Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Joke's on You, Jack

Few comic book villains are as none by the non-comic book reading public as the Joker.  Granted, he's never been my favorite villain, but when he's done well (think Alan Moore's The Killing Joke) he's incredible.  Unfortunately, like a lot of popular characters, he is often overused (though nowhere near as much as Wolverine) and often poorly written. 

Frank Miller's done the character justice, as have a few others.  Without the Joker, Batman wouldn't be nearly as effective a hero.  The Joker is his polar opposite.  While Daredevil has the Kingpin, those two characters work because they are both very similar to one another.  Joker and Batman is a totally different story.

Decades ago the Joker had his own comic book series.  It lasted about nine issues if memory serves me correctly, and seemed like an odd idea for a series.  I have an issue or two somewhere and will someday collect them all.  He's not my favorite character, but I will admit to taking some pleasure in reading his exploits.  There's something very refreshing about an off-kilter psychopath in make-up.  Sort of like a less sinister Rush Limbaugh or something.

Joker has already cemented his place in comic book history.  There's no doubt he deserves his spot, too.  Years from now, if our culture continues upon this path, the Joker will still be around, and he won't have changed much.  There's no need to upgrade a character that works so well from the start.  (Yes, he has changed a bit since his inception, but the course he's been on for quite some time now is the one he'll be staying on as far as I can see.)  That's what makes a character like him timeless and a character like, say, Darkhawk a toss-off to be used sparingly at best.

Now if Alan Moore would agree to do a Joker series, I'd be getting that every month without question.  Until then, however, I'll take the good stories when they come up and ignore the vast majority of them out of fear they'll be exactly as exploitative as I know they will be.  

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