Tricks and Treats: This is Not your father’s Joker

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Beware of the Joker

The new Joker film has generated controversy. If you haven’t deiced whether or not to see it, be aware it has scary moments! The new DC Comics movie reinvents Batman’s arch nemesis: The Joker – in a new twist that actually works! Heath Ledger’s cinematic Joker is legendary and earned him a posthumous Oscar award as Best Supporting Actor in 2008.

The publishers of Action Comics had no indication that Superman was selling their new comic book title. Once they discovered this fact, Superman appeared on every cover of Action Comics thereafter. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got hammered in their deal as the creators of Superman and suffered financially.

Victor Fox was employed in the emerging comic book industry at National Allied Publications and he tasked young comic artist Bob Kahn to come up with another vigilante hero. Once Kahn found out how much they were taking home weekly during the Depression, Kahn exclaimed he would have a masked crime fighter on Vic’s desk come Monday morning. Kahn scrawled the nascent images of The Batman and the rest is murky history!

The Most Dangerous Villain in Comic Books

Bob Kane changed his name and negotiated a lucrative financial deal for himself cutting out Bill Finger as his partner and never mentioning Jerry Robinson who he met afterwards. The Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939, and publishers knew immediately that they had a huge hit pulp mag on their hands and the stands.

Batman’s popularity was unparalleled such that he received his own self-titled comic book by the Spring of 1940. Batman #1 premiered with Robin already as his sidekick and not one, but two Joker stories! Batman #1 also showcased the first appearance of the Catwoman.

The Joker was the lead villain in the first and fourth stories in the new Batman comic book. At the end of the fourth story with his second appearance in ink, The Joker died in an ambulance. Remember Vic? Well good ole Vic intervened and over-ruled Kane. His verdict was that The Joker should Live!

And thus was born The Joker! Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger are three major actors who portrayed Batman’s blood enemy on the silver screen. Mark Hamill receives an honorable mention as a popular animated cartoon Joker.

The Joker undergoes a Criminally Insane Make-Over

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the new clown prince of crime in Joker who is the alter ego of Arthur Fleck. Fleck is a sorry sort of fellow who never gets a break. A lost soul among the hustle and bustle of Gotham City, Fleck is a barely employed clown who struggles to debut on stage as a stand-up comic. Things do not go so well for Fleck as he encounters unfortunate escapades on the mean streets of Gotham.

A good way to compare Ledger to Phoenix as The Joker is that Ledger was a grandiose Joker who blew up a hospital, used knives to carve his victims and torched a corporate criminal resting atop a humongous mountain of cash. Phoenix as this new psychotic Joker commits interpersonal acts of extreme violence. This appears to have wigged out both critics and a good deal of people at the theater.

Well, The Joker is possibly the most popular super arch villain in comic books having received his own comic book title in 1976. And The Joker is a brutal killer who enjoys murder and mayhem. A 1951 comic origin revealed he was a small fry Gotham City industrial burglar known as the Red Hood. While escaping from a botched robbery, he fell into a vat of chemicals that scarred his epidermis and turned his skin white, his hair green and his lips ruby red; a ghoulish fiend whose mind was warped by this turn of events. 

Joaquin Phoenix is a Joker who would fit in comfortably with the chaotic malaise of Baltimore. This is not exactly a family film to bring the kids to see. It is raw and wrenching as the antagonist slowly morphs into the deranged homicidal manic comic book fans all know and love. The problem at hand now is how to select an actor as Batman to go up against this terrifying new Joker!

Author Profile

Timothy Tilghman
Timothy Tilghman
Timothy Tilghman is a Columnist for NRN. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Tilghman earned a Master of Arts degree in verbal and visual communications in December 2002. He has hosted a weekly radio program since June 2010. He has been a contributing Reporter to the Northern News since July 2013, which publishes weekly in Carroll County. Tilghman has written for two collegiate campus newspapers and published several independent newsletters.