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August 02, 2004

3. Joker
I can't get Buckwheat outta my head. You know. Buckwheat from the Lil Rascals. I don't think Buckwheat spelled his name Buckwheat. Eddie. Remember when Buckwheat was assassinated. I've had that shit on my mind all day, Buckwheat getting shot and pushed in a car. All night on Saturday Night Live they showed Buckwheat getting shot in slow motion. You know, like Reagan. I don't know why I keep thinking about it. I need to see it again. I haven't seen that shit in years. I know someone has a rip of it somewhere on-line. Maybe they'll show it one late night on Saturday. Real late when they show those SNL reruns. Like Sunday morning.

Psychic. On Montell, or some other talk show like that. I remember them saying that Bush's presidency had a dark cloud hanging over it. Or assassination. But they didn't say Bush. They just said the next president. I think. I had to get that out. It's been on my mind, too. Anyway. Let's get back on topic.

The man in the 3 slot is none other than the clown prince of crime. In fact he dresses just like Prince. And he has one word for a name. Both love purple. And they both have the same hair-do. Damn. I think I just solved an Unsolved Mystery. Anyway, the man from parts unknown (Minneapolis). Shit. Now I'm getting it. Wait til they get a load of me. Prince - Jack Nicholson - Joker. Damn. I'm slow as fuck. It took me over a fuckin' decade to get it. Prince, you are one funny bastard.


1940 is a long time to be on the scene. Joker is one of the originals that has stood the test of time, mainly due to the weird unsettling combination of comedy and homicide that greatly embodies his character, like a fine aged 1979 Ripple. One of the weirdest, and possibly most sickening events in the Joker timeline is when the Joker beats the living shit out of Jason Todd in a Death In The Family storyline. I mean, Todd, who was Robin at the time, was busted up like Nicole Brown Simpson. And DC had this great idea to have the readers call one of those 900 numbers to see if Todd would live or die. And the sick thing is that the readers voted for his death. They said Fuck You, Todd. Beyotch! They hated his ass. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back in time.

Joker was a regular, run-of-the-mill, good ole' boy thug who went by the name of Red Hood. He had a pregnant wife, and used a life of crime to take care of his family. The scientist, or engineer, according to whatever story origin version you prefer, is sucked into a plan to rob the plant where he worked. During the robbery attempt, he learns that his pregnant wife has died. He wants to back out, but the other dudes working with him won't let him back out of the plan. During the attempt Batman confronts him. In a panic, the Red Hood jumps into a vat of chemicals to escape Batman. When he resurfaces he finds that his appearance has been changed drastically. He now has pale skin, bright green hair, and ruby red lips. The transformation, along with the death of his wife and unborn child, causes him to go insane. And the Joker is born.

Possibly. A recurring theme is that half of the villains on this list really have no origin. Why? Because only they would know how or why they became what they became. And the bad guys are usually liars by trait. And in Joker's case, he's also insane. Plus, I don't think it fits completely with the Batman/Joker theme. Joker, without the pregnant, dead wife, is a man just trying to make a buck. This seems closer to the true Joker origin. A career criminal whose luck has ran out on him one day. And for the rest of his life, he's defined by this senseless incident.

Most heroes go through several conversions before they become heroes. Spider-man, gets bitten by a radioactive spider, rebukes the responsibility that came with his newfound power, and lets a burglar escape. Burglar robs Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and Uncle Ben is killed by the burglar. An abusive father, gamma radiation, cosmic rays, all natural universal occurrences resulting in unnatural results. Batman and Joker start off with something quite simpler.

Boy sees parents killed before his eyes. This incident on this one day defines Bruce Wayne for the rest of his life. No cosmic radioactive storm. No being bitten by a radioactive spider. No gamma rays. No genetic mutation. Just one incident on one day. And for the rest of his life this one incident gives him definition. Bruce Wayne sculpts himself, cultivates a new image, one that tries to make sense out of one senseless act on one random day.

Joker. Whoever he might be, whatever might have motivated him, gets caught up in a situation. Possibly trying to make things right for his wife and kid, or not, and attaches himself to a robbery that will soon fail terribly. An engineer looking to make one big score, confronted by his greatest nightmare, Batman. And a rash act has him leap into a vat of chemicals that will forever change him. When he resurfaces, he is not super strong, or super smart. He is only disfigured. One day, one incident, defines this man, and the Joker is born.

Two men on one scale, one balance; one trying to make sense out of the senseless, using logic to define illogical events; the other accepting the senseless as the sensible, trying to reshape the normal and reduce it to the grotesque. Wouldn't it make things sweeter if Joker was never really disfigured, if his appearance was self-induced. It would add more to the theory. Both men could have walked away from the incident that defined them and went about living normal lives. But both decided to build upon the dysfunction. Or better yet, maybe Joker isn't the dysfunctional one.

Maybe the incident that defined Joker was so overwhelming, so concrete, he could not escape the transformation to homicidal maniac. His pain stares him in the face everyday. Everyday when he looks into the mirror he is reminded of who he is and what his purpose should be. How many of us wish our purpose was so solidly defined?

No. The real problem, the real person with the issues is the man, who took a similar devastating event, who had money, and friends, a life, an important job waiting, a possible wife and children, female adoration, and ultimately chose to separate himself mentally, spiritually from that life, and to live his adult life purposely dressing up as a Man-Bat. The truth is that Bruce Wayne can remove his mask anytime he wants. Joker can't.

Isn't it fitting that these two are so closely related to one another. It makes you wonder why Batman never took a knife to Joker's throat and offed him. Could it be that Batman needs the Joker more than Joker needs the Batman? What would happen if your grand symbol, the thing that most represented your theory of the world, of why you were needed in your continued dysfunctional role, ceased to exist. The police can take care of the regular bad guys. Super-heroes are only needed because there are super-villains.

What would Bruce Wayne do with himself if his purpose ceased to exist? If the Joker was no longer an excuse?

If only we all had it so lucky.

The Golden Age of Batman
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