"Joker" Writer Poked Fun at Fox News Freakout, I Talked About It on TV; Plus Some Bonus Batman Content
Now we wait to see if Fox News will denounce the "wokeness" of, uh, the 1940s.
In case you missed it, I was on MSNBC’s The Mehdi Hasan Show on Sunday night to discuss the phony outrage on the right over the “pregnant Joker” joke. Here’s that clip:
And then I saw that, who wrote the comic, addressed the right-wing outrage/attention in a post over at his Substack. Here’s an excerpt — it’s not that long, plus, hey, go check out his other work and click over there anyway):
I should probably explain for those of you who aren’t reading the book. But also, shame on you. It’s fun. So, the main story in the series is about two different men who claim to be the Joker and how their lives violently intersect. The backup stories, by myself with the brilliant Francesco Francavilla on art, are made to be sort of Silver Age style fever dreams of the Joker that explore different, non-continuity explanations of how there could be multiple Jokers and other themes of the main book. So far he’s accidentally cloned himself in a magic mirror, faked his own death so that he could see what people say at his funeral, and accidentally had himself sewn to the body of a gorilla and one of his small henchman like some mythological 6-armed gorilla/circus performer/homicidal clown centaur. In each issue the events of the previous issue aren’t discussed or acknowledged. They are, literally, silly gag strips.
We wanted to pay tribute to the fun old stuff of DC’s history where Batman becomes 2 Dimensional, or Superman turns himself into a lion, or a tree, or an ant, or Jimmy Olsen marries a gorilla,
or Lois Lane turns herself Black. Well, not that one. We wanted to pay tribute to the rest though, but through a fever dream lens of the Joker’s own mind. So they’re a little more violent, a little darker, but still mostly fun, consequence-free jokes. And so far the reaction has been amazing. People seem to really dig them!
Enter last week’s issue. In this issue the Joker swallows some mud, gets a curse put on him by Zatanna, and then wakes up with a distended belly. One of his henchman, who says stupid stuff every issue, comments that he might be pregnant. Joker, being unhinged, makes his henchman find a supervillain named Doctor Phosphorous to give him a pelvic exam. Doctor Phosphorous, for those who don’t know, is a flaming skeleton who gives off toxic fumes, manipulates radiation, and sold his soul to a demon. What he is not, however, is a medical doctor. He looks at the Joker’s crotch and says “I don’t even know where a baby would come out of.” At this point the Joker vomits up the mud he swallowed and our good doctor says “Guess you weren’t pregnant after all.”
Then the mud gets up, runs around, some people get killed, and it ends up that the mud is actually the supervillain Clayface, or a piece of him at least. For those that don’t know, Clayface is a man who became a pile of sentient mud that can shapeshift to resemble different people, and was once used as a walking, talking metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases. Anyway, we jump forward in time and the magical vomit-mud monster now changes shape to resemble a tiny version of the Joker, and the Joker refers to him as “my son.” End issue. And while I obviously was already writing my awards acceptance speech for this 8 page opus, apparently some folks got big mad.
As you might have picked up from my summary, this isn’t an allegory, a metaphor, or social commentary. It’s a joke. I will say, so this doesn’t come off as some sort of backpedalling, I believe Trans rights are Human rights. I have fundraised and donated multiple times to orgs like TRANS LIFELINE, THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANS EQUALITY, and THE TREVOR PROJECT that do incredible work to promote trans rights and protect trans lives. I believe how a person identifies themselves, defines themselves, or presents themselves to the world is their business alone. When someone tells you who they are you can either agree with them or tell them who you think they are, and I’ve never understood why you’d want to be the latter or why anyone should care what you think of who they. With that said, it has nothing to do with this story. This is a story about magical food poisoning.
Now I understand the folks at Fox News and the Post might look up to the Joker and see his an aspirational figure. Yes, he once grew enormous and ate all the people in China with a giant pair of chopsticks, but I guess they can look the other way on that. And yes, he once cut his own face off for fun and walked around with an exposed skull for a while, but who hasn’t? And sure he once paralyzed and then sexually assaulted a woman, took photos of it, and the projected them on a wall while he sexually assaulted her father, but I think Fox & Friends was kinda into that. I was in no way trying to damage the pristine legacy of this psychotic serial murder that they hold in such high regard, but I guess to them I did. And for that I apologize…
Or maybe they work on a cycle of feeding outrage and alienation to their audience in order to keep them engaged and angry, and they don’t care if they take things out of context, misrepresent things, or even lie. But I’m sure that’s not it, right? Either way, thanks for promoting our book. I’ve heard from a lot of retailers that it’s selling out. We appreciate it.
Hey! While you’re here, a reminder: The Present Age is a 100% reader-supported publication. The best way to support my work is to become a subscriber. Thanks!
But since we’re doing this… let’s have some fun.
In writing the piece about the “trans Joker” outrage, I decided to look back through Batman stories of the past. Had they ever done something along those lines? and the answer is yes! (Er, sort of.) And what was the earliest example of this? Well…There’s a story arc in the 1946 newspaper comic strip Batman and Robin, in which Batman and Robin are trying to catch Slugger Kaye at a costume ball. The only catch: the invitation specifies that “no gent will be admitted unless accompanied by his own lady.”
Batman plans to attend the party as Louis XVI, and he wants Robin to go as Marie Antoinette. The rest of the story (as well as the next 9 editions of the strip from February and March 1946) is continued below.
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