I mean, seriously, the age is given right there in the text.

§ August 26th, 2022 § Filed under batman, multiverse talk § 17 Comments

[um, SPOILERS AHEAD for Dark Knight Returns, I guess]

Joe Gualtieri has a question that should’ve occurred to me during my Old Joker discussion:

“I expect this kind of thing from these apps, but in the specific instance, how did they not think of Dark Knight Returns, never mind any of the stuff you named, Mike?”

Welllll…I forgot, and who knows about the people running the Hot Comics App…something like Dark Knight Returns is probably ancient history to them. But lemme defend myself just a tad here.

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, as most of us know, is about an older Bruce Wayne who returns to being Batman (hence the title) after having given up the costume a decade earlier. In issue #4 of Dark Knight (or “Chapter 4 of Dark Knight Returns” for you newfangled trade paperback readers) Bruce’s age is specifically stated as being 55:


(Oddly, I found this article that goes through a lot of trouble figuring out Batman’s age in Dark Knight Returns and other related works by Miller…which ignores the explicit statement of 55 and comes to the conclusion that he was 48 in that series.)

Continuing the assumption from my previous post that Joker is likely of a similar age (the symmetry of Batman and Joker being “two sides of the same coin” and whatnot would, at least in my interpretation, possibly preclude too much of an age difference between the two), he would be about 55 as well. When we first see him in Dark Knight, he’s sitting quietly in the asylum watching TV when he sees the news of Batman’s titular returning:


And then he cleans up pretty well for this TV appearance later in the story:


Now, to the Frank Miller who wasn’t yet 30 when writing and drawing Dark Knight Returns, 55 probably seemed terribly ancient to him. It would be inherently ridiculous for someone to still be running around dressed as a bat at that age. You know, instead of just running around dressed as a bat in his twenties, like a normal person.

But we can say neither Batman and the Joker are necessarily old-old in this series. I mean, the working premise of the story is that Bruce Wayne is too old to be doing Batman stuff, which isn’t necessarily the same as being elderly. Heck, even the 70-ish age we’d pinned Joker’s age at in some of his appearances listed in my previous post doesn’t seem as old as it used to. It all comes down to just what you think the world “old” entails. That Justice Society Annual entry in the Hot Comics App could simply be understood as “first appearance of a Joker that’s older that what we’re used to seeing.” They’d still be wrong, of course.

I think what I’m trying to say here, Joe, is that, as a person who as of this writing is 53 years old, I’m not going to think of 55-year-old Joker as old. Nope, no way, I REFUSE.

17 Responses to “I mean, seriously, the age is given right there in the text.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I always thought that based on the art in Batman no. 1 from 1940 The Joker looked at least ten or even fifteen years older than Batman. And if The G.A. Joker’s face was in part based on Conrad Veidt’s physiognomy as Gwynplaine in the 1928 German Expressionist film masterpiece The Man Who Laughed (and since Veidt himself was born in 1893), that would mean Veidt was about thirty-five years old when he portrayed Gwynplaine. So, yeah, as I see it G.A. Joker is at least
    in his mid-thirties in 1940 whereas G.A. Batman (or Bat-Man) seems to be in his mid-twenties in his first adventures circa 1939-’40. So that would indicate that original, Golden Age Joker is from the Lost Generation, whereas original Golden Age Batman is from the Greatest Generation. I know you’ve moved on to The Dark Knight iteration of The Joker, but even in Bronze Age Batman stories which had The Joker, I never got the feeling he was the same age as Batman. Also, if one considers the Batman TV show from the ’60s and the Tim Burton Batman film from 1989, you’ve got your Cesar Romero Joker and your Jack Nicholson Joker–and they were both considerably older than Adam West Batman and Michael
    Keaton Batman.

  • Daniel says:

    Ben Affleck is 50 and Michael Keaton is 70, and they’re both still playing Batman, so the TDKR premise of a “too old” Bruce Wayne becoming Batman again is likely going to become less and less relevant to future readers of the book as the idea of an old Batman becomes more normalized in-story.

  • If any of you read THE THREE JOKERS, which isn’t good isn’t bad, one of the three is very noticeably older than the other two. It would probably be a lame idea, but I’m surprised that no one ever did a story of identical twin Jokers.

    In regards to Mike’s worrying about aging, in Grant Morrison’s BATMAN, INC., Batman and Robin go to meet Mr. Unknown in Japan, only to find him dead.The kid who runs the store above the secret HQ explains to them that he was Mr. Unknown. Taking his place.

    Sort of making a big deal about Mr. Unknown having been 52 and how could be expected to fight?

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    55 is The New 52!

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    I was 8 when I first read DKR, so 55 year old Batman did seem SO old back then. Why, my dad was 43 at the time, and that was 12 years older! Now I’m 41 and 55 year old Batman doesn’t seem quite so old. I think I had replaced 55 in my head 65, which is at least retirement age.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    And thanks for answering my question Mike!

  • I remember 2014 so well. I don’t know where I got this from, but since I was young, Batman was supposed to be older than Superman, Flash, and so forth. Not the first hero, just older. I think the understanding was that he would then understand the weaknesses over every new hero.

    So something like 33.I was 30 when I read TDKR. So going by my weird memory, I just assumed he would be in his 60s. Simply because brawlers can be in reasonably good health compared to 63 years old in two weeks Wayne.

    Of course, this was before I read the book and saw his age mentioned.One thing that always creeps me out is when I’m talking about a book I bough almost half my lifetime ago.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Wayne Allen Sallee, I don’t know whether the twin Jokers idea was ever explored in DC comics, but in the Gotham TV show from several years back we did get actor Cameron Monaghan who portrayed the twins Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska who were basically twin Jokers in all but name…but I guess you already know that. Anyway, I thought Monaghan did a great job.

    Re: The Three Jokers, I think it makes sense that one is very noticeably older –the “crime boss” Joker who is an homage to/ riff on the G.A. original Joker. And again, in Batman no. 1, the original Joker is sure drawn by Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson or whoever to look older than Batman.

    I wonder when that whole Batman is supposed to be older than Superman, Flash, etc., thing started? Probably in the late Bronze Age. In Golden Age and Silver Age comics it seems that Superman and Batman are approximately the same age. There’s even a story in Superboy no. 182 from the early ’70s by Leo Dorfman, Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson, “The Forging of Young Batman” where teenage Bruce Wayne meets teenage Clark Kent. But again, if you go back to Action Comics no. 1, I always thought that Superman–as he was originally drawn by Joe Shuster–looked older than Batman by 5 to 10 years. I mean G.A. Superman to me looks like he’s about 35 years old circa 1938. But I guess Wonder Woman-though she’s forged from clay– is the oldest of all the G.A. Earth-Two superheroes…unless The Spectre and Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt are older still…

  • Sean: I do recall the young Bruce and young Clark. I always read those types of stories as just entertainment. And I never did watch GOTHAM.

    Have you seen Wayne Boring’s Superman? He looks like half the uncles I had growing up, ranging from their 40s to their 60s. (As a kid, when you don’t some uncles that often, they can be interchangeable.) Nothing against the guy, everyone looked younger when dressed normal.

    Maybe the whole older Batman thing was from an urban legend standpoint. But I do know I grew up thinking, wow, Batman must be in his 30s. (Or Bruce Wayne.) And there were shenanigans with Superman’s birthday being February 29th, so leap year.

    One reason why I don’t watch the CW Flash is because everyone is so damned young. Barry Allen didn’t graduate in forensics when he was 21. Ollie Queen seemed older than Hal Jordan. And I’d bet Black Canary is a few years younger than Hal. In my 1960s head, I saw a range of ages from mid- to late-20s. Yes, comparing them to parents and neighbors I’m sure, subconsciously thinking of their respective achievements.

    From what i heard about Dan DiDio’s 5G, Wonder Woman would have appeared in 1917 as in the film. Then the Golden Age characters as hey did appear, like Dr. Occult and Crimson Avenger. They were trying to create a timeline to reflect the films. And we know Batman is older than Superman in the recent films. I’m glad 5G never came to be.

    I suppose it comes down to saying Batman is the oldest Silver Age character and the others have varied ages. And I’d never even give thought to age if it wasn’t for Wayne Boring.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Wayne: Agreed that lots of Silver and on the cusp of Bronze Ages stories should be seen as just entertainment. But I don’t think when the Bruce and Clark Superboy story was printed it was supposed to be “an imaginary tale”…I think it was supposed to be canon at the time, and part of a trend, as Superboy also met teen-aged Arthur Curry as “Aquaboy” in a tale titled “Dark Strangler of the Seas!” in Superboy no. 171, as scripted by Frank Robbins. But maybe these stories were eventually relegated to “Earth-B” with a lot of Bob Haney stuff–although, personally, I really like most zany Bob Haney stories.

    Yes, Wayne Boring’s barrel chested Superman looks like he’s middle-aged for sure. And if comics used real time, Superman would have been in his late 30s/early 40s by the 1950s when a lot of those Wayne Boring stories were drawn. But I actually prefer Boring’s husky Superman to Curt Swan’s boring Superman. And I thought Wally Wood’s Earth-Two Superman (drawn a la Joe Shuster) in All-Star Comics was great…Joe Staton’s Earth-Two Superman was very good as well…especially with Bob Layton inks.

    Gotham as a TV show was a mixed bag–but still interesting to watch. I didn’t think the casting for young Bruce Wayne was great, but I liked most of the supporting cast. And many of the villains were quite good–particularly Penguin, Riddler, and the pseudo-Jokers the Valeska twins.

    Yes, I’d say the CW shows were designed primarily for sub-Millennials and Millennials, and many shows lasted way too many seasons, but it was still fun to see some of these characters brought to life. But I understand your critique…Grant Gustin (portraying Barry Allen), looked very young more like classic Wally West to me, as in Silver/Bronze Age comics Wally’s hair fluctuated between red and brown. As I mentioned before, the actor who played Eddie Thawn actually looked like Barry Allen. Looking back to the Superman film from 1978, one of the great things was the casting of mostly spot-on actors who looked like the classic comic book characters. Same thing with Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman–especially when it was set during WW II. I will say that the Arrow show had some good casting…even if they basically tried to make Green Arrow a Batman-lite.

    When/if G.A. ever gets cast for the DC Cinematic Universe it would be cool to see a Bronze Age-ish goatee-sporting socially progressive Oliver Queen in the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams tradition. They could really play him off as a foil against Bruce Wayne/Batman. Unfortunately, they already cast Black Canary in a recent DC movie I didn’t see, but I think it actually would have been intriguing to stick with a more comic accurate situation and have Black Canary be older than Oliver Queen by ten years or so…a cougar and a crimefighter…

    I’m also glad 5G never came about, but I think some of its ideas trickled down into comics DC has been publishing for the last two years. I like Yara Flor as a new character–I just don’t think she should be called “Wonder Girl.” She could have been her own thing….”Amazonia” or “Ipanema Girl” or “Maravilha Mulher” or “A Brasileira” or something. For me the one true Wonder Girl will always be Donna Troy–I wish DC would just reinstate her classic red costume and call her “Wonder Girl” again. But then I really appreciate the original Teen Titans.

    I liked the first two acts of the first Gal Gadot Wonder Woman film–thought the third act was weak. I think they should have placed it circa 1940 WWII like in the original comics instead of during WW I –but I guess they felt that the first MCU Captain America film already covered that WW II territory. But again, even though we will be getting an iteration of the JSA in the upcoming Black Adam film, I’d love to see an amazing WWII-era JSA or All-Star Squadron film franchise of three or more films, produced by Steven Spielberg with Roy Thomas as a script consultant . It could start pre-WW II with the Mystery Men era and heroes facing racketeers and fifth columnists, build up to the war and bring in the Blackhawks as well, and the third film could focus on the post-WW II and how McCarthyism brought down the JSA. Throw in elements from the Secret Origin of the Justice Society, All-Star Squadron, and Mark Evanier and also Howard Chaykin’s Blackhawk runs. But have it established as Earth-Two so we can see Golden Age Superman and Batman iterations in the film.

    As for the Snyderverse, it has its good and bad points. I appreciated most of the Justice League casting–especially Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I thought Ray Fisher was great as Cyborg, but I always think of Cyborg as a New Teen Titan–not a Justice League member (even though he joined the team in the New 52 era). Side-tangent, why did they put another Cyborg in the Doom Patrol streaming show instead of in the Titans streaming show? I think the Snyderverse should have just cast a John Stewart Green Lantern for the Justice League film instead of Cyborg. I didn’t really like the casting of Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash at all. He just seemed goofy. I like Jason Momoa as an actor and think he was entertaining as Aquaman, but I like the classic Bronze Age Jim Aparo-look Aquaman from the comics (and even Jim Lee’s New 52 redesign wasn’t bad) more than the Peter David-and-beyond “Poseidon” -looking bearded ” Aquaman -The-Undersea-Barbarian” take on the character , so I think an actor like Jason Lewis or Alexander Skarsgård looks more like classic Aquaman. But at this point Momoa has made the character his own, even if he’s more “Aquabro” than Aquaman. I’m okay with Snyderverse Batman being older than Superman, etc., but I really did not like the casting for Lex Luthor. I also thought in Man of Steel it was lame that Clark let Pa Kent die and just plain wrong and completely out of character to have Superman snap Zod’s neck. Having said that, I hope Henry Cavill does eventually get to appear in a Man of Steel Sequel film. It will be interesting to see how DC films –and DC Comics–proceed now that David Zaslav is CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. I think a computer-animated super-hero comedy Metal Men family film based on the original iteration of the team with Silver Age “Mad Men”-looking Doc Magnus would be cool.

    A couple of years ago, just for fun, while watching quite a few 1930s-’40s vintage Hollywood films I came up with a hypothetical casting list for if a JSA film franchise had been created during WW II, which I could imagine Orson Welles or Fritz Lang directing:

    JSA:

    Tyrone Power as Jay Garrick/Flash

    Alan Ladd as Alan Scott/Green Lantern

    Buster Crabbe as Carter Hall/Hawkman & and Gene Tierney as Sheira Sanders/Hawkgirl

    George Sanders as Wesley Dodds/Sandman

    Leslie Howard as Kent Nelson/Doctor Fate and Myrna Loy as Inza Cramer

    Joel McRea as Jim Corrigan/The Spectre

    Ray Milland as Rex/TylerHourman

    John Garfield as Al Pratt/Atom

    Elisha Cooke Jr. as Johnny Thunder

    Robert Stack as Ted Knight/Starman

    Dana Andrews as Charles McNider/Doctor Mid-nite

    Dorothy Lamour as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

    William Holden as Terry Sloane/Mr. Terrific

    Burt Lancaster as Ted Grant/Wildcat

    Veronica Lake as Dinah Drake/Black Canary

    Honorary JSA Members:

    Robert Mitchum as Clark Kent/Superman

    John Payne as Bruce Wayne/Batman

    …and since the topic at hand was supposed to be The Joker, I’d cast the fantastic Richard Widmark as 1940s Golden Age Joker (seeing him as Tommy Udo in the 1947 film noir “Kiss of Death” convinced me! ).

  • Chris G says:

    55 in the 1980s was a lot older in a host of ways than 55 is today, and I don’t just say that because I’m in my late 40s.

    As for Silver Age heroes, a fair number of them, be a of their careers, we’re probably well into their 20s or in their 30s when they got their powers. Ray Palmer was a professor with a PhD, Hal Jordan had probably been in the military before becoming a test pilot, etc. You don’t do that when you’re 21.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I think that a lot of the DC Silver Age superheroes and the JLA in particular — created during the post-WW II economic boom of the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations–were designed to be aspirational for Baby Boomer kids in terms of inspiring them to become interested in science and technology careers (like Barry Allen, Ray Palmer, “Prof” Haley, Adam Strange, Will Magnus, etc.). And Hal Hordan is basically a riff on Chuck Yeager. During the LBJ Administration–and the tumult of the Vietnam War, the Generation Gap, etc.–DC created the Teen Titans, Hawk & Dove, Metamorpho, The Creeper, etc. –so, now there were teenage heroes looking for a sense of identity, and outlier oddball characters…or, DC trying to do a Marvel Comics shtick. And then Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow run was probably DC’s first depiction of heroes with feet of clay.

    As to the aging thing, yeah, people used to age more rapidly. Watch mid-20th century American films or TV shows and a lot of actors in their early 40s look much older–probably due to all the three martini lunches (and excessive drinking in general), 2 packs a day smoking habits, and Wonder Bread and processed food that became standards of American life by the time of the Mad Men era and for several decades afterwards. Mike Sekowsky definitely drew all the JLA members (except for Wonder Woman and Snapper Carr) as though they were all in their mid-to-late 30s–and with Dad Bods.

  • Gordo says:

    I’m surprised Brian Cronin got that wrong. He’s usually better than that with his research.

  • Mikester says:

    Gordo – To be fair, someone else wrote the article and did the number-crunching, Brian just introduced it.

  • Sean: good list on the stars. I always thought Jim Sale’s Superman in SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS looked a bit like Mitchum.In a perfect world, we would have a JSA movie set in 1940. But my thoughts would be to make the current actors portray the 40s actor, so Margot Robbie playing Veronica Lake portraying Black Canary. Doesn’t need to reference any other film. Like that Harley Quinn film, I have no idea where that fits in. They don’t really need to say Earth-2, just not go into it.

    Chris G: Ray Palmer is a better example than my Barry Allen. In THE NEW FRONTIER, Hal Jordan was in Korea, you can go with Gulf Wars to Afghanistan to test pilot and even if these guys were brilliant, to an extent, 25-30 is not far from middle age for some heroes. I agree that 55 is much different now, I’ve just been walking a minefield. I’m a writer and know a lot of artists and just like all the comic guys, they didn’t have great health insurance or just blew off things. Age 40-62, those I know died of cancer of some sort. I sort of accept that some of creatives at Marvel and DC were of the same thinking.

    Sean: I love Cliff hiang’s BEWARE THE CREEPER, which is set in 1920s Paris and centers around two sisters. I’d love if DC tried some non-legacy characters. Tying in the 20s Creeper to the 60s Creeper, sort of a totem though not exactly. Mainly I’m saying that someone with the same name can share the same traits halfway around the world.

  • Snark Shark says:

    You know who’d make a GREAT Joker? Rudy Guilliani!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Snark Shark: I think Rudy Guilliani looks more like Oswald Cobblepot…

    Wayne: Good call on “Superman For All Seasons” — and I highly doubt if Mitchum would have ever agreed to play Superman — but physically and in terms of his physiognomy he would have been great–even though Kirk Alyn was good! But again, in the hypothetical idea it would have been a situation where big money was invested in a 1940s JSA movie franchise…with big name 1940s stars…not just movie serial actors. My one exception to the rule was Buster Crabbe–as he had portrayed Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and even Tarzan…so he would have been great as Hawkman and in shape for the part. Also, if you look at how Jay Garrick Flash’s face is drawn in the early 1940s he look a lot like a young Tyrone Power.
    And, I think, Roy Thomas and other comics historians have already speculated that Alan Ladd could have been the inspiration for Alan Scott/Green Lantern, and Dinah Drake/Black Canary was drawn to look a lot like Veronica Lake. With some of the others, I went with characteristics or characters they portrayed in ’40s films. You’ve got Burt Lancaster in his film debut in the 1946 film The Killers as the boxer known as “The Swede”….seems like he would work as Ted Grant/Wildcat.
    William Holden was in the 1939 film Golden Boy (also as a boxer) and one thinks of Terry Sloane/Mr. Terrific as a “golden boy”–so that seemed to work. I liked the idea of bit player character actor Elisha Cooke Jr. as dopey Johnny Thunder…but maybe Danny Kaye would have been better.

    Anyway, I like your idea of current actors playing 1940s Hollywood stars playing the JSA — that’s cool! Or it could be cool if DC would think outside of the box and let Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway do a limited series or Black Book series about 1940s actors portraying the JSA. I’d love to see Ordway drawing Mitchum as Superman, etc. Could even be fun to have the real JSA meet the stars portraying them. My two main casting problems were how would Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt be portrayed in a 1940s film –by a live actor as a genie or by use of animation? Also, I did not cast for Ma Hunkel. Also, not sure if The Spectre as the ghost should have been portrayed by Joel McCrea…but I think he’s good as Jim Corrigan. And then, sadly, Leslie Howard (my choice for Kent Nelson/Dr. Fate) was killed by the Nazis in 1943 when the passenger plane he was on was shot down while
    in transit from Lisbon to Bristol. Totally recommend the Leslie Howard films “The Scarlet Pimpernel” (1934) and also “‘Pimpernel’ Smith” (1941) to see Howard’s superhero potential! They are probably both still up on Youtube for free.

    Wayne, I’m assuming you’ve seen the film noir “Kiss of Death” with Richard Widmark as the sadistic sociopath hoodlum with the creepy laugh, Tommy Udo?

    https://youtu.be/XTFtzUaNN7c

    Widmark would have been a perfect Golden Age Joker. For more Golden Age Batman villain casting, I’d go with Ava Gardner as Golden Age Selina Kyle/Catwoman; Edward G. Robinson as Boss Zucco; George Raft as Two-Face; Sydney Greenstreet as The Penguin; Errol Flynn as Golden Age Deadshot, Bela Lugosi as Hugo Strange, and Boris Karloff as the original Clayface Basil Karlo.

    I never read the New 52 iteration of The Creeper–and ultimately found most of the New 52 comics to be not very good…there was brief hope when Geoff Johns’ Rebirth was rolled out, but then DiDio, Bendis et al sank that fairly quickly. I think if Johns and/or Grant Morrison, Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Robert Venditti, Scott Snyder, and James Tynion IV were made the main writers at DC it would be a step in the right direction–but I’d love to see Bronze Age writers be given some projects as well…Roy Thomas on All-Star Squadron…maybe Steve Englehart or Gerry Conway on a retroactive continuity Satellite-era JLA comic set in the late ’70s-early ’80s with art by José Luis García-López…Steve Skeates on a Bronze Age untold tales of the original Teen Titans–stories with Mod Squad-era Teen Titans: Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, Lilith, Mal (maybe cameos from Hawk, Dove, Aqualad, Gnarrk) set from circa 1973 through 1976 –in between when the comic was cancelled and revived. Of course the great Nick Cardy passed away some years back, but I could see artists Steve Rude or Jerry Ordway doing great on capturing the feel of the 1970s Titans. Skeates could also bring back the original Hawk and Dove in a limited series set during the Vietnam era…or The Creeper.

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