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Martha Wayne: How DC's Changing History Made Her the Flashpoint Joker

Martha Wayne Joker header

The two deaths that will always haunt Batman the most and fuel his never-ending war on crime are those of his own parents Thomas and Martha Wayne. While Thomas Wayne's legacy usually takes the spotlight, his mother Martha, has a rich, under-served history that stretches across the many iterations of her character in the DC Universe. In the Flashpoint alternate reality, Martha even became her world's Joker, the most feared villain in Flashpoint's Gotham City.

Now, CBR is taking a look back at the history of Bruce's tragically doomed mother, alternate incarnations of the Wayne family matriarch, and her memorably villainous appearance during Flashpoint.

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WHO IS MARTHA WAYNE?

Martha Wayne

Introduced by Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939's Detective Comics #33, Martha and Thomas Wayne were gunned down by Joe Chill when a mugger tried to steal her pearl necklace that had been given to her as an anniversary present, as they walked home from the movies on a street called Park Row. As the legend surrounding their murders reverberated across Gotham City, the street became unofficially known as Crime Alley, where Batman still returns to pay tribute to his slain parents on the anniversary of their deaths every year.

Over the subsequent decades, Martha's background has been expanded, and she was revealed to have been born Martha Kane, with her maiden name a reference to co-creator Bob Kane. As a cousin to Kate Kane, who would go on to become Batwoman, Martha was something of a hard-partying socialite before meeting Thomas, and she unwittingly befriended members of Gotham's organized crime elements that would later oppose her son as Batman.

HOW DID MARTHA WAYNE DIE?

Martha Wayne Gary Frank

In the original depiction of the Waynes' death, Martha had died of the sheer shock of watching Thomas' murder. However, all subsequent depictions would reveal that she had been shot as well by the mugger. Originally killed by Joe Chill under orders of the mob boss Lew Moxtony, the deaths of the Waynes have changed over the years. After the reality-altering events of Zero Hour, the murders were changed to become a random act of violence by an unknown killer. Following Infinite Crisis and later revisions, Joe Chill was restored as the Waynes' murderer.

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In the New 52, Martha was allegedly pregnant with a son after Bruce, but lost the baby after a car accident. The villain Lincoln March claimed to be the long-lost son, who had been raised in secret at an orphanage after the Waynes' deaths, however Bruce eventually debunked his claim. In Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Batman: Earth-One,  Martha was part of the Arkham family with lingering rumors that insanity ran in her bloodline after her father killed her mother. In this reality, Martha served as the campaign manager for Thomas' bid for Mayor of Gotham City before both were killed by a random mugger.

HOW MARTHA WAYNE BECAME FLASHPOINT JOKER

Flashpoint Joker Martha Wayne

The most twisted version of Martha Wayne was revealed during the 2011 comic book crossover event Flashpoint. Due to Barry Allen traveling back in time to save his mother from the Reverse-Flash, the ripples effects to the timeline alter the entire reality of the DC Universe drastically.In Brian Azzarello and Edward Risso's Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance,  Bruce Wayne was murdered in Crime Alley instead of either his parents. As Thomas beats the would-be mugger, the trauma of watching her only son brutally killed before her eyes causes Martha's sanity to snap leading to her transformation into this reality's Joker.

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Cutting her own cheeks to resemble the Joker's rictus grin, Martha launches a campaign of terror against Gotham City, enlisting Yo-Yo, the Flashpoint Universe's version of Harley Quinn, as her partner in crime. Facing off repeatedly against Thomas, who subsequently took the mantle of Batman, Martha kills Jim Gordon and attempts to kidnap Harvey Dent's children before being stopped by her former husband. Some time after Thomas meets Barry Allen and learns the truth about his reality, Martha confronts Thomas in the Batcave. Upon learning that in the true timeline Bruce would grow up to become Batman, a horrified Martha falls to her death in the cave.

Ever the loving mother of Bruce Wayne, Martha's legacy and death weigh heavily on her son as he continues his war on crime as Batman. And just as the loss of Martha inspired Bruce to become a superhero, the loss of Bruce in an alternate timeline lead Martha to become its greatest villain.

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