Fans: Well, it can’t get any worse than Batman v. Superman.
DC: Hold my beer.
The latest images of Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker confirms all my old comic fan-boy ideas about DC Comics. And it’s not good.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of comics. I was the kid that would run to the comic shop every week and buy up all of my favorite titles to read over the week until the next week came with new comics. The titles I bought were all Marvel, and later Image. Except for a short stint reading Green Lantern, DC just never grabbed my attention. The reason it didn’t, was that DC seemed confused by their own line.
Marvel at the time was very true to their history. Story lines always called back to past story lines, even if they were decades before. The small blurb “see issue xxx) was always popping up, and as a collector, you’d do what you could to go back and find those issues they were referring to. That wasn’t the case with DC. There were so many different timelines, that intersected in so many convoluted ways. You’d have Flash interacting with a young Superman, and then a few issues later, the same Flash was interacting with an older Superman. And let’s not even talk about all the Elseworlds storylines that took place outside of the regular DC universe. Every few years, it seemed even DC couldn’t keep track anymore, and they’d have a “Crisis” to attempt to clean up their mess, only to end up doing it all again.
What DC did have going for them, was movies. The old Superman movies, the old Batman movies. They were good, for their time. Marvel seemed to be spinning their wheels with movies that weren’t even getting released. But within the last decade or so, all that changed. Marvel movies did something we hadn’t really seen before. They followed the formula of the old comic books. Introducing characters individually, then tying them together. Following continuity and guarding those characters so when you had Iron Man appearing in multiple movies, it was the same Iron Man that you knew.
It seemed DC planned to follow in Marvel’s movie footsteps when they announced that the JLA was coming to the movies. Then they went and screwed it all up. We got a Superman that seemed nothing like Superman from the comics. I mean, really, how many people died during that fight scene? Then we got a Batman that was nothing like the Batman from comics. Ben Affleck made Val Kilmer look good. And when they were placed together in a movie, can we really say anything other than, “Martha!”
It was a disaster. But even in that mess, there was a diamond in the rough. There was one saving grace to that movie, and that was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot who I had previously thought was a horrible miscasting seemed to be the only thing in the movie that resembled the much beloved comic character. Her own standalone movie went on to show that she should be DC’s center of their movie universe. And then JLA came out.
JLA… it was ok. It seemed to try to correct the mistakes of the previous Batman v. Superman. Not that it was very successful at doing it. But it was better. And perhaps, just perhaps, it showed that DC was changing course and heading in the right direction. That was my hope anyway, until I started hearing about Joaquin Phoenix in a standalone Joker movie. Then I suddenly flashed back to my boyhood comic days of shrugging off DC.
As stated before, much of the problem I had with DC was their lack of care about their own continuity. As a reader, how could you be concerned about what’s happening with your favorite character, if the next writer will just erase the storylines that came before? And now, it seems DC is doing the same thing with their movies. We were just introduced to Jared Leto’s Joker. And apparently, there’s still plans of him reprising that role. But that doesn’t matter. DC has another Joker movie in the works, with a different actor and a much different character. We are used to seeing comics movies rebooted. We’ll get a trilogy, it goes away for a while, then gets rebooted with another actor. That’s not what is happening here. We’ve got two entirely different versions of the same character happening at the same time. Will the Joker show up in a future JLA family movie? If so, which Joker will it be? Does DC even care?
Now don’t get me wrong, I was not a fan of Jared Leto’s version of the Joker. Neither Leto nor the character design really matches with anything I’d consider remotely resembling the character that I’ve known. So I’d happily see him replaced. But the design of this new Joker? I really have to ask, is this a joke?
Yesterday the film’s director Todd Phillips released a video showing Phoenix in character. It was later shared by the official Warner Bros. Pictures account, so I guess it’s official.
— Warner Bros. Pictures (@wbpictures) September 21, 2018
I wonder, has either Phillips or Phoenix ever heard of the clown prince of crime? Because it certainly doesn’t look like it. If someone had told me this was a preview of a movie based on serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. I might have believed it. I may have even watched it. But as DC Comic’s the Joker? No thank you. I’m officially out.