This week we were given a glimpse of what is in store for us in the new Joaquin Phoenix led “Joker”, an origin of the titular Batman villain. The film is set in 1981 and shows us failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck who through a variety of events becomes the Joker. Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it already
And so it was, after watching the above, I decided to re-read The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore penned comic that gave us a glimpse of an origin story, among other things, for Batman’s most infamous villain.
Despite it being a slim book Moore gives us two tales, the meat of the book is taken up by the Joker trying to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by paralyzing his daughter Barbara Gordon and subjecting him to photographs of her naked body as a part of some horrific Ghost Train ride. It doesn’t really work as intended and leads Gordon to command Batman to “bring him in by the book” to “show him our way works”.
The other part of the book, is as mentioned, an origin story. the reader is introduced to unnamed former employee of a chemical plant who has decided to try his hand on the comedy circuit and is finding he’s not as funny as he or his pregnant wife, Jeannie, think. He is coaxed into helping two criminals attempt to rob his former employers, but on the night of the break in his wife is killed in an unfortunate accident. Still, his new employers demand he goes through with the job and disguise him as the Red Hood (a known criminal), but it all goes wrong, he falls into a vat of chemicals after Batman tries to intervene and he becomes the Joker.
Or thats what the Joker wants us to believe, he wants to push an agenda that all it takes to become as crazy as others perceive him to be is “one bad day”, although he say himself: “Something like that happened to me, you know. I… I’m not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, somestimes another…” “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha Ha Ha!”. Thats the Joker right there, there never will be a true origin story for him. There will be no mugging, no radioactive spider, no failed experiment. Because the Joker will always tell the tale that best suits his agenda at any given time, Heath Ledger’s “Why so serious?” speech encapsulated why the Joker is so fascinating, Batman, Gordon, Gotham, the reader, the movie-goer, the videogamer, everyone wants to know where he came from, it would make us understand his motives, but the Joker doesn’t really want that.
So we come full circle to Warner Bros’ new Joker movie, its another tale. It’s being sold as a stand-alone character piece, much like The Killing Joke was a standalone graphic novel, but its yet another addition to the mystery that is the Joker.