Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stop kvetching to me about the new "Joker" movie

I'll start by saying: I agree with you all completely.  The Joker movie shouldn't be made, shouldn't be made by the people who are making it, and shouldn't be about his origin.

That said, I am now going to contradict most of the objections of people who feel this way.

"The Joker doesn't/shouldn't/never has had an origin!"
Yes. I feel that way, too. We are, however, completely wrong.  The Joker has had an origin since 1951.

There it is, although I can't imagine anyone reading this blog hasn't seen that already.

Granted, it's an odd and unsatisfying origin introduced in a terrible way, as a throwaway surprise ending to story that's actually about some collegiate criminology students and how the Joker got pwned by a learning-impaired gardener.  But that's how it was.  No, they, didn't give him a name; but it was still a very clear story about who he was before he became the Joker and how it happened.
The Joker has been around for 77 years and for 66 of them, he's had a known origin story.  That's 85% of his literary existence, people.  I don't like it EITHER, but it's a fact, so stop kidding yourself and deal with it.

In fact, creators can't stop talking about the Joker's origin.  The Joker's origin story has been retold more than the average hero's has.  And sometimes he even gets a name (usually "Jack" because god forbid a villains real name not bear some relationship to their eventual new identity); the ridiculous 1989 film actually named him "Jack Napier", as in "jackanapes", as in "holy crap they think the Joker is like Roy G. Bivolo."

"The director/actor won't do the Joker justice."  Oh, you're right not oh that's right. None ever have.  The travesty of fat, old, crude Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film, playing not the Joker, but himself in clown makeup (and unable to even produce a passable Joker-style laugh).  Mark Hamill's version who, despite all our fond memories and his very impressively varied voice work on the character, was played mostly as comic relief that simply happened to be dangerous.  Jared Leto end of sentence.  60 year old Latin lover Caesar Romero, whose fun-loving interpretation created the mold for all followers, but who performed in the less than serious context of Batman'66.  Ted Knights marble-gargling version in the '60s cartoon? Jeff Bennett's chortling clown from Batman: Brave & the Bold? Loopy barefoot Kevin Michael Richardson? Nails-on-chalkboard-voiced Lennie Weinrib from the New Adventures of Batman?  Generic Zack Galfianakis from LEGO Batman? Ric Maddox?!  PICK ONE.  And don't get me started on Heath Ledger who simply stitched together a disjointed pastiche of Nicholson and Hammil and got wildly disproportionate praise for simply being better than a Hollywood pretty boy had been expected to do. [Mind you, I am not blaming necessarily the actors here (certainly not Romero, who was fabulous) but rather the director/actor combination: nobody 'does the Joker justice'.]

"Such a film isn't necessary!"  No films are necessary.  Film-making is a business. They are made not out of some artistic necessity but for possible commercial success. You went to see "Suicide Squad" because it had the Joker and Harley Quinn in it. Face it, they've got your number because they know that at worst you'll hate-watch the movie anyway.  The math tells them they will make plenty on money on this film AND THEY ARE RIGHT. And that's why you are terrified they will make it.

You wanted a film Joker who will terrify you? Looks like Hollywood has figured out how to do that...


Anonymous said...

"Ted Knights marble-gargling version in the '60s cartoon?"

Larry Storch, actually. Yes, Corporal Agarn was the Joker. And half of the desk clerks in "Have Gun - Will Travel" were Olan Soule, a.k.a. cartoon Batman.

Brian Hague said...

Having read that origin for the Joker reprinted in a tabloid way back when, I've always liked the way it told us how he became the white-faced, green-haired, carmine-lipped wacko he is today while at the same time telling us nothing about him at all. No name, no motivation... Just... a chemical bath and that's it. Of course, that story has timeline issues galore associated with it as well, but back then, DC was all about Premise rather than Continuity. So long as your story fit the basic Premise of the feature, it worked.
One of the bits that people overlook in Moore's "Killing Joke" was that the Joker sets himself up as an unreliable narrator of his own story, so even after than book, we still don't "know for sure." O'Neil's tedious recitation in LOTDK #50 went beyond the pale (so to speak) in trying to nail everything down for certain, even giving us a cousin for the Joker whose last name is Repian. It's "Napier" spelled backwards..! Get it? Get it..? (Headshake) "Kaloooota" indeed...
I hadn't even heard about this new movie coming out, but I'm skipping about half of the super-hero pictures coming out these days just because so many of them simply look awful. I did not see "Suicide Squad" for instance and don't plan to. They'll have to do better than just "It's the Joker!" to lure me in.
And I used to be so gung-ho over live-action super-heroics that the Reb Brown TVM's would light me up like a pinball machine. :-)

Scipio said...

Sigh; why do people believe every little thing they read on the internet?

You probably saw Larry Storch identified -- incorrectly -- on this YouTube video, "Many Incarnations of the Joker":

But that's incorrect. Larry Storch portrayed the Joker in "The New Adventures of Scooby-Doo" in 1972.
In Filmation's Batman cartoons of 1968 he was portrayed (like virtually all the villains) by Ted Knight (better known for his role as Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore).

Anonymous said...

IMDB credits Larry Storch as well:

It's possible that IMDB is wrong, but until you share that thar Thanagarian technology that allows us to know all things, I have to go with IMDB.

I am no stranger to Ted Knight, I watched more than my share of MTM in the day. Though speaking of, when "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" gave us Starman, well, just listen to the voice:

Scipio said...

Ugh, how maddening.

The IMDB entry is incorrect; note that is says 'uncredited'. Somebody 'guessed' that it was Storch.

Anyone who knows anything about Filmation knows that is was Ted Knight; his work for them is legendary

Anyone who listens to ONE SENTENCE can tell it's Ted Knight, even WITHOUT that information.

Why hasn't corrected this error, which is AT LEAST fifteen years old?!

Scipio said...

Scipio said...

Okay, instead of simply bitching myself, I went to IMDB and submitted corrections to Storch's entry with the evidence. I hope that will correct the entry so that no one else is innocently deceived by it.

Dave said...

Bennett's Joker is definitive for me -- as is pretty much everything in The Brave and the Bold. (I mean, c'mon; has there ever been a more interesting Aquaman?)

Anonymous said...

Jesus, Scipio, even Batman didn't kvetch this much when he discovered the Joker had THREE names. :-)

Your Obedient Serpent said...

... I saw Suicide Squad because it had Amanda Waller in it.

Scipio said...

Yeah, when I found myself screaming "WHY HAS NO ONE FIXED THIS?" I realized that No One was Me.

Bennett's Joker was certainly on point. And, yes, anyone who doesn't realize that Batman: Brave & the Bold was the greatest DCU ever seen on teevee is simply mistaken.

Brian said...

Hi Scipio! Been reading your blog since the beginning and love it. But finally have to jump in to come to your defense here.

The Joker in the 60s Batman Filmation cartoons, AND the two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, is absolutely NOT Larry Storch. It's Ted Knight in both. Larry is not listed in the credits of either. Why anyone would think otherwise is sounds like Ted.

The saddest thing is that Larry, who is now 94 and understandably not all there, has started selling and autographing blown up frame grabs of the Joker from those cartoons at conventions. Someone must have told him (or his handler, or his family) about the Internet myth and now he believes it, too.

Thank you for 12 years of amazing content!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing the correction Scipio! I kind of like being shown that I am wrong, so that next time I shall be right.

But I hope it becomes canon that the Joker's three names are Ted Knight, Larry Storch, and Martha.

Scipio said...

Yes, Brian, after screaming at your all for Believing Every Little Thing You Read On the Internet, I realized....I was doing the same thing. And that Storch was NOT the voice on the Scooby-Doo, which I MYSELF fell for. So shame on me for my hypocrisy.
Once I see that IMDB has deleted the Filmation references, I will tackle Scooby-Doo as well.,

Anonymous said...

Myself, I wish most political blogs -- hell, most NEWSPAPERS -- would take the fact-checking as seriously as you do (and I do and Brian does). This country may still be divided on whether the ACA includes death panels, but by damn we have made sure people know Ted Knight did the voice of the Joker.

Slaughter said...

But, by doing the Joker's injustice, somehow warping or distorcing something of the Joker, doesn't that mean doing Justice to the Joker? He is all warped and distorted, after all.

Der verwirrte Ausländer said...

I have a theory - well, it's more of an opinion - that people will defend to the death whatever version of a character they knew in their childhood as that character "done the right way".

Thus I tend to think of Jack Nicholson's Joker as the DEFINITIVE screen Joker - and the Joker from Alan Moore's Killing Joke as the definitive comics Joker. Even though they don't have much to do with each other.

Anonymous said...

That is a good theory, but may I modify it just a bit? The versions from one's childhood are the DEFAULT best versions, and they can be replaced by other versions, but only if there is a good case to be made. For example, "my" Justice Society lived on another earth when I first encountered them, and we'd see them only once a year. I absolutely hated "Crisis on Infinite Earths" for getting rid of the multiverse, but then I realized how much I liked having Jay Garrick on the same world as Wally West, or Alan Scott and Hal Jordan. Or Catwoman and Wildcat. So the "new" way finally grew on me, but only after it proved itself better (to my satisfaction anyway).

Speaking of Jay Garrick, if they ever put me in charge, I would make Jay Garrick a Canadian, and Central City / Keystone City would become Detroit / Windsor. Why? Well, compare these two images:

Perhap the Flash is authorized to wear a stylized RCMP uniform, and Jay Garrick is a chemist / forensic consultant for the RCMP? It works, and it is a nice gesture to Canada.

cybrid said...

"I will tackle Scooby-Doo as well"

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Anyway, IMHO the Joker has become tedious. Basically, all he does is kill people to amuse himself. Batman knows that the Joker will never stop killing of his own accord, and it's pretty f*cking obvious that Arkham Asylum will never stop totally sucking at keeping the Joker locked up.

The only way the Joker will ever stop killing is for Batman to kill the Joker and the truth is, if Batman killed the Joker, NO ONE WOULD CARE. No one would care if an Arkham employee killed the Joker. No one would care if a cop killed the Joker. No one would care if a jailhouse janitor killed the Joker. If a man whose face was fully visible and whose name was printed on the screen put a bullet directly through the Joker's skull on international television, NO ONE WOULD CARE.

Of course, we the readers know what Batman does not: That it is IMPOSSIBLE to kill the Joker, that the Joker will NEVER die, because he's just too popular for DC to ever ALLOW him to die. Batman THINKS he could kill the Joker if he wanted to because in-universe the Joker is more or less just a mortal man. He has no idea that, if he killed the Joker, if he literally tore the Joker into separate pieces, if he ran the Joker's brain through a cheese grater, if he chopped the Joker's remains into ten thousand bits and burned every individual bit to ashes and buried every bag-of-ashes a hundred miles from any other bag-of-ashes, the Joker would somehow STILL return.

But Batman doesn't know that so his continued refusal to kill the Joker makes it look like he thinks adhering to his own moral code is more important than the lives of hundreds if not thousands of future Joker victims. Which is not good.

But then, if Batman DID kill the Joker then after the Joker's inevitable return, Batman would be left to face the fact that he broke his most cherished principles for nothing. Which is even worse.

So, as noted, tedious.

cybrid said...

"the ridiculous 1989 film actually named him "Jack Napier", as in "jackanapes","

Well, to be fair, by 1989, how many people had even heard of the word "jackanapes," anyway, much less knew what it meant?

cybrid said...

(uh-oh, killed another thread)

On the whole, I'd be more likely to go see the "Gaggy and Punchline" movie, anyway.

Slaughter said...

Hey Scipio, how about a Aquaman-centered post? Our man from under the seas is more popular than ever.

Captain Entropy said...

Cybrid, I’m reading this month’s late, but you’re absolutely, 100% right about the Joker, and for all the reasons you list. If he never appears again, it will be too soon. Consider the thread resurrected comic book style — if only briefly.

cybrid said...

(just wandering up and down and to and fro upon the earth...)

Thanks, John Hennings. :-)