Dude: Batman and Joker are, like, the same dude. Whoa.

I was going back and watching The Dark Knight again and wow, it’s still awesome. But I realized something.

In a meta-literary sense, Batman and the Joker are not simply nemeses, they are the same friggin’ dude.

Let me backtrack here.

Professor X and Magneto are not the same person. They have different pasts and personalities, and do things independantly of each other.

Lex Luthor are somewhat equal and opposite, but they are still not the same eprson. They want fundamentally different and unrelated things. Superman is going to basically laugh off Luthor’s Hannibal Lectures.

Green Lantern and Sinestro are perhaps a bit closer, but again, Sinestro has his own distinct past and he’s just a former good guy gone bad.

Not so with Joker and Batman. Think about it: according to the movies especially, bt to some degree in the comics, too, the Joker simply showed up sometime after Batman did. He’s damn near the one person in the universe with a deep enough understanding of the mind to challenge Batman. There are people with more smarts, and people with more tech, but nobody understands people like the Joker - except Batman. The battles between them are primarily battles of wits.

At the same time, the Joker (again, especially in the movies) is the fundamental opposite of Batman. He could have all the money in the world - he just doesn’t care about (cough remindanyoneofBruceWayne cough). Where Batman uses state of the art technology, The Joker pulls out bullets and gasoline bombs because precisely because it’s cheap.

And let’s look at their goals. The Joker is like what Batman could, and would have been, as a true follower of Ra’s al’Gul. Think: what is the Joker doing? He’s tearing the city apart just as Ra’s wanted. He’s taking the ordinary citizens and forcing them to fight and fight they will until the city goes up in chaos. The Joker is perhaps even worse than Ra’s, in that he doesn’t intend for the chaos to stop. But it’s the same program with just a different stopping place, and the fundamental view of mankind is the same.

In the meta-literary sense, The Joker is that part of Batman which fundamentally rejects society in all its forms. The Joker is what makes Bruce Wayne into Batman, and both have to exist for either to exist. If Batman vanished, or somehow got shot, the Joker would be bored out of his mind. If he didn’t just give up and go home, he’d go out in a mad frenzy of explosions which wreck the entire city. The Joker is Batman’s sense of humor almost. Even Bruce Wayne never laughs except for effect. The Joker is all the parts of who Bruce Wayne is as a human that can’t coexist with what he became as Batman. The Batman is utterly incorruptible, and so the Joker is completely corrupted beyond human understanding.

In the Joker’s own words, “You… complete me.”

And in his own twisted way, the movie Joker, from the very moment the two meet in the flesh, is trying to protect Batman. Both physically and emotionally, and even as he [The Joker] is out to mess with Batman’s head. Note how he warns Batman of a fundamental truth - that the city would turn on him (and it would) the minute he was no longer needed, or it became inconvenient.

Plus, on a more comic note, unless The Joker was truly a part of Batman, the interrogaton scene would have looked more like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2yv8aT0UFc :smiley:

Good analysis of their relationship as portrayed in the most recent movie. Doesn’t hold true, though, for earlier movies or the various comic book eras. Batman/Bruce smiled and laughed *a lot *in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s comics, for example. He and Robin were constantly trading quips. The Joker, himself, was a lighter character in those days, of course. The dynamic that existed between him and Batman differed considerably from what we see in the movies today.

That’s true. In the comic, things have evolved to be closer to what the movies take as a starting point.

The 1989 movie was, frankly, a little off-kilter anyway. Not a bad movie, but definitely Tim Burton’s Batman. Just as the series later became Joel Schumacher’s Batman.

This is well covered in The Killing Joke graphic novel, including Batman’s rejection of the hypothesis.

My favorite scene of any Batman canon has Terry McGinnis exploiting this very fact. (This is the climax to the movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Thou art forewarned.)

Though on rewatching it, Terry’s analysis wasn’t nearly as deep as the one you’ve presented here. Not a bad job, though.

Alan Moore beat you to some of it, though certainly not all.

That’s part of the reason I love the Dark Knight is that they really push this part of the story, even in little minor details. For example, during the fundraiser for Harvey Dent, they do very similar actions. They both make a big late entrance, ask the whole party where Harvey Dent is, and dump out their glass of champagne.

I never thought about it that way, and it’s interesting. Even more interesting to the hypothesis is the fact that in The Dark Knight, there are a number of copycat Batmen that show up around the same time as the Joker does, attempting to be vigilantes just like this new hero who has arrived. Who would have thought that the only one who was a success was the one who doesn’t dress like Batman and is fighting for a different goal?

Isn’t there also a run in the comics where everybody (including the Joker) thought Batman was capitol-D Dead and not just in hiding somewhere, and Joker, having lost his drive to be who he was, simply went normal until ol’ Bats showed up again?

He’s also not wearing hockey pads:D

On a more serious note, one of the things I like about the Nolan versions of Batman and the Joker is that both of them are students of human nature, although they use it for different goals, and both are symbols more than men. Batman is fear to criminals, and hope to regular citizens. The Joker, on the other hand, is complete chaos and mayhem. The use of theatrics and costumes elevate them both beyond manhood. I never really thought of them as the same before, and it’s an interesting take. Equal but opposite. Batman acts outside the law to enforce it, the Joker acts outside the law to break it apart.

Yep, I read this story recently actually, Joker goes straight and becomes an ordinary citizen named Joseph Kerr. He even falls in love and tries to lead a normal life, but he’s haunted by nightmares of bats and of his past. However, when Batman is found living, he runs away from his wife and resumes his life of crime once again as the Joker, but now he’s haunted by memories of his “straight” life as well for a while if I recall… It was an interesting storyline for sure. :slight_smile: Because while the Joker went straight, Batman too also went “straight” as he was “killed” by being blown up, and he was found and healed in a small rural community, and for several months he stays there living in an idealic pastoral life as he heals his wounds and actually ENJOYS himself for once w/o the worry of being batman, and he falls for the female doctor taking care of him. But eventually he has to face facts and go back to Gotham to save the city, even if it means leaving his new found peaceful lifestyle behind.
Interesting Factoid: Joe Kerr was also one of the user names I would have picked for myself actually if I wasn’t already ingrained as Ro0sh here).

Your OP is spot on from start to finish and as good an explanation of the duality as I’ve seen written. I think that this started with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and has been a theme ever since. Also, I disagree with Kill Bill’s take on Batman and Superman. Clark Kent is Superman and that has never really changed. But sometime in the 1970s, Bruce Wayne started being a fake front for Batman. Bruce disappeared except when it was useful to “the war on crime.” Batman is the real identity. (Referred to in Batman Beyond when old man Bruce tells Terry that he knew that the voices he was hearing were not in his head because they called him Bruce, and that in his own mind he calls himself something else.)

I just rewatched Dark Knight in wonderful Blu-Ray. Batman cannot bring himself to end the Joker, so the Joker is never ending. “That which does not kill you, makes you weirder.”

Batman is so screwed up.

That which does not kill you simply makes you… stranger.

I, for one, miss that old Batman. I find his current emo incarnation kind of dull.

He pulled a lot of boners.

I enjoy those old stories, too. Making Batman a darker character in the 70’s was a good move. It’s been taken to ridiculous extremes, though. He’s often portrayed as so paranoid and hateful that it’s impossible to believe that any of the people in his “inner circle” could possibly love or trust him. Granted, anybody crazed enough to be a costumed vigilante who goes about kicking criminals in the nuts is likely to have lots of emotional problems, but he is supposed to be a hero, for chrissakes.

smiling bandit writes:

Hey! You stole my old Sig Line, you…you…bandit!

John Byrne, of all people, did an interview about this Batman/Captain America project (that was really good) in the late 90’s that I really liked. He basically talked about how everyone was all of the sudden writing Batman like he was in Dark Knight Returns while ignoring all the reasons in the story for why he was like that.

I really liked his vision of Batman as Bruce Wayne’s therapy, which he genuinely enjoys and keeps him sane - hence the big grin on his face as he flies through a window and kicks some guy in the jaw.