12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 12: THE JOKER

JOKER 006Christmas with the Joker.

Batman first battled the Joker in 1940’s BATMAN #1 in a story by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. The Joker was poisoning wealthy men, leaving their corpses with an eerie rictus grin, and baffling the police in the process. His first fight with Batman ended with the Batman tossed into a river, excited at the prospect of an adversary who could really hit. The rematch ended with the Joker apparently accidentally stabbing himself in the heart, laughing maniacally as he died. A last-minute editorial decision saved his life, as the medics in the ambulance were shocked that the Joker was -somehow- still alive.

Over more than 70 years, the Joker remains an enigma. Different versions hinted at his life before Batman unwittingly dropped him into a vat of bleaching chemicals, but whoever he was before is unimportant. He is the Joker; deadly, anarchic, interested only in what makes him laugh, no matter who’s hurt in the process.

My take on the Joker is fairly traditional (I’ve sculpted him before). I dislike when he’s depicted as  a physical monster. He’s hideous because he chose to be,  not because he’s disfigured. I gave him a look like he’s just thought of an especially wicked joke.

And so the Joker gets the last laugh. Thanks for looking. This has been 12 Days of the Batman. 

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12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 5: ROBIN

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Raised on the high-wire, the boy who never looks down!

Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman’s most faithful sidekick, was “the character find of 1940!” when he debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS #38 in a story by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. He was added to give the solitary Batman someone to talk to, a Watson to his Holmes, and was a child so readers- then assumed to be entirely young boys- would have a character with whom they could identify. A circus boy orphaned by crime, he became Batman’s ward, and a chance for Batman to restore to someone the childhood he himself never had.

I like Robin because he’s the son who can never grow up to be his father, but eventually learns what his own unique strengths are. He is light in the darkness. He makes Batman smile.

This is Dick Grayson, the original, my favorite, in Tim (Robin III) Drake’s Neal Adams-designed costume, a la BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (much as I love Robin, that short pants look is just… No).

Tomorrow a killer (for real this time!) installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 2: TWO-FACE

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For the second day of 12 Days of the Batman, who else but Two-Face?

A gangster threw acid in the face of crusading district attorney Harvey Dent, horribly scarring his left side. This fractured the psyche of the already-troubled Dent (who was called Harvey Kent in his first appearance). As Two-Face he committed crimes when he flipped his double-headed dollar coin, also scarred on one side, and it landed bad-side-up. Batman is haunted by his inability to save the man who was once his friend.

My version of Two-Face is informed by his portrayal on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, where he not only looked great, but was voiced perfectly by actor Richard Moll. In reality, Moll stands an imposing 6’8″ and sounds like it. As a result, I picture Two-Face big- Frankensteinian– bigger and stronger than Batman himself. I also wanted his unscarred half to look dead-eyed and vacant, no longer a participant in his own actions.

My friend PJ Shapiro wrote a song about Two-Face which reference BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON A SERIOUS EARTH, and still manages to work in the phrase “Manichean lapdog.” It’s called E. Pluribus H. Dent. Listen to it here.

Two-Face was also created by Bob Kane and an uncredited Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in 1942’s DETECTIVE COMICS #66

The curious should return tomorrow for the third installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

THE JOKER

The Clown Prince of Crime.

Does the Joker need any introduction? I’m going to guess he’s the most famous comic book villain of all time.
I’ll just tell you a little about my version here.

With a nod to Conrad Veidt from The Man Who Laughs, whose look inspired the Joker, I think of the Joker as a handsome man whose only deformity is his bleached skin and green hair. Otherwise, it’s his violence and unpredictability that make him a monster. I updated his traditional jacket-with-tales and bolo tie with an ensemble which, while still old-fashioned, is sharp and tailored. The Joker’s a dandy.

 

I also left one shoe untied. Ultimately, the joke’s on him.