Batman #13

Now that all the Batman family books have revealed their #0 issues, the stage is set for October's start of "Death of the Family," which brings Joker to the Bat-books in a big way.

The event, which will have tie-ins in several DC comics, spins out of a story starting in Batman #13 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. After the success of their "Court of Owls" storyline and the subsequent tie-in event "Night of the Owls," DC is hoping this event will be even bigger.

Snyder is getting to utilize his favorite Batman rogue for his follow-up to "Court of Owls," calling this the biggest, most impactful Joker story in years. "This is really my big exploration and love letter to the Joker," Snyder told Newsarama.

So what clues have we been given about the New 52 version of The Joker? How will his return impact the Bat-family characters, now that their histories have changed? And what have the Bat-writers been hinting about their tie-ins to "Death of the Family?"

Secret Identity

At the heart of the "Death of the Family" storyline appears to be the question of whether or not The Joker knows the identities of the Bat-family and, in turn, Batman himself.

The solicitations for the "Death of the Family" issues of Batman includes this question: "What must Batman do to protect his secret identity and that of those who fight alongside him?"

Scott Lobdell also revealed a similar description to Newsarama in our recent interview:

"Joker may or may not know your identity, and that is maybe the most horrifying part," Lobdell said. "Imagine, as crazy as the Joker is, you can at least go to bed secure in the knowledge that once you take off the mask you are a little safer. But if he knows who you are....aiyeee!"

Changed Joker?

Batman #14

Although there have been several changes to DCnU characters thanks to last year's reboot, Snyder indicated in an interview with Newsarama that this isn't a different version of the Joker.

"You will see the iconic face and the grin, and he might look a little bit different and scarier," Snyder said. "But you'll find that he's still himself at his core. And he's really here in his blood-stained clothes going to work."

The history of the relationship between The Joker and Batman — like The Joker being his greatest enemy and the terrible things he's done to Jason and the other members of the Bat-family — are still a part of the DCU history. And according to Snyder, they fuel this storyline.

And although The Joker has been gone from the pages of the DCnU for the last year, according to Snyder, he's been spending that time planning and planting traps. "A year ago, Joker decided, I'm going to walk away from Gotham, I'm going to plan my revenge, and I'm going to come back in a year and bring it all back," the writer said. "So this is what he's been planning to do for a long time. And all of those things are set in motion."

"Of The Family?"

While Snyder has promised that the story in Batman will be "100 percent self-contained," the story crosses over into several other titles.

Suicide Squad #15

Suicide Squad #14

From the latest solicitations, we've learned that Joker's revenge is not just aimed at the good guys. Harley Quinn apparently wasn't involved in the planning by "Mista J," because DC is touting their "reunion" in Suicide Squad #14 and #15. The Joker will also target a few of Gotham's criminals in Catwoman #13 and #14, Detective Comics #15 (The Penguin), and the back-ups of the Batman title.

As James Tynion IV told Newsarama earlier this week, "There’s always something electric when two iconic villains are on a page with one another, and when one of those characters is The Joker, that electricity is quite a bit more deadly."

Nightwing #15

Former Robin Dick Grayson will be confronted by The Joker in Nightwing #15 and #16. Series writer Kyle Higgins told Newsarama that Barbara Gordon/Batgirl shows up within the Nightwing story.

"The Joker story is really a huge turning point and changes a lot of things" for Nightwing, Higgins said. "There will be seismic shifts coming out of the Joker story."

Teen Titans #15

Batman & Robin #15

The Joker also gets to battle the current Red Robin, Tim Drake, in Teen Titans #15 and #16, and the current Robin, Damian Wayne, in Batman and Robin #14 & 15.

But perhaps the most anticipated reunion will be those between The Joker and the two more immediate members of Batman's heroic family who have been traumatized by him in the past.

As readers found out in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, Jason Todd is more closely connected to The Joker than her realizes. Joker claims that he orchestrated most of the major events in Jason's life, from his father going to jail to his mother's OD on a drug laced with a chemical that simulates death. It appears that The Joker built Jason up, just so he could tear him down.

This adds more gravity to their meeting — something Lobdell hinted about in his interview with us. "Joker feels a lot closer to Jason than people have realized. Giving birth to someone is a very intimate experience, but so too is taking their life. In that way, Joker feels a sort of proprietary relationship with Jason that he doesn’t with any of the other Bat-family."

Batgirl #15

In Batgirl, readers will also finally see the resolution of Barbara Gordon's conflict with The Joker, although series writer Gail Simone is reluctant to say it "resolves" the emotional trauma she's been portraying within Barbara for the last year.

"'Resolved' is kind of a tough word, here," Simone told Newsarama in July. "There's definitely a feeling out there regarding this stuff that someone is fixed or not fixed, like an on/off switch. It's not that binary, but she is facing this stuff head on. And I am pretty sure a Joker/Batgirl story is inevitable, but I can't say more than that. Think of two trains on the same track facing towards each other...there's nowhere for either of them to go but towards collision.

"It is the once-and-for-all confrontation between the Batgirl and the man who shot and paralyzed her. It does not go as he expected," she said.

"This story starts in issue #14, and I have to say, it's pretty shocking. That's all I'll say right now, however."

The Mask of Joker

One of the most obvious changes to the Joker we'll see in "Death of the Family" is that he's wearing the loose skin of his face as a mask.

"He really is going to, obviously, have a new look. At the same time, we want it to echo his iconic look," Snyder told Newsarama. "So it's Joker in a much more horror movie fashion."

Detective Comics #1

In Detective Comics #1, released in September 2011, a villain called Dollmaker literally surgically removed the skin of The Joker's face at the end of the issue. The police ended up with the "face" and put it on ice, but The Joker himself had gotten away.... and has apparently been walking around the DCU without a face ever since.

Or perhaps he has been wearing a different face? Maybe even the face of someone close to the Batman family?

It's doubtful, since Snyder didn't build this story from the Detective ending. He told Newsarama his "Death of the Family" story was formulated before Detective writer Tony Daniel chose how to end his first issue last year.

Detective Comics #12

Thanks to that ending, The Joker has not been seen again in the New 52 universe until just last month in Detective Comics #12, when only his eyes were shown and he said, "Time to put on a happy face."

So what will Joker look like when he returns?

On the cover of Batgirl #15, DC revealed the basics of how the Joker will now "wear" his familiar smiling face. He has constructed a mask out of the skin of his face, using hooks and a belt wrapped around the back of his head.

But artist Greg Capullo intends to make that look even creepier than we've seen on that cover. "I've established the main look with the belt in the back and the hooks in the mouth, kind of holding everything in place, but think about that," he told CBR. "You move in different ways, and that skin can shift on you. Maybe a hook busts loose, and part of your face is flapping free.

Batman #13

"I've even talked about the fact, with Scott, that being that the face isn't on ice in Gotham P.D. evidence anymore, it'd start to decay, right?" he said. "And things that decay stinks a bit and attracts flies, and it might be cool for little touches with flies swimming around his head here or there. It can change is what I'm trying to say. It'll probably look different through the story than the prototype face you've seen so far."

But perhaps the most telling comment Capullo has made about the way Joker will look was in his Newsarama interview a couple months ago, when he said, simply, "it's going to be over-the-top, over-the-edge Joker stuff."

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