One Joker is undoubtedly more than enough problems for anyone to handle. That’s three clowns too much the recommended daily dosage. But what happens when there is actually more than one Joker to deal with? That’s what the graphic novel; Batman Three Joker explores. (Warning: This article may contain spoilers on Batman: Three Jokers)
The identity of the Joker has always been largely debated. The Clown Prince of Crime himself has stated he either doesn’t really remember who he was before all the makeup. Or that he likes to switch up accounts to keep things interesting. While it’s a sign that the chaos loving clown is clearly not in the right state of mind, it does make for interesting storylines.
And that’s what Batman Three Jokers delivers. However, one question lies at the end of the three-issue arc? Which Joker is the real Joker? Do you want to hear how he got those scars?
Batman Three Jokers Volume 1-1
At the start of the issue, a wounded batman has his injuries looked after by Alfred. Their conversation reveals the cause is the Penguin, and as he gets treated, Bruce’s mind rests on three distinct injuries. They all have one common denominator: The Joker.
The thing is, all three cuts were made by a ‘different’ Joker, with a different weapon each time. It all takes Bruce back to that night when his parents were murdered, but he is interrupted by the news on Joker. He has taken down the Moxon crime family. Batman makes out to stop his greatest foe.
Events see Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd in different situations, also thinking about their individual experiences with the Joker (or Jokers?). Barbara thinks about her crippling by the Joker, and Jason reflects on being beaten to death with a crowbar by the clown.
In the wake of their soliloquies, the news indicates two other crimes have been committed; the killing of a comedian who fashions his routines over a poor man’s version of Batman and the murder of three men at Ace Chemicals, the iconic location where the Joker was born.
The murders were committed in the same manner as the joker’s birth. However, after liaising with Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock, Batman, Red Hood and Batgirl realize the crimes are a front for another crime.
A truckload of Joker-turning chemicals has been stolen by the Joker. Upon further scrutiny, it appears the Joker was in three places at once, until it is revealed that there are three indeed, and it is all part of a grander scheme of the Joker to throw everyone off his trail.
We meet the three Jokers:
- The Clown
- The Comedian
- The Criminal
They plan to use the chemicals to turn more jokers. Events leading up to one of the Jokers confronting the three members of the Bat-family in this storyline, and after he is captured, batman leaves to find the other two, unsure if the captured Joker is the real one.
The captured joker taunts and teased both Red Hood and Batgirl until Red Hood shoots him in the head, much to Batgirl’s displeasure. She leaves, and at the close of the issue, Jason hopes he has killed the real Joker.
Batman Three Jokers Volume 1-2
The Batman Three Jokers story progresses as the jokers’ plan is revealed. The Comedian and the Criminal are searching for the perfect candidate to turn into a new Joker, strong enough to match Batman.
Jason makes the right guesses about their location and follows a trail of bodies that the clowns reveal are failed test subjects, and is subsequently captured by them and incapacitated with a crowbar.
Batman and Batgirl find the location as well, but find a naked and tied up Jason, who refuses batman’s help when he regains consciousness, citing batman as the cause of all his problems in life. They manage to calm him down, and he rests at Barbara’s apartment while they search for the two remaining jokers continues.
The issue closes out with the Criminal version of Joker at Blackgate prison. He has kidnapped Joe Chill, the man responsible for the murder of Bruce’s parents, and records his confession on why he killed the Waynes.
Batman Three Jokers Volume 1-3
The final installment in Batman The Three Jokers sees Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood at the Batcave trying to solve the mystery behind the remaining two Jokers. They conclude that Batman has faced each Joker at different times; the Criminal at the very beginning of their encounters, the Clown at the middle with more clownish and cartoonish antics, and the
Comedian, the most recent one with a devilish streak and a wicked sense of humor. Red Hood is still seething because Batman lets there be no Jokers at all, while Barbara deduces the Joker created the extra two personas to hide his identity.
They all agree that one Joker created two more at some point in time. Their ramblings are interrupted by news that Joker is at Blackgate and that he has Joe Chill.
By the time they get there, both are gone, and all that is left are letters from Joe to Bruce that were never sent. Inside the pack of letters is one from the Joker, containing a ticket to the Mask of Zorro at the Monarch Theatre.
As they enter, the recording of Joe Chill’s confession plays. An ensuing fight with the madmen sees Batman face Criminal Joker alone, where the Joker reveals his plan all along: to turn Joe Chill into the Ultimate Joker.
The Jokers believe that Chill has a stronger hold over Bruce, as his actions made Batman. Comedian Joker takes on Batgirl and Red Hood, while Criminal Joker attempts to push Joe into the joker chemicals. But he is saved by Batman, who also kicks the Criminal out of the theatre.
He reappears to attack Batman but is shot in the head by none other than the Comedian. The Comedian seeks to be the one and only Joker. Satisfied, he turns himself in and asks to be taken to Arkham. Jason is enraged by Batman’s decision to yet again not kill the Joker and leaves.
The conversation between The Comedian and Batman as they make their way to Arkham reveals that he knows the Batfamily’s identities. He says he would never publicize that, as it could stop Bruce from being batman.
When asked what he truly wants, he tells Batman that he and the other Jokers never wanted the same things. The Criminal wanted to create the perfect joker, which he considered as delusional. The Clown took pleasure in seeing people suffer; it gave him great laughs. The Comedian believes the Joker should be an embodiment of chaos and mystery.
He states that he regrets ever making the other two, although he is not sure who created who.
His goal? To see Bruce forgive Joe Chill for his parents’ murder so he could become Batman’s only source of pain. At the end of the arc, Batman reveals to Alfred that he has always known who the joker was. He has known since their first encounter. However, he had chosen to keep it a secret for the sake of the Comedian’s family who lived in Alaska.
Who is The Real Joker?
The answer to this remains shrouded in mystery. Batman Three Jokers covers and confirms the origin story told by the Joker in the Killing Joke. Granted, he is unaware his wife and unborn child fled from him and never died. However, it says nothing about the other Jokers. There is no confirmation on if the Comedian is the original Joker. So it appears the Joker’s one goal of remaining mystery and chaos still lives on.