Of all the colorful antagonists in Batman's extensive rogues gallery, the one supervillain that looms larger than any other is the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime is sadistic chaos incarnate, embarking on terrifying killing sprees across Gotham City on a whim and pushing the Dark Knight and his allies to their very limits. However, as much as Batman and the Joker have one of the most iconic, enduring feuds in the superhero genre, there have been instances where the two longtime rivals have been forced to set aside their differences and join forces – albeit temporarily – against a mutual threat.
Acclaimed comic book creator Marc Silvestri’s new miniseries Batman & The Joker: The Deadly Duo revolves around this unlikely alliance as Gotham finds itself under siege from a monstrous threat that drives the two to work together. With a group of monsters cutting a bloody path across Gotham using the Joker’s signature toxin, Batman and the Joker have to work quickly to prevent any further casualties as they scramble to learn who exactly is at the bottom of this horrific wave of attacks. Here is how the Caped Crusader and the Joker form the strangest Dynamic Duo of them all in Deadly Duo and some of the other times the old foes have been forced to work together.
The Deadly Duo Assembles
Silvestri’s story starts with Batman and the Gotham City Police Department learning that a group of monsters have begun to commit grisly murders around the city. Encountering one of these criminals at the scene of a fresh kill, the Dark Knight and police are shocked to discover that the culprit has been mutated by a modified form of the Joker toxin. Possessing superhuman strength, speed, and endurance, these maddened serial killers are able to endure gunfire as they elude Batman and the police, leaving the Caped Crusader outmatched. To make matters worse, Jim Gordon is intercepted while leaving Gotham for some much-needed rest and relaxation, evidently at the monstrous gang’s mercy.
As Batman learns what has happened to Gordon, he is approached by the Joker, who does not resist as his arch-nemesis violently subdues him. The Joker reveals that his toxin was stolen from him and he’s keen on tracking down who was responsible, convincing Batman to join him in the investigation. Though Batman petulantly responds to the Clown Prince of Crime’s offer, he begrudgingly agrees to partner up with the Joker as the gang infected by the modified toxin remains on the loose and continues to grow in number.
Early Team-Ups Between Batman and the Joker
One of the earliest partnerships between Batman and the Joker took place in 1982’s The Brave and the Bold #191 by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, and Jim Aparo. After the Joker apparently murders the Penguin during a live television broadcast, the clownish villain approaches Batman, pleading his innocence on the matter. Maintaining an impartial stance, Batman decides to help the Joker clear his name over the Penguin’s murder, with the two discovering the fowl-obsessed supervillain faked his own death as part of a botched kidnapping scheme.
Batman and Joker’s Joint Adventures in the Modern Era
Though there have been several instances of Batman and the Joker sharing a common enemy, the two old enemies rarely work together to take this mutual threat down. Shortly after being defeated by Batman, the multiversal villain Alexander Luthor, Jr. from Earth-3 flees only to be cornered and executed by the Joker during the 2005 crossover event Infinite Crisis. Similarly, during Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel’s sweeping storyline 'Batman R.I.P.,' the Joker attacks the Black Glove, the secret society targeting Batman when he was invited to witness their grand scheme.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s acclaimed Batman run began with the Dark Knight and Clown Prince of Crime appearing to join forces to quell a breakout attempt at Arkham Asylum. This proves to be a feint, with Nightwing wearing facial mapping technology to resemble the Joker to go undercover and learn about the breakout in advance though this fake-out would foreshadow Snyder and Capullo’s latter pairings with the iconic duo.
The 2018 crossover event Dark Nights: Metal introduced the Dark Multiverse, an ethereal world where different iterations of the DC Universe were formed. After learning of the existence of the DCU, the evil Batman Who Laughs – a version of Batman from the Dark Multiverse corrupted by Joker toxin – leads a contingent of villainous Batmen to invade the DCU and subjugate it to his will. While the Batman Who Laughs possesses Bruce Wayne’s finely honed tactical mind, he does not anticipate that his DCU counterpart would ever ally himself with the Joker, a strategy that Batman and the Joker exploit to triumph over their Dark Multiverse foe.
Out of Continuity Team-Ups
Snyder and Capullo revisited this unlikely partnership with their 2019 non-canonical DC Black Label miniseries Batman: Last Knight on Earth. In a post-apocalyptic vision of the DCU, Batman wanders across the ruins of the world accompanied by the Joker’s living head that he carries with him in a small container. The Joker provides his usual biting commentary throughout the pair’s odyssey as Batman investigates what exactly became of the world that he once knew and defended with his life.
Another out of continuity pairing between Batman and the Joker took place in the miniseries Batman: Europa by Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego LaTorre, and Gerald Parel. The story has the two longtime adversaries infected by the terminal Colossus Virus, which begins to steadily affect their cognition. As the two characters travel together across Europe, they bond as they face their impending mortality and shared hallucinatory experiences.
Batman and the Joker are as iconic a hero/villain pair as the superhero genre gets, not just in comic books but television, film, and video games. To subvert the deeply held animosity and expectations between the characters’ dynamic, the two lifelong enemies have occasionally worked together both as a narrative twist and to underscore how grave a mutual threat they are facing. The Deadly Duo shows just how frustrating such a partnership is for Batman, with Silvestri utilizing this dynamic to comedic effect, and offering his own fun twist on the two characters. And as unpredictable as ever, the Joker relishes the opportunity to get closer to Batman, even if it involves them working together, if only to take advantage of getting under his nemesis’ stoic skin.
Written and illustrated by Marc Silvestri, Batman & the Joker: The Deadly Duo #1 is on sale now, with issue #2 on sale Dec. 6 from DC Comics.
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