DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee assures fans Todd Phillips’ Joker does not contradict the character’s comic book history. The supervillain first appeared in the debut issue of Batman way back in 1940, and since then the Joker has become one of the most iconic figures in all pop culture. The process of Joker going from comic book supervillain to all around cultural icon was of course aided by the character’s many appearances outside of DC Comics, beginning with Cesar Romero’s portrayal in the 1960s Batman TV show.
After Romero originated the character on TV, the first cinematic take on Joker came when Jack Nicholson tackled the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, but that Joker still bore the distinct stamp of camp left from the TV show. The Joker didn’t enter the realm of “realistic” comic book movie characters until Heath Ledger played him in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, in a portrayal that won the actor a posthumous Oscar. The Joker later returned, disappointingly in the eyes of many fans, in 2016's Suicide Squad with Jared Leto going over-the-top in the role. Now, Joker is poised to rule the box office without Batman in director Phillips' dark and gritty take on the character, with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role.
The buildup to the release of Phillips and Phoenix’s Joker has indeed emphasized that this is a new take on the character uninformed by previous depictions in comics or films, leading to a lot of anticipation and in some cases trepidation. But, DC executive Lee assures fans that though Phillips and company have created their own unique take on the iconic character, the new movie in no way contradicts the Joker’s history, and indeed the fresh iteration may actually inform future comic book developments. Lee said in an Instagram posting:
Director Todd Phillip’s @jokermovie is intense, raw and soulful. He’s talked about how his take on the Joker is not beholden to the character’s comic book roots. That said, there’s absolutely nothing in this film incongruous with our understanding of who the Joker is. If anything, Joaquin Phoenix’s mesmerizing and unsettling turn as the Joker gives us a deep and fully realized look into one of our favorite villains, and I’m sure elements will be embraced going forward in our ongoing, ever evolving mythology. That’s what powerful, compelling stories do. And without a doubt—long time DC fans will be spending a lot of time unpacking the many story revelations and questions this harrowing cautionary tale raises.
Lee’s fan-placating statement comes after various remarks by folks involved in the making of Joker indicating that not only did they deliberately ignore the comics, but some of them are in fact not particularly huge fans of comic book movies in general. Naturally, any time fans read such statements they begin worrying about the horrible ways the non-fans who made the movie are about to ruin their favorite characters. Of course, any comic book character as long-lived as the Joker is already going to have gone through many different changes over the decades, a fact that by itself arguably frees up any creator to do whatever they wish.
Clearly, Phillips’ and Phoenix’s Joker is not the comic book Joker, and is not like any previous movie version of the character either. If early reviews are any indication, what Phoenix has done takes Joker to a new realm of emotional rawness beyond anything attempted before in a comic book movie. That’s good news for the film’s Oscar prospects, but it remains to be seen if comic book fans will embrace the new take on the character or be annoyed by the changes the film has made. Either way, the comic book Joker still lives on for fans and will continue to live on even if Phoenix and company “ruin” him in the movie.
Source: Jim Lee
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
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