The Joker: 80 Years of the Clown Prince of Crime

details
Title: The Joker: 80 Years of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Editor(s): Erika Rothberg and Alex Galer.
Writer(s): So many!
Illustrator(s): So many!
Publisher: DC Comics.

Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition.
Release Date: May 19th, 2020.
Pages: 448.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781401299934.

My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.

thoughts

The Joker. There isn’t much more that needs to be said before your mind pulls all the threads and connects all the dots to bring you to dread Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime. Unlike any villain to have ever been drawn and brought to life, this agent of chaos is by far the most despicable and troubling soul to wander the streets as he continuously presents Batman with nightmares to deal with. It is odd to be celebrating such a character’s existence when everything he does is unethical and morally unacceptable. He is after all the reincarnation of evil and the face of anarchy. However, such a character remains beloved not for what he does but what he represents, for what he brings to the table in the discussions on good and evil. Despite the nightmarish vision of various writers and artists of this character, he remains the unequivocally quintessential ingredient to a world in search of balance. You simply don’t have one without the other.

What is The Joker: 80 Years of the Clown Prince of Crime about? This beautiful hardcover deluxe edition celebrates the 80 years of stories featuring the world’s greatest comic book villain known as the Joker. Collecting over 400 pages of sinister plotting by Batman’s archenemy, this graphic novel presents a myriad of iterations of the Jester of Genocide from critically-acclaimed writers and artists ever since his first appearance in Batman #1. With a stark exploration of the character’s evolution within popular culture, the comic book industry, and in our own understanding of the villain’s raison d’être, this volume also features reflections by comics legends such as Dan DiDio, Steve Englehart, Paul Dini, Jeph Loeb, and Scott Snyder, as well as commentaries by true crime journalist Billy Jensen and the unmatched voice actor Mark Hamill.

It is in itself difficult to truly summarize the Joker’s history within one sturdy volume. Similar to Batman, his legacy has been within the hands of countless writers who have all offered a unique take on the character. But how is that possible? Shouldn’t such a personage be the same from one story to another? Not necessarily. He is a character that never has the same modus operandi whenever he’s out of Arkham Asylum and wreaking havoc on Gotham, a character that enjoys being the center of attention as he unveils to the world the joys of killing through gags, gimmicks, and deception, a character that toys with life with no regards to the consequences. It is in the beauty of this incongruity that resides in the character’s essence. Throughout the past 80 years, the Joker has seen various transformations, only to get darker and grimmer, like a blade being sharpened to its peak perfection, and it is throughout these versions of the Joker that his unknown origins, his meticulousness in disrupting order, and his iconic and memorable laugh that we understand that he’s a character born and bred in darkness, one that you simply won’t understand as he serves up his killing jokes.

With the commentaries by various individuals allowing us to get insights on the character’s history and the impact that the Joker had on them, this volume is also a visual treat for those wishing to speed through his transformation across 80 years. It is near impossible to not recognize the character—whether it’s his costume displaying his purple and green fixation, his maniacal smile and almost mythological laugh, or his unparalleled mannerism filled with clever puns and cynicism—the Joker remains an awe-inspiring character design that dares to fuse ridicule with insanity. Every single one of his appearances today is marked with capitulation as he brings fear in all before the show even begins. His action denotes an incredible lack of remorse and it’s through his demeanor that you know you’re facing a monster hidden among humans. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, his character always has a new joke for you hidden in his sleeves.

The Joker: 80 Years of the Clown Prince of Crime is a stunning and splendid commemorative collection of stories featuring an iota of the Harlequin of Hate’s most iconic moments in his terrifying saga.


EXHIBITA
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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45 comments

  • For all the changes that the superheroes have gone through, I’ve often wondered why the Joker doesn’t get the same kind of treatment? Yes, as you noted, he’s grimmer, darker, sharper than ever. But in many ways he’s remained the constant badguy while the goodguys get twisted around like pretzels by various author/artists. Some to the point where they are caricatures of what they started out as. I don’t remember that happening to the Joker.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think, for the most part, his design and characterization are kept relatively similar from one creative team to another because of the type of actions he’s known for and the things he’s never known to do (e.g. you won’t ever see him turn into a pedophile…).

      There are still, however, plenty of great examples of the character being transformed in an ALMOST unrecognizable way. As Ola pointed out, the good guy Joker in The White Knight is one. Another one is Grant Morrison’s version of the Joker. You’d be surprised by what he looks like in his Batman run.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Great review, Lashaan – full of interesting questions!
    I feel that Joker is a composite – every writer and artist imbues him with slightly different qualities; sometimes he’s more of a regular crook, sometimes he’s mad as a hatter, sometimes he’s a more sinister and menacing figure, the evil twin to Batman’s radical version of good. But he always is incredibly violent, and the violence is the most shocking when it’s unexpected. Plus, there’s always the clown thing – and coulrophobia is a real affliction! 😁

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Ola! I definitely like his polar opposite qualities to Batman that sometimes almost serve as a weapon for him when he denounces Batman and makes us see how they mirror each other in some ways too! Hahahah if anything, I’ve grown to love the Joker rather than fear him! Until he becomes real though… 😮

      Liked by 1 person

  • Lashaan you must have been over the moon getting this one! Yes it’s a villain they are celebrating but it’s a fictional villain. Not like celebrating Hitler for example. We know that in fiction we are safe expressing all aspects of our psyche. And as you said good does not exist without evil.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahahah absolutely! Anything related to Batman and Joker has me crazy happy! 😉 And you’re right. A fictional character that offers us the chance to study mental health issues and crime in very, very particular conditions! 😀

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  • Another excellent (and very quickly timed) review Lashaan! I purchased the digital edition of this yesterday and although I think I have a number of the stories elsewhere in other collections I’m still look forward to reading it. As with the Superman and Batman 80 year editions, I’m sure the essays will provide some extra special value!

    Did you know the Joker had his own DC series in the 70s? It was short-lived and only ran for nine issues, quite interesting to read for historic purposes (it was collected at some point but I got the individual digital issues in a sale) but it’s easy to see why it didn’t last – he really needs to be the villian within the Batman books where there’s more of an enigma to the character.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Chris! Yep. There’s a bunch of stories in this one that I had also already read (e.g. Hutch, Tony S. Daniel’s Detective Comics, Scott Snyder’s Joker, etc.) but it was still nice to see the pre-modern stories as well as the commentaries by various individuals for this one! And collecting these for your bookshelves is almost a no-brainer too hahah

      I did! I think it even has the same title as this anniversary edition (The Joker: The Clown Prince of Crime?). I hoped to review that someday too but don’t have it queued in the things to do this year hahaha And yes, I remember your thoughts on Phoenix’s and how your favourite iteration of the Joker needs to have a Batman to challenge him (or each other) and it’s true. In fact, if that Phoenix movie was able to insert a proper Batman in it, it would’ve been an indisputable masterpiece (not that I didn’t consider it already as one hahaha) for everyone! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • Great to see how much you enjoyed this one. This sounds like a volume that can be great for true fans, getting to look back, and see how the character changes or evolves over time, or even just how different creators interpret the character. Very nicely written review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Similar to the previous 80 years anniversary volumes that were released and reviewed, I think these make for excellent gifts for just about anyone too. They’re perfect to showcase on bookshelves or coffee tables too. You can learn so much so quickly with just these celebratory volumes! 😀 Thanks for reading, Todd!

      Like

  • I am not really that into comics, but this does look really interesting. While I’m not a big super hero genre fan, I used to love watching old Batman reruns. We even had a batman board game when I was a kid. My favorite super hero movie is the Batman movie with Heath Ledger as the joker. I’m glad you enjoyed this. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No worries, Stephanie! Hopefully someday I’ll convince you into picking up a comic and enjoy them so much that you’ll continue to feed this desire! 😀

      I am, however, very glad to hear that you have an appreciation for Batman as my own love for the hero wouldn’t accept otherwise! 😀 The Dark Knight is also one of my all-time favourite movies too! 😉

      Thanks for reading, Stephanie! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • 80 YEARS?! That sounds awesome. I love to see how different writers and artists portray one character, and the way evil is explored through him. You’re totally right that he’s such a well-loved villain (a Total Icon), and seeing his character design never gets old. It seems like this volume is truly a homage to our fave antagonist.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s been a while huh? I love that even after so many years, he remains iconic beyond anyone’s wildest dreams! And stories featuring Batman or Joker are far from being over too. These dudes are immortal! 😀 Thanks for reading, Aila. I appreciate the time you take to read this and to share your thoughts with me! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • This is an excellent post and review. I really enjoyed reading it! I have to admit I’m a little bit jealous you have a hard copy of this book;-) I’ve been a Batman comic book fan for many years. The Dark Knight and Spidey were the two comics I started collecting when I was young. Spidey was always a lot lighter than Batman, but I found myself sticking with the darker, more brooding detective. I remember when the Killing Joke came out–it blew my teenage mind at the time. (Loved your review, by the way! That joke at the end is genius; it’s always stayed with me.)

    Even though he is a chilling psychopath, there’s something about the Joker that seems to speak to almost everyone. An agent of chaos who just “want(s) to watch the world burn,” to quote Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ movie, or “the Clown Prince of Crime” from the Silver Age of Batman comics. To have lasted for eighty years is a brilliant achievement; a truly iconic character. I’m very interested to read the essays in this book. What did you think of them? Apologies for waffling on. Coincidentally, I just watched a cool YouTube video by ‘ComicTropes’ on “the Evolution of the Joker” from the comics. Here’s the link, if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTGBB0c99hA&t=1163s Again, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really, really appreciate that you took the time to dig through a couple of my posts! It makes me even happier to know that you’re a fan of these heroes too. Batman being my number 1 hero since my childhood, there’s no surprise that I’m still following his comic book series today and reading his stuff all the time. Spider-Man is also my favourite Marvel hero but because we have.. well.. limited time in a day, I decided to focus on Batman’s lore first and work my way through Spidey slowly afterwards! I’m currently going through a couple of series featuring Miles Morales right now, for example hahah

      Thanks for sharing that link! I’m always so impressed by how every creative team in the past handled the Joker. You could tell that his evolution is undeniable, especialy across the various Ages. I won’t lie that I’m much more fond of the Modern Age version when he’s twisted into a true psychopath, just around the time when Batman was also transformed to distance himself from his campier and comedy-filled iteration!

      Thank you again so much for taking the time to read my posts and I look forward to discussing more with you in the future! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome. And thanks for finding my site and leaving your comments. I realize how busy you must be, so I really appreciate it, too.

        I’ve never read the Miles Morales version of Spidey. I absolutely loved the recent “Into the Spiderverse” animated movie, so I’m going to check out some of his stories.

        It’s interesting how Joker began as a serial killer in the early Batman stories. Then later, he was changed into a more zany criminal, probably due to the Comics Code. Like you, I prefer the modern version. I think Heath Ledger captured the modern Joker perfectly in Nolan’s movie. Even better than Joaquin Phoenix’s version, although Phoenix’s performance in that movie was hypnotically great! I really enjoyed the Joker movie but felt like they didn’t need to reveal his whole origin–so different to the Killing Joke. We shouldn’t know everything about the character, we need some mystery.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Never too busy for people who have a similar passion for things I love and who even take the time to discuss with me! 🙂

          Same here. The recent animated movie was probably the best animated movie in a VERY long time too. It was an all-around perfect movie that really allowed the character to bloom and the story to take a life of its own!

          Oh man, Ledger’s Joker, or just Nolan’s trilogy, were soooo life-changing for me as a teenager. They made me love the characters even more, and also to appreciate cinema on a whole other level. I do agree that it wouldn’t been nice to have a bit more mystery left in Phoenix’s Joker’s origin but man, that movie was shockingly beautiful for what it is. I also think that if it had thought of including a real Batman into the narrative and made their lives intersect in a comic book fashion, it could’ve turned out to be unanimously perfect for everyone! 😮

          Liked by 1 person

          • Agreed on the latest Joker movie, it was beautifully shot, the acting was great all round. The way they built up the tension towards the final explosive 20 minutes was masterful. You are so right about including Batman, even if he was only in the background. You wrote about it in your post that in a crazy way, the Joker needs Batman and Batman needs the Joker. In Nolan’s Dark Knight, Ledger as Joker says “I don’t want to kill you. You’re too much fun!” Just imagine if the same film makers and actors had made a version of the Killing Joke! Or Ed Brubaker’s “The Man Who Laughs”–great story by the way:-)

            Liked by 1 person

            • Don’t make me dream like that dude! 😛 While it would’ve been nice to have a consistent Joker throughout multiple movies that we thoroughly love, I’m still happy that we get to witness so many different iterations. Apparently, the upcoming Batman movie directed by Matt Reeves (the same man who gave us the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy) has another new version of Joker for us. Let’s pray that it’ll meet our expectations and bring something new, once again, to the table! 😮

              Liked by 1 person

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