It’s an odd question one that can not be answered in one post I mean I barely even scratch the surface of Joker let alone the rest of his rogue’s gallery. We look at superheroes and look for escapism or somebody that we can aspire to be.
For many, Superman is the Boy Scout who has morals and goodwill and who has inspired hope, not just in the city of Metropolis, but the world as we know it. Next to him is Spiderman who has throughout his life been the underdog. We have to look no further than the everyday life of Peter Parker, he deals with normal – things that the majority of us may have dealt with at school: bullies, teen romances and all teen-related problems that are real and very important at the time. It appears that these characters are radically different, however, that has not stopped them from being a conduit for the writers’ thoughts and themes.
What seems a staple of the comics’ medium is very much the death of a loved one. Many characters have been subject to this comic book trope. The effects this has on the characters are radically different. For example, the death of Pa Kent makes Superman humble, for the fact that even though he has godlike powers, even he cannot stop death. Compare this to the effect upon Frank Castle after the death of his family which throws him into a tale of revenge; killing those he deems ‘bad people’. Although the circumstances are not similar, as one’s family dies from being murdered and the other dies from a heart attack, it is clear that tragedy plays a part in defining the way in which a character will develop his or her motivations.
Batman is up there with Superman and Spiderman as one of the three main most popular comic book characters ever. Many have said in the past that Bruce Wayne is Batman’s secret identity, now he is no longer the billionaire playboy but the vigilante, the dark knight who patrols the streets of Gotham and who uses Bruce Wayne’s fortune to fund his crusade. Alternatively, his status rose during the phase of “Bat-God” we went through in Grant Morrison’s (GM) early 2000s Justice League of America (JLA) run. Which poses the question “is it this ability to be both a god and just a man that makes us like him all the more?”
There’s a great panel from GM’s JLA where the white Martians capture the Justice League and the leader exclaims “he’s only one man” and Superman retort is “the most dangerous man on earth”, for many this sums up what Batman is. Somebody who is dangerous but has managed to earn himself a spot amongst god-like beings, who is considered their equal and at times the one trusted with leading them.
What is clear is there is a definite love of Batman evidenced by the sheer volume of comics, graphic novels, and movies made about him. What is so prevalent with Batman is the number of tonal shifts between series, but yet still remaining true to who the characters are. A prime example is the differences between the New 52 Batman run written by Scott Synder and drawn by Greg Capullo, and Tom King’s current Batman Rebirth run. We just have to look at the horror of the death of the family arc with a Joker seemingly on the edge on murdering the Bat family with this almost extremist take on what the Joker is and the levels of depravity he can go to. When we compare this to Tom King’s take on the Joker it’s in stark contrast even though there are similar ideas of what the Joker is.
The way in which the character (Joker) is portrayed through his mannerisms, looks, and attitude is vastly different with King’s Joker dressing being sleek with a more quiet menace to his character, which for some could be even more frightening, than a maniacal laughing Joker. That’s the thing with the Joker, as it is with Batman, there is the ability and opportunity to tell completely different stories in regards to certain the
themes or setting up events.
The potential has always been and continues to be enormous with these characters as they are generally semi-blank slates used to tell complex and intriguing stories that have managed to capture all of our imaginations at one time or another.