The Best Joker Yet!

Good day, everyone! It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard from me, but I felt it was high time my Batman column here at Sourcerer saw another entry. Today, I want us to talk about Jerome Valeska (played by Cameron Monaghan) from the Gotham television series.

I know; the first season of Gotham was certainly a mixed bag. Personally, I enjoyed it despite recognizing its many weaknesses. I’m happy to see that the second season has started off rather strongly and is set to do greater justice to its source material while still forging ahead with its own story. I would say Gotham‘s greatest strength so far has been in its introduction of the character of Jerome Valeska, the show’s proto-Joker. Please note that from here on out, there will be spoilers for the show.

When Jerome and his bizarre circus family were first introduced last season, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Surely, the episode was visually stimulating and a murder mystery on a police procedural certainly sells, but it still seemed like there was something yet to be introduced. I was not disappointed; this episode ended on a surprise note that made my skin crawl, with Jerome transforming in an instant from a simpering child victim to a laughing psychopath that had any Batman fan worth his or her collection instantly on edge.

And the character has only grown more this season into the role set for him in that simple scene. Jerome’s appearance and demeanor are of a young man constantly on the verge of some sort of outburst, and he tends toward the morbidly dramatic. Further, Jerome cares little for even his own life, but cares a great deal about taking charge in a situation in order to insure that he gets his point across, whatever it may be.

The character’s showmanship coupled with Monaghan’s stage presence are a wonderful combination that plays out beautifully. Jerome isn’t a man who even pretends at a plan; rather, he is a true agent of chaos pursuing the greatest possible shock value with the highest possible body count.

On a final (and much appreciated) note, the writers of Gotham demonstrate that they are fully aware of the Joker’s irreplaceable, mythic role in the Batman mythos. This is worked in wonderfully with Jerome’s father (a blind fortune-teller played by Mark Margolis) reciting a prophecy concerning Jerome’s personal legacy of horror.

I find it a shame that Jerome had to be killed off after only four episodes. He was one of the greatest things about Gotham thus far, and that show has many, many great performances going for it, from Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth, to Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin, and of course Erin Richards as the broken Barbara Kean. Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and appropriately enough, the greatest treat, is that Cameron Monaghan gave us the greatest live action Joker yet, and he wasn’t even playing the Joker. I raise a glass to such a performance.

Cameron Monaghan as Jerome in Gotham. Image taken from https://www.facebook.com/CameronMonaghanOfficial?pnref=lhc

Cameron Monaghan as Jerome in Gotham. Image taken from https://www.facebook.com/CameronMonaghanOfficial?pnref=lhc

That’s it for this installment, everyone. Thanks for reading and welcoming me back. I plan on doing several more guest posts as the year wraps up, most especially once Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello’s Dark Knight III: The Master Race hits shelves. As for reading recommendations, I suggest that, Batman: Europa, and Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once all three see publication. Each should offer up a different take on the character from what is currently enjoying mainstream publication.

I hope you enjoy those reading recommendations, along with Gotham. And please do check out my other posts on the Joker here, here, and here. Heh. See you all next time! Tweet me @quaintjeremy.

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Blogging A to Z Day 13: The Killing Joke

Greetings, everyone! Today, we’re going to be talking about one really bad day, the sort that can break a person entirely. This is the main thought at the center of 1988’s The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, which is often considered the quintessential Joker story. In short, the story focuses on the Joker’s origin told through ultimately false flashbacks to the worst day he ever experienced, coupled with his attempts to give his prime enemies, Batman and Jim Gordon, a day of horror designed to break them, their sanity, and their moral compasses.

That camera in the Joker’s hands on the front cover of the comic is not just a prop—it’s one of the primary tools in his bag of tricks. You see, this is the story that gave the DC Universe the character Oracle, the new crime-fighting identity Barbara Gordon assumed after the Joker shot her in the spine (leaving her paralyzed from the waist down), stripped her naked, and took photographs of her in this state in order to show her father, Jim Gordon (also stripped naked and brutalized) to try to destroy his sanity.

Some readers see a further implication of greater sexual assault at this point in the naked and prone Barbara Gordon (and this has become a rather popular viewpoint), though, as my girlfriend Candice pointed out to me after reading The Killing Joke, no one makes that assumption about Jim Gordon, though he is also beaten, stripped naked, and led around on a leash by the Joker’s incredibly creepy BDSM dwarf minions. I understand this is a touchy subject and I in no way wish to make light of it, so let’s move further discussion of it and the recent Batgirl cover controversy down to the comments below.

Though not as divisive as Barbara Gordon’s fate, the ending of the story has also sparked controversy among many fans, some of whom have developed their own theories about the arguably ambiguous finale. As you can see, Batman and the Joker share a rather disturbing laugh as Batman reaches toward his old, monstrous foe with approaching police lights framing them in silhouette. Then, darkness.

Some fans see the exchange as a mocking gesture on Batman’s part before he turns and walks away yet again, holding to his morals and keeping the game alive. Others, however, take a rather non-continuity-based view and postulate that Batman actually reaches out and kills the Joker at this moment, with Barbara’s fate the last straw that finally drives him to permanently remove the Joker as a threat to everyone he is around. Though a powerful and attractive theory, it has no basis in the stories that follow. Indeed, the Joker is still alive and terrorizing Gotham to this very day. After all, were this theory valid, it means the Joker would have won, even in death. He would have succeeded in finally breaking Batman by making him turn against his personal code.

Art by Brian Bolland. Image taken from http://images.sequart.org/images/joke1.jpg

Art by Brian Bolland. Image taken from http://images.sequart.org/images/joke1.jpg

Those large points aside, I do wish to make general comments on the story as a whole. Alan Moore’s writing really captures the nihilistic and horrifying mind of the Joker, and Brian Bolland’s artwork is superbly unsettling, especially when the Joker has any expression other than mirth, all of which can be seen in the image above.

And that’s it for the letter K. Thanks again for stopping by, and I look forward to speaking with some of you in the comments below. I strongly recommend reading The Killing Joke if you never have before. Be sure to check out more of my thoughts on the Joker in the Batman column on Sourcerer here and here, and check out my thoughts on Barbara Gordon over at Part Time Monster here. As a parting treat, here’s Troy Baker (the voice of the Joker in Arkham Origins) delivering one of the Joker’s best lines in The Killing Joke. Enjoy! I’ll see you all again soon.

Review: Tim Burton’s Batman

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! I’m taking a break from looking at real people through the lens of Batman for a couple of posts. Instead, I want to lay out some of my notes and thoughts on the 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns films, which I recently reacquired and watched again for the first time in nearly a decade. This week, I’ll look at 1989’s Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, and Kim Basinger.

BatmanPoster

For many fans in my generation, this film was our first exposure to the character and world of Batman. I’m pleased to say I don’t feel as negatively toward this movie as I did just a few years ago (for whatever reasons). Some aspects of it have not aged well, but it is not a bad film. I could do with a little less Prince, though.

Here are some of my revised and expanded notes that I took as I re-watched the movie, grouped around a few themes and characters:

The Aesthetic

The opening shot of Gotham City looks great; it’s awe-inspiring and massive, its precise time period indefinite, which is what Gotham should look like. I like that the film maintains the dirty 1970s/1980s New York look that Gotham had embodied in the comics for awhile, but I also like the 1940s noir feel that some of the sets and costumes have.
This movie contains one of the best-looking versions of Wayne Manor — it actually resembles a castle.

Side Characters

The decision to cast Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent was a great one. I wish Burton and Keaton had stuck around for a third film about Two-Face with Williams reprising his role.

Michael Gough is wonderful as Alfred. He definitely deserved the four-movie deal he eventually ended up with. I really enjoyed the scene where Bruce and Vicki eat in the kitchen with Alfred rather than yell at each other from opposite ends of the manor’s gigantic dining room table.

The Joker

Jack Nicholson’s performance is still nearly perfect. He is one of a very small number of actors who could have pulled off the slapstick humor and horrifying psychopathy simultaneously as well as he did.

I find the scene where the Joker defaces the paintings and statues in the museum oddly satisfying, and I’m not sure why. Soon after, it is made clear he gets pleasure out of mutilating women’s faces, which complicates the art defacement scene.

NicholsonJoker

Nicholson has some of the best lines in the entire film, including “This town needs an enema!”, “Never rub another man’s rhubarb,” and (of course) “Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

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ISO: Lost Batman Comic (and don’t forget about Free Comic Book Day)!

batsignal2

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the Senate hearings that eventually led to the stifling of comics as a medium, so I’d like to ascode_seal_mar1955k for a little help in finding a lost comic book. In its own weird way, I hope this stands as a tribute to all of our losses in terms of what comics could have been for the past few decades. If we find the book I’m seeking, I hope that can stand as a symbol that what is lost in comics can be regained.

Back in the early 90s, my dad bought me my very first issue of a comic featuring Batman. Due to time and typical childhood stupidity, that book is now lost to me, when it should have an honored place in my collection today. I don’t remember a lot about the comic aside from a few art details. Batman had very long ears, as he tended to in early 90s stories.

In the comic, Batman and the Joker are both exposed to something that was likely Bane’s venom chemical or something like it. They both Hulked out and started punching each other around the city. One striking image from the comic is Batman hitting the Joker so hard he actually embeds him in the metal wall of a rooftop water tower. The only other detail I recall is the cover; it showed the Joker’s maniacally grinning face with his hands on either side of it as he tries to press his face through a rough opening in a wall.

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