Monday, August 15, 2011

Joker's Origins - Multiple Choice?


Joker was introduced in 1940 in the very first issue of Batman comic, but contradictory to the popular myth, his origins were never meant to be ambiguous or left for interpretation. Batman's earliest stories were based on Pulp stories with similar main characters, such as The Shadow. Pulps are short, one issue murder mystery stories. They are not character driven, nor do they have any continuing storylines and continuous plots. They're simple detective stories with the mystery, detective and perpetrator. Again, such stories are not based on characters and dont focus on them, their personal stories, backstories or character development. Even when Batman got his origins, they weren't even included within any actual stories. They were just presented in two separate pages which were an extra in the issue.
'It may be significant that so many villains first arrived on the scene the way Joker had, without origin stories. They were granted the courtesy of being accepted as what they had chosen to become' (Batman: The Complete History).


In short, no villain had origins at first, nor there was even any kind of hint of any intended ambiguity. About 2 years into the series, it started changing more and more into the adventure series and shed more light on characters, their intentions, motives, stories and character traits and developing relationships. Once that was established and the Batman series fully changed into a conventional adventure series, characters were being more crafted and backstories were given to them.They started to appear in late 40's and Joker's turn came in 1951's Detective Comics #168, written by the co-creator of the character Bill Finger and with artwork credited to Bob Kane, also a co-founder.

In this issue, Batman and Robin are asked to be guest instructors at the University's criminology course. After lying out some background for good detective work and getting to know the students, he gives assigns them a 10 year old case even he couldn't figure out. An identity of a masked villain called Red Hood who disappeared without any trace

When Batman finally encounters the Red Hood during a robbery, the villain appears to be quite cocky and makes it clear that thanks to his disguise his identity will remain a complete mystery.


Red Hood makes an escape and the reports about new robberies committed by him reach Batman. A month later, Red Hood gets cornered by Batman and escapes seemingly sacrificing his life. He was presumed dead but the body was never recovered


One of the boys named Paul helped them solve the mystery and revealed that the Red Hood was a lab worker trying to steal $1 Million in a card factory to retire forever. After his dive into chemicals, he became disfigured and his skin and hair were permanently dyed -  introducing The Joker! It's important to note that it was his physical appearance that pushed him into madness and made him decide upon his new image/identity



While his craziness, name and colors were explained, the frozen grin on his face wasn't addressed. To read more about Joker's frozen face and the origins behind the idea read The Complete Joker History article. Hi real name and pre-Joker identity remained unknown for the readers, aside from the fact that  he was a lab worker

The origins were now set for Joker like for other villains and remained untouched for decades. In 1980's The Untold Legends of Batman, they were once again revisited by the 80's audience. In this issue, written by Len Wein and illustrated by Jim Aparo,  the story remained consistent and unchanged


From mid to late 80's DC released an Official character guide called " Who's Who in DC Universe" which collected all the info and character traits in a encyclopedia-like style for every major character in DC. Joker's entry recalled the old known canonical origins


In 1988 Alan Moore decided to retell the origins but at the same time expand in the areas that weren't touched upon previously. Moore was sure not to contradict the established canon since he himself doesn't like inconsistencies in established canon

And the Joker's origin? Had he had one before that?
Alan Moore:
 He'd got a kind of muddy kind of origin. They'd said that he'd been the leader of a criminal gang called the Red Hood Mob and that while trying to escape from Batman he'd swum across this river of chemicals. And that was about it?
AM: That was about it and this was from a story from, like, the late '50s or something and so I thought "Okay, I won't contradict that," because I kind of believe in working by the rules of the material as it already exists but I can put a lot of spin on that. (Barry Kavanagh int., 2000)



While trying to stay true to the established origins as possible,  he build the character behind the mask from scratch and infused it him with deep story and pathos, as he usually did with his characters, yet still preserving the fact that the young man worked at some point in the lab/factory. The pre-fall Joker was now a struggling young comedian who had trouble making ends meet and supporting his pregnant wife.


The reality of life has gotten hold of him, and he decided to cross the line and help with a robbery. The two gangsters that hired him made him assume the identity of a known robber Red Hood, which is just an identity assigned to different people, not a single gang leader as Police and Batman thought. While still not sure about this move, he wants to do it just for his pregnant wife, yet finds out she dies in an accident the night of the robbery, but there's no turning back with the gangsters.


From Batman's POV, Red Hood got caught by surprise,"his" thugs get killed and the panicked Hood makes a shocking move by jumping into the river where toxic wastes are emptied.


 And again, it's the first look at his new appearance that triggers his madness


There's a misconception that the story Moore presents in The Killing Joke is not a real story of Joker but merely a figment of Joker's imagination. There's no indication that the flashback story that is intercut with the current story isn't true. The only line that can be taken as an argument is Joker saying that he prefers to have a multiple choice when it comes to his backstories, yet he also says that he does not remember his past so there's no assumption that the flashback story is him remembering.


It's rather a separate story , poetically and appropriately intercut within the contemporary story of Joker kidnapping Gordon's daughter. Then there's the fact that for decades Joker's origins were set in stone and were not contradicted by Moore, who even said himself that he doesn't like inconsistencies with previously established canon. And then you have Moore talking about infusing the character with pathos and dramatic story. It wouldn't not be so if the flashback was merely a made up figment of Joker's imagination, because the pathos given to the character would just go out the window as part of that imagination.

You made the villain such a pitiful figure. In the comics for years, he was a psychotic maniac who kills indiscriminately, just does terrible, terrible things, and you made him so pitiful and sad. 
Alan MooreI suppose that's what I was saying. Well, psychotic murders -- the key word there is "psychotic," which is, as far as I know, an illness. This is not to say that people shouldn't be entitled to feel rage or the lust for revenge when something happens to them at the hands of somebody like this, but you've got to remember at the end of the day it's not strictly speaking that person's fault. That something has happened to them, they have made some bad decision in their life, and while all of us are responsible for our actions, sometimes people get broken and it is increasingly difficult for them to know their own actions. So I suppose that if there was anything actually being said in "The Killing Joke," it was that everybody has probably got a reason for being where they are, even the most monstrous of us. (salon.com, 2009)


On top of all that, Moore has never ever hinted or undermined the legitimacy of the flashback story. And most importantly, the flashback story has been confirmed in past issues multiple times, which is going to be addressed in the article later.

The one who actually originated the retrofitting idea that the flashback story isn't true (at the same time acknowledging it was meant to be and disliking the fact)  was the artist Brian Bolland.


It's important to note that he was not the storywriter and that he stated so only at the time of the release of The Dark Knight when DC was heavily pushing the angle that the movie was taking, which was to have Joker's origins ambiguous or purposefully unknown, which was an idea which originated solely from the sentence Joker said in The Killing Joke. It's also worth noting that Bolland statement was in The Killing Joke's rerelease in 2008, the same rerelease which changed the colors of Joker's outfit to match Heath Ledger's suit and added black around Joker's eyes and removed the yellow from Batman's emblem. Point being, the rerelease was clearly altered so it would match the movie, and so was Bolland's idea of discarding the origins which are actually shown to preserve the multiple choice angle the movie took.

One should also have in mind that aside form the idea being appealing to David Goyer and the Nolan Brothers, it would nullify the long established Joker origins involving permanent white skin which Nolan did not want to use in order to fit the character into our real world. By undermining the credibility of the origins, it erases them as canon in public's eyes and leaves a blank card for the filmmakers

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The 1989 Batman deviated from the story a bit. Michael Uslan, producer: After much discussion, it was agreed that for the movie the Red Hood storyline would be too confusing, time-consuming, and unnecessary to include in the film. There was no compelling reason to add a third identity to The Joker. And so, it was Jack Napier who took the plunge into the vat of chemicals, not the Red Hood.(BITF 2002)

Joker still is born out of a criminal falling into vat of chemicals that emptied into the river, but the pre-Joker character was different.


He wasn't a robber but a mob hitman instead who already had psychological issues and was a multiple murderer who was doing hits for the mob for many years. According to the filmmakers in Shadows of the Bat documentary, they decided that it wasn't believable that a person can be so evil just by falling into chemicals. The fall has to have been the triggering mechanism to release or amplify an inner madness.


As in the comics, it was the first sight of his altered look that does the trick, and as in The Killing Joke, he just breaks laughing once he sees himself


The name Jack Napier was adapted into comics and written stories beginning with Dennis O'Neil's story "Images"
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The first time Moore's story was referenced was in 1990's Batman #450. In this issue, after getting seriously injured Joker actually regains his sanity and recalls his entire life alone in the room while struggling with his confusion about what to do next and which road to take


In the following issue, Batman #451, it was Batman who was recalling the story presented by Moore. The Killing Joke's flashback story was now confirmed to be a part of canon continuity and the real event that really happened

The next reference/recollection to Moore's story was in 1993's Legends of the Dark Knight #50, written by Dennis O'Neil. In this issue it was Batman in disguise who recognized Joker by his voice and recalled what happened with Red Hood who jumped into the toxic river in panic


In 2004's Batman: Gotham Knights #54 Moore's story was not only recalled but also expanded and continued. A witness comes forward who knows that the comedian's (named Jack Napier in comic books since 1993) wife was actually killed to look like it was accident by the same mob that was trying to get him to participate in the factory robbery.


In this issue Joker gets the name of the man who killed his wife


Ironically, while some of other villains' origins were changed throughout the years like Catwoman's, Joker was the one whose origins remained so consistent for so many decades. It was until 2008, the release year of The Dark Knight and the year where DC started pushing the multiple choice theme and undermine the credibility of Moore's story, that Joker's origins were remade. It was in Batman: Confidential #9 where we get to meet a bored criminal named Jack who wants to face Batman one day. When he actually does, Batman throws Batarang to stop him from escaping and cuts his face leaving a Glasgow smile - which is naturally another preparation and retrofitting for The Dark Knight's arrival


The story still ended up in a vat of chemicals and medications, but in a very different way. Kidnapped and beaten, Jack gets loose and fight off his perpetrators but ends up flushed with the chemicals used for the antiseptic drugs, ending up looking like a clown. What remained the same was that the first look of himself was what pushed him over the edge


Just two years later the origins were retconned yet again to reflect the Joker of The Dark Knight. In Brave and the Bold #31, The Arkham doctors want to save the dying Joker because they've sworn in oath to save lives, so they call upon the Atom to help with the procedure. The Atom doesn't want to help save the Joker's life because it's the Joker, yet he agrees to once he finds out that in trying to save the criminal, he very well might end up killing him. After the Atom is inevitably overcome by the Joker's firing brain synapses, the narrative weaves in and out of the villain's violent memories, with the Atom forced to experience the disturbing instances first hand. We see the Joker as a twisted child, who kidnaps local pets and kills them, we see him trapping his abusive parents in the house and setting it on fire,


 we see the first traces of his philosophy and  the rise of his criminal career.


 The final, three-page sequence shows the Joker we all know and reveals/suggests that it is indeed the Joker from The Dark Knight


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The Multiple Choice theme introducing the mystery and ambiguity of Joker's origins is inspired solely from one panel of one comic book, which doesn't take anything away from the concept, however the fact remains that it was The Dark Knight that introduced the concept and it was never that way in the comic books. Still, it makes no impact on how well the idea worked for the new portrayal of Joker in The Dark Knight, nor does it take away anything from the comic book origins that were established in 1951 by the character's creators and survived for nearly 5 decades. Jonathan Nolan pretty much confirmed himself that the ambiguous origins for Joker was an idea he and Goyer invented, inspired by that one line from The Killing Joke.

Jonathan Nolan: It grew from a little bit in part from a detail in The Killing Joke—the Allen Moore book—where he talks about if he had a past--he had to have a past--he’d want it to be multiple choice. And very much we sort of did a…felt like a little bit of a riff on that idea.(Collider.com)



In addition to Joker's preference of having multiple choice when it comes to his backstory, his name is also never revealed and his personal data is unknown, as it was in The Killing Joke which made that fact much more prominent.


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While Bolland wishes Moore's story didn't reveal the origins and wishes Joker had a mystery about him, he acknowledges that this is not what actually happened in the comic books. The release and then the success of The Dark Knight prompted the changes in the comic books and numerous retconning and retrofitting but not only in comic books, but in some comic writers themselves. Jerry Robinson, who was one of the first employees of Bob Kane, claimed, post-The Dark Knight naturally, that Joker was always intended to be mysterious and unexplained. However, it is more than suspicious that he only mentioned it after nearly 60 years of character's existence and only after The Dark Knight's release and popularity of the movie's version of the Joker character, even thought he spoke about the character many times throughout the years even claiming its authorship.

Jerry Robinson:  I decided to leave his face white simply because I wanted him to resemble the playing card joker. He didn’t have green hair. It was just the white of the face and the red lips. We decided deliberately not to explain it, not to write an origin. We thought that would detract from the whole aura, the mystery of the Joker – where did he come from, how did he get that way? No, we did not explain that, quite deliberately.(Comic Con panel 2009)

It is important to note that Robinson did not ended the relationship with Kane on a good note and Kane denied his claimed contributions to Joker's character. He stated that he only came up with Joker's card that they used for Joker and that Joker is a character based on The Man Who Laughs, a character Bill Finger pointed out and Kane drew. For their entire lives, the undisputed co-creator of Joker, Bill Finger, never mentioned any ambiguity or mystery about the character's origins once in his life, neither did the also undisputed co-creator Bob Kane. Finger actually wrote the origin story, something Robinson denies himself

Jerry Robinson:  Well, we had a lot of discussions about that. Bill and Bob and myself, we discussed at my first outline of that first story how I was going to explain his visual look. (...) The origin story was written by a subsequent writer many years later.
Travis: So you and Bill did not drop the Joker in a vat of acid.
Jerry: ''No, we did not. Our initial reaction to that was if we dropped him into that vat, he obviously would have come out deformed.''
(Comic Con panel 2009)

This is one of the examples of why Robinson's credibility is shaken. Robinson could not have been developing Joker's look since Joker was basically the Conrad Veidt character drawn onto paper with no visual changes whatsoever, and its agreed by everyone involved that it was Finger who pointed out the Veidt character. Secondly, Robinson was a young employee of Kane whose job was lettering and backgrounds at the time Joker was developed, and Finger was the writer among few others. It was not Robinson's turf to characterize new characters. Another issue is that with that quote Robinson betrays his lack of knowledge of the development of the character, since the original Joker, like the Veidt character, had a frozen smile on his face aka was deformed this way by Gypsies. So he indeed was deformed after coming out of the vat. Third, he claims Finger did not write the origins  yet he wasn't even working on this issue.Not only that, but he wasn't even working on Batman or DC for that matter at that point at all for years. He was gone before Joker's origins were written. He left in 1946 while the origins were written in 1951. Besides, Jonathan Nolan himself confirmed he came up with the ambiguous nature for Joker, it wasn't something from the comic books

Today, the Joker's bio on the official DC website recognizes the multiple choice angle as canon, and the bio was co-created by the big fan of the idea , Brian Bolland. It is interesting to note that the bio shows 3 "possible" origins, but two of them are one and the same and two of them come from the comics while one comes from the 1989 movie. It does recognize the part about the factory accident


Both the Multiple Choice approach and the established origins were great and worked just perfectly for their particular portrayal of the character in Batman and The Dark Knight.

55 comments:

  1. Also an important little thing

    Here's what Alan Moore said about The Killing Joke.

    Alan Moore: ''The profundity(meaning) in the Killing Joke is that Batman and the Joker are pretty similar.''
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSXXIuKZ6qA
    Nothing major, but I'd say its interesting.

    This seems to confirm that Alan Moore did really intend for those flashbacks to be indeed canon, and that ''little multiple choice'' line was more or less the Joker's preference for his past to be unknown, and not really any real indication he was an whole ambiguous figure that many believed him to be with that line.

    Batman and Joker both had 'one bad day' Batman losing his parents, and Joker losing his wife and his pregnant child.


    Joker: ''I mean what is it with you anyway, what made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by a mob, maybe? brother carved up by a mugger?''

    Call me looking too much into things, but maybe the girlfriend killed by some mob is a most likely Joker's theory about who killed to Jenny.

    Now I get its supposed to be an ironic very warm guess to the tragedy that created Batman, but maybe...


    Interestingly after Joker guesses what tragedy led to Batman taking up a life of crime fighting he says this.

    Joker: ''Something like that happened to me I'm not exactly sure what it was, sometimes I remember this way, sometimes another...''

    That line most likely hints at that the flashback being canon, or something like similar did happen happen that created Joker.

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  2. Sorry for grammar errors, I typed too fast.
    Hopefully you can comprehend it, and I wish your site had an edit function.

    Also didn't Robinson held a grudge against Kane because he didn't give Bill Finger any credit?

    I think Robinson honestly created the Joker, and he and Bill at least shaped him to one we all know today. But I might be wrong, you seem more skilled in this than I am hope your future article can clear up any confusion.

    Didn't Robinson held a grudge against Kane because he didn't give Bill Finger any credit?

    I think Robinson honestly created the Joker, and he and Bill at least shaped him to one we all know today. But I might be wrong, you seem more skilled in this than I am hope your future article can clear up any confusion.

    Also Kane was noted for exaggerating some claims.

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  3. Thanks for the input, some of it will be more fitting for the Joker/Batman Relationship and the Moore comment and the similarity theme prove the story's authenticity even further. As for Robinson, I tend to believe Kane because as Kane said, if Robinson created Joker and brought him to him and Finger as he claims, Joker would look like the character on the card. And Robisnon himself admits the same thing Kane does, that FInger based Joker on Conrad Veidt character, and Kane's rendition of Joker in the first few issues is a mirror image of veidt so I dont see any room for any kind of contribution from Robinson here. Not to mention he was an artist, not a writer or script writer like Finger and Kane were. I believe he simply came up with the card for the Joker.

    Also, Kane not giving Finger credit (at the beginning, he did in latter years and even stated that he felt bad about not doing so earlier) was just one of the criticism Robinson had towards Kane. They both didn't like each other

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  4. It kinda sucks that today everyones buying Robinson's testimony and hes referred to in interviews as the creator of Joker. Good article, I always knew The Killing Joke story was legit because I had the IMAGES story where it was referenced

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  5. Another great entry. The way some say it on the internet it sounded to me (and a lot of my friends) like if Joker had at least 10 different origins every few years. So it looks like he had one established origin story for almost 50 years and just 2 alternatives when TDK came out. I like it both ways. The origins of Joker are rather cool but Heath's Joker had the mystery going for him and that was cool too

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  6. I never knew why people needed to so desperately justify anything they like from movies as being from the comic books in order to legitimize in some way. If its not, big deal, it counts if it was interesting. I cant even count how many times Ive heard that only the TDK Joker is valid because he didnt have origins "like in the comics". This is why I enjoy the GA blog so much. Its facts and only facts and I like how you often repeat that it doesnt matter if something is from the comic books or not because at the end it counts if its appealing or not and if it works for the story

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  7. Actually I much prefer the Dark Knight Joker 'multiple choice' angle over the comics simple the ''fell in a vat of chemicals'' and the TDK Joker is very much valid, as much as the any it doesn't really take anything from the character but makes him better. I mean the most of the essentials of Joker's personality(from many versions of him) were left intact.

    To me, the greatest enemy of Batman is more intriguing as a mysterious character with no definitive back-story, then one with one.

    Hell even in the original Bill Finger origins we don't ever really know his real name, or how he came to be red hood prior to the incident.

    He's still an mysterious character, granted not as mysterious as many make him out to be but somewhat mysterious nonetheless.

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  8. What's funny about TDK Joker is that he isn't all that mysterious at all, I think its pretty obvious he's a victim of child abuse judging from that scene with him and that old guy in Bruce's penthouse.

    Oldguy: ''We're not intimated by thugs."

    TDKJoker: ''Y'know.... you remind of me of my father.''
    (TDK Joker now aggravated) I HATED my father!

    This little slip-up from him seems to suggest he was a product of child abuse, or at least somewhat that story about his scars to Gambol about his drunken father had some truth to them, although most likely exaggerated by him to an extent.

    This seems to tie well with the 'One bad day' motif present in the Killing Joke.

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  9. And of course, what someone can expect for origins of the TDK Joker? Hes a physically normal person in makeup. He was either a victim of child abuse or grew up on the streets, as simple as that. Hey, even in this article there are origins shown for the TDK Joker which arent anything surprising. He has no record cause he ran home as a kid after killing his constantly abusive parents and grew up in the streets

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  10. That comic(written by one of my most hated comic writers) is obviously not-canon to the Nolan verse, and serves nothing more than an homage rather than anything significant.

    Plus its largely hinted that TDK Joker was created by the venom of Gotham, which devoured his sanity and spat out a nihilistic, sociopathic entity of chaos and destruction.
    Whether or not, an origin was presented his dead uncaring eyes hint of great darkness, a victim that lost to inner darkness of himself.

    Also like the comics, Batman DID still technically create the Joker in the Nolan verse, or least gave him more confidence to take the actions he did. Only this time, Joker is an indirect result of his vigilantism rather than him failing to save him from a vat of chemicals.

    One of themes of Nolan universe is escalation, which is the fact that Batman in the Nolan-verse maybe influencing the city in both a positively light...but he is also influencing the city in a negative light(inspiring criminals to amp up their game and become all theatrical which might be the reason Nolan why Joker exist the way he does. I don't think he would have attacked Gotham( at least not to the extent he did) without Batman's presence creating such a great environment to carry out his inner ambition of spreading fear, and chaos and also wanted Gotham....with Batman still operating since he finds life dull without him.

    Gothamstreets do you agree?

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  11. Was that crap from Confidential #9 canon? I hope not and I dont think it was, otherwise it wouldve been recognized in Joker's bio on DC's website. So Moore's origins still stand I guess?

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  12. I believe it was left as one of his 'possible origins' to go fit with 'multiple choice' fad that spawned from the popularity of TDK Joker. Funny to see old Robinson lied to fit in with the popular misconception the Joker is a 'mystery character'.

    But I guess its just to fit in with the realistic aesthetic of the Nolan-verse.

    Gotham Streets did Robinson even really create the Joker as much as he claims?

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  13. Kind of confusing having some many anonymous posters since I dont know who wrote what and how many people posted. Anyway, in response to:

    "Also like the comics, Batman DID still technically create the Joker in the Nolan verse, or least gave him more confidence to take the actions he did. Only this time, Joker is an indirect result of his vigilantism rather than him failing to save him from a vat of chemicals."

    I absolutely agree, there's nothing to dispute here. I think it was actually very clever to have all those Joker traits and signatures but in an indirect way. Another example is the death smile, which isnt really a smile per say, but a cut aka Glasgow Smile. In result Joker still leaves "smile" on his victi's faces, etc

    In response to:
    "Gotham Streets did Robinson even really create the Joker as much as he claims?"

    I don't believe he had any kind of an input whatsoever. I believe in what Kane said, that he only came up with the card for Joker after he was already developed. As I said in the article, Robinson was just a much younger guy hired unofficialy by Kane to do inks and backgrounds cause Kane had too much work alone. Kane and Finger were long time friends and partners and creative forces. And all sides confirmed Finger pointed out to the movie The Man Who Laughs when thinking of a new villain, and since Kane's drawing of Joker in the first issues is a mirror image of the character from the movie, theres no room here for any input from Robinson. And again, it wasnt his turf, he was not in creative department nor was he a script writer or character developer. And like Kane said, if what Robinson said was true, Joker wouldve looked like the character from his card

    And another quote from Kane that basically sums up what I said:
    Bob Kane: Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. [...] Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker'. Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it, but he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card - May 17, 1994, Entertainment Weekly Interview

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  14. Hmm, interesting Gothamstreets but what would you make of Jerry Robinson's claims here?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNtlds8wf3g

    Is he just senile?

    I have nothing against Mr. Robinson he's a great artist but if this turns out to be false.....

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  15. He and the video refers to this card he did as the first drawing/sketch for Joker which obviously is not what it claims to be. Its just Joker's card and looks nothing like Joker who was a copy of that movie character

    Also, he claims in that 2009 interview posted earlier that the green on Joker's hair was just to highlight the black which is flat out a lie, heres why
    1. According to Official DC released Batman Complete History, at the time whether someone liked it or not (and Kane didnt), the black had to have been highlighted with BLUE. Thats why Superman has blue hair for example, and just about anything thats black has at least one blue line.
    2. Joker's hair was NOT black. Again, he was just a dead ringer of the Veidt character, and the Veidt character did NOT have black hair.

    Not to mention what a weird choice would that be to use green for light highlights

    I also find it bizarre that he claims the authorship of Catwoman, which was created by Finger and Kane based on Ruth Steel. Robinson just did inks to Kane's artworks in Catwoman's first appearance and thats as close as he got to creating Catwoman. Again, he was just a young college inker hired by Kane a year after Batman's inception. He was never close to being on pair with the long time working creative duo of Finger and Kane

    As for Alfred, he was created by the writers of the 1943 serial and adopted to comics on DC's request by a writer called Don Cameron

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  16. He and the video refers to this card he did as the first drawing/sketch for Joker which obviously is not what it claims to be. Its just Joker's card and looks nothing like Joker who was a copy of that movie character

    Also, he claims in that 2009 interview posted earlier that the green on Joker's hair was just to highlight the black which is flat out a lie, heres why
    1. According to Official DC released Batman Complete History, at the time whether someone liked it or not (and Kane didnt), the black had to have been highlighted with BLUE. Thats why Superman has blue hair for example, and just about anything thats black has at least one blue line.
    2. Joker's hair was NOT black. Again, he was just a dead ringer of the Veidt character, and the Veidt character did NOT have black hair.

    Not to mention what a weird choice would that be to use green for light highlights

    I also find it bizarre that he claims the authorship of Catwoman, which was created by Finger and Kane based on Ruth Steel. Robinson just did inks to Kane's artworks in Catwoman's first appearance and thats as close as he got to creating Catwoman. Again, he was just a young college inker hired by Kane a year after Batman's inception. He was never close to being on pair with the long time working creative duo of Finger and Kane

    As for Alfred, he was created by the writers of the 1943 serial and adopted to comics on DC's request by a writer called Don Cameron

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  17. Well according to wikipedia(a source I know isn't always reliable) Alfred first appeared as an overweight actor in the comics, and due to the popularity of that 1943 serial which was the first to depict Alfred sporting his slim figure, and black hair, they decided to adapt those aspects to the Alfred of the comics which is the appearance Alfred we know today in the comics.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Pennyworth

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  18. And according to the DC sanctioned and approved Batman:The Complete History nook, when serials where being written DC also wanted Alfred before they were released. So they asked writer Don Cameron to introduce him/write him in into comics, but Cameron didnt know yet whose gonna be cast as Alfred and showed him as a chubby guy. Once serials premiered, Alfred was slimmed down and grew mustache to match the serials version. So where Robinson fits the picture? After Alfred was already introduced, for a couple of issues there were short stories in the back called Adventures of Alfred which Robinson drew

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  19. I had no idea why Robinson was lying and taking credit.....but what about this GothamStreets?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iGPb3pUTlI

    He seems to be telling the truth. So he's making this up?

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  20. Thats the 2009 interview I referred to earlier. All lies that make me shake my head. Theres a lot of reasons why hes lying. When something gets popular, people take credit for it. When Avatar came out, there was a mile long list of people and writers claiming authorship for story ideas and designs, and trying to get a piece of the pie (none of those appeared to be legit and went nowhere). When TDK became huge, the real creators of Joker were not around anymore and the only one left was Robinson who was doing inks and backgrounds for them and came up with the card for the Joker. So now he simply takes the credit for everything because theres no one around to fight it and look - he released a book, he gets plenty of interviews, hes getting picked for Comic Cons, hes doing exhibition of his Batman stuff and even did an auction for Joker's card, or as he claims, the blueprint for Joker (which raises the price enormously), and he is now billed in interviews as the creator of Joker.

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  21. George Lucas and his lies about what he originally intended are nothing next to Robinson and his stories

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  22. Gothamstreets in 2005 claimed this in countering Bob Kane's cliams.

    ''If you read the Batman historian Bridwell, he had one interview where he interviewed Bill Finger and he said no, the Joker was created by me – an acknowledgement. He can be credited and Bob himself, we all played a role in it. The concept was mine. Bill finished that first script from my outline of the persona and what should happen in the first story. He wrote the script of that, so he really was co-creator, and Bob and I did the visuals, so Bob was also. But as Bill said, Bob didn’t create any of the other characters except perhaps Two-Face. Bill Finger was really the creative genius for Batman. He created all of the other characters except the Joker, and I think he did more on Two-Face that he’d admit himself. I think sometimes Bill was so self-deprecating that he didn’t take credit for the things he did do at times because he was so kind of brow-beaten in a way and insecure. It’s a tragedy. He died broke and uncredited.''
    -Jerry Robinson

    Here's a link.

    http://www.rocketllama.com/blog-it/2009/08/05/interview-the-jokers-maker-tackles-the-man-who-laughs/

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  23. Jerry: There was a story that’s been repeated that the look of the Joker came from Conrad Veidt.

    Travis: From The Man Who Laughs.

    Jerry: The Man Who Laughs, yes. Well, it’s true and not true. What actually happened was, Bob and I never heard of The Man Who Laughs before Bill brought it up. Bill was an aficionado of offbeat films, German Expressionism. Conrad was a well known German actor who carried that kind of aura with him. In that first meeting when I showed them that sketch of the Joker, Bill said it reminded him of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. That was the first mention of it. He said, “I’ll show you,” and in a day or two he found a clip of Conrad in that role. He brought it in and it was astounding, it looked so much like the Joker. That was after the fact. It had nothing to do with the playing card or how I first came to that image. So it helped Bill kind of visualize the character because he was struck by the similarity. That’s how it came about.

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  24. Now, Ill check that book. So yet again he says that he said he came up with Joker, he and Bob did visuals and Finger wrote the script based on Robinson's outline. Again, that does not match the facts. The story of everyone else goes that Finger pointed to The Man Who Laughs character and Kane drew him (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-PO1-kk-fyvc/TktdypkM5MI/AAAAAAAAB4E/B3fd0nzsxdw/s1600/web_Laughs.jpg). There are no changes to visuals so theres no visual developing here going on at all. And its Finger who pointed at that particular character and Kane who was confirmed to have drawn him. And Robinson also himself confirmed the influence of the Veidt character. Kane said Robinson just came up with the card for the character after he was developed, and again, Robinson was just a college age inker working for Bob exclusively. About the only possibility is that he could have an idea of having someone named Joker, but that would be absolutely the furthest it could go. As Bob said

    “Jerry drew this card AFTER Bill Finger and I had already created the Joker... If Jerry had come to me first with the Joker playing card, than I would have drawn the Joker in the image of that card, instead of like Conrad Viedt in the movie [The Man Who Laughs].”

    Anyway, same thing happened when 1989 movie became a hit. Robinson was claiming the authorship of Joker as well

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  25. In the second response(which I assume you didn't read) Robinson acknowledged that and even admitted that he and Bob never heard of the Man who Laughs untill Bill showed them, read the second response.

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  26. Jerry: There was a story that’s been repeated that the look of the Joker came from Conrad Veidt.

    Travis: From The Man Who Laughs.

    Jerry: The Man Who Laughs, yes. Well, it’s true and not true. What actually happened was, Bob and I never heard of The Man Who Laughs before Bill brought it up. Bill was an aficionado of offbeat films, German Expressionism. Conrad was a well known German actor who carried that kind of aura with him. In that first meeting when I showed them that sketch of the Joker, Bill said it reminded him of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. That was the first mention of it. He said, “I’ll show you,” and in a day or two he found a clip of Conrad in that role. He brought it in and it was astounding, it looked so much like the Joker. That was after the fact. It had nothing to do with the playing card or how I first came to that image. So it helped Bill kind of visualize the character because he was struck by the similarity. That’s how it came about.

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  27. Yes, finally some truth. See, now this is what I think happened more or less and what would make sense. Finger pointed the Man Who Laughs and thats pretty much all the visual development right there since, in typical Kane fashion (who referred to himself as a copycat), was translated to paper verbatim. And Finger is a storywriter who worked solely, Robinson was not, he was only a young inker. Robinson is only the author of the card and I believe Bob when he said that Jerry designed that card for Joker, not AS Joker, otherwise he wouldve drawn a character not a card, and the Joker would look like the jester on the card. Whether the card gave Finger an idea for Joker or whether it was brought in after as Joker's attribute, thats debatable and up for anyone top decide. But as far as the actual Joker and his personality, story and visual look, thats all Finger, and drawn by Kane.

    Now, the book Robinson mentioned is called Batman: From the 30's to the 70's, and since it has some testimonies from Finger himself it may have some good quotes there. As a side note, Finger was great, no doubt about it, but Finger came up with the detective side of Batman and pushed for him to be the talkative and accessible character, thats why he loved the idea of Robin to be on his side. Kane was the one who came up with the spooky, quiet, mysterious and menacing part of the character (which all went out the window after just few issues), so not all of Finger's ideas were appealing.

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  28. Btw, Finger's son said that his father got the idea for Joker character after seeing a Coney Island poster, not from Robinson. I agree that Robinson just did the card for Joker

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  29. According to Robinson he did outline the Joker's personality for Finger to use, in fact the video of his creative process for the Joker he said he wanted a villain with a 'sense of humor' which means he feasibly suggested the name, and basic persona of the character to Finger(and Finger and Kane refined his idea to the final product)Furthermore, just because Robinson was an inker doesn't mean he couldn't be allowed a few creative suggestions here and there and he was close with Bill Finger enough for him to borrow a few of his idea's.

    Also I'm not sure I would trust Kane's word entirely either(he wasn't exactly known for honesty) and he didn't credit Finger until after died impoverished, before that he took full responsibility for creating Batman.

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  30. To the poster who mentioned the Coney Island poster: yes, it completely slipped my mind. Finger's son did indeed said that what inspired Finger to create Joker character was a poster advertising a Coney Island attraction George Tilyou's Steeplechase on Surf Avenue - http://www.hakes.com/product_images/14/89634/001_small.jpg

    To the poster above: what outlines are needed for a character named Joker in a simple pulp murder-mystery story? Not much. Once they had the look which came from Finger undisputedly, and once Kane drew him and they had the name, about the only outline that comes to mind that sets him from other pulp murderers is that hes laughing, but thats something that comes obviously from the name alone. So with all evidence and logistical detective work, I dont believe Robinson came up with anything other than a card for Joker

    Also, Kane eventually did acknowledge Finger even if late, and admitted he felt bad about it. But even tho Finger's contribution to the Batman character was crucial and substantial (major changes to appearance and the detective side of the character) it was, after all, Kane who came up with the idea of Batman.

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  31. I think there's some truth to everyone's claims, I think he had something to do with helping Bill come up with the central personality of of the character, the fact he says that Bill credits him for the creation in that books says something about his involvement, now maybe Finger was being modest when he credited him but the fact that he did says that he had more involvement than you giving him credit for.

    But eh, In my mind Robinson, Finger and to a lesser extent Kane created the character, now whether you believe Robinson's level of involvement in the creation process of the character was minimal, or not I believe there is some genuine truth to his sayings.

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  32. Also Kane may have vaguely came up with the idea of Batman(The Bat-man as he actually originally called him) but he didn't make him to what he is now. If it weren't Finger Batman wouldn't have never have lasted long, he came up with the crucial elements of the mythos that stayed with the character for nearly 80 years.

    Also I would like a source to your claim Kane is the one that made Batman this silent, mysterious figure of the night, and Finger wasn't. last I checked Finger was the one that made him that way, not Kane. Kane's original conception of Batman was a guy with a domino mask, Finger is the one who crafted the character we all know and love.

    ''One day I called Bill and said, 'I have a new character called the Bat-Man and I've made some crude, elementary sketches I'd like you to look at'. He came over and I showed him the drawings. At the time, I only had a small domino mask, like the one Robin later wore, on Batman's face. Bill said, 'Why not make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious?' At this point, the Bat-Man wore a red union suit; the wings, trunks, and mask were black. I thought that red and black would be a good combination. Bill said that the costume was too bright: 'Color it dark gray to make it look more ominous'- Bob Kane.

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  33. Bottom line, as the old saying goes "Trust the tale, not the teller" and there was no ambiguity until 2008

    I wouldnt put faith in Bridwin's book until I would read the quote.
    As for Batman's development, Kane was a horror fan and Finger was a detective stories fan. As I said, Finger's addition to Batman's visuals were crucial, but at the same time Finger preferred Batman to be a talkative and accessive figure. he wanted Batman to be Holmes in a Bat suit, while Kane was a horror fan who cited plenty of horror influences when thinking up the Batman character and world, hence Batman being a quiet and menacing figure in the pre-Robin issues, the stories with vampires and the often present full moon and mist. I could post quotes from Finger saying how he was happy about Robin and how he prefers Batman to be a talkative detective instead of a vampire-like character, but that would be besides the point. The point is that while Finger co-developed Batman, it was Kane who came up with Batman and went to Finger with him, so technically Kane was right saying he solely created Batman. He did solely create him, while Finger crafted him and chipped away the rough edges

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  34. Its nice and noble that Kane gave praise to Finger and felt bad for what he did, but the fact that he came up with the idea of Batman first is irrelevant Bill Finger spent a lot of time and energy on the character and made him what he is today he came up with the origin (inspired by the Phantom's origin) that defined the character of Batman today, and is major part of his mythos.

    Kane had an idea for a character called 'Batman', and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of ... reddish tights, I believe, with boots ... no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign ... BATMAN."-Bill Finger

    "it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the ''Batman, t' [sic] as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters.-Bob Kane

    Also sources or quotes on Kane being a horror fan? Because it seems to me that Finger is the one that made him mysterious, grim as well as a genius detective.

    Anywho, the real creator of Batman to me will always be Bill Finger, and Bob Kane was just merely vaguely inspired the concept.
    To you and many others, Kane will be the creator.

    But a lot of things that made Batman Batman, the origin story, his detective side, the batcave and Batmobile came from him.

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  35. Influences that Kane cited: The Bat Whispers - a horror movie about a guy who dresses up as a bat and murders people at night. This is where Kane got the idea for Batman's shadow appearing on the walls, this is how The Bat character used to scare his victims first. Then there's Dracula (Zorro and Shadow were the non-horror influences, although Shadows was a very ruthless lethal crime fighter, similarly to what Batman originally was). Finger cited Three Musketers and Sherlock Holmes as his influences for the character (and visualy The Phantom, who is virtually Batman without ears)

    The horror influence was on Kane's side and Kane always said how he missed his original Batman years when Batman was a shadowy spook, or ghost almost. Finger favored the smiling, brighter and talkative character and was delighted when the tone and character changed so much when Robin came in, introducing fun and
    humor into the series and bringing Batman out to daylight.
    I have at least 2 quotes from Finger, but I dont really have time to dig them all, so Ill just pass the ones printed in Complete History book
    "The thing that bothered me was that Batman didnt have anyone to talk to. The early stories were grim, lacking in humor" "The appearance of Robin changed that tone. The puns were there, the dialogue easy, fluid and flowing. It brightened up the strip and added characterization to the main figure of Batman"

    Again, Finger saw Batman as Holmes and Musketeer, Kane as a vampire

    I know about all the stories how Finger altered and crafted Batman so the quotes arent necessary, its undesputable. But on a technical level, Kane was the one who came up with Batman, even if he wasnt what he is today, he was the one who solely CAME UP with the character and the feel, which Finger DEVELOPED

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  36. Fair enough, but Finger still created many staple items vital to the Bat- mythos, and even given Batman's secret identity a his name Bruce Wayne. He is largely responsible mostly for Bat's lasting as long as he did, Kane has some minor contributions here and there and the idea Robin(which even Kane wanted for commercial reasons) seemed to flesh out Bat's a bit more, though he was still a one dimensional pulp character. Basically Finger created Batman mostly, Kane created the basic concept that Finger fleshed out into his own, and many writers that succeeded him. Also judging by the quote from Kane I posted early, Bill Finger is the one that suggested the core features of his appearance that helped to convey the ambiance, and ominousness of the character.


    That and Finger wrote most of Bat's original stories and came up with stories, he's as much as the creator of Batman as Kane is, and in some ways even more so.

    But I respect Kane, but I don't approve of what he did to Finger, and it took him several decades to acknowledge his contributions to work..right after he died in poverty, now I get that he felt bad and all but man....

    All and all, we should be thankful that this character was created, and we continue to enjoy him and his adventures for years to come and go.

    I guess we'll have to respectfully agree to disagree and move on.

    Thank you for your informative articles Gotahmstreets(they are always a thrill to read) and hopefully I'll continue to enjoy them.

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  37. Great article! I'm glad you're dispelling that multiple choice canard.
    Just one quick correction--the art for Detective Comics #168 was by Lew Sayre Schwartz, not Bob Kane, though according to Bob Hughes (http://dccomicsartists.com/batman/Schwartz.htm), Kane might have done some retouching. Schwartz also claimed credit for the story in an interview (http://www.wtv-zone.com/silverager/sasar8/archive182.shtml). That said, Schwartz was probably my least favorite Golden Age ghost for Kane. My favorites in order of preference would be:
    01. Dick Sprang
    02. Jerry Robinson
    03. Sheldon MOldoff
    04. Jack Burnley

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  38. Robinson just tells the TDK fans what they want to hear to get popular

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  39. Well IA, I know about Kane, thats why I wrote "credited to BK" instead of "by BK", so technically its right ;)

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  40. GothamStteets which Joker do you prefer Heath's Joker or Nicoloson's?

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  41. I know it may sound like a diplomatic cop out, but I really like both, and theyre both extremely comic book accurate. I always say its like asking me if I like a nice steak or ice cream. Theyre both very different but both great, I like having both a good hot meal and a good cold dessert

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  42. I like that Joker's origin is multiple choice. Makes him more mysterious and scary.

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  43. Just wanted to say I love this blog.

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  44. Gothamstreets don't you find it funny that Moore wrote an actual character whose past is ambigious, with anarchist beliefs called ''V'' while one of the primary sources of inspiration for Nolan's mysterious, anarcist Joker was his Killing Joke, which he never intended on leaving the Joker past ambigious?

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  45. It kind of is. As an interesting side note, Moore realy doesnt like Killing Joke nowadays

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  46. Actually I seem to recall an episode on Batman: TAS called "Mad Love" where Batman taunts Harley Quinn by suggesting "He's got a million of 'em (origin sob stories)". That was about a decade+ prior to The Dark Knight. So Nolan's not the first.

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  47. I don't know why you are so flippant about Robinson's role in creating the character. Both Finger and Robinson agreed; only Kane's account differed, and he was not renowned for his honesty. You have muddled the issue with outright lies such as "there was no controversy until 2008." Huh? The quote from Kane that you keep citing is from 1994. You keep bringing up TDK, which is misleading. Robinson had been recognized as the creator of the Joker long before the film, even if you disagree. And I’m sure that Robinson always favored the Joker not having an origin. Robinson was asked to write one of the several stories for Batman #1, and he even got credit for the Joker story in his college class. Also, when did Robinson claim that the Joker’s hair was not intended to be green? I doubt that he would say such a blatant, self-evidently false lie that could be so easily disproven.

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  48. And yet Robinson did say it and said it twice. I see I literally have to quote every single thing I state because people who dont find facts suiting their vision or liking will always get upset and point me out as some heretic. I dont take sides and I simply want to provide facts in a subject/franchise that have a loot of false legends floating around.And I didnt say there wasnt a dispute about Jokers creators before 2008, I said there wasnt any talk about not having origins before 2008. Finger actually never agreed on Robinson creating the character, it was Finger who was the creator and who brought up The Man Who laughs. Kane simply drew the character. Robisnon just doesnt fit anywhere here. He came up with the card, yes. Not the Joker. But all has been said already, I would just be repeating my previous posts.

    And you say Robinson favored Joker not having origins before TDK? If you provide a quote Ill be glad to admit I was wrong

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  49. I'm still waiting for you to answer the last question of my previous post.

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  50. I dont save every single interview I ever encounter, thats impossible and nobody does that, although in the actual articles Im always backing up statements with quotes or scans. I actually didnt think people would be THAT anal, disrespectful and that desperate to discard facts to defend their favorized perception that I have to save every single statement for later cause someone would accuse me of lying. About one source that I remember from memory is rockettlama.com where he said his Joker didnt have green hair, as a side note an also confusing statement since he only drew the card with a very different looking Jester, not the joker. He drew the card, plain and simple.As Kane said, if hed really come up with Joker, Joker would look like the jester on the card. Finger pointed at Man Who Laughs and write his first stories, aka introduced and developed the character, Kane drew Veidt with green hair. Robinson came up with the card. Whether the card gave Finger an idea for Joker or whether it was brought in after as Joker's attribute, thats debatable and up for anyone top decide. But as far as the actual Joker and his personality, story and visual look, thats all Finger, and drawn by Kane.

    And I still see no backup of your claim that Robinson ever thought of or favored Joker having no origins before TDK

    I didnt spend months reading comic books and books on the subject for someone not knowing facts accusing me of lying. Even when I post scans and multiple examples some still dont care. This is the first time someones trolling me for all the work I put into these articles, and for what? Cause you like Joker without origins? Fine, I like both takes, but does it really have to be an obsolete for you trolls? Cant you just like it and acknowledge it wasnt the original intention behind the character? It doesnt make the idea ANY lesser, you know? Does it really HAVE TO be there from the beginning and has to be the one and only right approach for it to be legitimately good?

    And what about ALL the other villains? They didnt have origins either. Mustve been pretty boring to have this "unique" approach for just about every villain before Two face, for no apparent reason, and coincidentally, as in just about every pulp story/detective comic book at the time. But its all written on the page. Still I realize some will pluck their ears

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  51. Hello, didn't you forget Morrison's Arkham Asylum ?

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    Replies
    1. It seems like Nolans are the ones who forgot about it since they cite Killing Joke as an inspiration for coming up with Joker having no origins. And they think they developed it themselves too

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  52. The Nolans don't said they owned or developed this element... J.Nolan clearly said it's a concept they took from TKJ.

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