DARK NIGHTS: METAL 101 - THE JOKER

Dark Days: The Forge #1
Image from Dark Days: The Forge #1
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

With Dark Nights: Metal coming from the "New 52"-era Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, it's no surprise that Batman is going to be a central character.

And with Batman at the center of the DC event, it would also make sense that the Joker is involved - particularly since he already played a role in the prequel issues, Dark Days: The Forge and Dark Days: The Casting.

However, the Joker's role going forward is unclear. So far, his main purpose has been to set up the situation in Gotham City - to explain Batman's motivation for investigating the metals he's recently discovered and their properties of immortality.

But just in case the Joker continues to be a key player in the event, we continue our Dark Nights: Metal 101 series by taking a look at this version of the Joker, how he got to this point, and what Snyder has said about his role in Metal.


New 52 History

Credit: DC Comics

When the "New 52" launched, the Joker literally had his face surgically removed, the moment captured as a shocking ending to September 2011's Detective Comics #1.

The faceless Joker wasn't seen again for more than a year, until the character returned - with straps holding the skin of his face in place - in October 2012 during Snyder and Capullo's Batman storyline "Death of the Family."

The story, which had the Joker trying to get Batman's attention by attacking his family, established that Batman and Joker's past confrontations did happen, although within the "New 52"'s more compressed timeline. Still included in his "greatest hits" were the murder of Jason Todd and the crippling of Barbara Gordon. (And readers are also discovering - in current issues of Batman - that the Joker warred with the Riddler during Batman's early years in Gotham.)

In the "Death of the Family"'s final issue, Joker fell to what could have been his death - a fall into a deep chasm in a cave.
 

Joker's Death

Credit: DC Comics

In October 2014, the Joker surprisingly returned again, this time as the villain in a storyline called "Endgame." In this new appearance, Joker was no longer trying to woo his nemesis into playing with him - he was trying to end the game.

And he succeeded, as the story concluded with the death of both Bruce Wayne and the Joker.

But they didn't stay dead for very long.

"Endgame" also introduced a new concept to the Joker: He had become immortal.

The storyline implied that the Joker had been around for a long time - that he'd discovered regeneration compound "before Gotham rose."

Joker's existence for many decades was never proven - and Snyder even pointed out to Newsarama that the Joker isn't a reliable source. However, "Endgame" did establish that Joker had discovered a chemical compound called dionesium that could "activate just the right genes, the same ones we tinker with endlessly…the matrix that controls how our bodies repair themselves."

In fact, it was the use of dionesium that explained why Joker's face was now healed.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman found out in Batman #39 that the Court of Owls mined the earth beneath Gotham hundreds of years ago to find dionesium. They discovered a version of it and used it to create their immortal Talons.The issue also said that Vandal Savage encountered dionesium "in its rawest form," and that Ra's Al Ghul keeps pools of dionesium in secret pits around the world.

And now the Joker had access to it.

So….remember how we said Batman and Joker both died at the conclusion of "Endgame"? Their death occurred when they were fighting in an underground chamber and it collapsed on them. However, the cave was rich with dionesium.

As Alfred explained later in Batman, "After his fight with the Joker, he was dead for hours. His heart stopped. His brain died. But then he was… healed" by dionesium. The Joker was also healed, but both he and Bruce Wayne had no memory of their former selves. In fact, Bruce's brain was somehow rebuilt without the scars and experiences of his past.

The two characters had an eerie reunion, sitting on a park bench, in Batman #47. Bruce had become a relaxed, bearded volunteer at a local recreation center, and the Joker had also gone through a transformation into a kinder, gentler, amnesiac version of himself.


Untold Stories

Then in May 2016's Justice League #50, Batman sat in the all-seeing, all-knowing Mobius Chair and he discovered that there's more than one Joker.

Credit: DC COmics

It occurred when Bruce asked for the identity of the Joker in Justice League #42, and although it wasn't immediately revealed what the answer was, readers soon discovered that Batman had learned there were three Jokers.

That was the last readers heard of Joker, until Dark Days: The Forge.

Somehow, the Joker had been imprisoned in a secret part of the Batcave - even though the last time readers saw the Joker, he didn't even remember who he was.

Now the Joker not only know who he is, but he knows all kinds of other things as well. He knows about Duke Thomas having "metal" in his blood (and his mother as well), and he knows about Duke being a "signal." He has information about the Bat-creature drawing in the depths of the Batcave (that he apparently discovered at the end of "Death of the Family," and he says that he "knows how the story will end" because it's happened before.

At the end of Dark Days: The Casting (which brings us to current day), the Joker has escaped from the secret part of the Batcave, and he's gone a little bit crazy (well, more crazy) because he's aware of the coming crisis in Dark Nights: Metal.

Image from Dark Days: The Forge #1
Image from Dark Days: The Forge #1
Credit: DC Comics

Will Joker continue to play a part in Metal? Maybe not. Snyder told Newsarama that the Joker was chosen as a narrator-of-sorts for The Casting because he was the only character who could fit into that role.

"We needed a character that would be able to say, 'I've been there with you from the beginning, and let me show you something you don't want to look at,'" Snyder said. "And that's Joker. There's no other character that would fit that role. He makes an appearance, and it's a key role."

Dark Nights: Metal #1 comes out August 16.

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