Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I had gone to the abandoned amusement park because I had gotten a letter form Velma Dinkley saying that she wanted a second interview. I should have known it wasn’t from her because it was written purple crayon using large block letters. As soon as I got here two big goons in masks hit me over the head with a club and tied my body up with heavy ropes then hung me upside down in the fun house.
I was surprised when they then they left, and there I was hanging upside down trying to wiggle out of the ropes when I heard footsteps behind me. I tried to twist around so I could see who was coming up behind me. Finally I got enough momentum to turn around and wished I hadn’t. Even in the poor light I could see the white skin, green hair and large red lips turned into an evil smile. It was the clown prince of crime, none other than the Joker himself.
“Sorry to interrupt you Dave…But I could see you were just hanging around…” He broke in to hysterical laughter. “Get it hanging around…Oh I slay myself sometimes “ I begin to shake Batman intimidated me with just his princes, now I am scared pee-less. “Oh pardon the intrusion I see you are all wrapped up.” His laugh sends shivers up my spine. “Oh the classics never grow old.’
I of course ask the last thing I want this psycho to answer. “What do you want form me?”
The man with the green hair looks at me like I had just grown a third eye. “What do I want? Dave I want you to do your stuff. You interview fictions characters, and holey third person narrative Batman, I am fictitious character…So do your thing ask me a question.” He then clapped his hands “Chop-chop.”
“Uh…uh…Can I go home?” I ask.
He gives me a nasty stare that could peel paint of a wall. “No, let’s try this again, ask me a question, a good question or I will feed you to my hyenas.’
“Uh…Ok…” I struggle to fight my panic. “What…uh…um…Inspired your creator to…uh…you know…create you.”
“Oh good one.” He says and takes a seat on a fifty gallon drum marked “poison”. “Oh Ok…I was kind of created by a comity back in 1940, for Batman Number One. He had made his initial appearance in Detective Comics the year before. I was based on a character from the movie The Man Who Laughs. Based on a Victor Hugo novel. The titular character was played by Conrad Veidt, and had a scar on his face that always made him smile. Most famous in the US, as the Nazi Major in Casablanca. So back then Bats could kill his enemies and he was supposed to kill me off, If you can believe it my first appearance, but this just brilliant editor saw my potential and made the writers spare my life, so I could keep coming back…” I didn’t respond so he waved his hand indicating he wanted me to continue. “Come on keep them rolling.”
“Are you crazy?” I ask, realizing that was the worst thing I could have said.
But he didn’t take it that way. “Well you got to see it form the writers prospective. In a single funny book, and let’s face it they are all funny if I am in them, you got to establish the villains motive. I mean why doesn’t Lex Luthor just retire to the Bahama’s after so many failures to kill the Blue Boy Scout? But with crazy you have motive right there. Why is Joker polluting the water with poison…Because he is CRAZY! The audience buys it, Why am I obsessed with Bats?…I am CRAZY! You get away with a lot too. Why in one episode I was a tower sniper on Christmas…No one else can get away with that…except for me…and why…?” He cups his hand to his ear.
“Uh…you’re crazy?” I say meekly.
“Corectomundo!” The Joker exclaims. “You can kind of say it is my super-power.” He ads nonchalantly.
“How so?” I ask.
He seems to think before eh answers. “Because I am crazy things that should scare people don’t scare me. Not imprisonment, not being shot, not even Scarecrows fear gas. Crazy people don’t hold anything back, they don’t save anything for their reserves. Not strength, their henchmen or ammunition, that being able to throw everything out in one shot…that is kind of a superpower don’t you think.”
Still swing upside down. I reply. “I guess…But are you evil?” I then bit my lip for asking that.
He jumps off the barrel. “Dave are you not listening. I am crazy. Crazy people aren’t accountable for their actions. That why not guilty by reason of insanity is a criminal defense.” He begins spinning his finger around his head. “I am crazy get it. People who are responsible for their actions who can chose between right and wrong are evil. I am more like the shark in Jaws. All sharks can do is swim, make baby sharks and kill people because they have to eat…They aren’t evil. I am hardwired like a shark. I got to do what I got to do…Oh I got it….since you are so dense…I am like an earthquake….Sure both me and the earthquake kill people but do you wake up and say ‘hey that earthquake is evil because it killed a hundred or so people’…I don’t thinks so…Me and the earthquake are hardwired the same…uh…are earthquakes hardwired?…never mind…” He said waving away the question. “Next question.”
“So what is your endgame?” I ask.
He rubs his chin, as if he is seriously considering the question. “The same as every other human being. I want people to see things my way. That is why us Homo sapiens get into arguments, invite people to our churches, or take their friends to a movie that they already have seen, they want otehrs to experience the same thing, the way they do. I just try to get people to experience my POV by killing a lot of people.” He says it as if was the most matter of fact thing ever said by a human tongue.
Changing the subject I ask. “Did you kill Thomas and Martha Wayne?’
He shakes his head. “No that was Joe Chill…Cool name but, he was just a thug where I am an artist. No one has ever offered an origin story where I am Joe Chill. I know where you get that idea though they had it in the Tim Burton movie. But nowhere else is that considered canon. I mean I get why Timmy did it, the whole I made Batman, he made me thing. But let’s face it he took some artistic license there.’
“Then what is your origin story?” I ask.
He shrugs his shoulders. “You know even I am not sure anymore…I am the definition of an unreliable narrator. But most people pretty much follow what Alan Moore laid out in the Killing Joke. I was a regular guy and a chemical engineer who wanted to be a standup comedian. Well it didn’t work out to well. I had a pregnant wife to support so I agreed to help some criminals rob my old employer. But I get a call from the cops my wife an unborn child are killed. The other criminals are gunned down by security and I jump into a vat of chemicals to escape Batman the rest is what they call history.”
“But they took another route in The Dark Knight.” I replied.
He slaps his hands together. “Now that was part of the brilliance of that show, they kept my origins ambiguous and mysterious. But there is a theory that I was a solider. And well the clues add up. I use clockwork tactics, the facial scares, use of heavy weapons, there is even a line where I say no one cares if a truck of soldiers get blown up.”
“And of course Heath Ledge received an Academy Award for his portrayal…”
“The only person to win one for a comic book character.” The Joker sneaks in.
“True…” I add. “But tell me about some of the other actors who played you.”
“Well of course there was Cesar Romero, in the sixties camptastic Batman TV series. Not only did he pull off crazy perfectly he had enough clout that he refused to shave his mustache, so they studio just covered it up with white makeup. I mean that made the character seem bat crap crazy. Then of course the great Jack Nicholson…Hey want to see my Jack impersonation, sure you do…” he runs his fingers through his hair and in a guttural tone utters “The truth…you can’t handle the truth…what you think…Pretty good?”
“Don’t quit your day job.” I advise him.
The Joker growls at me. “Then in the cartoons I have both Mark Hamill and Bret Spiner playing me. I mean what fan boy can’t love that Jedi and Mr. Data. All in all I have been pretty lucky about who portrayed me. Of course if some did a crappy job of it I’d rip their lungs out.”
“Who is your favorite actor to play you?” I ask.
“Well like a lot of people, I really dug the late Andrew Koenig (Growing Pains Boner and Walter Koenig, Star Trek’s Chekov son) performance in the $30,000, fan made short film, Batman: Dead End. Of course a xenomorph from Aliens sticks a baby down my throat, tastefully off screen of course,but the movie ends with a Bolivia Standoff ending with Batman and about half a dozen predators…Oh that show gives me shivers…shivers man.”
“Ok, share your opinion about the Comic Code Authority.”
“Oh those people were evil.” The joker complains. “That is not a word I throw around lightly. They were pure unadulterated evil. See they were trying to protect the youth or some kind of nonsense…Well they basically said you can’t have a crazy nut case running around killing people. So I was out of a job. Or I should have been. Bus instead they neutered me, they turned me into basically a wise acher practical joker. So instead of trying to raise people’s conscious and understanding, letting them see the universe as it really is, by mayhem. I was reduced to attacking people with whoopee cushions and joy buzzers, and not those cool one that could electrocute a person to death. Eventually sales and advertisement didn’t depend on the CCA seal of approval so they disappeared.” He shivered. “Evil, I tell you pure evil.”
Changing the subject I ask. “Care to share a bit about how you feel about Harley Quinn?”
“Oh she is a cute girl but a total stalker. I keep pushing her out a window and she keeps coming back. See if you are going to pair the Joker up with someone then she needs to be just as crazy as me. But she also has to have no sense of preservation. Otherwise she going to wake up one day and say. Good lord that guy is going to kill me. And then skedatal of to Miami or somewhere as far away from Gotham as she can get. Honestly she is kind of cramping my style, next time I shove her out a window I need to make sure we are on a higher floor. Still it is a better love story than Twilight.”
Not wanting to condone abuse I change the subject again. “Tell me about the origins of Arkham Asylum?” I ask.
“Well…well I thought you were the expert on the Cuthlhu Mythos…OK…Arkham Asylum was created by Robert E. Howard, most famous as the writer of the Conan sagas, for a short story called The Black Stone, where the poet Justin Geoffrey goers crazy because of dreams sent to him from bizarre and alien gods. He named it Arkham in honor of his friend H.P. Lovecraft, who set most his stories in the town of Arkham Mass. The story is that Bob Kane creator of Batman once was on a train with Lovecraft, and as a young who wanted to be a writer kept bugging the horror master with questions. Lovecraft was uncharacteristically cordial with the young youth and because of this Kane used Arkham as the name of his nut house in Gotham. Though this is more than likely apocryphal. No one ever heard this story until after Arkham Asylum’s debut in the Bat-verse and well, in the seventies when the Asylum premiered Kane actually had little to so with the then published Bat-tittles.”
“So you are seventy four years old…” I say.
“And I look good for a man of my age.” He interrupts.
“Yes.” I reply not wanting my throat slit. “So how do you keep a character fresh after all those years?”
“Well the crazy helps.” He explains. “I mean you can have me do anything, because I may have mentioned that I am CRAZY. The problem DC is having is keeping the whole DCU fresh. They have so many reality changing events that even I can’t keep up with them. And I am crazy. Honestly though DC needs to back off, instead of coming up with something fresh just relax go with the classics. The gold standard as it is. Let the chanters be who the public knows and loves them. Well it been nice chatting with you, Dave.”
“Are you going to let me go?” I ask hopefully.
“No.” We says with his wicked smile gleaming.
“Are you going to kill me?” I a gulp as well as I can gulp upside down.
“No…” I can tell he is dragging this out. “No yet…There is someone I want you to talk to first.” He then spins me around so I am facing the other direction and I head his footsteps as he walks away.
To be continued…