Tag Archives: The Joker

Alex Ross Spotlight: Why is the Joker So Skinny?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Quora, which is a fun little way to kill time.

I recently came across the simple question of, “Why is the Joker so skinny?” No doubt, it was inspired by how Joaquin Phoenix’s body looked in Joker.

But it certainly didn’t start there. More often than not, the Joker we see in the comics is drawn as a skinny dude. In that sense, if not many others, Joker followed its source material.

I’ve previously mentioned what I refer to as the Alex Ross Theory of the Joker. I base it on a quote I plucked from Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. On the very same page as that quote comes this bit of insight into Ross’ take on the character, which he tries to keep somewhat consistent with the original Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson version (shown below).

“…he didn’t start off in the comics as this stick-thin anorexic guy – I wanted to give him the appearance of being long and lean, but also physically powerful, not underweight. He was originally based on Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs, and that’s what I’m seeing to capture – the true face of Joker.”

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Panels of Awesomeness: Joker in the Court

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: The following contains a spoiler for Batman: The Long Halloween. If you haven’t read it, run (do not walk) and do so right this minute.***

THE ISSUE: Batman: Dark Victory #7

CREATORS: Jeph Loeb (Author), Tim Sale (Artist), Gregory Wright (Colors) Heroic Age (Colors), Richard Starkings (Letters)

RELEASED: June 2000

THE SCENE: In an underground “courtroom” setting, Batman’s enemies try to ascertain the identity of the “Hangman” killer. The Calendar Man takes the stand as Two-Face prosecutes.

WHY IT’S AWESOME: After recommending The Long Halloween to a friend, I recently took the time to re-read the pivotal entry into the Batman mythos, along with its sequel, Dark Victory. While Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work might be my favorite take on Batman and his world, I came away realizing Dark Victory wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. While it’s nowhere near bad, and it’s still great to be in that Loeb/Sale world again, it’s a sequel that doesn’t live up to the original.

Odd as it may seem, this page is my favorite in the entire book. Specifically because of that last panel, in which the Joker lets out a tiny “Ha.”

In the scene, Julian Day, a.k.a. the Calendar Man is about to reveal the true identity of the Holiday killer from The Long Halloween, whom the world believes to be Alberto Falcone. But Day knows the truth. And without spoiling too much from the book, Harvey Dent has a very personal investment in the truth not getting out. So he pulls a gun on the Calendar Man before he can get out a name. Then the Joker laughs.

I’m not sure if Julian Day knew the truth or not. Hell, even Batman never knew. But to me, that one little word bubble with those two little letters reveal one hell of an untouched detail: The Joker knows. I don’t know how he knows, but I suspect it may have something to do with his appearance in Harvey and Gilda Dent’s new home in The Long Halloween. It would certainly explain the way he behaves toward Two-Face in Dark Victory.

I also love the way this panel is colored. The ultimate evil standing off in the shadows. Laughing. Because he knows your dark and dirty little secret. Most likely because part of that awful, unthinkable evil that resides in him, now resides in you too.

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Epic Covers: “Vote For Me, Or I’ll Kill You!”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This was a lot funnier when it was first published back in 2005. Nowadays, “Vote For Me or I’ll Kill You” sounds like an actual political slogan…

Batman: Dark Detective was a miniseries that reunited author Steve Englehart with artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. They’re synonymous with some classic Batman stories from the ’70s, including “The Laughing Fish” and “Sign of the Joker.” They’re collected in a trade called Strange Apparitions, which has a special place on my bookshelf.

Though oddly enough, I can’t seem to locate Dark Detective among my back issues. Not that it was a landmark series, but it was definitely fun to see this team tell a Batman story in a modern context. If nothing else, I want to make sure this cover is in my collection. It’s a great addition to the legacy these men have.

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Astonishing Art: Pop Culture Evolutions by Jeff Victor

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As I’ve said before, I’m not normally into cutesy stuff. But Jeff Victor’s “Evolutions” series grabbed me.

Actually, cutesy is the wrong word. Cartoony would be a more accurate description. But the first work of Victor’s I saw was his “Pop Culture Evolutions” tribute to Leonardo of the TMNT. That one definitely has a cuteness to it, right?

It’s always fun to look back at the different variations of characters. Different looks, different incarnations over time, etc. Usually the longer they’ve been around, the more interesting it is. The Ninja Turtles are a great example, obviously. But you’ve also got characters like the Joker and Wonder Woman, movie monsters like the Xenomorphs, etc. Sometimes it’s even more fun with actors, and the wide array of personalities they’ve had to inhabit during their careers. Musicians have to evolve too. Few have evolved like Michael Jackson, of course…

Either way, Victor’s art is a lot of fun. He also does a lot beyond the Pop Culture Evolutions series. I’d definitely recommend checking out his official site, as well as his Instagram and Facebook pages.

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Epic Covers: Doomsday Clock #5

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

ARTISTS: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson

THE ISSUE: As Watchmen characters continue to make an impact in the DC Universe, the Joker enters the picture.

WHY IT’S EPIC: So I have this thing that I call the “Alex Ross Theory of the Joker.” I pulled it from a passage in Mythology: The Art of Alex Ross. It’s his take on the Joker’s appearance, and what that famous chemical bath actually did to him physically. It goes like this…

“In my mind it wouldn’t have given him green hair and red lips – the chemical bath would only have turned his skin white. He adds the rest himself to complete the picture. There’s a panel at the end of Batman #1 in which the Joker is stabbed and we see that his chest is white. I never forgot that – The realization that his whole body was white. Eerie.”

You don’t see this idea represented much in the canonical DC Universe. That’s because DC relies so heavily on The Killing Joke, in which the Joker emerges from the chemicals with the green hair and red lips. But the Ross idea makes sense, all things considered. It lines up nicely with the theatricality that’s built in to the Joker character.

That’s why it’s so cool to see Gary Frank and Brad Anderson go that route with this variant for Doomsday Clock #5. Frank doesn’t get to draw Joker very often. But when he does, it’s a treat. Look at the wild insanity we see in those eyes. We see him inside the issue as well. But this right here is the coup de grace.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

Micro-Reviews: Doomsday Clock, The Man of Steel, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m Rob, and these are the comics I spent my hard-earned money on last week…

Doomsday Clock #5
This sucker is dense. It’s all drawn that Dave Gibbons nine-panel grid, and Geoff Johns wasn’t afraid to really pack in the dialogue. But in spite of that, it doesn’t feel like much happens here. There’s some cool progression in the Johnny Thunder story, some really nice world-building. But other than that, this issue felt “meh” compared to its predecessors.

On the plus side, expect to see this issue in a future installment of Epic Covers.

The Man of Steel #1
Brian Michael Bendis’ first full issue with Superman didn’t blow me away. But it’s got my attention. I’m more interested in how Bendis’ characterization of Superman than the actual story he’s telling. So far, so good.

Saga #52
There’s a bit of narration in this issue that really hit home for me. In Saga, Hazel is a young child. But  she’s telling the story in past tense as an adult. As young Hazel is being promised something by her mother, the narration reads: “It’s difficult for children to accept that their parents aren’t gods, just regular people. And regular people will always disappoint you.”

Though it comes from a world of fantasy, that statement has more truth than anything I’ve read in quite awhile. Bravo, Brian K. Vaughan.

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding #1 – Robin vs. Ra’s al Ghul
I don’t have a hell of a lot of interest in these Prelude to the Wedding issues. But the premise of issue #2, Nightwing vs. Hush, sold me on the entire thing. Batman: Hush was the story that got me into picking up comics on a weekly basis. So I’ve got a soft spot for Tommy Elliot.

As for the issue itself, the interactions between Damian and Selina Kyle are strong. I’m very curious to see how that relationship develops over time.

Pestilence: A Story of Satan #1
I mean, c’mon. With a subtitle like A Story of Satan, how can you not take a look? I’m not normally drawn to stories set in medieval times. But the premise, and the fact that it’s published by AfterShock was enough to sell me on the first issue. As it turns out, they also sold me on the second one.

Justice League: No Justice #4
I wasn’t big on how this story ended. This whole issue felt a bit rushed. But it got us where we needed to go. The League is back in action, with Martian Manhunter back on the roster. I’m stoked for Justice League #1.

Babyteeth #5
I’m still working on catching up with Babyteeth. This issue didn’t move the world for me. But I’ll be back for issue #6.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles Review – Or So We’re Told…

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles
AUTHOR: Tom King
PENCILLERS: Mikel Janin, Clay Mann
COLLECTS: Batman #2532
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: December 13, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The War of Jokes and Riddles is not what I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you come into it anticipating a big, bloody, multi-layered brawl between comic book supervillains. What we get is more character-driven. I almost always prefer something like that to a story that’s simply about people punching each other. But the vibe we got going into this was that it was akin to a big summer blockbuster. There’s a lot more to The War of Jokes and Riddles. While you’ll get some really great stuff, it’s not a hotbed of fighting and explosions.

In the early days of Batman’s career, the unthinkable happens. After losing to Batman so many times, the Joker no longer finds the world funny. Recognizing a similar problem in himself, the Riddler proposes an alliance to kill the Dark Knight once and for all. When the Joker gives him a violent rejection, all out war breaks out. Both the Joker and the Riddler recruit different villains to their side, with Gotham City as their battle field. The winner earns the right to kill Batman. How can our hero stop a war that’s being fought over him? And what happens to the city caught in the crossfire?

I like Joker and Riddler as rivals. They both have mischievous and playful sort of motifs. So it makes sense they’d want to outdo each other. Factor in each one having their own faction of villains, and the scope of this story becomes huge. They could very well have done a bunch of tie-in issues where the different characters fight each other. Scarecrow vs. Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy vs. Killer Croc, Two-Face vs, Scarface, etc. Given how people gobble up Batman stuff, you’d think that would have been an easy cash-in.

Instead, we stay in the pages of Batman. That approach has it’s advantages, of course. But as a result, what feels like a very expansive story winds up being confined. Much is left to exposition. We gloss over the whole recruitment process, and why certain characters choose Joker or Riddler’s side. We don’t see most of the big battles. We’re told what territory each side has. While there’s something to be said for not getting bogged down in too many details, it seems like half the fun of a story like this is watching all the characters butt heads. That’s a giant missed opportunity.

We do, however, see Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. Sort of. In theory, it’s a hell of a fight. But even that fails to deliver, as it’s jammed so tightly into the second half of issue #28. What’s more, the fight stretches logic pretty thin even by comic book standards. The two initially try to snipe each other, but on their first and only shots, their bullets collide. They then proceed to fight for five days, killing 62 people in the process. I get the artistic advantage of leaving it to the reader’s imagination. But they could have dedicated an entire story to Deathstroke vs. Deadshot. This fight could be an event comic on its own. So to be told about it instead of seeing it is frustrating.

On the plus side, almost everybody looks great. Mikel Janin gives us an almost twisted blend of realism and caricature. His Joker, for instance, has a pointed nose and in this story sports an exaggerated frown. But the art is so detailed and the colors so gorgeously rendered that it evokes real life. It’s often fascinating to look at, especially because his Joker seems heavily influenced by Brian Bolland’s work on The Killing Joke. The one character hurt by this approach is the Riddler, who inexplicably looks like John Cena.

Author Tom King frames The War of Jokes and Riddles around Bruce Wayne’s present-day marriage proposal to Selina Kyle. He tells her this story, as he apparently did something horrible during the war that could effect her decision to marry him. The reveal is a good one and makes sense.

But there’s also a larger issue that the story touches on, but doesn’t bring any resolution to. There’s an argument to be made that the real villain in all of this is Batman himself. These two groups of insane people are waging war over HIM. While they’re fighting to decide who gets to kill him, dozens of innocent people are being killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In telling Selina this story, he’s trying to get absolution for something horrible he supposedly did. But it seems like he should want forgiveness for his part in all this. Although to be fair, the King does touch on something like that in the final scene…

Bruce also makes every effort to bring the violence to a halt, including the bizarrely entertaining dinner sequence that makes up the entirety of issue #29. Bruce Wayne invites virtually his entire rogues gallery into his home for a big, fancy, multi-course meal. The idea is for Bruce to servers a mediator and bring things to a resolution. The visual spectacle of seeing all these comic book supervillains together in a normal environment is almost worth the cover price on its own. It reminds me of one of the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale Batman books. But then we dive deeper with both Joker and Riddler. How they’d kill Batman, and what they think of each other. You’ve also got the internalization of Bruce as he sits between them and listens to it all, silently and subtlety trying to maneuver Gotham out of harm’s way. At face value, the whole thing is almost absurd. But once you dive into it, it becomes one of the most delightful Batman character studies of the last decade.

Janin is also on fire in this issue. He has to draw three characters in the same position for several pages. But despite having to draw several consecutive panels of, for instance, the Joker sitting in a chair eating dinner (shown below), there’s almost no panel duplication. There’s a natural flow to it. You believe their body language. It’s beautiful.

Stuck in the middle of all this is D-list villain Kite Man. He becomes the unlikely focus for two interlude issues drawn by Clay Mann. As he plays a role in the finale, it’s called for. It also doubles as an origin story. King tries to set him up as a relatable, down on his luck father who has fallen in with a horrible crowd and pays the ultimate price. I like how King incorporates him toward the end. But I’m not sure we needed two full issues dedicated to Kite Man. Issue #27 gives us all we need, so issue #30 feels mostly like filler. King also attempts to create the catchphrase: “Kite Man. Hell yeah.” Doesn’t work.

The War of Jokes and Riddles wound up being a mixed bag. We didn’t get a war as much as we got moments from a war. The beginning, the end, and the important moments in between. That doesn’t fill all of our dramatic needs in terms of this being a big, violent, bloody fight between crazy people. At one point we see a  bunch of pictures of people who’ve died. But we don’t see where or how they died. There’s a frustrating gap there which leaves you wanting more than the book delivers.

On the flip side, this is some of the best work Mikel Janin has ever done. The War of Jokes and Riddles should absolutely be turned into one of those oversized hardcovers DC puts out. It deserves to be admired for years to come. Tom King also gives us his best character work yet. He illustrates a tremendous understanding of how Batman, the Joker, and the Riddler think. So when he puts them together it feels very genuine. It’s the same kind of magic that made The Vision work so well.

King does have the magic in him, doesn’t he? It’s just a question of how often we see it.

For more of Tom King’s Batman, check out Vol. 1: I Am Bane, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, and Batman/The Flash: The Button

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