The Henchman’s Dilemma.

I, by contrast, actually LIKE anchovies.

I, by contrast, actually LIKE anchovies.

So…this came about as more of a continued exploration of the post earlier this week, about the idea that Batman now actually knows who the Joker was before he became an evil clown. Although, to be fair, “evil clown” is just redundant.

This is more of a reflection of my dislike for the hyper violent, mega irrational, psychotic Joker of current portrayals. It seems that it’s just fine for him to be a violent sociopath, and that subtracts from any real “mystery” that might need to be solved to make the plotline interesting. It becomes more of a “procedural”, and there needs to be constant “one-upmanship” in the Joker’s actions to keep them “over the top.” If Heath Ledger’s Joker puts out a guys eye with a pencil, then the comics Joker has to go further, and disturbingly cut someone’s face off.

Not stuff that I like in my comics, and further, my films. It’s too much, and unlike the rest of the audience, I don’t think I’m desensitized enough for the motiveless violence. I’m not above a good murder mystery, but those require a real motive, not simply punctuation for a character point. Especially when those actions can pretty much only be taken against the “disposable characters” of the story.

Maybe it’s doubly on my mind because a verdict was just found in the Aurora shooting, finding James Holmes guilty of 24 counts of murder, and a net total of over 165 separate charages. Holmes killed 12 people at the screening of the final Batman movie and told authorities after the shooting that he “was The Joker,” according to NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly. Kelly told reporters the suspect, identified by federal officials as 24-year-old James Holmes, had dyed his hair like The Joker (although to be fair, the Joker’s hair is green…it’s still pretty clowny). The attack took place at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the fnal movie in a Batman trilogy, following “The Dark Knight” in which The Joker was the principal villain. The link is pretty solid, and a bit scary. Two federal law enforcement officials confirmed the details of The Joker reference to ABC News.

It begs the question…is our pop culture in some way cultivating these increasingly aberrant methods of expression? Holmes attempted to plead insanity…and it didn’t fly with the jury. So…if he isn’t insane, that means that somehow, we have constructed a society that accepts that this man chose to voluntarily assume the role of a sociopathic clown, and engage in random, motiveless murder. Since I think the jury is correct in that…it frankly scares me a great deal.

I’m all about free speech, as readers know…but perhaps these sorts of things are a “wake up call” to turn down the amount of graphic violence, the volume of disposable killings, that we depict in media. Perhaps we really are constructing a framework of input that makes those things seem rational, and acceptable. People respond to input, the brain is just a living computer…and the American Pop Culture input is peppered with disturbing, sociopathic, motiveless characters.

Since henchmen are the most disposable and interchangeable of characters, the Joker goes through them like old socks these days. Always a henchman around to make an example of, to establish just how far the “crazy murder clown” schtick has gone. Sometimes its an acid spray from the flower, other times a stick of dynamite while singing “happy birthday.” The writers of the Joker as a character now need to really “up the volume” to continue to make the character seem extreme, making the character less and less interesting.

Also…making the idea that anyone would ever be a henchman for the Joker increasingly unrealistic. He doesn’t commit crimes that make any money really. There’s no health plan. A guy with emotional problems dressed as Dracula WILL put you in the hospital. You’re boss doesn’t fire you, he attempts to terminate you quite literally, and comically, at least to him. He won’t do you in for any reason that makes sense, so you can’t “figure out” how to get along with him.

What’s the upside?

The art above? The Joker overturning a table covered with at least thirty thousand dollars because there are anchovies on the pizza? That’s a GOOD day working for the Joker. You’re GLAD if you’re a henchman, and that’s where it ends.

If you’re going to hench, Lex Luthor is the guys to do it for. Does Lex make sure that he’s bringing in cash on EVERY SINGLE caper? That he does. Health plan, check…! Ongoing subsidized education? Check. Lawyers to deal with you case later? Check. When Lex breaks out, will he send someone to get you…yep. The guy you will have to fight simply can’t be beaten…but he’s also going to go out of his way to NOT hurt you, possibly delivering you directly to prison between eyeblinks. If Lex fires you, there’s a generous severance package and a non-disclosure agreement. He doesn’t tolerate Unions, but I wouldn’t think that the Joker does either.

Sure…maybe you’re not qualified to hench for Lex if you’re just a Gotham City thug. Even then, the Penguin, the Riddler…there are other, better choices. It makes no sense at all why a constant stream of thugs choose to follow around the human with the largest personal body count in Gotham, which makes Mad Max’s post apocalyptic world seem like a beach vacation.

About the art…you’ll notice I could have been Rob Liefeld about it, with the overturned table, and hidden all kinds of feet. I did not. Everyone has shoes.

Take that Rob.

I’m gonna go get some pizza now, just to spite the clown.


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