy to leave alone for long.

They just stumbled onto it (as we saw earlier in the thread) because a pulp character is going to generate tons of villains and some of them are going to be more conceptually satisfying than others.

Also we've long been in a phase where creators are reluctant to create new characters for corporate giants so they keep re-using the usual suspects. And why use The Calendar Man when you can reach for the top drawer?

The small number of Joker appearances after the end of the Batman TV show probably had as much to do with how lame and annoying the Joker was in that show.

Even in a "street-level" book like Batman often is, too much realism can make the whole thing unravel. Bingo.

I'm coming around to the idea lately that insisting on everything being in-continuity does more harm than good.

On the one hand I'd be all for the story where the Universe's cold meaninglessness comes to bite the Joker's butt permanently, but only if DC had the cohones to follow through on that and take him off the board for good and let all the characters correspondingly grow and change.

On the other hand, I'd be happy if the next hundred issues of Batman each had a story where the Joker kills 100 innocent Gothamites, so long as each was an entertaining story in its own right and I can live with the stress that puts on the idea of continuity.

As it is, DC want to bring in readers by saying that its in continuity and each issue "matters" (it's the 'real' Batman), but also they want to preserve the status quo and deny any real growth of the characters and situations.

DC currently falls between the stools.

Ironically, taking Batman himself off the board has allowed real growth and change to take place. Dick Grayson has never been as interesting as he is now, in his mentor's suit.

I hope they let Bruce rest for years yet. He deserves a little more down-time back in the cave after 70 years of fighting the good fight!

Hmmm, I seem to have drifted off the topic!
I've expounded on this before, so I'll steal one of my previous takes:

01-05-2007, 10:28 AM
Batman is not a psychotic because he is not supposed to be in the real world being judged by real world standards of sanity in the first place. If Batman was in the real world he'd never be deputized by the police, no one would still bother living in Gotham City, all the crime would have crippled its economy by now, Arkham Asylum's security problems would be a national disgrace, the public would be outraged by the constant Joker escapes and Joker would be dead by now from police bullets or the death penalty.

This is a point I keep coming back to about why I see things like Civil War being deeply and inherently flawed from the get-go, regardless of how well they're executed.

You *can* tell good stories while going "all the way" with real-world logic (e.g., Miracleman, Watchmen, Squadron Supreme, a host of others), but the resulting world isn't one that traditional four-color superheroics will fit into. Certain things you simply have to resolve not to analyze with real-world logic for the DC or Marvel universes to remain both coherent and true to their histories.

For instance, to take the Joker example. There are basically two possible explanations for why the Joker escapes over and over again:
1. It's an indictment of the criminal justice system of the DC Universe, which is either corrupt and incompetent at all levels. The system doesn't work!
2. The Joker's a great villain, so writers like using him, and readers like reading about him, so he has to stay alive and escape frequently.

#1 (which Frank Miller used in Dark Knight Returns) can seem kinda gritty and realistic, sure... but it also makes Batman look like a fool! Because ultimately Batman *does* work within "the system." If he evaluated the apparent reality of the revolving-door justice system that can't keep super-villains off the street, like, EVER... he'd re-evaluate his own mission, probably becoming a true revolutionary or Punisher-style vigilante. But if you want a traditional Batman, you have to "look the other way" on this stuff, and just chalk it up to genre convention.
But where to from here?

CW might have been flawed, but it was a bold experiment in epic company-wide narrative. In its way it was as innovative as Stan n Co's various genre-expanding breakthroughs in the 60's.

Each generation has expanded what can be done in a superhero book, from the 8-10 pagers through to full issues through the crossovers (Human Torch/Sub-Mariner) on to multi-issue epics.

The addition of 'realism' has run parrallel with the expansion of the scope of the stories. God be with the days when 'realism' meant a couple getting married and having a baby like normal people rather than being disemboweled and consigned to the freezer!

Each generation of creators want to do something new. Bendis and Johns in their respective companies are telling mega-narratives pushing on for 6-7 years now. I find both to be laughably juvenile in different ways, but don't begrudge them their moment.

One company has 70 years worth of stories behind it and the other almost 50. If they stay strictly within the conventions of the traditional 4-colour superheroes then its really difficult for them to do anything new. Especially for a readership familiar with all the great storylines of the past.

Obviously I agree with you in principle about how much realism we can bring to these brightly coloured picture-poetry metaphors, but I find it hard to determine where exactly we'd draw the line. Wherever that line is, the creators keep finding the new stories to be just on the other side of it.

I have no desire to read any more new Joker stories.

I would have thought I agree with this. Characters need a rest, and companies should have more discipline in dispensing them. (Again, where to draw the line?)

I was dismayed when I heard that the Joker was going to be in the latest Batman film. Hadn't we seen enough Batman vs Joker stories? Especially thinking on how many great Batman stories there are which don't have the Joker in them.

But they managed to do something very new with him. And had the courage not to make him in any way seductive or sympathetic (beyond the casting, that is). Alan Moore or Frank Miller didn't even go that far. I had to accept that they did good putting him in there.

Years late, but anyhow, in the real world, as based on how he has been depicted, the Joker would be extremely unlikely to be determined legally insane such that he would be exempted from the death penalty in any state that still had a death penalty.  By comicbook standards, Charles Manson would be declared "insane" but in the real world he was sentenced to death and only inadvertently saved by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case that determined that death penalty case procedures as practiced in the early 1970s were unconstitutional, but by the late '70s that was determined to no longer be the case.  The real reason the Joker has never been put to death is the same as that for why no villain has ever killed Batman -- as long as the characters are popular and make their owners money, they'll never permanently die.  Heck, if Adolf Hitler had only been a comicbook villain rather than a real life monstrosity, he'd still be very much alive in comics stories set in modern times rather than mostly stuck in stories set during World War II.

ClarkKent_DC said:

There is a logical argument for why The Joker hasn't been subjected to capital punishment: He's insane.

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