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Monday, February 26, 2024 

We don't need another "transformation" of the Joker

IGN is gushing all over Chip Zdarsky's new Joker: Year One, yet another example of too much focus on villains in entertainment:
How does an ordinary man become the scourge of Gotham City? That's a question writer Chip Zdarsky and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Sorrentino set out to answer in The Joker: Year One. This storyline flashes back to just after the newly reborn Joker emerged from the pit of acid, exploring his earliest days as a costumed supervillain and how he was molded into the inhuman force of nature he is today.

Needless to say, The Joker: Year One has revealed some surprising new details about this iconic villain's origin. That includes the twist that he was trained by one of Batman's own mentors and a major retcon of the Three Jokers storyline. Now that this story has wrapped, let's break down the three biggest reveals and how this flashback storyline will impact the Batman franchise going forward.
Wow, that continuing lapse in logic about "revealed" rather than "established/canonized" is so grating it's not even funny. Nor is the "twist" that Batman had a mentor who trained the man who'd become his leading adversary. That aside, here's their boring description of a storyline that only turns the Masked Manhunter's history into a sick joke:
Joker's Secret Mentor

The Joker: Year One isn't an origin story in the sense that it doesn't offer a new retelling of how Joker originally fell into that vat of acid. Instead, the story serves as a follow-up to both 1986's Batman: The Killing Joke and 2013's Batman: Zero Year. It specifically covers the weeks immediately after Joker emerges from the waters outside Ace Chemical.

However, the biggest takeaway from this storyline is that Joker didn't claw his way out as a fully formed villain. He still had a long, painful process of evolution to undergo before becoming the Clown Prince of Crime. That's where Daniel Captio comes in.

Captio is a character introduced in writer Chip Zdarsky's previous Batman project, The Knight. The Knight traces Bruce Wayne's journey across the world as he seeks out teachers to help mold him into a one-man, crime-fighting army. Captio is one of those teachers, a mentalist with absolute control over his bodily functions. Captio teaches Bruce how to ignore pain and suppress fear, treating his body like a machine where these sensations can simply be switched off.

Unfortunately for Bruce, Captio now harbors a grudge against him for the way their partnership ended in Batman: The Knight. Hearing rumors about the Joker's emergence, Captio travels to the city and offers his services to the budding supervillain. Captio teaches Joker how to completely master his inner fears and block out pain. Sensing the raw potential in Joker, Captio molds him into a deadly, unpredictable fighter capable of going toe-to-toe with the Batman. More than ever, it's clear how Batman and Joker are two sides of the same coin.
If this were a TV show, what really needs to be switched off is the viewing set. So Batman had a so-called mentor who later turned against him? Insulting to the intellect, and makes it look more like Batman chose a criminal for trainer. Some of the commentors seem to realize why this is just more cliched badness, and one said:
I love Zdarsky, but I hate his Batman run. It was totally influnced by Morrison, and I really don't like THAT in any way other than Damian.
Well, Grant Morrison, if that's whom they're talking about, was a bad influence to begin with in the past decades. Somebody else replied:
Just said that! Hate the focus on Zur-En-Arrh.
And here's another:
I hate comics eternal need to explore the origins of characters whose mystery is part of their character. Its like Wolverine....when they did weapon x as a comic series in MCP it was great, because it ends ambigiously, and the revelations that wolverines adamantium bonding process was so scarring mentally that his memories were so screwed up even telepaths couldnt figure it out. It left you constantly guessing about what in his memory was real or not. Explaining it all away...great. Take the mystery out of characters. That will make them better. On the otherhand...this is DC. They will just wipe their continuity in a few more years. They do it every 10 to 15 years as is.
I'm sure there's a valid argument to be found here, that removing the mystery from some characters does dilute the value. But what's really disturbing is how we have here another variation on Hollywood's chilling obsession with glamorizing violent criminals. Here's another viewpoint:
Why would Joker have a mentor? That ruins the whole character. The basis revolves around the fact he's a unhinged psycho. You cant mentor a crazy person. Thats sort of what makes him a great villain, hes really unpredictable.
Good point. Here's another observation:
I read comic books regularly from the late 1980s when my grandfather introduced them to me as a young kid until 2012'ish.

When DC rebooted their entire line in 2011 they completely ruined the entire product line. They have never come even close to the quality that was before, and now it is as if they are trying to destroy the characters in the same style of Kathleen Kennedy to Star Wars.

I wanted to introduce my kids to modern comics but I refused to. I let them read all of my collection that goes from 1970s through 2010s and then that is it. I told them that DC Comics ended in 2012.
It ended at least several years before that, when Identity Crisis and Marvel's Avengers: Disassembled came about. And they will not recover under a corporate ownership. That's practically why a story as lethargic as Joker: Year One came about. Of course, it's also because too many people still waste money on DC/Marvel's products. And only if they boycott comics like these will they be able to make clear this is not what they want. So when will anybody appalled by these idiocies consider the alternatives?

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