When the DC Rebirth era kicked off, fans had a front-row seat to the cases that Batman and the rest of Earth’s heroes had to solve. The first was the mystery of the smiley face button and its sudden appearance in the Batcave, which was explored by Batman and the Flash before launching into the Watchmen sequel Doomsday Clock. The second was the existence of three Jokers in the DC Universe, something Batman discovered when he used the Mobius Chair during the Darkseid War to answer the question “Who is the Joker?”
Now I just want to take the time here to highlight the fact that Geoff Johns is not only the writer behind Three Jokers but also the man responsible for the 12 issues of Doomsday Clock that concluded in December. (Side note: While Doomsday Clock faced multiple delays during its run, the three issues of Three Jokers will not be facing those challenges as the creative team waited until the series was completed before scheduling it to ensure fans wouldn’t be stuck waiting for months between issues.) Over the course of his career, Johns has worked on a number of DC Comics’ iconic characters, which will certainly be discussed at a later time on Dorkaholics. However, Three Jokers will be his first time examining the clash between the Joker and Batman.
“The world doesn’t just need another Batman-Joker story. One of the reasons I’ve never done one is because there are so many amazing ones, so I was only gonna do one if it was different and surprising and looked at the Joker and the meaning of the Joker and his effect on Batman and his family in a new way,” Johns said in an interview with EW. “We’re not introducing a multiverse of Jokers, we’re not out to change these characters forever, but we are turning over some rocks about these characters and their relationships.”
Joining Batman are Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd, better known as Batgirl and Red Hood. These characters are at the heart of two of the Joker’s most recognized stories – The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family, where Barbara was shot by the Joker through the spine in the former and Jason was mercilessly killed in the latter. Both stories were published in 1988, and serve as examples of the dark turn comics were beginning to make at that time. In the aftermath of these brutal events, the Dark Knight became a much more grim hero. But luckily for us, Batman has found his way back to a moderate level of darkness that still welcomes the light of heroism just like how Barbara continued being a hero as Oracle and in recent years has returned to being Batgirl. Even Jason Todd was brought back to life and has found his place in the DC Universe.
“It goes back to the beginning when Batman first encountered the Joker, but it’s also The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family that speak to the book and that we’re building off emotionally. Barbara and Jason have gone through so much, as has Bruce, and it’s really focused on healing, on scars and wounds and what that does to somebody. If you suffer some trauma, you don’t just get over with it and move on with your life, it changes who you are. Sometimes it changes for the better, sometimes it changes you for the worse. You can heal right, and you can heal wrong. That’s what the book’s about: Healing right, healing wrong, and surviving,” Johns said.
If there was going to be a DC guide to healing, I can think of no better characters to feature than Barbara and Jason who have been through so much in their publication history. Over 30 years later (real-time, comic time is probably between 5-10 years), these characters have had to address the most painful parts of their past in order to emerge as what they hope are better people. To look back on your life, think “wow, I almost/did die,” and then decide to continue putting on a mask in an attempt to make this world a better place might only be found in the pages of comics. But that attitude and resolve to identify, address, and overcome is a universal template for anyone with baggage they want to shed.
“We made a choice right from the beginning that we would base the look of our book around what Brian did in The Killing Joke. Just like how Gary in Doomsday Clock took a lot of his beats from Dave Gibbons, I’m kind of doing the same with Brian Bolland,” Three Jokers’ artist Jason Fabok said. “Fans who have read The Killing Joke, you’re gonna see some familiar panels, you’re gonna see some familiar-looking things, like the Batcave.”
With his own copy of The Killing Joke sitting on his desk for the last few years, Fabok has had a roadmap and template to the world he’s building with Johns for this story.
“My thinking was almost, okay, years have passed so Batman has upgraded his Batcave from what he had originally in The Killing Joke, but the same bones are there. Even the Batmobile that I designed is loosely based around the Batmobile from The Killing Joke, where it’s got one big fin and a face built into the front, with big wheels and everything. I consciously infused a lot of that Brian Bolland, even the way he would tell stories through his panels,” Fabok said. “I’ve been constantly referencing it, and even following a lot of the rules of how he laid out his panels in that book. I really want it to feel like it could be a spiritual sequel, at least artistically.”
Colorist Brad Anderson and letterer Rob Lee are also working on Three Jokers. Be ready to pick up your copy of the first issue on June 17.
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