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New Joker series embraces the horror vibe of James Tynion IV's creator-owned titles

The Joker cover
(Image credit: Guillem March (DC))

Joker tales tend to go hand-in-hand with Batman, but come March 9th the caped crusader's archnemesis will be starring in his own ongoing comic - spearheaded by Batman flagship creators, James Tynion IV and Guillem March. In the wake of "The Joker War", Joker escapes Gotham with an unexpected visitor on his tail – Jim Gordon, which will lead them to the depths of Europe, The Caribbean, and many more exciting new landscapes.   

(Image credit: Guillem March (DC))

Embracing the tone of his popular indie titles Something is Killing The Children and The Department of Truth, James tells Newsarama that he "wanted to do this as a horror comic. Much more so than trying to do something in a more traditional superhero tone."

Luckily, Newsrama had the chance to chat with writer James Tynion IV efore the series hits comic book stands. We talk about what it's like exploring the Bat mythos outside of Gotham, the decision behind making Jim Gordon the series' POV character, and what type of "evolution" Punchline will be going through in her back-up stories and beyond.

Newsarama: James, to jump right in, Jim Gordon is a co-lead in The Joker series. Will the series be from his point-of-view, or the Joker's?

James Tynion IV

(Image credit: Image Comics)

James Tynion IV: It will primarily be from Jim Gordon's point of view. And part of the reason that I built it that way - this goes back to the moment that [DC's Batman group editor] Ben Abernathy reached out to me with crazy ideas, like 'What if we do a Joker ongoing series?' The issue is, it's hard to imagine a book that was propelled by the internal drive of the Joker.

I designed that the Joker's character is all about reacting against other people. He defines himself in the face of Batman and in the face of whoever he's up against, even when he's with villains. He's always positioning himself as the absolute opposite of what he's facing.

I knew I needed a way in that I could keep the story really emotional, because the other thing that I knew from the start is I wanted to do this as a horror comic. Much more so than trying to do something in a more traditional superhero tone. If we're going to tell a Joker story without Batman up front and center, we need to lean into the scary stuff.

Jim Gordon gives it that hard-boiled noir feel. It also opens up him as an emotional character because Jim Gordon I think is one of the best characters in the entire DC canon. And he's one that in the last year of working in and around Gotham, I haven't gotten to play with yet. So, I'm really, really excited to be able to use him here.

Nrama: How has Joker been affected by the aftermath of 'The Joker War'?

(Image credit: Frank Quitely (DC))

Tynion IV: I think that in some ways Joker got what he wanted, and in other ways, he absolutely did not. He wanted to make things harder for Batman again. That was the key thing that he was saying in his final speech to Batman in their final battle, which is the fact that Batman was getting too comfortable. He was starting to be able to see a happy ending for himself. He wanted to rip away that happy ending and make it so it was really difficult to be Batman again - by ripping away his fortune and by unleashing all of this chaos in the city that he saw ripe for exploitation. So, now Gotham is this dark and dangerous place, and Joker I think is very happy taking a step back and letting the chaos kind of run.

One of the big questions that the series asks is where does the Joker go when he sort of falls off the face of the Earth. He's not in Arkham and he's not in the middle of doing a big attack on Gotham City, where does Joker go? How does he hide from Batman? Disappear off the face of the Earth for months at a time? Getting to answer some of those sorts of fanboy questions and especially getting to answer them from the perspective of Jim Gordon, who would have all of the same questions himself, is really fun and exciting.

Nrama: Without Punchline by his side, who are some of the characters Joker is interacting with?

(Image credit: Guillem March (DC))

Tynion IV: I'm trying to think of the best way to answer this. 

We're going to see that there is this big international criminal underworld that exists outside of the bounds of the United States. Especially in the United States, which has so many more costume heroes than the rest of the DC universe. 

Where do these very dangerous people go? Who do they work with when they are going away? Where does the Joker hide and who helps him hide and who benefits from helping him? 

We're going to see some of these very dangerous and interesting players, and see what they think about the Joker and what they think about American superheroes and supervillains - that whole dynamic, and how it plays out.

Nrama: Slight spoilers here, but Punchline is only seen in one panel in Infinite Frontier #0 sitting in a cell, but the Spectre's narration implies she'll be 'evolving'… readers might assume like Harley Quinn's long evolution that might be a hero turn, maybe sooner than it took Harley. But it could also mean an evolution into more than Joker's right hand, into a greater villain in her own right. Any direction you want to point readers in?

(Image credit: Lee Bermejo (DC))

Tynion IV: It's definitely not an evolution towards being a hero like Harley Quinn. 

One of the big things that we wanted to do, and we're continuing Punchline's stories in the backups of every issue of Joker, is that Joker has kind of like planted all the seeds for the thing that he's going to do when he comes back and strikes against Gotham in the future. Punchline is the one who's sort of running the show that he left behind.

There's this great conspiracy that's building up around the city and the expanding clown gang, and the aftermath of 'The Joker War.' Punchline is in prison, but there's a whole citizens' movement to free Punchline. She remains a very dangerous figure in the Gotham mythos, and we are going to see her step up in a few key ways over the next year, being a villain in her own right. Not just a villain entirely designed to stand at Joker's side.

Nrama: As mentioned, this is a global adventure, what are some of the places you visit? What's it like writing a Batman story outside of Gotham?  

Tynion IV: Honestly, it's a lot of fun, especially with Jim Gordon up front and center. Gordon is such a city character. He wears his trench coat and he seems like he could only function in like a full-on urban environment. So, of course, one of the first places I take him to is Belize, just in the middle of Central America and in the heat of the tropics.

That's sort of where the story starts is in Central America. There's also a thread of the story that picks up in the Caribbean and in the Island of Santa Prisca, which there may be a reason why we're touching upon Santa Prisca. Then, on top of that, there is another thread that takes us through rural Texas and a thread that's emerging there. From there, we're going to go to Europe. We have plans. There's a whole travel itinerary for the Joker and Jim Gordon.

Nrama: What's it like balancing two very different types of Bat-books at the same time, with the main Batman title and now the Joker title? 

With the inclusion of your creator-owned books, how do you breakdown your writing days?

(Image credit: Brian Stelfreeze (DC))

Tynion IV: Honestly, with great difficulty. [laughs] 

But the one thing that I realized early on in my career is that as long as each book is stretching different muscles, there's always a joy switching from one to another. I only ever feel like I'm sort of burning myself out when I'm switching from a book that is very similar to another book that I'm writing.

So, having Batman and Joker be such different stories. For the people who prefer my indie horror work to the kind of 'balls to the wall' adventure comics that I'm writing over in Batman, I think Joker might be more of their flavor. What I hope is that fans of Gotham will see that these are two very different books.

The Joker book is a scary book. It's a slower-paced book. It's a book that digs more into the deep emotions that Jim Gordon feels and in his relationship with the Joker, and the kind of impact Joker has made on the world. It's just a very different animal, and I think that gives two entry points into the larger mythology that I'm playing with here for different types of readers who want different things out of their Batman comics.

Have the last laugh - make sure you've read all the best Joker stories of all time.

Kat has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade with her YouTube channel, Comic Uno. She’s been writing for Newsarama since 2017 and also currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe - bylines include IGN, Fandom, and TV Guide. She writes her own comics with her titles Like Father, Like Daughter and They Call Her…The Dancer. Calamia has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.