Sep
19
Film Theory: Batman’s Three JOKER Theory pt. 1 (Suicide Squad)


Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
na na na na na na na na na na MATPAAAAAT! Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
na na na na na na na na na na MATPAAAAAT! MATPAAAAAT! MATPAAAAAAAAAAAT! [Intro Plays] Hello, Internet! Welcome to Film Theory, one of the few series
that managed to make a successful crossover from video games to the movies! Suck on that, Prince of Persia! [Air Horn] But seriously, let’s get right into today’s theory because it’s one I’m pretty darn excited about. The new Suicide Squad movie is coming out and none of the trailers have shown Doomsday yet, so overall, I’m fairly optimistic. But what the trailers HAVE shown is one of
my all-time favorite comic book villains: The JOKER. Now, the thing I’ve always loved about the
guy is the mystery that just follows him everywhere. Who IS he? It’s one of the longest-held questions about
the Batman universe, but recently, DC has started to tip their hand a bit…at least in the comics. In Justice League #42, Batman gains access to the Mobius chair, an intergalactic chair that has all the knowledge in the universe. After Batman sits in the chair, he tests it
by asking a question only he knows the answer to: Who killed his parents? And the chair gets it right. So with the chair successfully proving that it knows all…or at least saw the opening minutes of practically every Batman ever made, Batman asks the most important question of all. No, not “Who thought the Martha thing was a good idea in Batman V Superman?” Or, “What WAS the deal with the Bat
Nipple Suit?” but the question that’s been on everyone’s mind since the earliest days
of the comics: “Who is The Joker?” We actually don’t get to hear the Mobius Chair’s answer, only Batman’s stunned reaction. Then, 8 issues and a year later in Justice League #50 we finally learn what the Mobius Chair told Batman. Now, if you thought Game of Thrones has frustrating cliffhangers, then you’re gonna love this one: In the issue, Batman reveals that the Mobius Chair told him there were not one, not two, but THREE different Jokers. WHAT?!?!? Way to milk it, DC. And of course, the internet lit up with theories. No Batman character was safe. Alfred? Clearly The Joker. Robin? Also The Joker. Batman himself? Somehow still The Joker. But your guess as to why is just as good as mine. So yeah, that’s all well and good, but to me, the coolest part of this reveal wasn’t so much the implications for the comics, but rather the implications for the
movies. Because if there are three Jokers in the comics, could there also be three different Jokers in the DC film universe? Now that’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Just look to the man behind it all: Geoff
Johns. He’s a legendary comic writer and wrote
Justice League #42 and #50. The issues dealing with this Mobius Chair. He’s the man responsible for DC Rebirth and recently it was announced that he would be co-running DC Films. He’s literally the man whose job it is to translate the universe of the comics onto the screen. So if someone, ANYONE, is going to adhere to this MONUMENTAL reveal from the comics, it’s going to be him. And looking at the Batmans that are already in the movies, surprisingly, the theory holds. Up to this point, there have only been three
live-action interpretations of The Joker. In the 1966 Batman: The Movie, The Joker was played by Cesar Romero; then in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman, The Joker was reinvented by Jack Nicholson; and, of course, in the 2008 Chris Nolan sequel The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger reinterpreted him yet again. Sure, there have been animated versions of the character as well, but in terms of just live-action, it’s a perfect fit. But those are the Jokers of the past! We now have the inclusion of Suicide Squad, and it’s new Joker played by Jared Leto. That makes four different live action Jokers
– so what gives? Well what if it turned out that Jared Leto
wasn’t a new Joker, but was instead picking up the baton from one of the Jokers we’ve
already seen in the past. It’d be huge deal for the cinematic DC Universe,but it begs the question, which one would he be? And is there even any proof that this assertion is even worth testing? Well to find out for sure, we’ll need to
know a little more about the other three Jokers and see how the Batman comic and movies collide. The history of comics can be divided into
four distinct periods: The Golden Age of 1938-1950, The Silver Age of 1956-1970, The Bronze Age of 1970-1985, and The Modern Age of 1985-Today. And comics changed a whole bunch across those different ages – and along with them, portrayals of The Joker. The Golden Age was when the first super-hero comics like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were first being published. They became really popular right after the
Great Depression and during World War II, at a time when the U.S. really needed larger-than-life heroes, and as a result, feature patriotic heroes
doing battle against, uhh, let’s just say “foreign” looking foes. It was during this age that The Joker made
his first appearance in the 1940 Batman #1. This first Joker was a deranged serial killer
with a sadistic sense of humor. In the first issue, Joker announces on the
radio his plans to steal a diamond and murder a guy, then he just DOES IT. Just…goes and does it. In Batman’s first twelve issues, he kills
dozens of people and does some pretty sick stuff, like burn smiles onto all his victims
faces and make masks out of peoples’ skin. Peoples’ SKIN. Is this the comics or Silence of the Lambs? Jeez. The Golden Age of Comics wasn’t just superhero stories though. There were actually all kinds of comics: horror, crime, westerns, romance. And they weren’t just for kids either, a lot of them had themes were pretty darn adult. In the middle of the 1950s anti-communist
paranoia though, Fredric Wertham released “The Seduction of the Innocent” where he blamed comic books for all “juvenile delinquency”. Hmm, sound familiar at all? So obviously, as people began to get more sensitive, there became an increased call to tone down the violence in these books. However, instead of waiting for the government to censor them, comic book publishers censored themselves. In 1954, The Comics Code Authority was formed to review and approve comics…by their own rules. Rules like: In comics, “Crimes shall never
be presented to create sympathy for the criminal”, “Romance stories shall emphasize the value
of the home and the sanctity of marriage.”, and “All scenes of horror, bloodshed, gory
or gruesome crimes…shall not be permitted.” as well as 37 other rules. With these changes began the Silver Age of
Comics. The Silver Age, often referred to as the “Age
of Innocence”, was all about fantasy and optimism. Since crime and horror were heavily regulated,
superheroes started battling monsters and aliens instead of people. The grittiness of The Golden Age was gone
and replaced with campy humor. And the Joker was no exception. In the 1950s and 60’s, the Joker went from
being a mass murderer to being just a prankster. He was like a tamer version of Roman Atwood! All the Joker wanted during the Silver Age
was cash. In fact, in a 1952 issue, “Joker’s Millions”,
The Joker inherits a massive fortune and just retires from crime altogether! Peace out, guys, I’m done! Until of course it turns out his whole fortune is counterfeit. Ugh, I hate when that happens! The Joker here never kills or even harms anyone. It’s like Looney Tunes with Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny, where he basically just gets out-pranked by Batman. This is also where he got all his gadgets:
hand buzzer, spitting flower, trick guns and even his own car: The Jokermobile. It took 20 years, but eventually people got
sick of the saccharine Comics Code Authority and basically stopped following it, ushering in The Bronze Age. Now, The Bronze Age of comics brought back comics
as a place to address social issues and return them to their darker roots. This is where Iron Man dealt with alcoholism,
Spiderman’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey died and The Joker became a murderer again. YAY! The difference between this and the Golden
Age, though, is that now there was a big emphasis on the psychology of these characters. For instance, in 1973’s The Joker’s Five-Way
Revenge, The Joker escapes from an insane asylum and systematically kills the five men
who ratted him out. The new version of the Joker emphasized his
insanity and mental instability. Instead of an evil master criminal or a goofy
prankster, The Joker is a mentally ill psychopath who chooses not to control his actions. The Modern Age of Comics doubled down on this dark and gritty imagery. The best example is The Dark Knight Returns, which was a comic before it was a movie. Surprise! And just like to movie, the comic emphasized the fact that the Joker can’t function or or practically even exist without Batman as his counterpart; the yin to his yang. All of this should be sounding familiar. So we have three ages of comics and three
Jokers: the criminal mastermind; the goofy prankster; and the psychopath. When Geoff Johns announced there were three
different Jokers in Justice League #50, he was basically explaining away how the character has evolved over the past eighty years. it could be interpreted that the three Jokers of The Gold, Silver and Bronze/Modern
Age have now just become their own separate characters. But if it’s true in the comics, does it also work in the movies? Surprisingly, yes! Because when you look at it, the three film
versions of The Joker seamlessly correspond to the three comic versions. The 1966 Cesar Romero Joker is the Silver
Age Joker: a goofy prankster with crazy schemes, constantly outwitted by Batman. Romero’s Joker isn’t a murderer or a sadistic
madman, he’s just a thief; obsessed with robbing banks and art museums. And much like The Silver Age Joker, Romero’s version uses a variety of gadgets: a spraying flower, a utility belt, hand buzzers, gas grenades and yes, even his own car: The Jokermobile. Tim Burton’s 1989 Jack Nicholson Joker is a completely different take, which makes sense because he’s the Golden Age version. The Nicholson Joker’s origin story follows
the exact same story that’s given to the Golden Age Joker, where he’s a career criminal
who slips into a vat of chemicals after being cornered by Batman. He’s disfigured and when he sees his reflection
at the surgeon’s office, he goes completely insane – reinventing himself as The Joker,
beat-for-beat like the comic. Nicholson’s Joker is also a serious killer,
contorting his victim’s faces into permanent smiles with toxins – the same calling card
as The Golden Age Joker. The Nicholson Joker announces his plans on
television – just as The Golden Age Joker announced his plans on the radio in Batman
#1, and even uses the same flesh makeup technique. That leaves us with The Heath Ledger Joker,
the tragic psychopath. He tells Batman that he can’t live without him, that they’re destined to be adversaries forever. “I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you? You complete me.” People are constantly stating how crazy Ledger’s Joker is—how unpredictable he is, which reflects The Bronze and Modern Age’s focus on his unstable psyche. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” So there you have it, all three Jokers fit cleanly into the three Joker comic model. But then that prompts the question: Now that Jared Leto is playing the Joker in Suicide Squad, is he a new character, or which Joker line will
he be continuing? Are we ACTUALLY going to be getting to Suicide
Squad now? Mobius Chair, tell me: who is Jared Leto’s
Joker? WHAT? Are you sure? No—I’m not questioning you… But what sort of proof do you have?… Oh, that makes a lot of sense, actually… That would make a really good episode… But then I’d have to do that thing where
there’s a cliffhanger and I HATE those in TV shows, it’s the WORST! I haven’t even done Dr. Who part 3 yet, Mobius Chair! [As a 1950’s announcer]
What did The Mobius Chair tell MatPat? Who really is Jared Leto’s Joker? Would they really end on a cliffhanger after just forcing you to wait for part two of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared? Unbelievable!! Subscribe, so you can join us next week on Film Theory to find out! And, while you’re in the mood for MORE Joker action, make sure you click right here to check out the Wisecrack channel’s video on the philosophy of The Joker! Revealing the character’s original inspirations, the true meaning behind his motives, and how his evolution over the years reflects the current state of our times! The folks over at Wisecrack, always delivering loads of education, with loads of laughs, do check them out! And DO make sure that you’re here next week for the thrilling conclusion of this BAT SAGA! And in the meantime, remember: That’s just a theory,
a FILM theory. Aaaaaaaand Cut.