"The Joker has been released from Arkham Asylum."Joker
is a 2008 one-shot graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, focusing - just like it says on the tin
- on The Joker
, everyone's favourite Monster Clown
. The story is done in a Darker and Edgier
, Film Noir
style and is told by a naive young criminal named Jonny Frost who yearns to be a big man in Gotham. So when (for reasons nobody seems to know) The Joker
is released from Arkham Asylum and sets out to reclaim the city for himself, Frost decides he wants in. Carnage Ensues
! Along the way, they bump into the Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn
and the B-man himself
There's a lot of visual similarities between this version of the Joker and the one presented in The Dark Knight
; Word of God
chalks this down to coincidence...which turns out to be a case of Lying Creator
. The original title of the comic was even Joker: The Dark Knight
(in the same vein as the partnership's previous graphic novel Lex Luthor: Man of Steel
, which is a fun companion to this work) but that had to be scrapped for obvious reasons.
If you wanted the page for the character, that's here
This graphic novel provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Joker suggesting that Killer Croc give him a blowjob makes Croc and the other gangsters laugh.
- Ax-Crazy: Imagine all the murderous insanity that powered the incarnations of The Joker that Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill played. Now cram it all into one guy. He's that crazy.
- Batman Gambit: The premise is that Joker, somehow, gets out of Arkham through the front gate, it's suggested but never said whether in fact he was legally released. Later, he intimates to the Riddler that this was a sham.
"The best place to hide, Edward, is in sanity!"
- Bodyguard Babes: In this story, Harley Quinn serves this role to the Joker. She's never seen speaking on panel, though presumably she can, Jonny just doesn't notice it.
- Breaking Speech: Joker tries to deliver one to Batman, calling him out on trying to look like a monster but leaving his chiselled, heroic jaw bare for all to see. Batman turns it on its head and sends Joker into an Unstoppable Rage. He did it with just three words; "To mock you".
- Cardboard Prison: Lampshaded, since no-one understands why the Joker is being released.
- Cassandra Truth: Harvey Dent sics one of his crooked cops on Jonny to warn him about the Joker, and then calls Jonny to his office to warn him some more: "you are involved with a sick man who will see you die... because for him, death is the punchline." Granted, the Joker's far from laughing by the time he shoots Jonny in the face at point-ouch range but Dent was close enough about the death part.
- Curse Cut Short: A minor example
Joker: "I'd like your crew to run it for me still. They can be trusted, right? 'Cuz I get a whiff of skimmin', it's like my boogers are turned into sh—"
Johnny Bang Bang: "—You ain't gonna smell boo from us."
- Darker and Edgier: Oh yes. See Deconstruction below.
- Deconstruction: Word of God states that the series was meant to make the Joker scary again, after all the anti-heroic and idealized traits he'd acquired by fans.
- Specifically, the book came out soon after The Dark Knight had come out. For everyone who treated Ledger's Joker as a Draco in Leather Pants, this book stands as a harsh rebuke, reminding everyone that despite how "fun" or "cool" the Joker's chaos is, he's still evil and you absolutely should not idolize him.
- Dirty Cop: Two-Face has several in his pocket.
- Downer Ending: Jonny, dying of a bullet to the face, concludes that the Joker represents a disease older than civilization with no cure and jumps off a bridge while Batman and the Joker have a punch-up in the background, neither of them even notice.
- Even Evil Has Standards: As usual the supervillains, mob bosses, and Jerkass criminals are just as horrified by the Joker as the good guys are. Two-Face in particular is freaked out by the Joker and convinces Batman to intervene on the gang war when the Joker claims that he'll "kill" one of his personalities.
- Evil Versus Evil: Most of the book is Joker vs. Two Face's criminal empire. Batman doesn't even step in until Harvey Dent, terrified by Joker's threat to "kill" one of his personalities, makes his own Bat-Signal and pleads with Batman to intervene.
- Establishing Character Moment: When the Joker goes to meet with a bar owner who formerly worked for him, they disappear for a few minutes... before the barman returns, stripped of all of his skin from the neck down.
- Flaying Alive: Joker pulls this.
- Flipping the Bird: First thing Joker does in the comicbook. To Gotham City.
- Film Noir: This is pretty much GoodFellas starring the Joker.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Jonny Frost, or "Jonny Jonny" to Joker.
- Five-Bad Band: The main people in the Joker's gang:
- Glasgow Grin: Joker has a particularly nasty-looking one, and Jonny seems to get one when the Joker shoots him in the face.
- Groin Attack: Joker to Jonny.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Anything might make the Joker laugh, anything might make him kick you in the bollocks or knife you Or grind the broken end of a glass bottle into your face.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Killer Croc's job includes "disposing of bodies". Om nom om.
- This is driven home when you see Croc eating what looks like just fried meat, but from Jonny's above view, you see what's on the plate is a human heart. And floating in a nearby boiling pot... a skull.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Joker owns a strip club called the "Grin and Bare It".
- Justice by Other Legal Means: Not used, but mentioned gleefully when the Joker discovers that both of Harvey Dent's personalities are married, since, much like Al Capone with tax evasion, Dent could be put away for bigamy.
- Kick the Dog: For Joker, it's raping Shelly and murdering a completely random couple in their home.
- Laughing Mad: Jonny ends up laughing deliriously at one point.
- Meaningful Name: Possibly just a coincidence, but the name Jonny Frost is sort of similar to Joe Chill, the man who gunned down Batman's parents.
- ''Noir'' Graphic Novels Don't Use Codenames: Oswald Cobblepot is never addressed by his real name or his criminal identity, The Penguin. Joker only ever refers to him as "Abner" as a sign of disrespect.
- Oh, Crap: The look on Joker's face when he finds Croc and his men hogtied, indicating that Batman has finally found him, speaks volumes.
- The entire city of Gotham gets a collective one when the news spreads that Joker is being released from Arkham.
- Only Sane Man: Deconstructed with Jonny. Joker admitted he keeps him around because he more down to earth than he is, but the book goes out of its way to just how absurd it is for a sane man to be around these people.
- Painting the Medium: Two-Face's Speech Bubble goes wavey to indicate which part of Harvey is talking.
- Properly Paranoid: Joker always thinks someone is watching him.
Joker: "Look out the window, Jonny Jonny... tell me what you see"
Jonny: "I see lights"
Joker: "Lights? Heh heh heh HA HA HA HA! Those lights? They're pin pricks... in the dark. He's out there. You know that Jonny? Right on the other side of this window... watching me."
- Rape as Drama: The Joker rapes Shelly, Jonny's ex-wife.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Basically the plot of the story is that the Joker is out to get back his criminal empire and get revenge on those who screwed him out of said empire while he was in Arkham.
- Scary Black Man: Killer Croc is reimagined as a scary black man with sharpened, shark-like teeth and a scaly skin condition. Basically what he's always been, in fact. It's just that in classic comics, his skin has become worse over the years.
- Shout-Out: The unexplained briefcase Joker gets from the Riddler is a shout-out to Pulp Fiction.
- Also featuring a "The End is Nigh" poster on page 30, which is something of a shout-out to former Batman writer Alan Moore and the Watchmen.
- Slasher Smile: The Joker, of course.
- Stripperific: Harley Quinn, who briefly acts as an actual stripper.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Jonny starts to show signs of this, but gets knocked back down swiftly and painfully both times.
- Thematic Series: The story is a companion piece to Azzarello and Bermejo's earlier Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (later rereleased in a collected edition under the title Luthor, to reinforce the connection):
- Both are rather dark and deconstructive takes on the Batman and Superman universes with their respective arch-nemeses acting as Villain Protagonists.
- In both, the superheroes act as rarely-seen threats lurking ominously on the edges.
- Both also explore the mindsets of each villain, and the worlds they inhabit. This consequently introduces an element of Unreliable Narrator, as neither villain is a wholly trustworthy source (Luthor's narrative, which initially seems quite utopian, is ultimately warped by his humanist pretensions and paranoid delusions, while the Joker's narrative is naturally drenched in an atmosphere of horrific nihilism and casual sadism from the outset).
- Both initially appear to be deconstructing the superhero, only to turn it around and end up revealing exactly how monstrous the villain is and why we shouldn't trust them at all. As an example, both works climax in a confrontation between villain and hero in which the villain launches into a lengthy and deconstructive "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how inadequate the hero is, only for the hero to respond with a brief Shut Up, Hannibal! statement (two sentences for Superman, three words for Batman) that not only refutes everything the villain has tried to claim about the hero, but turns it back on the villain in such a way that drives them to a Villainous Breakdown.
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Jonny introduces himself as "Jonny. Jonny Frost." when he firsts meets Joker. This backfires because it causes Joker to refer to him as "Jonny Jonny" for the entire story.
- The Unreveal: It's never revealed how Joker got out of Arkham via legal means. Also, it's never exactly revealed what thing Riddler steals for Joker.
- The Voiceless: Harley Quinn doesn't get a single line despite doing some thoroughly awesome stuff.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: About five pages in, right when the Joker is strolling out of Arkham and looking back at its battlements. Take a look at the gargoyle in panel two. Then again in panel four. Miss something? "Now there's a Batman!"
- Wrong Genre Savvy:
- Harvey Dent seems to think he's living in Casino or GoodFellas or some other crime-Noir drama, with himself, naturally, at its head. The Joker cuts his arm open for it.
- Jonny has similar delusions. He believes he's the Henry Hill to Joker's Jimmy Conway and realizes too late that he's living with a psychopath that will destroy him the second he feels like it.
- X Meets Y: Batman meets Casino and GoodFellas.