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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Hitler is still alive at Marvel. They call him Hatemonger. You'd think his appearances would get bigger reactions from readers.

Grant Morrison made a big speech to Animal Man on this problem. Having killed Buddy's wife and kids, how could he justify bringing them back without fans complaining the series was unrealistic? "People want realism. Heaven help us if that's what it means."
 
Figserello said:

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!
 
 

To my knowledge it has not really been established that the Hatemonger is (was?) really Hitler but instead is someone who looks and behaves a lot like Hitler, the Marvel Universe Hitler having been killed by the original Human Torch.  Since Hitler would now be 127 years old if he was still alive, it's about as silly to claim that he's still around as it would be to have a villain who is really Napoleon.  Oh, yeah, they've both been taking the Infinity Formula and hanging out on the dark side of the moon with Elvis, Michael Jackson and now David Bowie.  

Admittedly, one reason I liked The Sandman and Fables is that they were each the works of one author, albeit with artistic collaborators, and there were explanations for the long lives of the characters and the difficulties of permanently killing them off that made perfect sense within their contexts,  But I can also understand fans who want new stories featuring characters who have been around for decades but who, in the context of their imaginary world, supposedly have really only been around for about 10 years or so.  So Peter Parker and Johnny Storm, who were once was in high school when John F. Kennedy was President now were toddlers when the elder Bush was President and Steve Rogers has now slept from the end of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to the early years of the Bush II era, after the 9/11 attacks. 


Ronald Morgan said:

Hitler is still alive at Marvel. They call him Hatemonger. You'd think his appearances would get bigger reactions from readers.

In Fantastic Four #21 whether the Hate-Monger was Hitler, or one of his doubles, is left open. (I say "was" as he's shot dead at the end. Apparently, the villain was next used in Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.)

Marvel's superhero revival of the 50s started with Young Men #24, which had Human Torch, Captain America and Sub-Mariner stories. The Torch story has a sequence where the Torch recounts his history. In the flashback he's shown to have killed Hitler with his flame at the end of WWII in Europe.

Roy Thomas used the scene in What If? #4 ("What If the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War Two?") Although that was a What If? he declared the story to be in-continuity on a letters page. At around the same time the Arnim Zola story from Jack Kirby's 70s Captain America run revealed Zola saved Hitler's brain. He had built him a new body and meant to give him Captain America's face.

A two-part story teaming the Hate-Monger and the Red Skull appeared in Super-Villain Team-Up #16-#17.(The issues appeared roughly a year apart.) In the second part the Hate-Monger declares himself to be Hitler and gives an account of his history which ties these scenes together. The Human Torch and Toro burned his body, but he projected his mind into a clone brain Zola had created. Subsequently Zola created clone bodies for him. Supermegamonkey's review has the sequence.

Ah, I'd actually read those when they came out and pretty much forgot them.  To be honest, I don't particularly like those sort of stories that include a historical person, mainly because as someone who reads a lot of history I'm more aware of how wrong the writers usually depict such a person and it's hard for me to get into the story as pure fantasy.

If you don't like historical inaccuracies in your comic books, I advise you to steer clear of Steven Grant’s Badlands (about the Kennedy assassination).

Ronald Morgan said:

Grant Morrison made a big speech to Animal Man on this problem. Having killed Buddy's wife and kids, how could he justify bringing them back without fans complaining the series was unrealistic? "People want realism. Heaven help us if that's what it means."
 

Well, you all know where I stand on "realistic."

I like quite a variety, including American Splendor, Love & Rockets, Cerebus, even Squirrel Girl.  I never got much into the relentlessly grim & gritty, especially in comics featuring old Silver Age characters and in which so many of their supporting cast are killed off in horrible ways, and even the title character may be killed off but eventually some he or she will be brought back with an absurd explanation as to why the death wasn't as permanent as it seemed.  I did like Morrison's run on Animal Man as to my perception he had fun telling the sort of stories he wanted to tell and that had some meaning to him, including the meta-fiction of inserting himself into the story as a god of Animal Man's universe who has temporary power of life & death over everyone in the story -- until, that is, someone else takes over the story and who might undo everything the previous writer did.  Ok, too much of that would get boring, and Dave Sim took that sort of bit waaaay too far in Cerebus.  But once in a while, it can be entertaining enough, at least for some of us.  And at least Morrison did bring Animal Man's family back to life in a way that, within the context of the story, made as much sense as those contrived to bring Super-Man, Ben Grimm, Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Norman Osborn, etc, etc., back from the dead.

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