Since his first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940, the origin of the The Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime and perpetual thorn in Batman’s side, has been an issue of contention. The character himself has claimed in some stories that he doesn’t precisely recall his life prior to his criminal career, though the truth of this has always been unclear. A number of creators have explored that notion, particularly in writer Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke and director Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and, largely, it works for the character. A Joker without a name is more easily presented as a frustration for Batman in that the madman is an unsolvable riddle and a force of nature that can’t be tamed solely through the Caped Crusader’s sheer force of will. While he has had issues deducing who The Joker truly is, it’s unclear what he would do with that information if he ever had it.
Until now. During the “DC Universe: Rebirth” panel at WonderCon in Los Angeles this Saturday, writer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok revealed that readers will learn the true name of The Joker in April’s Justice League #50. While fans will just be gaining this information, Batman has had The Joker’s true name for a short time, learning it after sitting on the New God Metron’s Mobius chair during “The Darkseid War” storyline.
In addition to the news, the panel released this bit of teaser art as a nod to the revelation. The various depictions of The Joker featured are winks to different origins (or lack thereof) that have been eked out to readers over the decades.
I’m of a split opinion on this news. On the one hand, giving The Joker a name anchors the character in a way that reminds Batman that his nemesis is just a man and not chaos incarnate, making him a problem that can be contained. And just because Batman has the name doesn’t mean that there won’t be story opportunities to unfold out of that reveal. On the flip, however, a Joker whom we definitively know a hint of his past eliminates some of his mystique and the very wild chaos the character represents. Also, learning the identity of The Joker through a deus ex machina feels like a bit of cheat, going against the spirit of the Batman’s usual detective methods. However, I’m willing to shelve my concerns for the time being.
We’ll see how the beginning of this story plays out in Justice League #50, written by Geoff Johns with Jason Fabok on art, out next month from DC Comics.