Turn Those Frowns Upside-Down with the Clown! Joker Leto’s On Point

Joker is an original graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo | DC Comics

The Joker has tattoos and no eyebrows and, like, weird teeth, now. Lot of people are all, “no!” Probably plenty of people like it. You know, there are responses across the human spectrum.

Jared Leto Suicide Squad movie Joker DC COmics

ScreenCrush wrote Jared Leto’s Joker Is Both Problematic and Interesting — and included a line that made me laugh like I laughed when I first saw the image.

“My immediate reaction to the image was shocked laughter, and the Joker is definitely supposed to be shocking and off-putting, but for all his twisted humor, he’s not supposed to be laughable.”

Really, there? Uh. What about him is so… serious?

The gist of this article’s “problematisation” of this Joker is not that he’s offensive, actually. Problematic here means “dislikable.”  The problems are that his tattoos are too obvious (HAHAHA, too on the nose), and that “Damaged” is a bad choice because it creates sympathy for the joker (as this tag must represent his emotions, I guess). The writer, Britt Hayes, compliments the way that “his eyes have the maniacal look of a disturbed person with insomnia,” though, so I guess the sympathy’s not too much.

As for me, if the Joker’s going to exist, I think this is a “good” design for him. My feeling mirrors pretty precisely my reaction to POWER/RANGERS, in fact: the source of this thing is played out and not necessary for today’s entertainment, but if it must exist — it should at least play its hand.

Batman things are boring to me and I am not interested in the Joker. He is a dull clown man who is “crazy” and does “wacky crimes” and sexual assault. Batman is his best-worst friend and he’s incredibly edgy and there’s some ineffable magnificence to him that means we should all take the idea of “a scary clown, for adults” seriously. We shouldn’t; that is the point of the Joker. The Joker is bullshit. He is a troll. A crime troll. The joke is that he makes a lot of money for some people who don’t care about you.

I don’t think it’s nice to write “damaged” on a mentally ill man’s forehead (this is what the design team and approving producers have done, fictional man or not (we go to films to believe in the stories they tell us, no?)), but I don’t think it’s nice to engage in the literally Lovecraftian bigotry of filling up a spooky gothic hilltop mental asylum with costume freaks and horror shows, visiting it at night, and repeatedly describing the care staff as abusive or abused. The Joker is “insane.” Do we still believe in “insane” as a description of an individual? Do we call a movie “Suicide Squad”? Then we believe in “damaged” as a facial tattoo. The Joker is not a metaphor.

So I laughed when I saw it, because the clown is clowning himself. You love that Joker imagery, all those covers with the wide mouths, the written laughter, the scratchy-scratchy, the push-it-further? Here you go, mister president. A fucked up try-hard concept deserves a fucked up try-hard aesthetic.

I get the joke!

It’s pretty funny. Hey, is this why they call’em comics?

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

10 thoughts on “Turn Those Frowns Upside-Down with the Clown! Joker Leto’s On Point

  1. I agree. I think this interpretation of the Joker is on point. It’s a different take, something we haven’t seen before and yet instantly recognizable as the Joker. I’ve always believed that the Joker role shouldn’t die along with Heath Ledger’s unfortunate passing. Jared Leto has proved he is an amazing actor and I fully support the film’s costuming choices.

  2. I mean, honestly, anything after Ledger’s joker was going to get heavy criticism. There was no winning any way.

  3. I…don’t like the look of this Joker but things change when contextualized so the movie will ultimately determine my feelings on this. I am not a fan of the damaged tattoo like you’ve discussed but otherwise, you’ve convinced me to look at this differently (that’s a win in any piece tbh). Good job, Miz Smarty Pants Claire.

  4. Aww I like the Joker, I don’t think he’s suppose to be scary in the traditional sense, more of an embodiment of the chaotic, evil nature of Gotham itself, and a foil to Batman’s own ridge control. Batman is all ridge control and “the mission”, and the Joker exists to disrupt that control and throw a wrench in the mission. The only time I ever found the Joker truly “scary” was in Batman Beyond Return of the Joker, but that had more to do with the emotional context that Tim Drake was forced under by the Joker (and boy does the Joker love torturing Batkids in ever creative and traumatizing ways). I do agree there’s a lot of ablist undertones when it comes to the Joker and Batvillians in general. I’m getting really annoyed with the trope mental illness = extreme unstable violence.

  5. This is a promotional piece first and foremost, and to me, it says “We’re going to give you a Joker that is nothing like what you’ve seen before (because you’ve seen it sooooo many times before, right?) — similar to how we’re giving you a non-blond, non-orange-scaled Aquaman. But here are the clues that let you know that this is actually the character you know.” And with Joker, he’s all about the big joke and the obvious surprise gag. To me, the tats are all about this. I feel like he won’t actually be sporting any of them in the actual movie. Which makes me really want to see it now if they are going to step away from the typical appearances of the characters to give us something really really interesting….

    1. Yeah I like how DC/WB are really working to give us something different especially concerning characters we’ve seen over, and over again. Have you seen the new spoiler pic of the Joker? It looks really good even if it’s blurry. I’m really excited to see Harley Quinn’s costume, I’m hoping for a combination of her traditional DCAU costume, and her N52 costume (I actually like the shorts I just don’t like her almost always popping open top). I feel like they’re examining aspects of the actual characters personalities and putting those into the costumes themselves. Which as a lover of examining costumes, character design, and personality I’m in heaven. It doesn’t always work (Clark’s new Superman costume for example) but overall I’m excited. I want to see the rest of the cast like now.

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