Spoilers for Batman: Three Jokers #3 herein.

§ October 27th, 2020 § Filed under batman § 14 Comments

So in Justice League #42 (cover date September 2015, released July 2015), the following happens. Batman, gets a hold of Metron’s Mobius Chair, a repository of nearly every bit of information from across the universe that it was possible to obtain, gathered by the chair’s (former) owner.

Once he plants his Bat-butt into the seat, Batman decides to test the chair’s accuracy by asking it a question:


The chair makes some pinging sounds (pinging panels omitted from this brief recap) and delivers the answer:


As you see there, Batman acknowledges that the answer was correct, pauses for a moment as he ponders his next move, then asks for the Joker’s “true name.”

The chair beeps and boops further, before delivering a tantalizingly unseen answer to Batman, who responds thusly:


And how do you keep a sucker in suspense? We’ll tell you what Batman heard several months later in Justice League #50, cover date July 2016, released May 2016:


Now, cut to Fall 2020, where this Three Jokers business is finally being addressed in a prestige mini-series titled, what else, Batman: Three Jokers. I’ve gone on about the first two installments in the series, at length on the first issue here and I managed to restrain myself a bit for #2 here. The conclusion to the series is out now, and like I said in the title way up above there, there’s gonna be SPOILERS, so don’t come crying to me.

At first glance, the conclusion of Three Jokers appears inconsistent with the set-up in Justice League #42 shown above. Batman asks the Mobius Chair for the Joker’s real name. One of the big reveals in Three Jokers #3 is that Batman’s known the Joker’s real name all this time. If he knew, why’d he ask?

Well, looking back at the Justice League comics, I suppose there’s kind of an out. Batman tested the chair with a question he already knew the answer to (that Joe Chill was the murderer of his parents). Maaaaaybe, if you squint a little, one could claim that his next question about the Joker’s real name was also a test, to see if the chair would spit out the right name. The twist in that story is, of course, as we eventually find out, the whole triad of the Clown Prince of Crime thing.

The problem with that interpretation is that the comics do not read that way. In context it feels that Batman’s question about the Joker’s real name was made as a sincere inquiry, not a further test of the system. It’s…that pause before he asks, and the intensity with which he asks it. It doesn’t feel like a question being asked by a man who already knows the answer. It reads like someone excited by the chance at gaining knowledge he’s desperately sought and now finally has a chance to have.

That said, there is enough ambiguity to where both the Justice League stories and Three Jokers can remain consistent. When Green Lantern is prodding Batman in JL #50, trying to find out what the chair said, Batman evades the issue at first. He’s being deliberately cagey in relation to any questions about the Joker’s true identity, perhaps because of what we know now from the ending of #3. He doesn’t want to discuss the subject in order to protect….

…Well, yes, protect whom? So way back when, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke gives us a backstory for the Joker, told in flashback and implied heavily to be the Joker’s own memories. We see a failed stand-up comedian who has agreed to participate in a crime to gain money to care for his wife and his as-yet unborn child. However, policemen find him sitting in a bar to inform him that his pregnant wife was killed in an accident…one of the tragedies leading to this comedian’s coming transformation. However, the text of that comic tells us the backstory as shown isn’t necessarily the backstory for the Joker, as his own memories are likely unreliable. But it’s the Joker saying this and he’s the very definition of unreliable, his narration saying one thing with the truth being another.

It’s left ambiguous in The Killing Joke, but that ambiguity is stripped away as, in no uncertain terms, it’s revealed that was very much the Joker’s backstory. That the pregnant wife in fact faked her death to get away from the now-revealed-to-be abusive comedian husband to raise her child, and that the Batman keeps the Joker’s name to himself to keep the media from tracking her down somehow.

Now…I’m okay with this conclusion, actually. I like the idea of Batman being smart enough to actually know who the Joker’s been all this time, and that he has good reason to keep it a secret based on information revealed in previous stories. Like I said, it does remove the uncertainty from Killing Joke, but, you know, eh.

Of course, that begs the question “if Batman was smart enough to know that, how was he not smart enough to know he was dealing with three different people saying they’re the Joker?” Especially since at least one of them looks like he’s drawn visibly older than the others. Whatever process they’re using to make more Jokers is making them physically identical, I guess? I don’t know, Batman’s being bamboozled by this ruse doesn’t seem to follow.

Also, as discussed in my look at the first issue, it’s said in-story that the Joker first appeared, quote, “decades ago.” But #3 has Bruce Wayne looking in on the Joker’s wife and son wherever they’re living out their lives…and the son appears to be, well, still a kid. Not 20 years old or so, as the “decades ago” comment would imply. I am presuming this is a flashback, but nothing seems to indicate as such, aside from the child’s age. Those panels aren’t colored differently, like the other flashback panels involving the Joker’s family. I mean, it has to be some kind of flashback to Batman looking in on them just a few years after they started their new lives. But that’s not what it feels like when you hit that point of the story.

It is snowing in that particular sequence, and I don’t recall if the current time of year was established for this mini-series, and that the snow was to imply a change in time frame (like sometime in the past). I just figured they were in Alaska, hiding out with Jesse Pinkman. (Um, spoilers for El Camino, too, I guess.)

Overall…I enjoyed this series for what it was, though whether there is any longterm impact on Batman comics from here on out remains to be seen, if it’s not just outright ignored. Jason Fabok’s art is gorgeous throughout, and I do think the thematic interweaving of Batgirl’s trauma from The Killing Joke and the Red Hood’s trauma from “A Death in the Family” was interesting. I like the symmetry of Batman and the Joker keeping each other’s identities secret for their own reasons. And as I said above, I think the big reveals at the end of #3 were fine. It’s just that the set-up, that there were multiple Jokers running around, requires Batman to be dumb, and nobody likes a dumb Batman.

Ah, well, I suppose we can look forward to the major work years later by some other creative team, reaching back to repurpose Geoff Johns’s story for the eventual “The Joker’s Son” special event. Turnabout is fair play, I guess. Maybe they can team up the Joker’s Son with the weird Clark Kent/Dr. Manhattan amalgam kid from the end of Doomsday Clock. Run with that, Future Hot Writer and Artist!

14 Responses to “Spoilers for Batman: Three Jokers #3 herein.”

  • King of the Moon says:

    Did I really spend $18 on that?

    Questions I asked myself this morning

  • swamp mark says:

    you put this together extremely well for those of us who aren’t reading it. thanks mike

  • JohnJ says:

    And now you have all the Future State books to think about ordering for Jan.and Feb. next year. I’ll probably look over the ordering information again later but as it stands right now, the POV for me is there are 2 months for me to order almost zero DC comics.
    My Batman book currently is The Adventures Continue and I’m happy they publish at least one Bat book I can tolerate.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I started to write a comment speculating that the reason for making the specific number of Jokers three was to connect with the movies. I pointed out that, if one does not count the Cesar Romero version (co-owned with Fox/Disney, and so unavailable for use in the regular continuity), the live action movies have so far provided three Jokers–Nicholson, Ledger, Phoenix–all popular, and unreconcilable with each other. Perhaps, I suggested, DC was going to base the comics versions after each of these film characters (a psychotic gangster, an agent of chaos, an embittered clown lashing out), with the (obviously strained) hope that this would make the comics more appealing to the millions of people who liked the movies.

    And then I remembered Jared Leto. And he cannot be overlooked, given that he is coming back in the expanded Justice League movie (and he is the only one coming back–Nicholson is practically retired, Ledger is dead, and Phoenix has repeatedly said he is uninterested in doing a series, the reason he passed on playing Dr. Strange). So, all that theorizing was a complete waste of time.

    Still, the theory may have a certain validity in a much diluted form, which is that the popularity of the very different movie versions may have influenced DC’s thinking that its readers would tolerate having a whole bunch of Jokers running around. Maybe.

    Sorry for wasting your time.

  • Jack of Spades says:

    I just want to know, can we put the Joker on the shelf for a while? Maybe use some other villain? I am heartily sick of the Clown Prince.

  • Jack says:

    You know, assuming I didn’t miss it, at this rate all Geoff Johns needs to do to complete his “mess with Alan Moore’s last run of published stories at DC” is reveal who V really was in V For Vendetta. It’s like his title at DC is “Official Annoyer Of Alan Moore.” This case is especially funny because (1) this is DC’s second go run at Killing Joke and (2) Moore’s basically disowned it for years anyway.

    Geoff Johns, you’re not Alan Moore, and you should stop.

  • Thom H. says:

    Pinning down the mysterious aspects of a long-running character is never satisfying because:

    — Their mysterious nature is part of their appeal.
    — Definitive answers limit the character’s use in the future.
    — The answer can never be as good as your imagination running wild.

    But writers keep returning to that well because…it sells? They want to make a lasting mark? They’ve run out of other ideas?

    A similar trend is being revealed over at housetoastonish.com, but with Wolverine. So much has been tacked onto his past that it’s ridiculous, and very little of it actually makes him a better character.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    I didn’t read any of these and don’t ever care to, but now all I can think of is they should bring back Jackie Joker comics, what with Richie Rich as president for the last few years.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    My interpretation of Batman’s first question – “Who killed my parents?” – is that yes he already knew Joe Chill was the murderer, to the best of his knowledge.. but he wanted to know for sure.

    I like to think Batman, as the World’ Greatest Detective, is always willing to re-examine his assumptions.

  • Steven R says:

    So we can look forward to a teamup of the Joker’s Son and the Joker’s Daughter? And since I’m not sure of who her current father is, I suspect most DC writers wouldnt either – and add that to a mini-series plot.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Now that I have thought more about this, I have come to realize that three Jokers is simply too few. There should, at a minimum, be four: the Space Cowboy, the Gangster of Love*, Maurice, and of course, the Pompatus of Love*. Five would be even better, with the addition of the Midnight Toker.

    Somebody really dropped the ball on this.

    *Does it annoy anyone else that Steve Miller is here essentially rhyming “love” with “love”? I cannot decide if that is better or worse than the lines that immediately follow, which rhyme “wrong” and “home.”

  • Raymond Zinsius says:

    Your concern about whether Batman already knew the Joker’s name assumes there is any such thing as continuity.

    There isn’t any such thing as continuity.

    There never was.

  • Randy Sims says:

    Hey Jack,

    Don’t forget he needs to introduce evil murder Freddy Freeman.

  • Jeff R. says:

    So, which Joker was Harley with? Or Harley’s, I guess, since Jersey Harley and Suicide Squad Harley are different characters anyway, and King’s Harley tries to split the difference and do might as well be a third.

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