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Is Joker: Year One his new origin story? DC says yes, the writer says no, but we say it may be what he deserves

The three-part weekly storyline launches in next week's Batman comic

Batman #142
Image credit: Guiseppe Camuncoli/DC

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When is an origin story not an origin story? Apparently, when it’s the upcoming three-part Joker: Year One storyline running through DC’s Batman comic book during the month of February, which seems to have the publisher and the writer responsible on different sides of the matter.

In his latest newsletter, Batman writer Chip Zdarsky shares a promotional video created by DC for the three-part storyline beginning in Batman #142, and running weekly for the remainder of the storyline. The video mixes artwork from the run by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Sorrentino with captions describing it as “the untold origin story of popular culture’s greatest villain.”

After the video, Zdarsky writes, “DC made that cool promo video, but I should restate that this is NOT an 'origin story' for The Joker. Like, you’re not going to find out his name is Joe Kerr and that his dad was a mime. hooked on the sauce.” Instead, he continues, “This is just a (hopefully) cool story about the moments after he fell into that vat of fun chemicals, and how that time affects Batman’s future. It’s fun! I swear!”

The devil — or, in this case, the clown — is in the details. Having read the entirety of Joker: Year One through the wonder of advance review copies, I can confirm that the story isn’t an origin story as many would define it, in that there’s no scene of the Joker falling into the vat of chemicals as everyone knows happens… or even a sign of any pre-Joker life for the character. But at the same time, the three-parter is a story about how that particular character became the Joker as fans know him today, while also laying the groundwork for future events in both the character’s career and Zdarsky’s own Batman work. So, in that sense, it is an origin story of sorts.

In a strange way, the Schrodinger’s Cat nature of this feels very fitting, considering the Joker’s own chaotic nature. Why wouldn’t such a nonsensical character have an origin story that isn’t an origin story? Joe Kerr (not his real name) would be proud.

Batman #142 is released February 6.

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