Home > Comics > How the Joker is Screwing Up the Continuity of the New 52 Batman Timeline

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.

Detective Comics #1

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:

Suicide Squad #6

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.

Detective Comics #1

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

Even Bruce is unaware of the current whereabouts of the Joker:

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 Dark Knight #4

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):

Batman #1

Now, obviously, this is Dick in the EMP mask as we see a few pages later, and not actually Joker:

Batman #1

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.

Batman #7

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:

Batman #8

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:

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!

  1. Dane
    August 16, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    DC really has a hard time managing their massive amount of comics. Starting over with New 52 has somehow made it more confusing, and harder for them to manage.

    • October 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM

      Plus they have alot of Batman comics to keep up with, too many in my opinion….

    • October 24, 2014 at 10:16 PM

      The multi-verse was a safety net, any writer could do anything and if it didn’t make sense across titles there was an over abundance of suspended disbelief on account of alternate realities and such. The downside to this was sales, because realistically a reader could pick and choose their favorite heroes and disregard the rest because for all intents and purposes everything is in it’s own neat little universe. The Crisis Crises weren’t about consolidation, they were about forcing readers to buy EVERYTHING just to keep up with the story, which established single realities where they didn’t need to be, yatta yatta yatta, shit started to snowball, and there was a hit to that supsended disbelief, BUT IT WAS STILL THERE. Unfortunately however, DC got a taste of those boosted sales from the massive cross title event, and decided “wouldn’t it be great if everything were cross title all the time?” But the only way they could do that is to consolidate, hence the New 52. Things seem now to have not worked out that way because instead of having a comic nerd overseeing everything, they’ve probably got a business executive who’s only concerned with making as much money as possible.

  2. Joe Kierre Jr.
    December 14, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    In Suicide Squad #7, wasn’t it Harley Quinn who deliberately let herself be caught to steal Joker’s skinned-off face in the GCPD Headquarters? In Batman 13, why was it that Joker’s the one who attacked and massacred all the cops in the headquarters and took off with his face? When can we see evidences of decay in that face of his? Or maybe the Joker sprayed an acid or formalin that will delay the decay? 🙂

  3. Brandon B.
    December 14, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Why does any of it have to make logical sense its comics we are talking about. Don’t get me wrong love comics but it can be hard for a company to make sure the right things are happening.

  4. July 27, 2013 at 3:29 PM

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  5. Philo
    August 2, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    The New 52 is laced with discrepancies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving it but as things go on more and more problems are comming up. Its kind of a bummer. All the origins are undefined across the board. Each #1 started off in the middle of a story and we had to wait a year to get #0’s but they really didn’t explain much. I think the biggest problem with the BAtman books is the same as the problems in the Superman books. Action Comics with Grant Morrisson is awesome. Superman with Geaorge Perez is crap. Why? because Grant Morrison wouldn’t share his story plans with George over at the Superman book (I read a quote from George on the subject) so he had to make due and not write anything too identifying as to avoid discrepancies. The Superman book had many other problems I won’t go into since we’re talking Batman here. This also created a discrepancy with the Justice League book as Superman tells the group that he doesn’t have a base of operations. But at the end of the 1st volume of Action Comics I believe Brainiacs ship becomes his new fortress. In Justice League this had already happened as Supes also got his Kryptionian Armor at the same time. So was he just lying to the rest of the League, that would seem a little out of character for Clark. Anyway I think there needs to be some more inter office cooperation down at DC. The new 52 looks cool but I’m starting to thing it just eye candy and they don’t really know what they are planning to do more than a month out. In the New 52 we got a new universe with no real origin stories and personally those are always some of my favorites. But this creates a undefined universe. were they just keep adding new books that take place 5 years ago and make more changes. It’s like they wanted a new universe but didn’t want to take the time to define it, starting at a begining point and moving forward like they did after the first crisis. They wanted a new universe but didn’t want to tell the story. Well guess what we, the readers, want a store to make sense. especially sinse most comic readers are adults. This really bothers me with Stormwatch. I know the old Wildstorm origins fot Stormwatch and the Authority like the back of my hand. But I have no explaination for who Apollo, Midnighter or the Engineer are and how they came to be. They had pretty specific origins originally that I don’t see fitting in to the New 52 unless Henry Bendix shows up…5 years ago in a new book. I really wish they could get it straight and I don’t know have a planning meeting with all the writters and actually create a new universe. I could go on but I think I’ve said enough.

  1. July 2, 2012 at 1:35 PM
  2. August 4, 2012 at 2:55 PM

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