For me, the Joker went stale when I was in high school. I was one of the idiots who was buying Batman and Detective Comics before Dark Knight Returns came out so I guess I have different tastes than most fans.
Yesterday I saw two versions of the Joker that I did like.
I didn’t see a movie at the theater since 2015 but I did get to Lego Batman. Other than taking a while to identify the Kraken and lack of Scooby Doo villains, I was happy with the Joker and the movie in general. After decades of dark Jokers, the movie was a nice break.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo was an out of continuity graphic novel, with a Joker dark enough to work for me.
Set more as a gangster story than superhero. Villains were “normalized” with Killer Kroc becoming a muscle-bound cannibal instead of a mini-Godzilla as he is now in mainstream DC (I bought the first appearance of Killer Kroc when he was an intelligent mastermind. Things went downhill since then).
Azzarello’s Joker and other villains actually seemed like criminals, not wrestling heavies. I only had a few questions.
The Penguin is only referred to as “Abner” (and only by the Joker). I tried to Google for the reason why and only found that I was not the first to wonder and to Google about it. One theory is that the Joker had an overweight henchman in Dark Knight Returns. Another is that it’s a reference to Lil Abner. Nobody knows.
After Abner, I wondered if the narrator, Jonny Frost, was meant to be someone from the mainstream universe. Mr. Freeze? Joe Chill? Nobody knows.
Overall, I was surprised how much I liked it. I’m looking for the treatment for Lex Luthor.