How the Joker is Screwing Up the Continuity of the New 52 Batman Timeline
One of the major selling points for DC’s relaunch of their entire universe with the New 52 was the newly streamlined continuity, a chance to cast off the jumbled mess that was their history and start fresh. They said they wanted to fix continuity, and keep everything running smoothly. Well one character has already thrown a wrench in those plans and events surrounding him have already seriously messed up any continuity or timelines for the books in the Batman family. I speak, of course, of the Joker. Hit the jump to see how he’s wrecking everything, but beware of potential spoilers.
First, there are four books that Joker makes a significant appearance:
– Detective Comics Volume 1: Faces of Death
– Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls
– The Dark Knight Volume 1: Knight Terrors
– Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth
We’ll start with Detective Comics, the book that started this whole mess.
First off, assuming that Detective takes place in the current day like the rest of the Bat-books and isn’t set five years prior like Justice League and Action Comics, we now know that the Joker has been operating for six years. Bruce’s line about courts seems to suggest that he’s caught the Joker before but couldn’t get a conviction. It’s more likely that Joker was caught and instead sent to Arkham, which is always something of a sore spot for Bruce. This can be confirmed in the pages of Suicide Squad, particularly issues 6-7 where we see Harleen Quinzel and Joker meet for the first time in a flashback:
So we now know that the Joker has operated for six of the ten years Batman has existed, and he’s been sent to Arkham at least twice. Once for sure in Suicide Squad, and once again in Detective Comics, where we get the event and page that ruins everything for continuity.
Yes, that page. This is obviously a big deal: the Joker no longer has a face. More importantly, since he departs Arkham, the majority of the villains and citizens believe him to be dead, as seen in Suicide Squad once more:
Now, that’s just Captain Boomerang stating his death. Seems like a stretch to say that a majority of the villains believe the Joker to be dead. Except the very fact that it’s Boomerang, a Flash rogue that’s been in prison up until now, that’s telling Harley about the Joker’s skinning shows that it is highly likely that this seems to be the general consensus. Word travels amongst the villains just like any other collective group of like-minded individuals, and for a Flash rogue to hear about events in Gotham means that word traveled far. It is safe to assume that the general consensus is that the Joker is dead. Many citizens of Gotham also believe that Joker is dead:
Detective Comics #5
It’s important to note that this is the last time (so far) that Bruce references the whereabouts of the Joker in Detective Comics. So we can conclusively say that he is unaware of the Joker’s whereabouts in the current DCnU.
So based on these events, we can construct the following picture of current-day Gotham: the Joker had operated for the last six years, being sent to Arkham at least once where he met Harley, and another time where his face was skinned off. This skinning has led to the villains and much of the citizens believing him to be dead, and Batman himself hasn’t a clue as to where he is. I’m assuming Tony Daniel wants to explore this further in Detective Comics, but so far he hasn’t. This would all be well and good, and set up for a great long-form mystery tale in Gotham (come to think of it, a death-book ala Superman and Batman titled Whatever Happened to the Man Who Laughs? would probably be a phenomenal read), except two other books taking place in the current era seem to mess this all up.
The Dark Knight #3
Now if the Joker has been skinned alive, and Batman has no idea where he is, this whole bit of dialogue and reaction just seems weird. Granted, it should be noted that Bruce deduces correctly that this is Clayface playing the Joker due to the real Joker being “predominantly left-handed:”
The Dark Knight #3
Regardless, the dialogue and reactions are weird. From Bruce’s use of the phrase “retire” when it’s been previously shown that he doesn’t have a clue where Joker is, to his lack of questioning about the, oh, lack of a face, it all seems a bit odd. Could it be possible that this is before Detective Comics? No, because of some comments made in the book by one Jim Gordon:
The Dollmaker being the main villain for the first arc of Detective Comics: Faces of Death. So clearly The Dark Knight Volume 1 is after the events of Detective Comics Volume 1.
It could be that Bruce immediately suspected this was Clayface upon first sight, or it could be that he realized it when he noticed the favoring of his right hand. If it’s the latter, then we have a minute or two where Bruce could have legitimately thought this was the Joker, but he doesn’t really show any sign of suspicion. Too inconclusive to really use to stress the point, but it’s a start.
Where the true derailment happens, for me is in Batman: The Court of Owls (it’s sad for me to write that statement, because this book freaking rules):
No, what’s messing everything up is the reaction of the villains. They’re not surprised at all to see Joker alive and well, despite everyone knowing he had his face skinned off. Also, Bruce seems to think that it’d be perfectly normal for Dick to be hiding out as the Joker in Arkham Asylum, that no one would question Joker being there. It’s possible he could have alerted the staff of his plans to catch a corrupt guard, which explains away their non-surprise at the Joker being in there, but it doesn’t account for all the villains who clearly think Dick is in fact the Joker, working with Batman against them. Villains who were in Arkham when he was skinned alive, and they aren’t even a tiny bit surprised or confused that he’s there. Something just doesn’t add up.
Now, we could still theoretically save the timeline. We could say that the books exist in a certain order, within a short time span. Obviously, Suicide Squad Volume 1 has to come after Detective Comics Volume 1. Concurrently, Batman: Volume 1 would have to come before Detective, to explain away why no one is confused by the Joker’s appearance. The Dark Knight takes place after Detective, based on the quip about retiring and the comments by Jim gordon. Well, that was easy enough, right? Except we still have one big problem with this order, and it’s name is Night of the Owls.
Night of the Owls is a major Bat-family crossover, one of the first in the new DC Universe. It begins in Batman #8 and continues throughout both Detective Comics and The Dark Knight. Both of these books feature an issue involving a Talon, in Detective Comics #9 and The Dark Knight #9, respectively. The problem here spans from the time-length between Batman #7 and Batman #8 (Issue #7 is in Volume 1, issue #8 will kick off Volume 2, just for reference). That time length is about, well, a few hours. At the end of Batman #7, the Court of Owls sends their Talons to go strike all their targets, including one Bruce Wayne:
Bruce is obviously still recovering from his perils in the labyrinth of the Owls, due to his fresh bandages where he was stabbed, and he’s still rocking the stubble from the events. Note also that setting issue #8 in the same night as issue #7 also works in the overall progression of time, as Bruce is being rescued around what seems to be dusk in Batman #7:
So we can logically say that Batman #8 and therefore Night of the Owls takes place immediately after Batman: The Court of Owls. As in hours apart. This means that my proposed timeline before cannot be correct and Batman: The Court of Owls must be the most recent of the Bat-family titles, not the earliest. Now, to be fair, Night of the Owls will be featured in Volume 2 of Detective Comics and not Volume 1. This still doesn’t matter, however, because there is no way that Detective Comics Volume 1 took place in the few hours between Bruce’s rescue and the beginning of Night of the Owls. Court of Owls must be the most recent, which gives us the following timeline of events:
– Joker meets Harley in Arkham.
– Joker escapes or something.
– Joker is re-captured.
– Joker is skinned alive.
– Batman comments that he has no idea where the Joker is, or if he’s alive or dead.
– Batman meets Clayface impersonating Joker on the train in The Dark Knight #3, and doesn’t react at all to the fact that he has a face or that he’s alive and in Gotham. He could realize immediately or at least suspect that this is Clayface, or he could have had a minute or two until Clayface failed to act left-handed where Bruce thought this was in fact the Joker. All we get is that quip about retiring.
– At some point, Boomerang tells Harley that the Joker is dead, his face skinned off.
– Bruce leaves Dick disguised as the Joker in Arkham Asylum. This could mean that the Joker was currently not in Arkham (as evidenced by his departure in Detective), or he was in another more remote cell. Once again, none of the staff seem to find it weird that the Joker is there (however Bruce could have gotten their help with this whole affair), but more importantly the villains aren’t weirded out atallthat a man they thought was dead and skinned has suddenly shown himself.
It just doesn’t logically add up. The only solution I can find is that since Dick was in Arkham a couple days, the other occupants of the Asylum had already had their “what the hell, man” moments before the events of the book and Dick just explained it all away with some excuse during his performance as the Joker. But that is still just conjecture. If we look at the immediate evidence available in the books, we have a serious Joker problem on our hands. I can only hope that his whereabouts get addressed soon, and hopefully it fixes this whole mess.
What do you think, anything I missed? Any ideas? Sound off in the comments!