The Joker Year One

“The Joker Year One” Confirms Batman’s True Love

This week’s Batman #144 brought the three-part ‘The Joker Year One” storyline to a close. With it we got some greater insight into the Joker. How we got to those answers wasn’t the cleanest way as we were also treated to a possible future where Joker created his own Walking Dead scenario. Through both the past and future stories led us to answers to questions about Joker that has around since the New 52. It’s an answer that rewrites the Three Jokers concept to have greater ties between Batman and his greatest villain.


Three Jokers - "The Joker Year One"
The Three Jokers concept is redefined in Batman #143. Credit: DC Comics

The true origin of Joker has always been a big question mark. That has come down to the fact Joker changes his origin almost every time he explains it. The one that has stuck was that he was the original leader of the Red Hood gang that Batman fought in his first year back Gotham City from all his training. In Geoff Johns’ Three Jokers mini-series during New 52 it was shown that Batman has battled three different Jokers over his career.

Now with “The Joker Year One” Chip Zdarsky has made a major adjustment to the Three Jokers concept. That adjustment was that there has always been one person who has been Joker. It was then explained that the different versions we’ve seen over the last 60+ years of the character’s history is because of his training. Not long after his transformation Joker became the apprentice to the person who trained Bruce Wayne to fortify his mind and how to create buried personalities like Batman Zur-En-Arrh.

This explanation makes a lot more sense than the Three Jokers concept. We’ve long since seen how Gotham City has changed to reflect who Batman is. Whether its changes in how Bruce Wayne operates or if others, like Dick Grayson or Terry McGinnis, are Batman, Gotham City is a dark reflection of the Dark Knight.

And there is no character exemplifies how Gotham City adapts to Batman than Joker. Joker having trained himself to adapt his personality to match Batman deepens their rivalry. It makes Joker more than any other villain a blank slate for creative teams to play with. He can be the dark reflection of however creative teams choose to approach portraying Batman as a hero.


Joker Loves Batman
Joker admits his love for Batman during an unknown future shown in Batman #144. Credit: DC Comics

“The Joker Year One” story wasn’t just to establish Joker’s modern origin story. We also got a story set in an Elseworld future Gotham City where all of Gotham City has been Jokerized, The Walking Dead style. There was very few people left who did not turn into Joker zombies. Ultimately everyone, including the Batman Family, except for an old Bruce Wayne was turned into a Joker.

As revealed in the final chapter of this story, Joker never killed Batman, Bruce in particular, because he loved him. In turn Joker lived because Bruce let him even though he hated him.

In its own odd way “The Joker Year One” confirmed that Batman vs Joker is ultimately a chaotic love story. No matter the chances they get, neither one can go through with killing the other. Batman and Joker are forever tied together. Wherever one of them is the other isn’t far behind. We’ve seen that in countless timelines and futures of the DC Universe.

This future further drove home how Batman and Joker will always adapt to match the challenge the other poses. No other villain in Batman’s Rogues Gallery adapts to match however Batman changes than Joker. And at any time, Joker can make it so only he and Batman are the only ones left to continue their eternal battle.


Jim Gordon vs GCPD - Batman #144
Jim Gordon fights the corrupt GCPD Commissioner in Batman #144. Credit: DC Comics

For decades the third player in the eternal Batman vs Joker struggle has been Jim Gordon. Outside of Batman, Joker has directly or indirectly targeted Jim Gordon throughout his history. But rather than representing chaos to his order like he does to Batman, Joker is more of a bogeyman for Jim Gordon. Joker has done everything in his power to break Jim Gordon.

While they don’t directly interact during “The Joker Year One” story Joker’s rise ends up helping Jim’s own rise the ranks of the GCPD. Taking place not long after Batman: Zero Year, the flashback story was as much about Jim Gordon. We saw how difficult his rise to Police Commissioner was. The corruption in the GCPD was Jim’s personal battle. It wasn’t easy for him to get the influence he needed. And when he did those in power tried to get him out.

In a way Jim needed Joker and Batman’s other villains to get the corruption to not be easily hidden. The threat of Joker and Red Hood Gang made the corrupted leadership show their asses publicly. It opened the door for Jim’s heroism to show that he is what the GCPD needed in the future.

This all spoke to how these early years it was really Batman, Joker, and Jim Gordon’s story. In an odd way they all made each other better. On the Joker side of things that is not a good thing as we see Batman’s greatest villain assume a Demon Lord-esque aura. Joker may disappear for a time but he will come back in a new form ready to oppose Batman and his allies.