Beneath the Ink of Jared Leto's Joker 5

Beneath the Ink of Jared Leto’s Joker

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What if I told you that the picture above was the first picture of Ben Affleck‘s ‘Batman’? Now, you’re smart, you know there’s no cause for worry, as this image is a creative re-working – a satirical statement, if you will – of a fan’s carefully aimed poke at the bear; the animal being Warner Brothers’s new version of The Joker.

See, the tattoos are a problem – at least for many a fan who considers The Joker a piece of public property, exempt from the whims of revamps or that silly little thing called creative licence. And who can blame them? The world is full of real-life madman politicians who seek our votes, shrewd producers who sell us bad movies, click-bait bloggers who play for our attention via ridiculous articles masquerading rumour as fact; so many liars deviating from what their metaphorical tins state. Familiar musclebound do-gooders and their maniacal evil foils provide a stark black hat versus white hat relief to real world uncertainty. But as a fan of comics and the movies based on them I say this: It’s time for us to grow up.
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Enter Jared Leto’s incarnation of The Joker: black ‘Ha ha ha’ tattoos, a menacing steely grill leer and THAT word branded on his forehead. Apparently, in the upcoming film ‘Suicide Squad’, Leto will wear the white suit from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ comic.  So, in a way we get a Joker of many faces and not just this psychotic brawler waiting to take his place on a podium beside Messer’s Nicholson and Ledger. One thing is for certain; movie history will remember today as the day LETO BREAKS THE INTERNET.

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I remember when people of the then relatively quiet Batfan community voiced concern over Jack Nicholson’s version merely being an excuse for him to play himself. Personally, I’m glad he did, and history clutched him to its warm bosom, rocked him back and forth so fondly, that Ledger’s terrorist was viewed with considerable scepticism. Fans haven’t changed, they’ve just been given a megaphone called the internet. Everyone has a voice, and behind a keyboard with their favourite poster of The Joker on their wall egging them on, the modern day fan took to their respective forums to share Leto’s wide-eyed iteration, hold down that caps lock and and type FOUL. Some noble cliques adopted a wait-and-see stance whereas others lamented over Warner Bros’ punk rock defacement across the chalk white chest of their beloved totem of villainy.
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To myself and countless others, Leto’s interpretation draws upon more than one source – most notably, the aforementioned ‘Dark Knight Returns’ version and the twisted wraith from Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’.  Leto must contend with the public’s understanding of an evil mastermind.  Cesar Romero’s interpretation shouldn’t be a problem since his place is fairly sealed in time as the arch nemesis of Adam West’s camp 60s Batman.  But then, Jack Nicholson’s demented clown is far more recent, far more revered, and everyone and their grandmother is still fascinated with Ledger’s corruptive terrorist.  For them, Ledger was and still is THE Joker.

I think drastically different is the way to go.  People moaning about Leto’s ‘brawler Joker’ will be in the front seats, regardless.  The public who don’t read comics will be in the front seats alongside them.  Why? Intrigue, probably; we’ll all be there.  No one will boycott a movie because of any inherent fear over the next incarnation.  Sure, we fear what we don’t understand, but we humans are defined by curiosity, right? A smart move by Warner Bros in my opinion; the theatres will be jam-packed.

It would be great if fandom could move away from disliking every bold move a studio takes.  But as a troubled man once said – and I’m paraphrasing here – change the plan:  Beneath the Black Ink 4 (2)

Remember the homage to the original Superman movies? ‘Superman Returns’ anyone? Bryan Singer’s overly conservative love letter to Donner failed mainly because of its unwillingness to reinvigorate the franchise with fresh re-evaluation.  We needed new and Warner Bros rolled out the all too familiar.

One fan in a movie forum had an issue with Leto’s teeth.  Apparently psychopaths ought to be suited and booted, proud strutting peacocks with slicked back hair worthy of Patrick Bateman.  Psychopaths can’t have grills? I guess that speaks to the level of sophistication afforded to the modern day psychopath.  They can’t all be interested in exhibiting how highly functioning they are.  Even if many versions of the comic book Joker have been presented this way, even if Jack Nicholson’s toxic smile underlined a mangled artistic flair, I hope we are treated to a dark jester boasting new layers to his psychosis.  If we’re lucky, he might be my favourite Joker, a devious criminal who feigns madness to escape the chair; a fact which undoubtedly would serve in pissing off The Dark Knight and offer a parallel between the two enemies.  Though we’re a long way from them sharing the silver screen, the seeding of their eventual relationship begins now.

Warner Bros can’t afford to make the mistake of referencing a past Joker, not even slightly, and despite the ‘safety’ of the familiar, the only cosmetic allegiance to the past are the colours Green, red and white, with a splash of purple – should they so desire.  Besides, there is no one version.  Fevered talk of the ‘perfect portrayal’ of this bad guy betrays what these new myths have become and perhaps always have been: archetypes, shifting according to the whims of their culture and in doing so, translate old lessons and truths more effectively.  Romero, Nicholson, Ledger and now Leto – they’re all just avatars of comic books’ greatest evil.  We are at the behest of the ‘Look at me Generation’ so of course this sick fucker types Damaged on his forehead.  This Joker needs people to look at him and in doing so, gratify his claim to be crazy.  That’s my take on Leto’s iteration of The Devil, I mean The Joker.

Perhaps this iconic foe will be a lot older than Leto’s image makes out, and thus a shrewd watcher of the times and how to manipulate the weak minded into following him.  Maybe.  Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn could easily be an example of his edgy charisma, depending on how she is depicted, of course.  He doesn’t have to be ‘The Clown Prince of Crime’ since that moniker belonged to a different Joker (arguably Nicholson’s introduced us to that guy already).  Bring on an evil bastard who disguises himself as a caricature of youth culture.  Bring on something new.

Tattoos are a statement of identity, one that might be the villain’s take on himself.  We haven’t seen a Joker this blatant in embracing youth culture, so let’s see what social commentary he poses.  In this new gritty DC universe, The Joker could be a social phenomenon who is aware of his own success.  A media literate megalomaniac, quite comfortable in brandishing his madness as a brand rather than rely totally on his appalling unpredictable actions.

Thoughtful speculation doesn’t have to be a rarity.  To dig deep beneath the ink, to fathom what director David Ayer and actor Jared Leto have in store for us should be a chance to celebrate an interesting fictional world, not an excuse to grumble amid a time when the world is finally taking note of the inherent erudition hardwired into comic book mythology.  Alas, Joker fans seem obsessed with the surface.  Ask yourselves: what makes this guy tick? It might lend itself to something deeper than the huge swathe of Marilyn Manson comparisons.  Here, take another look:Beneath the ink 4

Have a guess what lurks beneath.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.