Sunday, October 4, 2009
Why the Joker is not the Greatest Supervillain of All Time
Yeah, I know, right? How dare I say that there might be a comic book villain out there better than the Clown Prince of Crime! Especially after the glowing review I gave The Dark Knight (admittedly not the most analytical review I've ever written). And I'm not just talking about the Heath Ledger Joker, I'm talking about the Joker in general, from the comics to the small screen to the big screen. Don't get me wrong, I love a little clown on bat action as much as the next comic book nerd, but that doesn't change how I feel. The Joker is overrated. How so? Here so:
Ask almost comic book fan, hell anyone who saw The Dark Knight, who their favorite supervillain is, they will almost always answer The Joker. But there's a followup question no one ever seems to ask: Which one? And I don't mean which actor, I mean which Joker. Because there's been like six of 'em. Unlike Batman, who remained fundamentally unchanged over the years, the Joker becomes a completely different character every time he switches hands. While the tone of Batman's universe has ranged from dark to light to outright parody, the idea of Batman has always been the same: he fights crime to avenge the death of his parents. The Joker has no such consistency. And by that I don't mean they change his origins, I mean the Joker's character has no one established set of motivations.
Every writer has a different take on him, a different reason why he does what he does. Some say he's an anarchist who believes life itself is one big joke. Some say he's a failed comedian psychotically obsessed with making people laugh. Some say he believed insanity is the cure for misery and wants to make everybody "happy". And no, I don't buy that it's just part of the insanity of his character, that he reinvents himself constantly. That's just an excuse, and I'm not falling for it.
But which is the real Joker? You see the problem here? Saying the Joker is the greatest supervillain ever is a really unspecific statement. There's more than one Joker to pick from. I'm not saying they aren't all great villains on their own, I'm just saying they're not all one character, not by a long shot.
So in my mind, the Joker comes short of the title for supreme comic book baddie. So who do I think is the ultimate comic book villain? Lex Luthor? Doctor Doom? Galactus? Nope, nope, and yeah, right. The award for greatest comic book supervillain of all time goes to (drum roll, please)...Darkseid!
They don't get much more badass than Darkseid. In fact, they don't get anymore badass than him. If Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now was an alien despot, he'd pretty much be this motherfucker, right here. Like many people my age, I was first introduced to the Lord of Apokolips through Superman: The Animated Series, and later Justice League. But as cool as he was then, what made him truly awesome was what I learned about him once I actually got into comics...like what the hell the Anti-Life Equation was.
There are many things that make Darkseid the supreme bad guy. One of them is his supreme arrogance. He regards everyone else, even Superman himself, as little more than insects. And sure, most villains have a big ego, but he actually has the muscle to back it up. Not only can his Omega Beams he shoots from his eyes completely erase you from existence, but they even turn corners! I know that seems like a small thing, but think about this. He doesn't even have to look at you to kill you! He doesn't think enough of you to give you a second glance. Even the Joker will give you the courtesy of looking at you when he kills you.
But I think that one thing about Darkseid stands out more than any other: Most supervillains want to conquer the universe, and most of them follow the same old schtick: kill the hero, build an army, take over the world. Yawn. But what is Darkseid's master plan? To mathematically prove the futility of life thereby destroying all hope in the universe leaving people with no choice but to submit to him. Ho-lee shit. Any dumbass can say they want to conquer your planet. But not even Galactus can say he wants to systematically destroy your every last hope and dominate you mind, body, and soul. He doesn't force you to serve him, he convinces you to serve him. Because hey, your life's pointless so why put up a fight? Darkseid's goal in life is to show everyone that resistance really is futile. Suck on that, Borg!