I’ve been talking about Batman-related items quite a lot of recent, and how overexposed nearly every aspect of the franchise has become in over a decade, haven’t I? And the following puff piece announcement from Entertainment Weekly isn’t making things any better in its sugary take on villainy:
The Joker…there’s a guy you hear about a lot these days. A little more than 10 years after the late Heath Ledger stunned the world with his contemporary take on the Clown Prince of Crime in The Dark Knight, the Joker got his own solo movie that made Joaquin Phoenix the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the character. And yet, for all the attention the Joker gets in pop culture (you can play him in Mortal Kombat now!) he hasn’t had much time to himself in the pages of comics…until now, that is. DC Comics announced on Wednesday that a new ongoing Joker comic is launching next spring. It will be written by James Tynion IV (Justice League Dark, The Department of Truth) and illustrated by Guillem March.
I’ve thought Mortal Kombat was a sickening game for years, mainly due to the graphic gore, and how it set up a scenario where, even if you’re playing as a “goodie” you’re still encouraged to eviscerate other “goodies”, in repellent ways (in other words, not much difference presented between good and evil in the game), and now, they even have the gall to add the Clown Prince of Crime to the character roster of a video game franchise now under the same ownership as DC itself. That aside, as though Harley Quinn as a villainess weren’t enough, now an earlier villain her character sometimes worked with when she debuted in the mid-90s cartoon series is getting something that only bloats out the franchise yet again.
“When I was approached by DC about the concept of an ongoing series spotlighting The Joker, I thought, ‘What would that book even look like?’” Tynion, who will be writing The Joker alongside his pre-existing duties on Batman, said in a statement. “I’m excited to share this story in a way that honors everything that a series about The Joker can be, while coming at if from an exciting, unexpected angle. I’m also thrilled to continue working with Sam [Johns] and Mirka [Andolfo] to expand the Punchline story we began in November as a back-up feature in this new ongoing Joker series. The Joker War was only the beginning of the terror and mayhem we’re creating!”
As Tynion’s statement indicates, the new series will build off Tynion’s recent Batman storylines — mainly, the “Joker War” crossover event, and the introduction of new Joker-influenced characters like Punchline. In the wake of the Joker War, the titular supervillain is now the most wanted man in the world. DC’s plot tease indicates that Batman’s old ally Commissioner Jim Gordon “realizes this is the last manhunt of his life and vows to track down Gotham’s worst nemesis, completing his storied career.” In a tweet, Tynion clarified that “as much as Joker is a Joker book, Joker is a JIM GORDON book.”
If that’s supposed to alleviate worries there’s too many Batbooks around, forget it. There’s definitely too much emphasis on all that’s Batman, and at this point, it’s bound to be too much shock value to boot. Not to mention too much spotlight on villainy. It could’ve been a book toplining Lex Luthor, and it’d still be far too much.
This is not the first time the Joker has had his own monthly comic from DC. The first attempt was a 1975 series written by the late DC legend Denny O’Neil that ran for nine issues before cancellation, with a 10th issue completed from drafts and published in October 2019. But this will be the first time the Joker has gotten an ongoing comic in the 21st century, with the kind of worldwide fandom he has now. Maybe this time his solo outing will last.
Maybe not, if speculation DC will fold turns out to be true. Most telling about the EW news is the reporter’s full acceptance of the project unquestioned, and no concerns voiced whether there’s too many Batman related items around.
One of the commenters sums it up well:
The ’70s Joker series was great. However, I don’t have high hopes for this new one. First off, Joker (like Harley Quinn) has been way overused in recent years. He needs a break, not a series. Secondly, the art is probably going to suck. Most comic book art nowadays is lousy to begin with, but recent portrayals of the Joker in particular have been wretched. Just look at the images with this story. An iconic character is no longer iconic.
Rumors abound that DC is on its last legs. Sadly, I’m not seeing anything in their upcoming plans that would reverse that. Just one bad creative decision after another and embarrassingly bad art.
The refusal to change publication formats from monthly pamphlets to something simpler like trade paperbacks is another serious error the publishers have made, and the refusal by news reporters to argue the same has only made things worse. It’s said the X-Men franchise became too big during the 90s, but even then, there weren’t that many ongoing series spotlighting villains, and today, the whole spotlight on villainy’s certainly become as troubling as that on darkness. What should always matter foremost is the heroes and how they get the job done, even if their personalities aren’t a big emphasis. But of course, today’s pretentious scriptwriters make sure even that much gets botched.
Originally published here.