Welcome to the four hundred and eightieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seventy-nine. This week is a special theme week tied in with our recently completed 75 Greatest Batman Stories of All-Time countdown. Was the Joker going to dress like Madonna in Arkham Asylum? Was KnightQuest shortened due to fan backlash? And did Harley Quinn really make her comic book debut in Mad Love?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: The Joker was originally going to dress like Madonna in Arkham Asylum.
Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum ended up at #6 on the 75 Greatest Batman Stories countdown. The story introduced us to one of the more innovative visual approaches to the Joker…
However, originally, things were going to be even MORE different, but the timing of the project worked out so that while Morrison had the script written in 1988, with the release of the then-upcoming Batman movie in 1989, Warner Brothers was a bit more hands on when it came to Batman projects, especially high profile graphic novels.
Morrison explained to Steve McGinty of Fear magazine in 1990 one of the most notable changes to Morrison’s original script (other stuff was like removing the words “Fuck” and “masturbate”
The movie was coming out and they were worried that our version of The Batman would contradict theirs. They wanted a PG-rated Batman because they didn’t want to jeopardise the $50 million they had sunk into the movie. Because of this a couple of things came out. The Joker was originally dressed as Madonna. They didn’t want this because they thought people would think that Jack Nicholson was a transvestite. Is this the conclusion you would jump to?’
Interestingly enough, Morrison’s script was written before he even knew McKean was going to draw the series.
As commenter Benjamin notes, Morrison actually put in a copy of his original description of the Joker in the 15th anniversary edition of Arkham Asylum. Here it is:
Here is Madonna from the video in question (“Open Your Heart”)…
Anyhow, thanks for the information Steve and Grant! And thanks for the reminder of the bit from the anniversary edition, Benjamin!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar banned for life from McDonald’s because of some ads for Burger King she did as a little girl?
COMIC LEGEND: Azrael’s tenure as Batman was shortened due to fan reaction.
STATUS: I’m Going With a Tentative True
KnightQuest was #61 on the countdown.
It told the dual story of Azrael’s time as Batman while Bruce Wayne was off searching for his kidnapped girlfriend, Shondra Kinsolving (her last name should have been Plotresolving).
Last year, I dealt with the legend of whether DC decided to return Batman to being Batman because of negative fan reaction to Azrael as Batman. That was false, since the whole point of the story was for Batman to return after showing how someone like Azrael would never be a good Batman.
However, while Bruce was never NOT going to return, reader Tim Levine recalled that the timeline WAS changed a bit due to fan reaction. He wrote:
It’s interesting. I’ve heard in the past that while, as the article states, Azrael was never intended to permanently be Batman and the character was made Batman to show why he shouldn’t be Batman, the length of his run as Batman WAS shortened in reaction to the fan backlash. I think it was Chuck Dixon that made statements to that effect.
I asked Chuck about this and he confirmed Tim’s recollection. Chuck was not sure exactly HOW much the run was shortened (and with Zero Hour coming on so soon after KnightsEnd, I wonder if we’re just talking about a month or two on the margins) but he was sure that it was, indeed, shortened. And since Chuck was writing one of the three main in-continuity Batman titles at the time, I am willing to accept his take on things.
Thanks to Tim for the suggestion and thanks to Chuck for the information!
On the next page, was Mad Love seriously Harley Quinn’s comic book debut?
COMIC LEGEND: Harley Quinn made her comic book debut in Mad Love.
Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s Mad Love ended up at #15 on the countdown.
The book delivered Harley Quinn’s origin (and was later adapted into an episode of the Batman animated series) and was all around an excellent comic book work…
However, I’ve noticed that people seem to believe that it was her comic book DEBUT.
It is not.
Here is Harley Quinn’s ACTUAL comic book debut, from 1993’s Batman Adventures #12 by Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck and Rich Burchett (which also features Puckett’s take on Batgirl’s debut)…
All her appearances were in comic books based on the animated series until 1999, when she made her debut in DC comic book universe with Batman: Harley Quinn, written by Paul Dini…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!