In Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman: White Knight limited series, the Joker has turned good, protecting Gotham City from the Batman’s brand of vigilante justice. The plot twist itself should be enough to raise some eyebrows, but wait until you get a load of the Joker’s name in the comic.
Murphy took to Twitter to reveal that his version of the decidely not clown-like villain is named Jack Napier! Does that name sound familiar? It should if you’ve watched Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, which starred Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Before Nicholson’s transformation in the movie, he was a gangster named Jack Napier, a name that’s referenced throughout the movie as Batman investigates the clownish nightmare stalking the streets of his city. It is later revealed that Jack was also responsible for the death of Bruce’s parents, making him responsible for the birth of Batman. Funnily enough, Batman is the reason Jack fell into the vat of chemicals that transformed him into the Joker, making both of their origin stories pretty poetic.
Said Murphy in his tweet:
While this will be the first time the name “Jack Napier” is used for the Joker in an original comic book, the Joker has gone by the name “Jack” before, most famously in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, which introduced a new origin story for the villain in 1988, a year before the release of the movie.
Burton has said that The Killing Joke was an influence on his movie. He said in the book Burton on Burton that, “I was never a giant comic book fan, but I’ve always loved the image of Batman and the Joker. The reason I’ve never been a comic book fan — and I think it started when I was a child — is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. I don’t know if it was dyslexia or whatever, but that’s why I loved The Killing Joke, because for the first time I could tell which one to read. It’s my favorite. It’s the first comic I’ve ever loved. And the success of those graphic novels made our ideas more acceptable.”
Now Jack is back as a politician, a not so subtle comment on our current political nightmare.
“We know the Joker is a genius, we know he’s relentless, and we know he can play the crowd, so why not make him a politician?” Murphy told Wired. “Frank Miller modeled him after David Bowie. Chris Nolan showed him as a controlled sociopath. I see the Joker as Don Draper.”
Fans will reunite with Jack Napier on Oct. 4.