Among other announcements at last weekend’s Wondercon, DC is apparently going to reveal the Joker’s real name in the forthcoming Justice League #50. They hinted at its reveal before, earlier in the storyline, and you can see those specific panels at that link where Batman learns the name, but we, the readers, are kept in the dark.
Now, assuming it’s not a big ol’ fake-out, it still seems kind of weird. As Twitter pal nicknewt newted…er, noted, “There’s two possible outcomes of revealing the Joker’s real name: 1: Someone we never heard of, thus anticlimactic / And 2) an existing character, which is dumb as [fudge].” My response was that it could be some heretofore unrevealed relative of Bruce Wayne, which, if I may opine briefly, would also be a dumb as [fudge] option. Given Batman’s reaction to the revelation of the name, it’s clearly got to mean something, but…well, I don’t know. We’ll see in two or three months, whenever Justice League #50 actually does show up.
And that’s the weird bit…the reason it feels like some kind of fake-out or doomed-for-the-reset-button reveal is because it is happening in Justice League, and not one of the main Batman books. Unless, as I also mentioned on the Twitterers, this is some kind of “Wolverine’s Origin” deal where the movie studios were going to reveal their own version of the formerly-secret information and it was in the comic company’s best interest to do it themselves in whatever title was convenient before it was done for them. I mean, I’m not sure what film or TV project could theoretically have done this. Maybe some throwaway line in Suicide Squad? Something they’re leading up to in Gotham?
The one time they almost got a real name to stick to the Joker was in the first Tim Burton Batman film, where he was given the name Jack Napier (a play, I think, on “jackanapes,” which is clever). The name ended up being used in the animated series (where I believe it was eventually revealed as an alias), and eventually faded away, finally unable to counter the decades of inertia of a nameless Joker. I noted, ugh, 11 years ago that the one remnant of that particular bit of the character’s history is that “Jack” (or something similar) is now sort-of the go-to name whenever the Joker’s past starts getting thrown around. (Interestingly, if a bit awkwardly, Alan Moore in The Killing Joke avoids mentioning his real name at all in the flashback scenes.)
Like I said, I’m still convinced this is a fake-out of some kind, but it got folks talking about their comics, so, hey, a win for DC. I personally think that would undermine the Joker’s power as a character, by nailing down this agent of chaos to a specific history, when he’s more effective as just this wild monster that came from nowhere to counter Batman’s need for order. It doesn’t matter who he was, just what he is, and (presumably) making a Shocking Reveal out of his true history may bump up sales and interest in the short run, but won’t really add anything in the long run. Then again, if DC really is sticking with it and (almost more importantly) if the tie-in media runs with it, the Joker’s real name could be with us for while…at least, until that previously-mentioned decades of inertia wipes it away once more.