Darkness and light, order and chaos, logic and insanity, good and evil… Batman and the Joker.
Two men who are, and always have been the deadliest of enemies. The real question is, has it always been this way? Does it have to be this way?
Back in 2011, DC Comics launched its New 52 initiative. A bold, fresh, new direction for their most iconic characters, some of whom had been around for over 70 years. Since then rumors surfaced that famed writer/artist Marc Silvestri was working on a Batman comic, which sadly never materialised.
The same story has now reared its head again, with the advent of DC’s Rebirth line of comics.
Fan-site Bleeding Cool News has been after any semblance of truth behind the alleged Silvestri Batman project for six years. Three years ago, the rumors started circulating again. They recently even posted some art from the theoretical book. The latest reports seem to indicate that – if it ever actually comes to fruition – the story will comprise of a six issue limited series teaming the Dark Knight with the Clown Prince Of Crime.
Fact Or Fiction
The art is actually quite stunning, though hardly conclusive. There is a grinning figure, which could be a possessed Joker. There’s a black gloved hand digging for clues, which may belong to Batman. There are police cars parked outside a Gothic building which is reminiscent of the GCPD headquarters. There’s a city skyline which might be Gotham City… there’s nothing there which really screams of a team-up between Batman and the Joker.
If this is the case, then it’s a great shame, as the idea has always been an intriguing one. Marc Silvestri has produced some fine work in the past, including a story in Batman: Black & White which was very well received and beautifully illustrated.
Batman: Black & White
Perhaps the real issue has been one of timing; perhaps DC felt that we’ve had too many recent (though memorable) Batman/Joker encounters. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s terrific Death Of the Family and Endgame to name but two. Or perhaps scheduling or creative conflicts between the artist and publisher have been a factor? It’s well documented that Frank Miller’s two Batman series, The Dark Knight Strikes Again and DKIII were both held up and had publication delays for these reasons.
Past Tense, Future Imperfect
Another recent team up between these two icons of comics almost didn’t see the light of day at all!
In 2015, Batman: Europa was released, a four issue mini-series which was plagued with issues, roadblocks and false starts from the beginning. It was originally announced in 2005, but wasn’t completed or published until 2015. The story centred around Batman being taken down by a virus with no cure, and his arch-nemesis the Joker the only hope for his salvation. Together, the enemies crossed the length and breadth of Europe, desperate to find the answers of who infected Batman, what did the Joker know about it, and how could they possibly work together? When finally released, the book was well worth the wait.
In recent DC history, the two characters were fused together in the dystopian future of The New 52: Futures End (2014-2015). This was both horrifying and fascinating. Seeing them both in one body with a rotating head; a living embodiment of their seemingly co-dependent relationship was intriguing. Chaotic evil and lawful good vying for dominance over one form.
The idea of these two rivals joining forces is hardly a new one. On TV, in the comics, in and out of continuity they have worked together. Batman has defended his enemy when wrongly accused of murder, saved him from death row, and they even teamed-up to fight Owl-Man, an evil version of Batman from a parallel world. These are all great stories and the rivals turned comrades idea still has plenty of mileage.
Two Sides Of The Same Coin
My favorite team-up between Batman and the Joker took place in Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin series, which ran from 2009-2011. In this story, we see the true love/hate relationship between the characters. Bruce Wayne is missing, presumed dead at this point in DC continuity. With his rival gone, the Joker gives up his usual role and his very identity, taking on the role and personality of one of his victims; Oberon Sexton.
Sexton – A.K.A The Gravedigger – was a British crime novelist who had murdered his wife and, like in the plot from one of his books, had manipulated the evidence to get away with it. The Joker figured out the truth, murdered him and took over his life.
When we met Sexton he was assisting the GCPD and he even aided the new Batman, Dick Grayson. Joker’s sixth sense and connection with Bruce Wayne makes up one of fiction’s greatest relationships. Back when Azrael took over as Batman, Joker saw through the disguise. With Grayson’s Batman, he couldn’t see the same potential of conflict that he had with Bruce Wayne, so aided Dick until Wayne – the true Batman in Joker’s eyes – returned.
You Complete Me
This co-dependence is a recurring theme in the complex love/hate relationship between Batman and the Joker. After the Caped Crusader’s retirement in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, the Joker fell into a catatonic state until his rival’s re-emergence.
When Bruce Wayne lost his memory and Jim Gordon took over as Batman, in Superheavy by Scott Snyder, the Joker became inactive and returned to his Eric Border alias.
It’s a beautiful dichotomy; as Batman would love nothing more than a life without the Joker, but the Harlequin of Hate doesn’t want a life at all without Batman.
Hopefully, the legendary Marc Silvestri Batman/Joker comic will become a reality. In the meantime, we have hundreds of incredible stories that we can read, and re-read forever. They may not be collaborations, like the tales I’ve mentioned above; but there are legends of hate, revenge and the infinite possibilities that one bad day can bring.
One bad day gave us the force for good that is Batman, another – one that’s never remembered the same way twice – gave us his greatest foe. The dance began almost 30 years before I was born, and will continue long after I’m gone. These stories and these characters will truly live on forever.