A Joker in the Pack
Since its introduction by Batman creators Bob Kane, Bill Finger and artist Jerry
Robinson in 1940, the character of the Joker has evolved several fold. Throughout the journey of the Joker from comics, to movies, TV serials and even video games, the character has been rendered even more complexity to its already twisted form. What has however remained constant is the fan following for the character; with generations being curious, fascinated, influenced by and even attracted to the Clown Prince of Crime!
What makes the Joker ‘THE Joker’
“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I
wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just, do things.”
- The Joker, The Dark Knight The initial conceptualization reflected a psychopathic criminal with no real plans. He was looked upon as a sadist deriving pleasure out of chaos and crime. His actions were drawn parallel to his appearance, with the thread of randomness and insanity running through them. The Joker stood as the embodiment of pure evil, attracting disgust and anger from any human even remotely sane.
“What doesnt kill you, simply makes you stranger!”
- The Joker, The Dark Knight
As random was his behavior, equally mysterious is the reason for his insanity. Several
theories were proposed regarding the making of the Joker, but no clear consensus was however reached. While earlier scripts didn’t throw any light upon the early days of the Joker’s life, readers were presented with a detailed account of the Joker’s making, in Allan Moore and Brian Bolland’s graphic comic ‘The Killing Joke’, which went on to become an iconic creation and milestone in the historical account of the Joker. The comic brilliantly captures the string of events in the life of the Joker, which turn him from a loving husband, anxious father, frustrated employee and failed comedian, to a crime scapegoat, victim of an accident and finally – the evil personified! A line by Joker in the comic summarizes his entire journey from a common man to what we know him to be today; “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy”.
Prima fascia, one may consider the Joker to be a pure manic – impulsive, irrational,
random and lacking direction. It would however be rather too naïve to assume that his acts are not backed by plans. In fact, the contrary is true as is reflected through his more than elaborate (even extravagant) setups aimed at delivering chaos – chaos that is well choreographed! The Dark Knight played by late stalwart Heath Ledger brought out the best of the Joker’s character. One cannot help but acknowledge his intellect, especially displayed in the manner he plays with the minds of the characters of the film (even Batman), depicting his deep understanding of basic human emotions and motivation. In both ‘The Killing Joke’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ the Joker clearly is doing everything to “prove a point”, to show that the so-called civilized society and all its morals are subject to circumstances and are vulnerable and fragile. To demonstrate this, he uses Commissioner Gordon in ‘The Killing Joke’ (and consequently fails) and Harvey Dent in
‘The Dark Knight’ (where he succeeds, in more ways than one).
Can there be a Joker beyond Gotham City?
“We stopped checking for monsters under our bed
When we realized they were inside us”
- The Joker
There is a world beyond Gotham City - the one that is an abode to you and me. A world, that extends beyond the rectangular frame of the comic strip and beyond the 2 hours 32 minutes reel. Could this world of ours too have its own Jokers? Is the Joker a single isolated comic character emerging from the dark creativity of a few people, or is it a phenomenon, a tendency, a bunch of little monsters within us?
Seen from the classical Jungian perspective, the Joker personifies the Demon, Rebel and
Jester archetypes. In doing so, rather extravagantly and in an exaggerated manner of course, the Joker might just be showing us the mirror, reflecting the hidden face of contemporary society. The news screams out each day numerous horrific, heinous and unthinkable criminal acts.
“You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They are only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they will eat each other. See, Iam not a monster. Iam just ahead of the curve.”
- The Joker, The Dark Knight
Way beyond these registered crimes are accounts of behaviors devoid of basic humanity. A point in case would be the death of a gentleman in India, due to cardiac arrest while waiting in the bank queue post demonetization. What is arguable however is what exactly killed him. Was it the cardiac arrest itself or the incompetence of the human within the mute spectators who didn’t budge from their places as they ‘chose’ money over helping a dying man reach the hospital in time? They had a choice. We all have. Obviously there are numerous other examples of the other extreme. Acts of altruism, selfless sharing and caring and love. We choose; we choose to allow ourselves to choose or let time choose for us.
In either case, the pack of cards in is our hands. Like a pack of cards, choices of different
shapes and colors. Choices for different situations and different people and things. Some like to Spade through the ripples of life, some wield a Club to fix things, few others afford to gain luxuries in exchange of cold and hard pieces of translucent Diamonds, while few others put their Hearts at stake – sometimes intact, sometimes in pieces – like shards of glass held together by thin threads of emotions. And as the game unfolds, some reach ace positions while some are bestowed with a royal moment. The rest, keep shuffling through their cards, in hope that some day, the game will end differently. Someday the rules of the game will change in their favor.
Someday! And then they chose – to continue playing. Few – just quit!
Somewhere in the pack of cards, however, lies a rather queer card – The Joker!