What’s the Deal with Batman and the Joker Anyway?

What’s the deal with Batman and the Joker? On a floor degree their relationship is easy. You may ask any preschooler who has ever watched a Batman cartoon and they’ll inform you merely that Batman is the hero and Joker is the villain. But anyone who has taken a deeper take a look at their relationship is aware of that the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime share considered one of the most advanced relationships in comics. Sure, they’re enemies, however there’s a unmistakable codependency to their battle. As we head into this yr’s Batman Day, I assumed it is perhaps enjoyable to look at the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and his best enemy.

First Smiles

Their first assembly in 1940’s Batman #1 was intense and action-packed, nevertheless it didn’t give any suggestion of the pathos their fashionable relationship would go on to have. Or any of the Joker’s now-expected darkish humor. Have you ever puzzled what the first phrases Batman and Joker ever stated to 1 one other have been? Joker says, “You! Prepare to die.” To which Batman replies, “I’d rather live if you don’t mind.”

Needless to say, their banter would get lots higher.

It’s fascinating to notice that Batman and the Joker’s rivalry virtually ended earlier than it had the probability to get off the floor. The last story in Batman #1 was initially supposed to finish with the Joker by accident stabbing himself to loss of life. DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth noticed worth in the character and reworked the dialogue in the last panels to point out readers that the Joker had survived. If Ellsworth hadn’t completed that, it’s onerous to think about how completely different the previous eighty years would have been. Jason Todd wouldn’t be afraid of crowbars and Joaquin Phoenix would’ve had much more free time in 2019.

Interestingly, the Joker’s second look (1940’s Batman #2) discovered the Dark Knight making an attempt to reform the Clown Prince. Batman deliberate to kidnap the Joker from his hospital mattress and take him to a mind surgeon who would lobotomize the villain till he was not felt the want to commit crimes. Obviously, this plan was tremendous unethical, however figuring out what would are available in subsequent many years, we are able to’t say we blame Batman for contemplating it.

Basically, in the early days there simply wasn’t a lot to say about Batman and the Joker’s relationship. A Batman versus Joker story wasn’t a lot completely different than a Batman versus random criminal story. The Joker was a fan favourite, however the stakes weren’t terribly excessive. In reality, after 1942’s Detective Comics #62, the Joker wouldn’t be seen committing homicide for over thirty years. It was all thievery and petty crime.

Send in the Clown

That’s to not say that confrontations between the two have been fundamental. 1942’s Batman #12 launched a special approach to their relationship, the Joker’s incapacity to kill Batman. Early in the story, the Joker stops considered one of his males from fatally taking pictures an immobilized Batman.

“Anyone can kill with a gun,” he explains. “But I’m not anyone! I’m the Joker! When I kill it must be with some imagination!” This story additionally launched the Joker’s loss of life traps, which might grow to be extra elaborate in subsequent tales and famously make their manner into the 1966 Batman tv collection.

The Joker’s reluctance to kill Batman is tough to make sense of. Sometimes the Clown Prince appears keen to finish the Dark Knight for good, whereas different instances he desires him alive to allow them to struggle one other day. I suppose it’s foolish to search for consistency in the Joker’s actions. The man’s an unpredictable agent of chaos.

1951’s Detective Comics #168 gave us our first Joker origin story. According to a flashback, the Joker had as soon as been a petty criminal generally known as the Red Hood. After tangling with Batman, Red Hood escaped by diving right into a chemical basin. The toxins in the basin remodeled the Red Hood’s pores and skin and hair, giving him the look of a clown.

Elements from this story have been utilized in The Killing Joke, Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year.” This revelation additionally added a brand new layer to Batman and the Joker’s rivalry. Now Batman was tied to the Joker’s delivery, which strengthens the uncommon bond between them. Some retellings of the origin story shift issues a bit, making Batman immediately chargeable for the Joker’s chemical tub.

The Clown Prince of Crime

In 1973’s Batman #251, the Joker returned after a four-year absence from comics in a narrative that set the tone for his relationship with Batman for years to come back. And whereas “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” additionally noticed the Clown Prince kill on panel for the first time since 1942, he remained reluctant to homicide his nemesis. At one level in the story, the Joker has the probability to kill Batman, however he’s reluctant.

“Without the game that Batman and I have played for so many years, winning is nothing,” the Joker tells himself. Later tales would body this reluctance as codependence. The Joker wants Batman, and the Clown Prince likes to imagine that the Dark Knight wants him as effectively.

In 1988, DC Comics printed Batman: The Killing Joke, a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. The status comedian had Batman take a extra introspective take a look at his relationship with the Joker. The story begins with Batman visiting Arkham, hoping he and his longtime adversary can work by way of their variations earlier than their rivalry kills them each. As the Dark Knight speaks, you may virtually sense alarm in his phrases. He can’t make sense of his relationship with the Joker, and it scares him.

“I’ve been thinking lately,” Batman begins. “About you and me. About what’s going to happen to us. In the end. We’re going to kill each other, aren’t we?” There is one thing scary about the Dark Knight’s relationship with the Joker, and it scares even Batman. Of course, the Joker is just a few steps forward of him and has swapped locations with an imposter. Batman infamously spends the first scene of the story pouring his coronary heart out to the Joker, and it isn’t even the proper particular person.

The Joker escapes, shoots and disables Barbara Gordon and kidnaps Jim Gordon. It’s all to show some extent about the fragility of sanity by driving Gordon mad, however Jim stands agency. In the finish, Batman confronts his best enemy and tries to place their relationship on a distinct path.

“We could work together,” he pleads. “I could rehabilitate you. You needn’t be out there on the edge any more. You needn’t be alone. We don’t have to kill each other.” The Joker virtually appears like he’s contemplating the provide, however after a beat he says it’s too late. Depending on the way you learn the story, you may sense honest remorse in the Joker’s voice.

The comedian ends on a controversial be aware as Batman and the Joker stand in the rain laughing collectively. For many years followers have debated the ambiguity of the ending, the place the panels shift away from Batman and the Joker as the laughter stops. It’s becoming that the ending is so ambiguous, since that displays the state of Batman and the Joker’s relationship.

There was one final thing that The Killing Joke actually helped clarify about Batman’s relationship with the Joker. At one level, Batman says throughout a dialog with Alfred, “I don’t know him, Alfred. All these years and I don’t know who he is any more than he knows who I am.” Batman is aware of every little thing he must about the Penguin or Riddler, however the Joker is chaos and contradiction. Batman is drawn to thriller, so maybe that’s why he’s drawn to the Joker.

Playing for Keeps

In addition to including new depth to their relationship, The Killing Joke additionally raised the stakes by having the Joker completely disable Barbara Gordon. The Joker had completed some fairly horrible issues previous to Moore and Bolland’s e book, however this was the first time considered one of his crimes had lasting penalties in Batman’s world. It wouldn’t be the final.  

In “A Death in the Family,” which additionally was launched in 1988, the Joker murdered Jason Todd, the second Robin. Now there was no turning again. He and Batman would not be having conversations about rehabilitation as they giggle in the rain. Things had gotten so private that Superman needed to personally step in to verify Batman doesn’t kill the Joker in anger.

When the Joker returned in Batman #450-451, the Dark Knight was afraid of dealing with him once more. The loss of life of Robin modified every little thing and even Jason’s eventual resurrection couldn’t reset their relationship. This sort of self-doubt or worry isn’t one thing Batman sometimes feels when he confronts his different enemies. The Joker is the just one who has this maintain on him.

Their rivalry can be explored additional throughout Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Death of the Family.” In this story, the title of which is an homage to the earlier “A Death in the Family,” the Joker kidnaps Batman’s allies, telling the Dark Knight that deep down he is aware of Batman loves him greater than his companions. He speaks of their distinctive connection and asks Batman some troublesome questions on why he hasn’t killed him as soon as and for all. The Joker is perhaps a madman, however these phrases are robust sufficient to drive a rift between Batman and his allies. Although the Dark Knight prevails, the story makes it clear that there’s a a part of Batman that may at all times belong to the Joker and won’t ever be shared by anybody else.

I may write a complete different article on Batman and the Joker’s relationship in different media, however I might be remiss if I didn’t point out the first episode of HBO Max’s Harley Quinn. In some ways, it performs very like “Death of the Family” in reverse. Here it’s Harley who realizes that the Joker’s real love will at all times be Batman. The two of them share a particular relationship that no person, whether or not it’s Harley or Alfred, will ever be capable of pierce.

It’s onerous to make sense of their relationship as a result of we’re often seeing it from Batman’s standpoint. The Joker’s perspective is murkier and his contradictory actions solely add to the confusion. He claims Batman couldn’t exist with out him and compares their rivalry to a wedding. For his half, Batman simply desires the Joker behind bars, however there isn’t a denying the unusual maintain they’ve each other. What is the deal with Batman and the Joker? Perhaps we’ll by no means really know. After all, if the World’s Greatest Detective can’t make sense of their relationship, then I’m unsure anybody can. 

Batman Day 2022 is on Saturday, September seventeenth. For extra info, alongside with unique movies, options, articles and extra celebrating the Dark Knight, go to our official Batman Day web page.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, motion pictures and comics for DCComics.com, is a daily contributor to the Couch Club and writes our month-to-month Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed on this characteristic are solely these of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and don’t essentially mirror these of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.


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