But what about a villain who’s enigmatic history makes him so effective as a character? Yes, we’re talking about the Joker. Ever since Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, creative teams have tried to make some sense of the Clown Price of Crime. We’ve gotten various glimpses into his origin (none of which are confirmed), and we’ve seen what a version of the character would be like if they were devoid of all homicidal and sociopathic behaviors.
But here’s the thing: the less we know about the Joker, the better a character he is. We don’t need a deep dive into his psyche. What makes his so terrifying as a character is the fact we don’t know what’s going on in that head of his. He simply can’t be diagnosed. Trying to turn him into a sympathetic character only ushers the character into the same corral as his fellow rogues gallery brethren, which, as we’ve mentioned, can be quite problematic. Let Joker be the outlier. Let him be Batman’s ultimate punching bag.
Taking ridiculous things seriously is always a fun exercise in extrapolating what we love and dislike about comic books, and it should always be taken with a grain of salt. We understand the intrinsic silliness of waxing philosophically about escapism. But we also understand the world is much different today than it was in 1939. People aren’t stuffed into “Loony Bins” these days like they once were. We have a better understanding mental health issues, and we are far more compassionate toward people grappling with them.
Again, we don’t want to see Batman stop beating up bad guys, but the more often creative teams hold the Dark Knight accountable for his actions, it will continue an interesting discussion and will certainly lead to some genuinely compelling comic books.
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