May 27, 2011

The Queer Case of the Gay Joker

First off, given the potentially volatile content related herein, I apologize in advance for the pun-title of my post. I don't mean any harm by it, but likewise could not resist referencing The Queer Case of the Murdering Butterfly.

I've had this nugget of information for a while, but only recently got the relevant scans done to illustrate that I didn't make it up, given the evidently obscure nature of the info. I don't want to misrepresent anything, so this post will take a little bit to get to the point. But, please, read on.

I've owned this one Batman book called the Comics Files Magazine Spotlight On Batman Files for a few years. It was published in 1986 by an independent group called Heroes Publishing Inc., who also put out guides to other comic properties along with sci-fi and horror TV shows. To the left and right are the front and back covers to their Batman book - click the thumbnails to enlarge.

The book describes Batman's history up to the time of publication, with chapters about the Golden Age, the New Look, the "Englehart/Rogers Age" and "the Miller Revolution". It covers creators who worked on the series, supporting cast members and villains, and includes interviews with Steve Englehart and Frank Miller (who gives insight into his "upcoming" Batman: Year One project).

But one factoid contained in the Batman Files book has always held my attention, and I've been curious about it ever since I first read it. It's buried in the introduction, which talks about what influenced Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger. You can read it - highlighted - below.

So... Neal Adams decided that the Joker had always been gay way back in 1973. Has anyone else ever heard of this? Did Denny O'Neil have a say in it? It certainly doesn't seem to have been a secret at the time, given the Bob Kane anecdote.

(For what it's worth, here's the rest of that page. Again, click to enlarge.)

I'm not really sure what to think of it, myself, as I tend to regard the Joker as being more asexual than any particular orientation. I'm just mildly weirded that none of my comic-geek friends had ever heard of this before... and wondering how the semi-recent revelations that Neal Adams is a madman plays into this in retrospect, if at all.


  1. I find this idea very fascinating. My view of the Joker was shaped by a scene from the post-Crisis Flash series, where the Pied Piper (an openly gay character) was asked whether he thought the Joker was gay.

    Piper explained that he though that the Joker was, as you say, more of an asexual monster. This description just seemed to accurate, so right. The Joker is... beyond sexuality.

    As for other writers writing him as gay... it's an interesting idea, but I'm glad it was never something explicit... mostly because I just don't see what it would add to the character.
    --Andrew S.

  2. And my view of the Joker was shaped by the '89 Batman movie and Batman: The Animated Series, both of which depict the Joker in relationships (albeit messed-up ones) with women.

    ("Never rub another man's rhubarb", indeed.)

  3. My view of the Joker has been shaped by DCAU Joker and, to a lesser extent, the Joker as portrayed in modern comics.

    As far as I'm concerned, there's no aspect of the Joker's personality--of his identity--that he's unwilling to change, so long as the change facilitates something he finds amusing.

  4. Yeah, Alex... that's actually fairly close to the way I see him. For most people their sexuality is an immutable part of themselves -- for the Joker sexuality is just another tool in an arsenal of madness.

    --Andrew S.

  5. The Joker's a slender guy who wears makeup and purple suits, and generally acts incredibly flamboyant. It's...maybe not the best idea to make him gay anyway, really...

  6. I actually HAVE read that blurb before, though I certainly can't remember where. There's always a little extra menace when you add unwanted sexual innuendo/advances to an already antagonistic relationship, but I agree that it's kind of unnecessary. Though I also saw the Joker/Harley thing as more of a case of him using her because she was convenient and then being afraid to push her away too far lest she turn on him.

  7. Rob: Yeah, because Prince will cut a bitch.

  8. Trixter, you probably read it on TVtropes.

    (My favorite part is how Bob Kane disowns credit for The Joker once he realizes the character is apparently gay. For Bob Kane to willingly disown something that he could easily take credit for is spectacular.)

  9. Kevin Smith's version of him certainly isn't opposed to homosex, at any rate.

    I find the Joker to be beyond sex, unless it's to further whatever his crazy agenda is at the moment.

    (and I also saw an exerpt from this before, probably TV Tropes)

  10. Quote from this article
    "In Outsiders #3 'Roll Call Part 3: Joke's on You' while being torturing by the Joker, Lex Luthor hits joker where it hurts by pointing out the fact that Batman will never love him. Comic excerpt here"