Who better to narrate stories of villains than arguably the most popular comic book villain ever, The Joker? That's the story in DC's July five one shots that go out under the banner The Joker's Asylum Five one-shots, five villains in five weeks – all narrated by the Joker. We talked about the launch issue yesterday with Arvid Nelson, and today, we look at The Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy, in which writer J.T. Krul and artist Guillem March show that Ivy takes the "think green" argument to a whole new level. In the one-shot, Poison Ivy shows more than her green thumb as she seeks revenge in the name of her botanical brethren. Seen through today's prism you'd classify her as an eco-terrorist, but one who has a bit more imagination and tricks up her sleeve than any before her.
Best known for his work on Aspen's Fathom series, Krul has been a star on the rise with work for Aspen, DC and Marvel Comics. For more, we talked to him from his California home.
Newsarama: J.T., who is Poison Ivy to you as a character?
J.T. Krul: For me, Poison Ivy is the incarnation of Mother Nature herself. Or at least that's how Pamela sees it. She's always had a love and adoration for the botanical world and spent most of her days enjoying the beauty of that world in gardens and greenhouses. But once she gained her powers, the connection strengthened and she started hearing their cries as well. In essence, She's the biggest environmentalist out there - an eco-terrorist waging her own jihad against the industrial world. There is also an inherent feminist angle to her situation. Just as women have been subjugated and oppressed by the matriarchal world in which they live, Mother Earth has been beaten and abused by the same men in power. Poison Ivy stands against this system as a force to be reckoned with.
NRAMA: In this story, Poison Ivy seems to be up to her old tricks under a new name: 'eco-terrorist'. What's she up to here?
JK: Exactly. As I said before, that's her whole drive, fighting against the industrial world on Mother Nature's behalf. For this story, she is pulling yet another name or two off her ever-growing hit list, as she targets the people responsible for a major development project from years ago that saw an entire forest bulldozed before her very eyes. The question is...can Batman figure out the connection before the body count rises?
NRAMA: How do you think Poison Ivy fits into the bigger picture of Batman's Rogues Gallery?
JK: Being one of the few female members of his Rogues Gallery, Poison Ivy seems to evoke a more sympathetic tone from Batman. Plus, it's more of a mental game than a physical one. Ivy isn't much for hand-to-hand combat, so whenever Batman does tangle with her, he's spending most of his time fighting through plants and vines. He doesn't seem to physically strike her that much, which makes it a bigger deal when he does. Whether it’s the fact that she's a woman, or the circumstances under which she got her powers, or her somewhat idealistic (albeit warped) motivation, Batman views her as more a victim than the other villains he encounters.
NRAMA: There's a common saying that everyone does something for a reason, and no one plans to be 'evil' but are merely doing things they think is right. Is that the case for Poison Ivy – is she doing bad things to people on purpose?
JK: Yes, nobody starts out intending to be "evil," and very few people actually ever realize that they are evil. I've always ascribed to the notion that every person is the hero in their own narrative. Even the biggest baddies like The Joker or Lex Luthor, everyone sees themselves in that egocentric role of hero. Poison Ivy is no different. Sure, she does bad things, truly monstrous deeds, but she has a purpose and a justified one at that. Actually, this drive of hers to protect Mother Earth and the lengths she is willing to go is central to the Joker's Asylum story. While not an origin story, we did want to convey the essence of Poison Ivy and illustrate just how her mind works (or doesn't work, depending on who you ask).
NRAMA: How would you describe the chemistry between Batman and Poison Ivy?
JK: From Batman's point of view, it's a bit disjointed. On the one hand, Poison Ivy is just another crackpot villain walking the streets of Gotham. Batman's got such a gallery of crazies that adding one more to the pile is no big deal. But, it's also mainly a big boy's club. Poison Ivy is one of the few female thorns in his side (see how easily the bad puns come). And even though, he wants to lump her in with the rest, that fact that she is a woman compels Batman to treat her with a bit more sympathy. I've always gotten the feeling that Batman wanted to help Poison Ivy more than the other threats in Gotham. If it's Joker, or Penguin, or Scarecrow, he wants to punish them and put them away, and seems to almost enjoy hurting them as he brings them down. With Poison Ivy, there is a veiled desire to go easy on her. Plus, let's not forget that Ivy is a stunning beauty that would attract any man even if it wasn't for her trademark amorous kiss.
From her standpoint, Poison Ivy wouldn't think much about Batman if he didn't get in her way all the time. He isn't the enemy in her crosshairs; he is simply an obstacle in her path. But given their past encounters, his resilience and ability to battle against her beauty and amorous powers puts him in a different league than other men. Batman is clearly made of sterner stuff and Ivy cannot help but be impressed by it.
NRAMA: Before we go, we can't forget the narrator… so what role does the Joker play in this?
JK: The Joker, for all intents and purposes, is the host for these stories (Or as Mike Marts refers to him, the Crypt Keeper of the stories). Again, it all goes back to that notion of everyone being the hero in their story. In his mind, the Joker gets a bad wrap, and this is his way of saying, "You think I'm crazy as a loon, take a look at these other psychos in Arkham Asylum. They're the crazy ones."
The Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy goes on sale July 16.