joker's true identity

There are a couple of hard facts that remain firmly in place across the comic book landscape and tampering with them feels like a sin. Even the layman is familiar with most of them: Uncle Ben is dead and will always remain dead, Batman doesn’t kill people, Superman escaped the dying planet of Krypton as an infant, and so on. One of these facts pulls double duty as an enduring mystery that has been kept up for decades: the identity of the Joker, Batman’s arch-nemesis and the most famous villain in the DC comic book canon, will always be a secret.

Well, so much for that last one. DC Comics has announced that the identity of the Clown Prince of Crime will be unveiled this summer. So there you go.

This news was announced at a WonderCon panel centered on the company’s upcoming “Rebirth” event, which will act as a soft reboot of the DC universe (and a welcome change of direction after the much maligned “New 52”). While readers have been generally pleased with DC’s new direction, this Joker news is surely going to ruffle its fair share of feathers.

The grand revelation will arrive in Justice League #50 from writer (and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer) Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok and it will resolve a big cliffhanger from Justice League #42. In that issue, Batman sat in the Mobius Chair, which gave him access to all knowledge. After testing the chair by asking who killed his parents, he asked to know the true name of the Joker.

And the unheard answer was apparently pretty shocking.

joker's true identity

IGN caught up with Johns after the panel and he teased a surprising answer to this huge question: “The answer probably won’t be an answer people predict.”

This wouldn’t be the first time a DC comic has toyed with the Joker’s past. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s infamous The Killing Joke teased a backstory for the character, but made it very clear that this was simply one of many versions floating around his sick and demented mind (“If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!”). And then there’s Tim Burton’s Batman, which controversially revealed that the Joker was the crook who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents.

My gut reaction is that this all a very bad idea. Why pin down one of the great mysteries in comic book-dom? Why attempt to define a villain who is interesting because he’s undefinable? The Joker is what he is and that’s what makes him so terrifying.

And yet, Marvel broke one of their cardinal rules a little over a decade ago when writer Ed Brusker resurrected Captain America’s long-dead sidekick Bucky Barnes and transformed him into the antihero known as the Winter Solider. That idea sounded terrible. It sounded sacrilegious. And it ended up leading to a new renaissance of great Steve Rogers stories and the creation of one of the Marvel Universe’s great new characters.

In other words, I’ll continue to gripe about this Joker business until it turns out to be completely great and amazing. Here’s hoping.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: