A petition on Change.org started by Elena Shestakova calls for DC Entertainment to "Make The Joker Gay Again," compacting the long-running speculation about the DC villain's sexuality into a clear call to action.
"The Joker is a character with almost 80 years [of] history, half of which he was portrayed as homosexual," Shestakova states. "Neal Adams claimed that the Joker was and always had been homosexual [..] in the 'Batman Files' book. This opinion was shared by other comic book authors and artists for decades. That is why it's so important to me and other queer readers to return his homosexuality."
By "return," Shestakova means that since Harley Quinn was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in the early '90s, her infamous infatuation with her puddin' means Joker has been viewed in a more heterosexual mold.
This mainstream interpretation hasn't faltered, despite the couple's messy break-up. Interestingly, since then, Harley has been able to openly explore her bisexuality, recently revealing a secret marriage to Poison Ivy in an alternate dimension. "DC's queer villains are almost all bisexual women," the petition notes.
The Queer Prince Of Crime: A History
Ultimately, Shestakova isn't calling on DC to graft something new onto a beloved character, as some fans have interpreted, but to "restore" something that was already there. Reversing the erasure of the Joker's queer identity also makes for more varied LGBTQ representation in the DC Universe, which Shestakova reminds us is important "because sometimes fictional characters [are] something real people hold onto."
For those unfamiliar with the Joker's lengthy history of being both explicitly queer or queer-coded, or even for those who are aware of it, Shestakova's collection of evidence to support her case is well worth a look.
From as early as the character's first solo comic series in 1975-6, the Joker's relish of applying red lipstick has been characterized as an act of show girl-style beautification, not just fear inducement.
Grant Morrison's unused sketches for Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth went one step further, putting him in full Rocky Horror Show drag, while Christopher Nolan used a female nurse's outfit in The Dark Knight.
While his feminine traits are stereotypes, it certainly adds another dimension to his nightly encounters with Batman. Is he trying to spook the Caped Crusader or getting dolled up for a date with him? Or both?
Joker Vs. Batman: Never-Ending Battle Or Unrequited Love?
Joker's teasing of Batman goes beyond your typical supervillain/superhero relationship of obsessive rivalry. The Joker is always flirtatious with his arch nemesis. He makes sexual innuendos, coyly asks for kisses and revels in any attention the Dark Knight pays him. This part of their relationship has been highlighted in some of their biggest stories together, in comics or on-screen.
In Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Death Of The Family," which Snyder called a "love letter to Batman from Joker," Joker describes their battles as "dances," calls Batman "darling" and refers to himself as "yours" during their interactions, echoing his flamboyant, love-lorn portrayal in "Batman: A Death In The Family," which Snyder's story pays homage to, if only in name.
Snyder also has Joker tell Nightwing that he "always smell[s] so good," proving that -- as Shestakova points out -- the Clown Prince of Crime doesn't just have eyes for Bats. In Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan's "Devil's Advocate," he mentions an ex-boyfriend who "broke his heart," while in Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan and Sandra Hope's "Batman: Cacophony," he explicitly propositions a surprised male associate.
Next Page: Is Joker The Straight Man Of His Own Joke?