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The Joker Was Once DC's U.N. Ambassador from Iran... Until He Wasn't

In Abandoned an' Forsaked, we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically "overturned" by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent).

Today, we look at how the Joker's history with Iran was retconned into being with a fictional country.

Jim Starlin's run on Batman was a momentous one in the history of the character. Even before Starlin decided to get rid of Jason Todd (the second Robin) from the series, Starlin had been doing a much different take on Batman than most other Batman writers. This actually began with the prestige format miniseries, Batman: The Cult, that Starlin did with the late, great Bernie Wrightson. In that series, a villainous cult leader actually succeeded in breaking Batman - both physically but more importantly mentally! Eventually, Batman was de-programmed, but it was a rare sight to see Batman flat out lose to a bad guy.

Starlin then took over the main Batman series and he brought some of the darkness from The Cult into the main series. Starlin appeared to be influenced a lot by the success of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. We talk often about how books like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns ended up influencing the ongoing comic books of the era and Starlin's Batman is probably the first example of the influence that Miller's Dark Knight Returns had on the main Batman title (outside, of course, Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One, which was very much a standalone story before Max Allan Collins took over Batman and went in a much more kid friendly approach on the series).

Starlin brought real world intrigue into the comic with his storyline that introduced the KGBeast, a Soviet assassin in Gotham City to murder President Ronald Reagan. Batman worked with the CIA to take the villain down, but Batman realized that he could not defeat the Beat in hand to hand combat, so he instead trapped the assassin and seemingly let him starve to death (the next writer on the series, Marv Wolfman, revealed that Batman eventually went to go free him).

So things were pretty darn dark on the book at this time, but it all came to a head in the story arc, "Death in the Family," where the Joker beats Jason Todd nearly to death and then leaves Jason trapped in a room with an explosion. Fans got to vote on whether Jason would live or die and they chose death for the ersatz Boy Wonder, which was revealed in Batman #428 (by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo)...

Batman has had enough and he decides that he is going to kill the Joker to avenge Jason's death. When he tracks the Joker to New York City, though, he is shocked when Superman (doing sort of the same role he played in Dark Knight Returns) has to tell him that he can't touch the Clown Prince of Crime. As it turned out, the Joker has cut a deal with Iran (we even meet the Ayatollah earlier in the comic)...

and was now the Iran Ambassador to the United Nations, with full diplomatic immunity!

So Batman has to allow the Joker give a speech to the United Nations general assembly and, of course, the Joker tries to kill them all...

Luckily, Superman stuck around in disguise and saved the day...

Batman then tries to capture/kill the Joker and the Joker seemingly dies in a helicopter crash while trying to escape and Jason was avenged...for now, at least.

The Joker would revisit this story years later...in a fashion.

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