Sorry Seattle, Bring on the Oscars

I am not particularly good with computers despite using them a fair bit and one of the things which often surprises me are the search algorithms which power google, and especially their images section. I was just now in the process of looking for a scan for something else entirely and it brought up this one instead (which came from this website and blog):

It is maybe not particularly related to much of anything, only that yesterday was the Super Bowl, which I was forced to watch among millions of other non-football fans. Conversely as of today the next big television is the Oscars, which I do plan on watching, especially so that of the 121 individual nominations this year that at the moment I am 66 in (though some movies cover off numerous nominations.) Its just a bit of a coincidence, but Oscars season starts now and I randomly found a comic reference to the awards, strange enough in itself as the awards have not always been such a televised spectacle, especially so when Patsy and Hedy were still being published. Anyway this is a nice send off to one of my own favourite televised events of the year.

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My own superhero spandex

Last week it was announced that one of my favourite clothing companies, Black Milk, will be releasing a Batman themed collection. I have been a fan of their collection for a couple of years, most of which is some variation and is around one of the themes of science, science fiction, art and franchises (video game, movie.) The new variation is a bit of a departure as most of the franchise clothing has been mostly what I would consider to be unwearable, as it is somewhat too much of fan service with too little practically from a fan standpoint. There are after all a limited number of uses that I have for an Adventure Time dress, even if it is cute:

The Batman line is interesting though, as characters and concepts as they relate to Gotham are quite varied. The leading image is of Poison Ivy who at least has a bit of an edgy character as well as some sex appeal, and hopefully the remainder of the line might contain a few gems. I will find out in 7 days, but until then, at least I have some hope that the company has not necessarily gone too far from its original concept:

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Comic Vine Roundtable Discussion - The Joker and Harley

This one has been a long time coming, though one which we have been trying to get out for a long while. Since the introduction of the Rountables by Geo we have occasionally done character spotlights, but this is the first time that we focused on a villiain, or specifically a duo of related villains. So for the first time ever here we go, discussing the Joker and Harley Quinn.

etragedy: Hi, I'm Mr. E. Tragedy, etragedy for short.

Joygirl: 'Ello, I'm Joy. I think most peepz have been acquainted with me in some form by now. ^_^

kfhrfdu_89_76k: H`llo all! I`m Ignacious kfhrfdu_89_76k otryuikoliuspus of treqwemmennon. If you like, you can call me Kfh.

DecoyElite: I'm Decoy Elite, except I don't have the space in my name now.

Say what you have been reading recently

etragedy: I'm currently reading Bronze Age Jonah Hex comics, I've been reviewing them all here on CV.

Joygirl: Last thing I read was the entirety of Mercy Sparx which was disappointingly short but vibrantly fun.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I been reading, for example: An R-rated comic that focuses on sex, but also the characters, that looks ver good, and uses colorful, lyrical language. It`s called Troubles fétes. I read it in my own language, though. I`ve also been reading a book about shamanism, the adventures of Jasso the cat and his tail among other stories.

DecoyElite: I've been reading a lot of stuff but the big thing is that I'm reading all the villain month books to give a fresh perspective on how well DC does at drawing in new readers with the event.

Are there any Joker or Harley (or Joker and Harley) stories that stand out in your mind? And

Joygirl: Wow, so I get to pick Joker AND Harley stories that stand out...?

  • Joker's Asylum: Harley Quinn
  • Batman: Harley Quinn
  • Harley and Ivy
  • Harley Quinn
  • Batman: The Man Who Laughs
  • The Killing Joke
  • The Death of the Family...And y'know, more, but I'll try to keep the list small. O_O

etragedy: I first started reading comics in the 70s and 80s and to me that was when the Joker was best portrayed - and some of the best Joker stories were written then. In the Silver Age, Joker was too campy, corny and joke-ey. In the Modern Age, he's too often not funny at all, just another psycho.

But in the 70s and 80s, he was right in the middle a crazy killer filled with black humor. I remember in one comic he threatened a guy (one of his own henchmen who failed maybe) with a gun. When the guy was done begging for his life, Joker pulled the trigger and out popped a flag that said 'BANG!'. Joker and all his henchmen start laughing about it. Then Joker pulls the trigger a second time and the flag shoots out spearing the guy to death like a harpoon. THAT's the Joker to me - he has a sick sense of humor.

In another story, 'The Joker's Five-Way Revenge', he gives a guy a cigar. The guy knows it's an exploding cigar gag, so he lights it up, to prove he can take a joke. The thing goes off in a massive explosion like a car bomb as the Joker calmly walks away thinking, 'Yeah, an exploding cigar with nitroglycerine!'

Other great Joker stories from the 70s and 80s were 'The Laughing Fish' and 'The Killing Joke'. The Killing Joke is one of the reasons I really like the Joker, he commands henchmen like Luthor, but he's also crazy and not afraid to get his hands dirty himself. He'll show up on Barbara Gordon's doorstep with a revolver and put a bullet in her, leaving her paralyzed for life.

A bunch of the Joker stories I mentioned got made into Batman the Animated Series episodes. That series was itself another great source of Joker stories - 'Joker's Favor' for example, about a guy who runs Joker off the road but Joker spares his life with a catch - he owes Joker a favor - to be repaid someday. That episode was also the first appearance of Harley. Awesome stuff. It gets to the heart of what makes Joker such a great character - the mix of humor and menace.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I been reading, for example: An R-rated comic that focuses on sex, but also the characters, that looks ver good, and uses colorful, lyrical language. It`s called Troubles fétes. I read it in my own language, though. I`ve also been reading a book about shamanism, the adventures of Jasso the cat and his tail among other stories.

Many of the stories that have already been mentioned. I could also point out his first appearances, that are fascinating when you look at them today. And Dark knight returns, of course.

@etragedy I like all of his versions. Being jokey fits to the character. Back then though, he was also portrayed to be weaker, than he is in many modern comics.

These days, he usually wins even when he loses, because of his wonderful sense of humor. But in 50s to 90`s, he would be really pissed if he lost.Which you know, obviously.

I prefer the modern one more. But that version gets old, after a while. So it`s good that he keeps changing, since it`s also a part of his core character (as explained in Serious house on serious earth).

Also, I`ve read all of those! And seen the episode too. Excellently picked, on your part. Many woulda picked those, but the trick gun-scene...many don`t even know of its existence.

@joygirl Speaking of how Joker used to be, and Man who laughs...the story is a sort of a tribute and retelling of his first appearance. He`s a lot crueler in MWL, but similarities are very noticeable. If you`ve read all the stories in question.

DecoyElite: I can think of some interesting Harley stories and I can think of plenty of interesting Joker stories, but with them together not many come to mind. There is that one story where Harley actually nearly kills Batman and Joker stops her from doing so out of jealousy. I think it did the best job of showing off their screwed up relationship.

Oh wait you meant stories with either. Well Harley had a lot of good stuff in the old Batman The Animated Series, I haven't read up too much on her comic counterpart. As for Joker he's got plenty of great stories under his belt and he usually shows up at some point in most excellent Batman tales. Although since kfhrfdu_89_76k brought it up The Dark Knight does come to mind as my favorite Joker story. It has the twisted gags, the chaotic motive that's actually kept semi interesting, and the most threatening Joker I've ever seen.

What is it about the Joker that makes him such a compelling villain?

Joygirl: What makes the Joker a compelling villain is the fact that his mystery is enduring. Not even the writers are able to breach his madness and dig into his backstory and he is therefore a wild card on a meta level, which brings him to a whole new category of villainy, a type that reaches outside of the pages of comics and makes you genuinely have to wonder, how the hell DID this guy come to be who he is?

kfhrfdu_89_76k: there are times when I think that Joker is just a guy who rose to such popularity, because he stole most of his characteristics from other characters. It is an interesting concept, but it also makes me think of him as nothing special. But, there`s a reason for the fact, that he was my faforite villain once.

It`s his madness, how he tricks others (no matter who they are) how he actually makes you laugh (if you`re twisted enough, and most are), how it`s difficult to make a bad story or appearance og him. Well, I think so, at least. It`s also because of how archetypal he is, how he is one of the best archvillains a hero can have...all kindsa things.

DecoyElite: What I feel makes Joker work is that he is pure villain all the time every time. He is never that guy who will team up with the heroes or learn the error of his ways, or let the kids go because of a sense of honor. He'll just kill everyone and do it with a grin on his face. His personalty is really what holds him up as a character, if think of his actions alone you wouldn't really think much of the guy outside of how random he is, but with his bombastic personality he really sticks out. It allows for a lot of entertaining stories as does his connection with Batman, another stand thing about Joker.

etragedy: @kfhrfdu_89_76k yeah, I understand the 60s campy Joker has its charm but really like everything in the Silver Age the edge seemed to be taken off. Joker attacks Batman with guns, axes, knives - all in his first two appearances in the Golden Age. By the Silver Age he's teaming up with Luthor making robots and other gimmicks. But in the 70s and 80s it came back down to earth with stuff where Joker was creepy/scary again, like The Dark Knight Returns or The Killing Joke. He's still making Jokes, but also pulling out guns and knives, even blowing up Robin in Death in the Family which@joygirl mentioned (good pick, BTW). It was really this period where I think the Joker came into his own. @decoyelitementioned how DC is currently doing this big Villains Month event now - but this month's "Batman 23.1Joker #1" isn't actually the first Joker #1 - I remember when I went to the newsstand in the 70s and all of a sudden there wereJokercomics - not Batman comics with the Joker in them, but actual comics starring Joker, we couldn't believe a villain actually had his own comic book! Villains didn't get comics (to my knowledge he was the first and only up to that time) - he was like DCs first real superstar villain.

DecoyElite: @Etragedy: I haven't really read much Silver Age stuff but that does sound really interesting. Even now with Joker full well getting his own comics I couldn't see him getting an ongoing. Just goes to show the kinds of risks companies were willing to take I guess. Although you have to wonder how you keep a title like that going without making Joker go too far.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: That`s why the title didn`t last that long. Plus, the quality of the stories was on the so-so side.

DecoyElite: Well that's a shame.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I`m not sure, but Joker probably didn`t commit any murders in it, though he tried. Is it so, Etragedy.

etragedy: I'm not sure, it's been too long since I've read them, but I do know that he was killing people (not major characters) by the early 1970s in other titles - in 'Joker's Five-Way Revenge', for example he kills people, and that was 1973 - two years Joker comics started, so I wouldn't be surprised. Sometimes these killings were 'offscreen' or in newspaper stories Batman would read - but they were definitely attributed to him.

One of the interpretations of the Joker is that he is the reaction of a common man to the madness of the world which the characters inhabit. Or that is to say, if the Batman wasn't the Batman then he would be the Joker. What are your thoughts on this?

DecoyElite: It's interesting to say the least. My favorite version of the Joker is that he's a guy who was completely normal and then everything just went wrong all at once and he snapped like no other. This interpretation isn't far off from that but I disagree that it's really a reflection of the common DC citizen. Most of them don't really go face first against the madness that inhabits their world and most that do actually come out pretty okay. Really the craziest think in the DCU is Joker himself. I'd say he's more representative of just how deranged things can get rather than a reaction to them.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Very well said, Decoy. I think of him as some kind of avatar/personification of madness, myself. Basically, he`s the maddest...ONE of the maddest beings in the DC universe(s), like you pointed out.

DecoyElite: Yeah there's a reason making him sane is considered a huge feat. Honestly the only character who feels more crazy is Delirium of the Endless, and that's because she's literally made of crazy.

etragedy: I think that's how Joker sees it. Something traumatic happened to each of them and Batman became grim and determined while Joker embraced the chaos of things. I think he (Joker) thinks that under the same circumstances anyone can be pushed to become him, thus his repeated attempts to try to push Batman over the edge, and his attempt at driving Commissioner Gordon insane in 'The Killing Joke'.

I think one of the reasons the 'Why So Serious?' marketing campaign worked so well for the film The Dark Knight, is that it really captures the Joker's obsession with Batman. Batman is as much an enigma to him as Joker is to Batman - possibly even more so, as Batman is willing to just dismiss Joker as 'crazy'.

But I feel like the Joker is more than just an embodiment of madness - as @decoyelite mentioned, Delerium really personifies that better - I feel like that along with the madness in the Joker there's also an undercurrent of revenge. He's going to get revenge against the world in general, and Batman in particular, for making him what he is - that's the real symmetry to Batman, who's waging a one man war on criminals for what they did to him, by killing his parents. I may be showing my age here - having grown up in the Bronze Age, I always accepted the Red Hood origin story for Joker - where Batman was literally responsible for his creation.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: The Red hood origin IS the best one. And the most recurring one. Even when the story doesn`t contain the Red Hood-identity.

Interesting answers for the craziness of the Joker. If we think of Batman and the Joker as polar opposites, then where does Harley fit into the equation? Is she just the female Joker or is there something more about her?

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Harley is Robins twisted mirror image! Yeah, just kidding.

...

Then again...

  • She IS/WAS Jokers sidekick.
  • She drives Joker crazier, where as Robin usually doesn`t do the same for Batman.
  • She`s a woman.
  • She`s older than any of the robins have been while being Robins.
  • She uses gadgets too.
  • She`s also acted solo, a bunch of times.
  • She had an intimate relationship with Joker, while Robin...hasn`t hadverified intimate relationship with Robin. Though many think so (which is fine, and interesting), and it`s a constant subject for jokes.
  • Her parents are...well, nobody knows about her parents. Or have they been in any comics?
  • The first Robins costume was skimpier/more revealing than Harleys was, at first. These days, it`s quite ther opposite.
  • She`s more villainous than Robin. Duh.

etragedy: Harley is definitely not just a female version of Joker. I never thought Joker would ever have a sidekick, because he's always killing off his henchmen. And he's such a striking figure already. But then Bruce Timm hit on the one way Joker could have a sidekick - it would have to be someone that's just as crazy as him! Harley is also really over-the-top, so she isn't overshadowed by the Joker. It works. I still remember the first time I saw Harley on BtAS. I was so in taken with the character that I was insoired to do fan art for the first time in my life! (I still have it. Wanna see? It's really bad, LOL) The problem with trying to introduce a Joker protege in the comics is that comic characters usually aren't fully-formed on their first appearance - they're developed by writers over month, or even years. That wouldn't work for a character trying to hold their own next to the Joker. But Harley arrived fully-formed from the screen. She was really real because she was based on a real person - Arleen Sorkin. Actually she was based on a character played by a characterplayedby Arleen Sorkin - that's a lot of levels of personality already. But she's also based on Arleen herself - her voice, face, body, personality, she IS Arleen... her real name is even 'Harleen'. So she arrived as this really well developed character, and can hold her own next to the Joker. I love Harley, I think she's one of the best villain characters DC's ever produced.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: She wasn`t fully formed in her first appearance (Jokers favor). In it, she was simply a clown girl, a funny background character. She refers to Joker as boss, and doesn`t even cuddle him or anything. Which is funny, since she`s interested in him romantically in Mad love, a story that takes place before Jokers favor.

Maybe she wanted to keep her feelings a secret frokm the two henchmen in the episode, for some reason.

Joygirl: Fun fact: The entire reason for Harley's creation was because Dini wanted someone to jump out of a cake, but thought Joker doing it himself would be too bizarre. He created Harley specifically so that she could do it instead.

When Joker's Favor aired, Joker jumped out of the cake anyway. WTF.

DecoyElite: I've never viewed Harley as Joker's sidekick, at her lowest she's also been more of a high level henchwoman and when she started to become more important she basically struck out on her own pretty quickly. She's an interesting kind of crazy, she's less homicidal(usually) and more comical. It's probably because the little bits of her brain that tell her that murder isn't right are still in working order despite everything. She usually seems to be involved with Joker for the fun and not the chaos that it brings. Plus she's probably just about the only person on DC Earth that thinks Joker is redeemable, which is where the real craziness begins.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Joygirl, I laughed out loud. That`s a fantastic piece of information. What do you think of Harley as a piece in the Batman/Joker dynamic?

Decoy: I guess she IS more of an equal (and sometimes superior) to him. Except if you ask the Joker, that is.

Joygirl: She's different than him. She certainly isn't as intelligent, as ruthless, or as cunning. But she's a drastically more impressive physical threat (as shown by the fact that she knocks him on his ass whenever she likes).

As for the Batman/Joker thing, she isn't involved. If anything she disrupts it. That's why I like her as far away from Joker as possible -- they are not symbiotic towards each other, they hold each other back. When Harley's around it forces us to see a softer, more comedic Joker. When Joker's around we see a lagging, abused Harley who doesn't get a chance to shine.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I like her on the show, and on her early comic appearances, they way she is. But I also like how she became something else than what she was at first. Because I`m a fan of character evolution.

DecoyElite: Personally I'd say the Joker is the bigger threat outside of normal physical combat(as Joygirl mentioned). But it's mostly just because of his complete lack of restraint and devious cunning.

@Joy It is strange how well she works without the Joker despite being made to team up with him. Really the only stories where the two help make each other more interesting is when it focuses on their relationship and even then it's not quite the usual stuff for Joker.

etragedy: I didn't mean to suggest that Harley didn't continue to evolve after her first appearance (she continues to evolve to this day). Just that she was much more fully developed before she ever even appeared for the first time in comics because she was based on this character that was based on another character/person. Mad Love only came out a little more than 1 year after her first appearance, and she was already as deeply complex as the Joker, a character that had been evolved/refined for over 50 years by that point.

If you look at Arleen (playing Calliope playing the Jester character) it's pretty much proto-Harley.

etragedy: @joygirl LOL, that's a great story. I remember seeing some interview with Mark Hamill, where he said that originally Harley didn't even have a name, she was 'Joker's Hench-wench #4' or something like that in the script.

The reference to Robin is interesting in a sense. For about 20 years of publication history Robin was the sidekick of Batman, if RObin showed up then Batman almost certainly was there as well. This has changed over time as Nightwing is a well established hero, but it did take a lot of time.

Conversely Harley jumped out of the Joker's shadow relatively quickly. Why do you think that she as a character found such mainstream success so quickly? What is it about her that appeals to the fans where the Joker fails to? There are after far more issues published by DC over the course of its history with Harley Quinn in the title as opposed to having the Joker in the title

kfhrfdu_89_76k: `cause Joker is 52 years older than Harley (wow, talk about age difference...).

But, the reason why she wasn`t forgotten like so many other characters who are about the same age she is, is that she started out as a popular character in a popular telesion show, before transferring to comics. Where her popularity has varied.

But that doesn`t seal the deal, either. The reason why she has had longer series than Jokey prince of crime related activities, is also because of her characterisation. She`s fun, like the Joker, but also not as evil as him, though she does do things that are against the law (which gives her that extra flavour that a sexy harlequinous girl needs).

But because she usually isn`t decipted as dark and gritty, she can`t keep a series for, say, 100 issues at a scretch.

Ow wait, that`s not the reason. It`s because she isn`t Batman or Superman.

DecoyElite: I'd say she got out of his shadow quickly because it was down right required to keep her going. Joker's getting darker and darker and Quinn is too fun a character to work well with him from a creative standpoint.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I would like to point out that Joker`s been about as dark as he`s been for a few years now, and Harley`s the one who seems to be getting grimmer and grimmer.

DecoyElite: Well what I meant as when Harley first appeared Joker was being a little lighter than usual and generally that was the case when she was around, but that stopped happening pretty quickly all things considered.

And I kind of try and forget about the gritty Harley thing, at least after her Villain Month issue. *Blegh*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Joker becoming darker was simply because of DC comics getting darker as a whole, but I understand what you mean.

Forgetting wont make it go away, unfortunately. The issue did have some good points though, but you already know that.

etragedy: For me it was that Harley is crazy in such a real way. I remember so many girls that had the fun/crazy/sexy/cool thing going on, but who were perpetually with these abusive jerk boyfriends, and no matter what, they would always seem to go back to them. And the Harley/Joker relationship always reminded me of that. I could look at it and go 'Yep, I don't get it, but boy do I believe it!' Sorry if that makes me sound like a chauvinist, but it's the truth.

Let's get back to the Joker - does a great Batman story require the Joker?

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Not at all. He gives any story more color, though. Well, any of the rogues do.

etragedy: Absolutely not. There are a lot of good Batman stories that feature other members of his 'Rogue's Gallery', or none at all. In fact, Joker's such a prodigious character that I think it's best when he's used sparingly. I like it when he shows up unexpectedly after a long absence.

DecoyElite: Yeah, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who'd argue that Batman really needs Joker. Now, if Joker needs Batman, that's a whole new ballgame right there.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Of course he needs Joker. Archenemies are important.

DecoyElite: But they are not required. But I am one of those few under the idea that if Joker never existed another Bat-Villain would just take his place.

Joygirl: They really are. Look at Wonder Woman. The most harped-on flaw of her character is that she utterly lacks a nemesis with any sort of consistency. The fact that Batman got Joker RIGHT away is why he is such an enduring character.

DecoyElite: Was the Joker all that important in the good ol' Pulp days though? I think Batman's huge roster of interesting villains is what helps him, not the Joker specifically. He may be the brightest star, but the others help out quite a bit.

etragedy:

I'm not really in total agreement with either of you on this one. I'm kind of undecided on this point. But I thought I'd interject a couple of clarifications:

Joygirl: They really are. Look at Wonder Woman. The most harped-on flaw of her character is that she utterly lacks a nemesis with any sort of consistency. The fact that Batman got Joker RIGHT away is why he is such an enduring character.

1) Batman didn't get Joker right away. In the early days of Detective Comics, Batman's first recurring nemesis/arch-enemy was Doctor Death. The Joker didn't show up until about a year later. However, given the long history of Batman, that's still pretty early in his career, so your point is still valid.

DecoyElite: Was the Joker all that important in the good ol' Pulp days though? I think Batman's huge roster of interesting villains is what helps him, not the Joker specifically. He may be the brightest star, but the others help out quite a bit.

2) Yes he was. He was a more important a Batman villain in the Golden Age than he is today - once the Joker had appeared about a year into Batman's career, he reappeared every month or two for the next 20+ years.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Every month or two? Let me check...5-6 times a year, usually. So yeah, that`s about right.

etragedy: (somehow speaking in a host voice) So, there has been a lot of talk about the Batman/Joker dichotomy in this RT discussion. That's got me thinking...

What's everyone's favorite Joker story without Batman?

etragedy: I'll go first: 'The Last Ha Ha' from Joker #3. This is a Creeper vs. Joker story - it's flawed, but it's pretty off-the-wall, as you might expect from a meeting of those two characters. It also has a lot of 'in' jokes on comics and comics creators.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Hm. Maybe I should check out that series after all, if I can. Just to see what I`ll think of it.

The Batman Adventures Annual #1 - Laughter After Midnight

The title story only shows Batman minimalistically. A few looks at his limbs beating Joker up. It`s a funny, short story giving us some insight as to what he does after one of his plots has been ruined, and he manages to escape. It also looks very good, given that John Byrne drew it, imitating the animated series-style, of course.

Another one is Slay ride (from some Paul Dini written issue of TEC). In it, Robin has been tricked by the Joker to sit in the same car as him, while he murders passer bys. Full of well done black humor, and Joker is really cool in that one. Batman appears in it, but not with The Joker.

DecoyElite: I don't think I've read a story about just Joker. Closest would be the one where he starts offing his old gang members for revenge while Batman tries to stop him. First one I saw him ever use the ol' cigar gag in.

Joygirl: DecoyElite, by "just Joker" do you mean you have never read a Batman story featuring only Joker, or that you've never read a story with Joker sans Batman (or anyone else)? That statement is a little vague and I'm not sure what to start recommending.

DecoyElite: @Joygirl: Sans Batman.

Joygirl: Ah that's trickier then. It's rare to see him without SOME kind of supporting cast (I actually don't think I ever have).

*snaps fingers*

Whoops, Emperor Joker. Only had Batz in it for a second, it was a Superman story.

DecoyElite: I've heard conflicting reports on Emperor Joker, some complains that it tries too hard to be too dark and that it doesn't do a good job with Joker's character.

Joygirl: I think it did just fine. Also Jokergeist loved it and he's my Joker authority. I enjoyed the story a lot, the only things I had issues with were the artwork and the ending (yes, I get it, the good guy wins, but TRY to make it not a silly obvious PIS win).

kfhrfdu_89_76k: By Grant Morrisons definition, Joker recreates himself all the time, so getting Joker wrong isn`t actually possible.

DecoyElite: Eh, you can get him wrong by adding in a real pure motive other to the character besides "messin' with the Bat". But then again there's been stories about Joker going sane so who knows.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: He can have another motive. Everybody doesn`t like it, but it would be boring for him to limit himself to just that one goal, all the time.

DecoyElite: I suppose, maybe he could have every goal all the time. Although then he'd always technically be winning and no one wants to see a villain win all the time.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: One goal at a time is enough. Robbing banks? Sure, he has to pay the bills too. Sometimes.

etragedy:

Emperor Joker is a good choice - I thought about Emperor Joker, since it's a Superman story, but since Bats is pretty much his victim throughout, I went with 'Last Ha Ha' instead. Any others?

Re: Joker's goals.

Joker has had many goals over the years that aren't just 'messing with the Bat'. In some cases that may have been a co-goal, but not always. The two biggest and most obvious have been

  • greed, and...
  • just plain causing chaos (especially in some of his earliest appearances, where The Bat Man didn't figure into his plans at all).

But there were others too:

  • having fun (his own entertainment - this includes
    • gambling, so doing things he has a chance at failing at;
    • stealing for the thrill;
    • and pulling illegal practical jokes),
  • causing fear,
  • killing/taking out rivals that (he feels) get too much attention,
  • revenge against judges, politicians, reporters, cops (and other people who aren't Batman)
  • revenge against petty criminals who've taken credit for his work and/or helping Batman apprehend criminals who've impersonated him
  • trying to kill other superheroes (as in the Creeper story)
  • antagonizing the police (rather than Batman)
  • to be the world's most famous comedian/jester/clown
  • to be a hero (when he had amnesia)
  • making people laugh
  • being known as the smartest/greatest criminal (usually by upstaging other Batman Rogues)
  • to pull off the single most spectacular crime in history
  • to do the 'impossible'
  • to convince people he's crazy (and not merely just criminal)

...and, one of my favorites

  • to pay his taxes (yes, at one point he secretly turned to robberyfor the sole purpose of paying back taxes he owed!)

Even the 'messing with Bats' covers a whole range of stuff over the years that's included:

  • matching wits with Batman
  • trying to kill Batman
  • trying to hurt Batman by harming/killing/scaring his friends
  • trying to expose Batman's secret identity
  • trying to humiliate Batman and/or Robin, and...
  • trying to drive Batman insane

I think reducing Joker to just a character who is just a crazy dude that exists solely to be Batman's nemesis is to do the character a disservice.

Joygirl: Bat is his victim throughout but he is only seen in a couple issues and its very very brief. It's not really about him.

Last Ha Ha I haven't read. My favorite Joker story is The Man Who Laughs but it's a Bat-story. :(

DecoyElite: You know how there's that guy who gets everything wrong so that smarter characters can inform him(and the audience) about the correct response? I feel like that guy right now. XP

One of you mentioned that if the Joker didn't exist that another Bat Villain would take his place, but who would that be if that did happen?

etragedy: I think a strong case could be made for Two-Face. He brings up a lot of similar Batman personality dichotomy issues as well.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: I`m thinking Ra`s al Ghul, but...I don`t think anyone else would fit. Or hey, maybe Killer moth, huh?

DecoyElite: As far as arch enemy, I'd say Ra's. He's usually a bigger threat than Joker as it is and he's dealings with Batman can get just as, if not more, personal.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: You copied my answer! Thief! ; P

Riddler would be a good candidate too. He has similarities with Joker (and vice versa) as I already mentioned. He needs Batsy (or some other very intelligent hero) in his life, is cunning and all that stuff.

Poet: (who should be compiling) yeah, I agree about Riddler, though I can see Ra's more likely.

Jumping around a little bit...Do you think Harley having superpowers (thanks to Ivy) make her a little bit separate from Gotham?

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Gotham`s also got Killer croc (who she once founght against, actually), Bane and others. So, no

DecoyElite: I don't think her powers really help her stick out at all really. It's a shame that writers are more creative with them, there's plenty of neat tricks she could pull off with poison immunity.

etragedy: I prefer Harley the way she originally was. This is an example of what I like to call 'power creep'. Any character in superhero comics that's around for any length of time will get more powerful. For 'normals' that means they eventually get super powers. For superheroes/villains that means they get more powerful, and for Superman that means becoming a god. Harley was pretty badass without adding superpowers. So in answer to the question, no. In fact it makes her more like a standard Gotham rogue like the ones kfhrfdu_89_76k mentioned.

DecoyElite: I don't think power creep is a big deal as long as the character keeps their core. For instance Superman does get bumped up quite a bit, but his opponents usually still stay in his power range so it doesn't hurt the stories. Heck with Flash it improved a lot of stories.

Joygirl: Etragedy, What "you" like to call power creep, huh? :P

Definitely doesn't have anything to do with the fact that Power Creep/Power Seep is already a thing... nopenopenope, not that.

As for Harley's powers, I like them, she needed them. It makes her a little bit different and firmly establishes that she is a character, not a minion.

DecoyElite: She needs to use them more often, they add nice little layer to her in combat but most writers seem to think jumping around with a hammer is more interesting to read then inventive fighting via poison. Or maybe they're trying to make her stand out compared to the Joker in a combat situation.

*silence falls on this long discussion*

Joygirl: *naps*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *wakes you up by kicking you*

Joygirl: *wiggles, rolls over, snuggling giant hammer*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Grabs a shotgun, because an attack is inevitable. Kicks you again, ever so carefully.*

Joygirl: *absently tosses jar of jelly beans at you*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Trys to catch the jar, it drops, doesn`t shatter because it`s plastic. Takes the jar, opens it, starts to eat the candies.*

Joygirl: *Joker Venom in gaseous form begins to slowly leak from the bottom of the jar*

O_O

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Throws the jar away, giggles a bit, shoots at you.*

Joygirl: *bullets blow half of her face off*

*giggles*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Curses, takes anatomizer and destroys the binds that attach all her atoms together. Mouth muscles start to ache.*

Joygirl: *laughs herself to dust*

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Is creeped out. Has that awful feeling he always gets after a killing. Throws up. Is ashamed of himself for being so weak. Flees before the cops show up.*

Joygirl: *slowly forms into a pair of dust-lips, whispers*

Shazam.

kfhrfdu_89_76k: *Literally jumps out of his skin. Dies to infections in a few days.*

OK. since our discussion about Harley and Joker has driven our our participants to madness...I guess this is a wrap! you all can sign off :)

kfhrfdu_89_76k: Bye everybody! BTW, it`s not nice being dead.

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Girls Out the Door

I am a little amused by the reaction to the Powerpuff Girls alternate cover, which has caused so much controversy due to its depiction of the girls in a quasi-sexualized pose (or at least as the complaint goes). It is a strange complaint for me because it highlights a lot of the things which I feel to be evident about the comic industry which I have mentioned before. A few of those thoughts have been captured by me throughout the course of my time on this website. In one I argued that comics has a tendency to overuse the "girl" concept. In another I pointed out that there is a tendency of female characters to wear miniskirts, even if it is not really practical in a meaningful way aside from providing a bit more coverage.

This all comes back to a list of common points though. There is often an objectification of female characters into a "girl like" mold in the industry. Take for instance the number of female characters that actually have the word "woman" in their name versus those that have "man". With many characters constantly kept at this pubescent stage of comics, it leads to some devaluation of the character while being pandering to the medium's fans as well. As I have long said, I am more so a fan of writing, either through characterizations or plotting. If there is a character that I feel drawn to, then I will read them. That having been said, I do not read that much DC anymore, and among the few titles that I do read, Wonder Woman and Supergirl are the most consistent. In one case, one is a woman, the other is a girl. Will Supergirl ever make it to being Superwoman? Or would she not lose her appeal that way? I think in this sense that there is an interest to keep her a girl, solely for the purpose of keeping her marketable. That having been said, if you are a trio of superpowered toddlers, who happen to be female, what are they likely to grow into? As far as this goes therefore, the depiction of the Powerpuff Girls makes the characters into what they would likely become anyway, if they were allowed to age in a medium which tries to keep its female characters as young as possible.

Another thought which came to mind is the idea of course that sex sells, and while it is wrong to sexualize toddlers in any case, that is not exactly what this is. This is more of a concept artwork that projected the characters forward. As we know from the publication history of Superman, Batman and many others, those characters are allowed to age, and they are seen continuing their heroics into late life. Why not therefore the Powerpuff Girls? I think in this sense what happened here is a process similar to what Grimm Fairy Tales utilizes, by using a cover which tricks readers into thinking that the inner story has something more than what is there, at least in a fan service sense. The Powerpuff Girls are actually a pretty good presentation of females, they are strong, opinionated and confident, so for someone that actually did bother to pick up a Powerpuff Girls comic, providing that they got past the cover, they would realize that the story is not about the sexualization of minors.

I suppose though that as long as there is mass media, that they will be the equivalent of the temperance movement, ready to pounce on any perceived wrong, especially as seen from the perspective of the one-off twitter battles, where people aim to get noticed by a throwaway line of 144 characters. In this case, it seems as though a comment became a controversy and that the entire situation revealed a lack of knowledge about the industry except by criticizing something for its cover. The comic medium is far from perfect, but as with anything, to criticize something while not understanding it will lead only to repeated truisms, and little actual change.

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Absolutely Purple

This likely not known to most people, but in my time at Comic Vine I have made the database here the "go-to" place on the internet for anyone researching the appearance of lipstick in comics, or the use of lipstick in comics. Maybe "go-to" is too self-aggrandizing but I couldn't find another single source on the internet where there is a mention of lipstick and comic together. Anyway, the above is not meant as a pat-on-the-back, but as an apology, as I am about to discuss lipstick.

Since the new 52 there has been a background character showing up in Superman and Supergirl books called Dr. Shay Veritas. She controls the Block, which acts as a training gym for Superman and a refuge for Supergirl. One of the bizarre aspects of the Block is that everyone there has taken on her specific DNA. Of course the background of the character has not been delved into very much, but one of the identifying features of her appearance is her purple hair and purple lips. Purples lips generally do not mean something good for the person bearing them unless they have been painted on, as they generally mean that the person is sick in some way.

Here the lips could be from one of a few explanations. One is that the scientific experiments which made everyone look the same caused them to develop purple pigments in their lips and hair. This could be the case, except other areas of their skin and their hair (like eyebrows) are not purple. If that is the case, then it would seem that it is a styling choice of the original character to wear purple lipstick and to dye her hair purple, in which case it would not be linked to her DNA, which the others have assumed. This is the more likely explanation but then it means either that the DNA of the character has a natural tendency towards purple, or that everyone simply chooses to copy her purple tendencies. The latter is the most interesting explanation from a fashion standpoint, as an aspect of fashion is self expression, which seems to be not present in this bizarre place, which is seemingly equally unrealistic. In my mind it makes the most sense, that Veritas just has hundreds of tubes of purple lipstick lying around, and that this is the only cosmetic (or lip balm) available and that is why there is so much uniformity, though I suppose mixing soft science with hard science with fashion will never work.

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In genetics, veritas

This blog is a companion to one that I wrote a long time ago, dealing with the complexities of the human brain. In that blog I argued that the human brain did not function exactly how it was being depicted because of a simplistic approach to the manner in which the different aspects of intelligence combine together. The newest issue of Supergirl sort of addressed this concept again, though in a less direct manner. The problem which arose was that of Dr. Veritas. Due to some anomaly of her interstellar travel, she was forced to place the Block at the center of the Earth, and everyone that had been on board her spaceship assumed her DNA, and thus her appearance.

As a soft science principle this works fine, but there are some gaps in the concept, namely that of the old debate between nature and nurture. The brain is a complex organ, the most complex in fact, but it is still nonetheless based somewhat on the genetics which make up the organism (the person.) Thus mental attributes, whether good or bad can be hereditary. They can also of course be nurtured that way. Take for instance two people that are intelligent in the same way, and if they are raised in different households, they are going to develop different abilities. The base of their genetic intelligence might be similar, but the end result is not. In general though, it is quite difficult to conceive of a world where humans have nearly identical genetic codes defining their intelligence. Even among siblings there are so many variables to make direct similarities almost impossible.

When extended to the sci fi concept of strangers taking on a consciousness of another where this doesn't really fit at all. Veritas is a super genius, and to push her mental ability on others wouldn't work, even if they were also super geniuses. The inverse also holds though, that putting other's mentalities in her genetic frame would cause much confusion (and this is what is described to have happened.) It would be like trying to pick up a building and putting it down on another foundation and expecting the electricity, plumbing and heating to still work perfectly accurately. In truth there are no such connections, as putting a person's mentality on another brain would lead to a mismatch. This is just a hard science approach to a soft science concept, but I had to say it after seeing it, as it was one thing about the issue which bothered me.

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Hacking Speech

I should say first of all that this blog is based around the new comic series Hacktivist, which came out yesterday and which I found to be quite engaging. It is an interesting series and story and worth checking out. Aside from the main story, there was a separate little comic related concept, at least in terms of display that I found interesting, and that was the Arabic speech bubbles:

I do sometimes like to pick out minor details about comics, and this one was no exception. When it comes to speech bubbles, they can often be embellished without any specific purpose except if drawn thematically we might understand the context of the distorted voice - demonic, alien, computer. In this case though, instead of the usual manner in which to show foreign dialogue (usually with broken line and then identifying the dialogue), the dialogue is instead identified with some Arabic script, which makes the action fit in Tunisia. I do not speak Arabic so I do not know what is being said, but the simple use of a little script is much more effective than anything else I have seen when it comes to foreign languages.

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Micro/Macro Death

(This is a blog reply to @cbishop blog)

My most recent blog was one about Dejah Thoris and the likelihood of her foot soldiers to die alongside her, which brought up a counter point of the cliche of the "Hero doesn't die." In short this rule depends on the maintenance of a main character to an overall saga, as the character and the saga become one and the same as opposed to two separate plot devices. The saga exists as a collection of stories, and could be considered the macro version of a single plot or story (which a single plot or story serves as a micro version of a saga.) With the lack of death for the main characters, there can be a lot less of overall tension, as unless one immerses almost stupidly into the story, that it is difficult to believe that the characters die and stay dead.

This has manifested itself in a lot of different ways recently and not so recently. There used to be a comic rule that "only Bucky and Robin stay dead" but now this is pretty much "only Uncle Ben stays dead." Of all the stunt deaths in the recent years how many will stay gone? Popular characters like Damian or Rogue? Likely not. The entire "Return of Bruce Wayne" was in essence fan service about how Batman cannot die, even being the most mortal of heroes. And in an episode of Secret Avengers, Black Widow discusses with normal civilians in a quasi-fourth wall approach about how heroes are unfortunate to die and un-die whereas the civilians argue that at least heroes experience un-death. Unnamed civilians die all the time, without consequence.

I am a writer of fiction (though unpublished at the moment) and so the problem of death at least in the "Hero doesn't die" role is different. I have played with some stories where the hero dies, but in essence if the hero dies then there is a point to the death, in that the death served a dramatic purpose or to somehow make a relevant point somehow. In the concept of a story, the victory over death (especially against the odds) is one which humans have to root for, because we are all afraid of death in one way or another. Because of this, stories generally tend to end with the character alive. There is nothing really wrong with this, at least on a superficial level, as the vast majority of notable fiction ever written ended with the protagonists on the better end. The problem where this arises in the serialized format is that it takes this one format, where characters overcome great odds, and it perpetuates it. In effect, any one adventure that any superhero lives through is somewhat of an "adventure of a lifetime" and in effect a version of that adventure, whether it be in a comic or in a television show could most likely be drawn out into a book/movie length story, and a large part of human literature depends on that concept. Even serialized movies highlight much more the direct threat to the heroes. For instance one never really believes that Indiana Jones is going to die, but his stories are shorter and more self contained than chasing away death every month.

The modern day is a good one for those with creative minds. Even a hundred years ago, writers of fiction were essentially limited to writing books or writing plays, but in the modern day there are other avenues openly, namely movies and comics (though it could be expanded to include video games and other media). It should be remembered though that writing in each medium poses a separate set of unwritten rules and cliches, and that death of characters is one among them which operates differently. This helps set up the unrealistic treatment of death in comics, but also serves as a reminder for writers to understand their medium or they become their own cliche.

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Red People Red Shirts

I should remind everyone to begin with that while I do not consider myself a trekkie exactly, I do have a lot of exposure to Star Trek, having seen nearly every episode ever created. Exposure to the Star Trek universe gives a few insights into some of the inside jokes of the series (which was made fun of in Galaxy Quest.) Oen of these is the red shirt, the character that shows up, usually with very little dialogue and then ends up dying in short time. Over the series the creators realized what they were doing and toned it down a little on the Red Shirts, but even in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise a few years back, one goes to jump with Kirk and Sulu for their outer space freefall onto Vulcan, and promptly dies.

As I was reading the most recent issues of Dejah Thoris, it occurred to me that Dejah has her own version of a red shirt, that being pretty much every male character other than someone related to her. In this single issue, one was killed by giant wasps and another by a giant lizard (the Martian versions). The people of Helium are ready to sacrifice for their rulers, but outside of the fourth wall, it can be hard to watch these people volunteer for missions with Dejah, knowing that only she comes back alive.

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Supergirl vs. Bechdel

The news probably passed over a lot of people last month, but I heard about an interesting new way of rating movies, called the Bechdel test (it is actually a lot older than last month.) This is a test which is probably going to be called "feminist" but for the wrong reasons. The test is actually feminist for the right reasons - it is not trying to promote a bunch of movies with an overwhelming number of women, or even female topics. Rather it is trying to promote a more accurate representation of women. It works by three easy steps - 1. Movie must have two female characters who ... 2. talk to each other ... 3. about something other than a man. It is a pretty simplistic scale, as it just means that two female characters at some point have to discuss something ... anything other than men, but it is interesting just how many movies fail this test.

I had mostly forgotten about this until reading today's Supergirl (#27) in which Supergirl is once again in the Block where every character has become a DNA replicate of Dr. Veritas. This means that everyone at the Block is in effect a female (though their original memories have been saved.) While it was a little cliched from old sci fi, it was a new enough concept, but the concept failed the Bechdel Test in one panel.

Granted there are two female characters discussing a lot of other things other than men, it just seems strange after it all to get to a point where that is what they end up discussing again anyway. Maybe in the future writers might consider something like the Bechdel test before writing dialogue which is mostly pointless and pandering to a portion of the readership.

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