DC has finally revealed details behind Punk Rock Jesus writer and artist Sean Murphy’s special seven-issue Batman project scheduled for release this October suspiciously entitled Batman: White Knight. Murphy’s series promises a battle between the Caped Crusader and his arch-nemesis, the Joker, unlike anything you’ve seen before. Not maniac, not murderer, not extremist….but hero?
Up until now, DC has managed to keep the details from leaking, but in a recent interview with Wire, Murphy revealed what fans can expect from this unique tale. In the same vein as an Elseworlds tale, this alternate reality story centers on a role reversal. The Joker has been miraculously cured of his madness and accompanying homicidal tendencies. Rechristening himself as Jack, with Harley Quinn by his side, the former Clown Prince of Crime runs for office…and wins! However, the Dark Knight is not so easily swayed as the people of Gotham, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that the former Joker recognizes Batman himself as the real threat to the city, and uses his new authority to launch a campaign to end this cowled loose cannon’s war on crime.
Murphy explains, “Seeing Gotham for the first time with clear eyes, his psychosis now cured, he starts to understand the absurdity of vigilantism and how Batman’s actions are only contributing to Gotham’s endless crime cycle. Joker sets out to beat Batman by becoming the White Knight that Gotham really needs.”
However, do not try to draw parallels between the now-sane Harlequin of Hate. “We know the Joker is a genius,” Murphy says, “we know he’s relentless, and we know he can play the crowd, so why not make him a politician? Frank Miller modeled him after David Bowie. Chris Nolan showed him as a controlled sociopath. I see the Joker as Don Draper.”
This is not the first time The Joker has had legal power over Batman. In the pre-crisis continuity story “Death in the Family,” he had been temporarily empowered by a foreign nation as part of an arms deal. This new title also included diplomatic immunity and a full pardon from any and all crimes he had committed up to that point, including the recent murder of the second Robin, Jason Todd.
An avid Batman reader has enough evidence in regular continuity to see things from both Murphy’s and the Joker’s point of view. Since becoming active in Gotham, this Batman-patrolled city has been hit with not only a slew of the worst kind of criminals – some, like the Joker, the direct result of their encounters with the Dark Knight – but numerous foreign and domestic terror attacks, alien invasions, and natural disasters. Like the snake devouring its own tail, Murphy’s take on the legend is that Batman is as much a symptom of Gotham’s evil as he is a victim of it. He is caught in the repetitive cycle of confronting these villains, throwing them in Arkham Asylum or Blackgate, then chasing them down again when they escape without any thought for the collateral damage left in their wake. Further, for all his efforts, the city still seems as dark, if not darker, as it did the first time Bruce Wayne put on the cape and cowl. Jack adopts this rationale and uses his resources to destroy Batman in a way that he undoes his legacy completely. By swapping his joy buzzer for social media, the former Joker may get the last laugh after all.
The only question is how is all this not just another facet of his fractured psyche playing for a different audience?
Batman: White Knight #1 is scheduled for release on October 4th.