The Joker's Asylum, Part I: The Joker

With Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" coming to US theaters on July 18 and Bruce Wayne facing a fate worse than death in Grant Morrison's "Batman R.I.P.," this summer is shaping up to be the Caped Crusader's biggest since the release of Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989.

Even Batman's rogues are getting in on the action, as July will see the release of DC Comics' five-issue weekly series of one-shots entitled "The Joker's Asylum," which spotlights Gotham City's greatest villains. As the title suggests, playing host in each of the one-shots is Batman's archenemy, The Joker.

In this, our first interview with the five writers of "The Joker's Asylum," CBR News spoke with "Rex Mundi" creator Arvid Nelson about his leading rogue, and the reason we are all here, The Joker. Ilustrated by Alex Sanchez with a cover by Andy Kubert, Nelson's story, cleverly titled "The Joker's Mild," is set on a daytime television game show in the 1970s. The Joker makes an appearance on the show, with what may well be the birth of reality television in the DC Universe.

What makes The Joker a serious challenge to Batman?

Well, the challenge for me is that everyone has beaten The Joker to death figuratively. And The Joker has beaten everyone to death literally. I tried to do something fresh. Since they're going for a more "realistic" Joker in "The Dark Night," I wanted to make him light and funny. It's just my contrarian nature.

What makes The Joker an interesting character to explore as a writer?

I love that he's unpredictable. There are so many different ways to play him, from the campy, technicolor Cesar Romero [in the 1960s "Batman" television series] to what I assume will be the dark and psychotic Heath Ledger [in "The Dark Knight"].

What makes The Joker a great central figure to this series of one-shots?

The series is being handled like an old school EC comic, something like "Tales from the Crypt." The Joker is going to be the emcee, the Crypt Keeper, leading you in and out of every story. Who better to introduce Batman's enemies than The Joker?

After nearly 70 years, what is it that makes Batman such a popular hero and ever-lasting icon?

It's because Batman's such a jumble of contradictions. He's committed to justice, but he works outside, and sometimes against, the justice system. He fights darkness, but he's darkness incarnate. I think that's what great characters do - they bring together and somehow resolve those big contradictions.

Who is your favorite Batman rogue and why?

I love The Penguin. He's just so cuddly. But secretly, deep down, he's a bad-ass.

If Bruce Wayne meets "a fate worse than death" in "Batman R.I.P.," who deserves to be the next Batman and why?

I recently learned there's a character called Man-Bat. I love that. I think it would be totally postmodern and sweet if Man-Bat became Bat-Man.

Are you planning to see Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" in July?

I will most certainly see it. One of the greatest pleasures of being a semi-employed comic book writer is weekday matinees. What better way to give the finger to fluorescent lights and water coolers than by sneaking a Snickers bar and a Diet Coke into an empty movie theater on a Tuesday afternoon?

"The Joker's Asylum: The Joker" with art by Alex Sanchez and cover by Andy Kubert, is scheduled for release on July 2.

Check back with CBR News tomorrow for Jason Aaron's thoughts on... the Penguin.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Batman forum.

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