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|Date||October 17, 2008|
|Page count||128 pages|
Joker is an American graphic novel published by DC Comics in 2008. Written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, it is based on characters from DC's Batman series, focusing primarily on the title character. It is a unique take on the Batman mythos, set outside regular continuity and narrated by one of the Joker's henchmen. The miniseries Batman: Damned is a stand-alone sequel to the graphic novel, with the miniseries incorporating certain details, settings, and designs that hint at the two stories sharing a connected narrative.
Azzarello and Bermejo had previously worked on a similar take on Superman's archenemy in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, and Joker grew out of a discussion following completion of that project. DC Editor Dan DiDio approved the new project the following day. The initial plan was to reflect this connection with a title sharing the same structure, Joker: The Dark Knight but it was felt to be too similar to the film The Dark Knight, and so the name was shortened. When the writer was asked if he preferred writing villains he said "I relate to them. [Laughs] I don't relate to the heroes. The Man, tryin' to keep you down!"
Jonny Frost, a low-level thug, is sent to Arkham Asylum to pick up the Joker. Joker immediately takes a liking to Frost, using him as a chauffeur. Frost drives the Joker to the lair of Killer Croc. The three go to a strip bar. With the help of Harley Quinn, the Joker kills the owner and asks the shocked audience if they are willing to help him take his city back. The next morning, the Joker robs a bank and coaxes the Penguin to invest the stolen money. The Joker embarks on a killing spree, murdering many thugs who stole his money, turf, and bizarre sense of reputation. Informed by the Penguin that Harvey Dent is evading a talk with him, an enraged Joker trashes a phone, kills one of his own henchmen, and then sets the Grin and Bare It on fire. The next day, Frost is detained by Dent, who warns Frost that the Joker will kill him. Subsequently, Frost is late to the Joker's meeting with the Riddler, a disabled weapons dealer. They exchange a briefcase, and the Joker leaves. Once on the road, the Joker's crew is shot at by off-duty cops hired by Dent, and Frost saves the Joker's life in the scuffle.
The Joker embarks on a turf war against Dent, prompting him to meet with the Joker at the city zoo. Bringing the briefcase he received from the Riddler, the Joker says he has learned Dent has two wives, and threatens to use the contents of the briefcase as leverage against him. He then attacks Dent with shards of broken glass glued to his fingertips. When Dent's men raise their guns, Harley shoots each one in the head. After helping Frost get his ex-wife Shelly back from Dent, the Joker rapes her in front of Frost, saying this makes them "even", since Frost "cheated" on the Joker by not revealing his own meeting with Dent. Later, Harvey paints a bat on a spotlight, and pleads with Batman to stop the Joker. When the Joker and Frost return to their apartment, they find the window shattered and flee to Croc's lair. However, Batman has already subdued Croc and his gang. In a final attempt to escape, Joker and Frost flee to a nearby bridge. While Joker is "screaming through tears", Frost inexplicably finds himself laughing, unable to stop. They find Batman in wait, and the Joker, being provoked by Batman's taunts, shoots Frost in the chin, leaving him with a Glasgow smile. The Joker and Batman fight as Frost climbs over the edge of the bridge and falls into the river.
The graphic novel generally received positive reviews. IGN stated "Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Joker is a deeply disturbing and completely unnerving work, a literary achievement that takes its place right alongside Alan Moore's The Killing Joke as one of the few successful attempts to scratch beneath the surface of the Joker's impenetrable psyche." AICN noted that "The story is compelling, especially the gut-wrenching showdown at the end of the book, and the art is mouth-wateringly good."
In other media
- In a 2016 interview, Brian Azzarello has mentioned that he hopes for his Joker graphic novel to someday receive an animated film adaptation.
- Jonny Frost appears as one of Joker's henchmen in the 2016 film Suicide Squad, portrayed by Jim Parrack. Harley Quinn is also depicted as a nightclub stripper similar to what was showcased in the graphic novel.
- Joker's clothing in the 2013 game Batman: Arkham Origins is nearly identical to his graphic novel counterpart.
- Sondheimer, S.W. (August 6, 2018). "Azzarello and Bermejo of Black Label's Batman: Damned". BookRiot. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
- Exploring the Joker - Brian Azzarello Talks, Newsarama, September, 2008
- CCI: Brian Azzarello Q&A, Comic Book Resources, July 26, 2008
- Review. IGN
- Bug, Ambush. "THIS HALLOWEEN AICN COMICS REVIEWS JOKER+preview! DARK CRYSTAL! RISERS! MUSCLES&FRIGHTS! FINAL CRISIS...oh the horror! + MORE!!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
- Bad Azz Mojo - Part 4, Broken Frontier, October 13, 2006