Batman at 75: The Joker – Anonymous Clown

The Joker from his first appearance

The man who laughs, the man without an origin, the man with hundreds of origins. The final part of the Batman at 75 articles can’t look at anyone else but the Clown Prince of Crime and try to touch on his roots…

THIS FINAL BIRTHDAY POST FOR BATS MAY BE A LITTLE LATE…. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T PERFECT. WHILE LAST YEAR WAS BATMAN’S ANNIVERSARY, THIS YEAR IS THE JOKER’S 75TH BIRTHDAY.

Yes, the Joker. The Harlequin of Hate. The Clown Prince of Crime. The villain with a hundred nicknames. And quite possibly the greatest fictional nemesis ever devised. He’s a villain, though not one restricted by his matching hero. He’s famous in his own right, a symbol and a sign, a definite statement of something… So, it’s a welcome luxury that the Joker has surpassed mere origins for his 75 years of existence. When it comes to his nocturnal and ultimate foe, retcons may alter facets of his origin story – the role his butler took or perhaps the ‘rediscovery’ childhood friends – but up to the bat and the window he’s very much defined by the strict facts of his origin. The Joker isn’t. The Harlequin of Hate is Batman’s opposite after all, despite classic stories that have drawn out the similarities as much as those polar difference.

And of those stories, some of the greatest stored in the Bat Computer have given, or at least hinted at origins for the laughing rogue. But one was never afraid to contradict another, or pick and embellish them as they wanted. It’s absolute freedom (within editorial reason); it’s continuity chaos.

Off page it’s a similar story. Various influences have been cited as an influence by a number of comic legends, including the father of the Dark Knight Bob Kane.  Add to that the vast number who have filled in to expand and explore it since. Of course, as this is the Joker we’re talking about nothing’s straightforward. And just like his villain’s own autobiography, neither any writer’s attempt nor Jokerside’s dip into the acid can be exhaustive.

So dotting through the life, times and media of the Clown, here are some select glances at Joker’s many zero years. Of course, the joke’s on everyone. For a character all about obscurity he sure has a lot of people trying to redefine him. And for every fact you think you learn, by the end you find that he hasn’t given a quarter. No matter how many times he seems to come last.

1940 – Cold-blooded murderer

“The Joker has spoken!”

Last September, Jokerside’s hot off the press review of Batman #1 caught the arrival of the villain who was to quickly rise above the greatest rogues’ gallery in comicdom:

“First and foremost is the debut of that deadly clown, a grim jester known only as the Joker whose statement of intent is immediately made clear when he makes a sinister ‘return’ before the book is even done.” Read more…

Doctor Who: The Late 1970s, The Fourth Doctor and Stitches in Time

Doctor Who and the late 1970s

 

40 years on from his first full appearance, there may not be a better time to look at the Fourth Doctor, still the very real and lasting giant of the series.  As Last Christmas showed, there’s a lot to be said for a snappy, irritable, aloof and alien Doctor in this universe. It’s not just the Glam side of the 1970s that will play a key role in the future of Doctor Who?

THE START OF THIS WEEK MARKED ONE OF THE GREAT ANNIVERSARIES IN ALL WHODOM: 40 YEARS SINCE THE FOURTH DOCTOR’S FIRST FULL EPISODE. He’d already appeared at the tail-end of Planet of the Spiders in June 1974. But lying prone on the floor, there was precious little indication of what was to come, even in that first rather simplistic serial Robot. In hindsight, after a staggering seven seasons, encompassing 41 stories and 172 episodes Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor remains the most prolific of the Time Lords. The Tenth and Eleventh incarnations would come close with 36 and 39 stories respectively, thanks to 2005’s format change. But still, despite the strong and sterling headway the last two made in America, it’s often the famous grinning, long-scarved figure of the Fourth that pops up in popular culture.

Repetition

Losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape…

Jokerside’s Whovember series took a long look at the Fourth Doctor’s debut season, reasoning that it’s the single finest series of Doctor Who. And when it came to his debut appearance, it was clear that “Tom Baker… did something different”:

“Immediately, Baker’s Doctor isn’t as attached to UNIT as Pertwee’s had been, even during his last season. He can’t wait to escape but as he says, “I hate goodbyes”. Watching it, I can’t help but think what any other Doctor would have done. Had it been the Sixth, he may well have buckled down a lot sooner. Still, the Fourth had his own slightly too silly costume selection to make. Overlong and reaching, fortunately once chosen, it’s the speed and comfort that’s the punch line. Years of familiarity have enhanced the joke. And then the more telling phrase for this Doctor: “There’s no such word as can’t”.

“Hanging between that and “No point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes” the Fourth Doctor comes straight out of a peculiar Gallifreyan can. One that’s bigger on the inside obviously. They are words to live by, and live he does. Lounging around Bessie in a way Pertwee would have tutted at, losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape – but still carrying off the role of the scientist when he needs to.”

Doctor Who: A Fresh Scarf – “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile” (Whovember #4)

Though resolutely still in the UNIT set-up, albeit one softened by the Third Doctor’s recent mobility, and written by Third Doctor stalwart Terrance Dicks, the Fourth Doctor’s initial appearance is an instant tide-turner. Almost immediately – far more than his predecessor, a noted comic actor – Baker is happy to lets loose with laugh out loud moments. True, he’s nominally not ‘acting’ a new persona as much Pertwee had, but he’s instantly engaging.

To summarise the Whovember breakdown, Tom Baker’s arrival got everything right. Though cast by outgoing producer Barry Letts the new Doctor couldn’t have hoped for a better incoming producer and script editor. While he may be losing an increasingly sparse UNIT family, Baker was incredibly lucky in the companion stakes. Sarah Jane Smith really came into her own when paired with this incarnation of the Time Lord, possibly his perfect foil. But she wasn’t alone, with a season of (lovable) public school idiot Harry Sullivan rounding off one of the all-time classic TARDIS crews. That’s fortunate, as the first full season story arc in the history of Who saw them propelled across five adventures over 20 weeks with very little TARDIS in sight. Read more…

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