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…

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The Flash: The Fastest Show on TV Returns

The Flash on Television 

The scarlet speedster has made it to live action television for the second time. And it looks as though he has legs in the new brave world of small screen super heroics.

FLASH. THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE. WHEN IT COMES TO NOT SO SECRET ORIGINS, IT WAS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA THAT ALLOWED THE FLASH TO CREEP UP ON ME. In particular, as part of Grant Morrison’s sublime roster of the retooled Justice League of America almost two decades ago. But earlier in the ‘90s I probably claimed, and probably still have, a record for the most Blockbuster rentals of the 1990 Flash TV series.

That wasn’t all of its first and only season of course – it was well before the ‘Time of the Box Set’. That single VHS may well have been a TV movie pulled from multiple episodes, probably a pilot, but I distinctly remember Mark Hamill’s Trickster appearing which would place it in the latter half of costumed campery.

Flash Transmission

A particular highlight was the incredible Flash suit“

The Flash was in many ways a ridiculous show, costing $1.6million an episode, riding on the coat-tails of Batman’s big screen breakthrough the year before and like that film nicking Danny Elfman for the score. History has been unkind. For all the missteps in its superhero antics and struggles with the special effects of the time (really, not that bad), it was an important rung on the ladder that’s brought us the complex string of comic book movies on the small and big screens today. A particular highlight was the incredible Flash suit designed by Stan Winston Studios. Sculpted and deep scarlet, it certainly looked the part – in fact remains the best representation on screen, if a little impractical and perhaps in hindsight, a little The Tick. Read more…

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