Welcome to the five hundred and seventy-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, was Lee Bermejo’s Joker based on Heath Ledger or not? Did Grant Morrison almost create a FEMALE Doctor Who? And what was the original pitch for Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew?
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: Lee Bermejo based the visuals of the Joker in his Joker graphic novel with Brian Azzarello on Heath Ledger’s Joker.
In 2008, Brian Azarello and Lee Bermejo put out the striking original graphic novel Joker, showing a sort of “day in the life” of the Joker after his release from Arkham Asylum…
The graphic novel came out in October of 2008, months after the release of the smash hit film, The Dark Knight, starring Heath Ledger as the Joker…
So naturally, everyone assumed that the graphic novel was written in response to the film. Bermejo, though, straightened things out with IGN:
IGN Comics: Naturally the first thing many fans will notice is the similarity between your Joker and Heath Ledger’s in the Dark Knight. Was that simply happy coincidence, or did the film begin to affect what you and Brian Azzarello were doing?
Bermejo: Definitely a coincidence. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Nolan or Ledger, they did something spectacular and iconic with the character, but the reality of this particular situation is simple: Brian and I were already well into this graphic novel when they released the first photo of Ledger. In fact, I was drawing the sequence where Joker walks into the Italian restaurant. I admit, I freaked out when I saw the photo. I immediately called Brian, and I remember he was like, “It doesn’t really look anything like your Joker.” I still feel like all they really have in common is the carved smile.
Honestly, the only thing i can tell you I know for sure is that my version of the Joker, the way you see him in this book, was established long before Ledger was even cast. Just to be clear, this is not to say that Nolan and Co. were informed by my drawing. I’ve said this before and I really find it to be true, that certain ideas float around at the same time for a reason. Pop culture, social tendencies, fashion, you name it. If you want to do a realistic interpretation of the Joker, there are only a few ways to do it.
However, we don’t just have to take Bermejo’s word for it (although, honestly, I probably would be okay with just that. It’s a fairly large and easily disproven story to say that they had begun work on Joker before the first photo of the Dark Knight Joker was released), as he did an interview with Batman-on-Film in 2005 where he discussed his ideas for the Joker…
Visually, I like the idea of the character being played a lot darker and more disturbing as well. It’s difficult to realistically explain why the guy would have a huge grin on his face all the time. This is why I came up with the idea to actually scar his face to mirror the Joker smile. I remember seeing some police photos of the Black Dhalia and being genuinely disturbed by how her face was cut to look like a killer smile. After all, if this character was truly a crazy maniac why wouldn’t he do this to himself? Add a little smeared lipstick, white face paint, and purple eye-shadow and you have yourself one demented looking dude. I also gave him some scarring around the eyes to mirror clown makeup a little more. I don’t know about you, but clowns have always been a bit scary to me (the John Wayne Gacey angle doesn’t help). As far as clothing, maybe push the character a little more in the Tyler Durden direction. Give him a wardrobe that could be a little over the top but not look completely fabricated and silly.
I based this drawing on Lachy Hulme, a front-runner for the Joker right now, but I think it eventually turned out looking a bit more like Vincent Gallo.
And he even shared an image of said Joker and, well, come on…
Thanks to Lee Beremejo, IGN and Batman-on-Film for the information!
I was out of town for a wedding this past week, so no new legends, but check out some classic wedding-related entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:
How Did Hogan’s Heroes Deal With One of Its Actors Refusing to Take Off His Wedding Band During Filming?
On the next page, learn how close we came to a female Doctor Who written by Grant Morrison!
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