Hello. I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember, it so you don’t have to. In the world of comic books, characters die a lot. So many characters have died and often come back, that I wonder if there’s a phrase among comic writers, that says “Die early and die often”. And one of the greatest villans of all time, is no stranger to this running joke, The Joker. Though, in all fairness, when it comes to the comics, we don’t see it that much. Well, there’s been plenty of fake outs, and he certainly been mangled and distorted something fierce, but when it comes to actual dying, it’s the other avenues that take a literal shot at this. We definitely get one in Tim Burton’s Batman. We kind of got one in the Arkham video games. Although his personality still lives in other people, somehow? It’s a bit confusing. Injustice has Superman RIPPING HIS GUTS OUT! Yikes! And of course there’s that infamous last page of Killing Joke. Where people still don’t know if Batman’s killing the Joker or just putting his arms on him in a fit of insane laughter. The short answer is “He doesn’t kill him.” As Barbara Gordon is paralyzed in that comic and the Joker appears in continuity with that fact. But people still wonder if the intent of the writer was to originally kill him, seeing how it is called the Killing Joke, and no main characters die. The series that, ironically, likes playing around with killing him the most is the quote, unquote “kids version”. The Animated Series. In one version, he’s fed to a shark and another he’s killed in a vengeful rage, he even gets blown up in a giant metal smile. Puddin’! At this point, he probably is. (Damn, Batman!) Much like Killing Joke though, he often pops up, despite their looking like there’s no real chance he could survive. Nevertheless, even with all these deaths, fake outs, or whatever you want to call them, the Animated universe had a death scene that many consider on-par with The Killing Joke. And that comes from Batman Beyond:
The Return of The Joker. After the run of Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Brothers launched a spin-off show, taking place in the future of Gotham City. Bruce Wayne was now the mentor to another Batman. …or Batboy? Spider-Man. The show is gaining more and more of a following, but even people unfamiliar with the show, know about the movie that show the death of the Animated Series Joker. Not a spin-off movie or different animated universe, the animated series MANY OF US grew up with! The one that contained what many people consider the best Batman and the best Joker. Don’t believe me that a lot of people are familiar with this death? We’ll just take a look at the YouTube hits. Part One starts off strong, but starts to lose viewers as most split up videos do. But there is a HUGE spike in Part 6. Which has, you guessed it, the death of The Joker. This is so well done that in many people’s opinion, it’s among the best Batman lore. This Part is so good, I could actually talk about it, scene by scene. So here we go! Yep, I’m gonna go over why this mere 10 minutes is arguably one of the best Batman stories ever told. Because hey, great storytelling, even if it’s only ten minutes, long deserves to be analyzed. It begins with commissioner Barbara Gordon, (A.K.A. Batgirl) telling the tale of the night when Robin, (Tim Drake then) was abducted by Joker and Harley. (Sinister Laugh) “A bird in the hand.” First of all, this reveal is more brilliant than you may think. You see the show went through a redesign, and all the characters were given a bit of a makeover. While most of them were pretty good, a lot of people had issues with the “way too simplified and colorless” Joker. This reveal makes you think it’s going to be that version. Only to reveal it’s much closer to the original design. In fact, it’s almost a perfect fusion of the two. Creating not only a good fake out, but also a creepy image. Tim goes missing for THREE weeks as Batman is unable to find him. That amount of time, added to the mystery of what’s happening, beautifully raises the tension. Joker finally sends Batman an invite to meet him at Arkham Asylum. He doesn’t even open the door. This, again, visually demonstrates Batman stress about losing his adopted son. Whom HE’s put in danger. The asylum is silent, with a creepy humming in the distance. ( “Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…” ) You immediately think this was going to be an eerie, scary battle. Especially seeing how The Joker hasn’t been visible for three weeks. “Puddin’, company!” But, we see it’s all part of the Joker’s traditional humor, as he acts like him and Harley have been waiting for Batman to join them for dinner. Even the music is more lighthearted! “Hello there! Welcome to a happy home.” It gives you the impression that maybe this is just another Joker outing, and he has Robin over a shark tank or something. You know the usual stuff. But, we finally see what he’s been up to you for three weeks. “He needed a little molding, of course. What kid doesn’t?” “Say hello, J.J.” That look alone is amazing! Even before you fully see him, you start snickering with fear. Until he’s finally revealed. This setup is both disturbing and hilarious at the same time. Pure Joker! The idea of this mastermind having a son, a mini him running around, is super funny. But when you think about
what he had to do to achieve it, three weeks of both physical and
mental torture to A LITTLE BOY, it’s probably the most unsettling thing the show’s ever done! While Batgirl tries to take out Harley and get Robin to safety, leading to probably the funniest line in the film, “Sweetie, get Mommy’s bazooka!” Joker in hiding, shows Batman the details of Robin’s transformation. Showing his torture like a film strip of family movies. Again, always keeping the humor involved, even though it’s so uncomfortable. And just when you think another bombshell couldn’t drop. “Dear lad began to share such secrets with me.” “Secrets that are mine alone to know…” “Secrets that are mine alone to know… Bruce.” Now on the one hand, a lot of people have figured out who Batman is. But the Joker is almost never one of them. In the movies, in the comics, even in other death scenes, it’s NEVER revealed. So, not only is this an iconic figure discovering the biggest secret/weakness of another iconic figure, but it’s the one we’ve had years and episodes of familiarity with. It’s not just another incarnation of the Joker, it’s one we really gotten to know for a long time. So their particular relationship is beyond well known to us. For a fan, this is a legitimately shocking and even uncomfortable moment. On top of all the other ones we just had. And in typical Joker fashion, how does he react to one of the most famous and tragic backstories in superhero history? He makes fun of it! “Behind all the sturm and bat-a-rangs, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy.” “It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.” Oh, bitch! You’re a bitch Joker! You’re a goddamn bitch! Really think about this, too. Most villains upon discovering Batman’s identity would play it up as a big thing. Play up the drama and how everything is different now. But the Joker still starts off doing his regular stick of making jokes, playing pretend, and even can keeps calling him Batman. He doesn’t want to let on too early because the reveal it’s just too much fun for him. It’s so creepy what a master showman he still is, even with information like this. And you know he’s not going to tell anybody else about it, because the only audience member in all of this and deserving of the most joy is of course himself. Batman get so pissed off, that he breaks through the projector booth and actually gets two punches in, before the glass even touches the floor. It’s wonderfully chaotic animation. And again, even knowing his true identity, he still calls him Batman. “You’ve lost, Batman. Robin is mine.” Because that’s what he’s known him as for all these years. And that’s how he still sees him. In his final act, he passes the gun to Robin and tells him to kill him. Again, how crazy is that!? It’s not even The Joker that would kill him off. It would be Batman’s son, whose mind was destroyed by the Joker. When you really think about it, it’s so friggin twisted. But Tim finds even in his altered state, he can’t do it. Or at least has enough fight back to swerve it away for just a second, shooting The Joker. Killed by HIS OWN punchline. The Joker delivers the only fitting last words. “That’s not funny.” “That’s not-” How is this NOT seen as one of the GREAT Batman stories? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the rest of the movie is fine. Through some sort of techno babble, The Joker’s consciousness comes back, it’s not really his body or a full resurrection, but it allows our younger Batman to take him out, and… it’s good. It’s fine for what it is. It’s a decent flick. But this 10 minutes… Holy hell, is it brilliant! It has humor, it has action, it has drama, It has the psychological intrigue,
but without talking about it too much, It’s a perfect balance of everything! There’s even call back to other great deaths. You could argue this steals heavily from when The Joker killed Robin in the comics, and even when he paralyzes Batgirl. The idea of getting to Batman through someone else. But while those two certainly were shocking, both of them were older and led their own lives. This was a little kid. Batman’s son, still in his care. Putting him through weeks of torture, breaking his mind and body, turning him not only mentally insane, but also resembling Batman’s arch-nemesis, GOOD GOD! That’s a lot! And don’t get me wrong. In many respects, Killing Joke IS a better story, with better dialogue, symbolism backstory, all that good stuff. But in terms of the death of The Joker? It doesn’t have the familiarity, continuity, or history established by years of being in one universe. Granted, there’s been one major change to the layout, but the Batman comics have gone through TONS of changes. Making it harder to form a connection like we do with these characters. Now Killing Joke there’s a brilliant job with the writing, establishing the history. But this one doesn’t need to set it up, because it’s already been established for years. It’s an advantage The Killing Joke in no way can overcome. Even the censored version that originally aired on TV is still good. It’s not as strong, but it still works. Robin tosses the gun and tries to battling The Joker. Spilling water and wires all over him. Resulting in the Joker tripping and turning on the electricity, killing himself. Some see this as cheap, but it’s still Tim fighting back. And, let’s face it. It’s a funny way to die. In a strange way The Joker would almost be proud that he perishes, in the equivalent of slipping on a banana peel. A pretty fitting death for a clown. It’s hard to know how many more deaths or fake outs we’re going to get in the future, but needless to say, it’s going to be pretty hard to top this one. In a mere 10 minutes, we’ve been given a 100% perfect Batman story ABOUT the death of the Joker. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, but it delivers everything we would want to see, from arguably the best Batman and best Joker we’ve ever seen battling each other for years. What can I say? It’s a masterpiece! Batman and The Joker will always battle in different incarnations, different outfits, and in different stories. But when it comes to which battle ended in the most fitting, familiar, and entertaining way, Return Of the Joker delivers the perfect punch line. “That’s not funny…” I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it, so you don’t have to. Hey, Doug walker here doing charity shout-out and this week. We are doing the National Federation of the Blind. This organization believes in the full capacity of blind people and has the power influence diversity and determination to help transform their dreams into reality. Their democratically-elected leaders and diverse nationwide membership are made up of blind people, families, and friends. They are bound together by their belief that the blind are capable of living the lives they want. They act with courage and determination when they encounter barriers or experience setbacks and engage in collective action to improve lives If you check out their site and look at their YouTube channel you can not only see all the good they accomplish, but also all the awesome people they help. If you want the proof, just check them out and discover all the great work they do for yourself.