When writer/artist Sean Gordon Murphy announced his latest DC Comics project, Batman: White Knight, he promised it would flip the Dark Knight’s mythos on its head. Not only does Murphy’s miniseries present a Gotham City that it terrorized rather than protected by Bruce Wayne’s costumed alter-ego, White Knight presents a reality where the Joker is the good guy, dedicated to protecting the innocents in his city.
It’s only fitting, then, that the former Clown Prince of Crime shed his Joker nom de guerre in favor of something a little less sinister to go along with his new role. In a recent tweet, Murphy reveals that the iconic character will do precisely that, choosing a name which is familiar, though it’s never been a part of the character’s DC Comics continuity.
“Big news: JACK NAPIER will be the name of my JOKER,” Murphy tweeted, along with the following artwork of the character. “Warner just approved–1st time Napier has been in a comic (minus Burton adaptations).”
Jack Napier, as Murphy alludes, is the pre-Joker name of Jack Nicholson’s famous take on the villain in Tim Burton’s Batman. While the character’s pre-villain name has never actually been given in DC Comics continuity, the Napier name is one that many fans will immediately recognize, and offers a nice nod to one of the most influential pieces of superhero cinema of all time.
“We know the Joker is a genius, we know he’s relentless, and we know he can play the crowd, so why not make him a politician?” Murphy told Wired of the Joker’s new role in a previous interview announcing the series. “Frank Miller modeled him after David Bowie. Chris Nolan showed him as a controlled sociopath. I see the Joker as Don Draper.”
“My main goal was to undo the comic tropes while changing Gotham from a comic book city into a real city—a city dealing with everything from Black Lives Matter to the growing wage gap,” Murphy explained. “[But] rather than write a comic about the wage gap, I gave those ideas to the Joker, who leads a kind of media war against Gotham’s elite by winning people over with his potent observations and rhetoric.”
Batman: White Knight #1, by Sean Gordon Murphy, arrives in stores Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.
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