DC’s next big Batman story is finally ready to drop, and today we’ve seen the first sign of buzz since the mini series was first announced several years ago. It’s described as “the spiritual successor to ‘The Killing Joke‘” and it starts in June. So, what is it? Should you care?
The project was first teased as far back as Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Darkseid War event, in 2015. The idea carried through to the 2016’s Rebirth Special, teased in the 2017 Batman and Flash crossover ‘The Button‘ and explored in the 2017-2019 maxi series, ‘Doomsday Clock‘. So, spoilers for those books going forward.
During Darkseid War, Batman acquires the Mobius Chair and becomes a literal god. He then asks the chair “What is the Joker’s real name?” and is visibly troubled by the answer. This occurs in Darkseid War Part 2 and shown below. We don’t get an answer until Justice League #42, we simply see Bruce’s reaction to the answer. He says, whilst in the Mobius Chair but not quite Bat-God status, that this is “not possible”. We don’t find out what the chair told Bruce until Justice League #50, the conclusion to Darkseid War.
The Joker’s name isn’t elaborated upon until Justice League #50, part ten of the New 52 event. Green Lantern asks what the chair told him and we finally get a (sort of) answer. We still don’t get Joker’s name, but it’s established there are three Jokers. Batman admits he doesn’t know what this means, but he will “find out”.
Geoff Johns next worked on Rebirth, the soft reboot of the entire DC Universe. Rebirth sold millions of copies, as Johns’ epic oneshot promised to erase the bad of the New 52 reboot of 2011 and restore the former glory of the period between 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and 2011’s Flashpoint, the starting point for the New 52. Many DC unfaithful came back to reading the monthlies, and had wrongly assumed the clarification given in the Rebirth special was an entirely new plot point. Rather, it was an elaboration of Darkseid War’s ‘three Jokers’ tease. This time, with Gary Frank on art duties, we have an interpretation of who the three Jokers may well be.
The major tease at the end of Darkseid War and during Rebirth, the supposed inclusion of the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe and potentially the in-universe “cause” of New 52’s controversial changes in 2011. This is loosely followed up in 2017’s ‘The Button’, a crossover between The Flash and Batman written by Tom King and Joshua Williamson with art by Jason Fabok and Howard Porter. Batman discovers the Comedian’s badge in the Batcave at the end of Darkseid War, and with little fanfare Batman and Flash finally go about investigating the badge. Finally, however, in 2017 Doomsday Clock premiered. Written again by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, the series promised to not only be a worthy sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic Watchmen, but also to explain the Watchmen’s inclusion in Darkseid War, Rebirth and The Button. Rumours were rife that Doomsday Clock would finally explain the three Jokers angle, with fan speculation suggesting Joker and Comedian being related, the Comedian actually being one of the Jokers and limitless more zesty ideas one would expect from the comic book reading community.
Doomsday Clock was plagued with delays, at first it was speculated that this was Gary Frank’s intricate and daring, yet slow artwork. But rumours surfaced that the problem lie with Geoff Johns instead. Johns, in addition to his comic writing vocation, has writing credit for two recent Warner Bros DC movies, Aquaman and Wonder Woman 1984, as well as producing almost every film by the studio since 2011’s Green Lantern. He is also the showrunner, writer and producer on the upcoming Stargirl show, as well as writing for the Robot Chicken DC specials, Arrow, The Flash, Titans and executive producing Titans and Doom Patrol. He’s a busy guy. But now Doomsday Clock has officially wrapped with its final issue dropping last December, Johns and Fabok finally reunite to show us what all this “Three Jokers” business is all about. Maybe it is three or four years late, but we’re pumped. The fact it’s to be published under the ‘DC Black Label’, like Batman: Damned, Batman: Last Knight on Earth and Harleen before it, we’re in for a dark, gritty treat. Although, like other Black Label books, its continuity could be called into question. With Johns at the helm, however, I would expect ‘Three Jokers’ to play heavily into Batman lore for years to come.
The Road to Three Jokers
If you’re keen to check out ‘Three Jokers’ when the first issue drops on the 17th of June, be sure to check out the following books:
- The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition (Amazon link here)
- Darkseid War Saga Omnibus (Amazon link here)
- Rebirth Deluxe Edition (Amazon link here)
- The Button Deluxe Edition (Amazon link here)
- Doomsday Clock Part 1 (Amazon link here)
- Doomsday Clock Part 2 (Amazon link here)
Included are The Button and Doomsday Clock, neither of which are essential that we know of, but it does all seem to be tied together. Darkseid War and Rebirth are crucial though, and while Darkside War Saga Omnibus is sadly out of print, I would expect a silent reprint in the coming months. The event can be found much cheaper on Comixology and Kindle, though, and there are cheaper paperbacks available.