Joker War, the massive DC Comics event spanning the Batman family of titles, is still raging in Gotham City, even as we start seeing hints of what the endgame of the battle looks like. In a DC FanDome panel on Saturday, some of the writers behind the Bat-epic teased what's still to come in the story, and made one thing very clear: The impact of this struggle on the future of Gotham is vast, and we've only just begun to see it.
So far in Joker War, we've seen the Clown Prince of Crime manipulate events to such an extent that he's now not only the de facto leader of Gotham City, but also the leader of Wayne Enterprises. He's robbed Batman of his wealth, his weapons, and many of his allies, and even many of the Caped Crusader's other main villains have gone to ground as the carnage spreads. In their absence, the Joker regime has given rise to several new characters, including Joker's new main squeeze Punchline and the troubled vigilante known as Clownhunter. Speaking to moderator and Batman group editor Ben Abernathy about the creation of those characters, Batman writer James Tynion IV emphasized that, while they may emerge through Joker War, they will also outlast it in some form. Punchline, for example, is getting her own one-shot later this fall that digs deeper into her origins.
"We're going to start unpacking how Punchline became Punchline. We saw a brief hint of that in the Joker 80th anniversary special, but this story is not only going to unpack how that journey happened, but also unpack what her story's going to be moving forward," Tynion said. "The number one thing that I really want to say to everyone is these characters are built to stay and last in the DC Universe. We are now setting the groundwork for the stories that we are not only going to be telling through the end of this year, but all of next year."
Though Punchline has been the clear star in terms of how these new characters have been rolled out, Clownhunter is also gaining momentum as Joker War's story continues. The young vigilante, who goes around bashing Joker Gang members with a bat as a direct response to Batman's apparent inaction, is headed for his own showcase in the Joker War Zone anthology comic due out later this fall, and he remains a character that Tynion and Batman artist Jorge Jimenez are especially excited by.
"I always love to design new characters, but this time I think is special," Jimenez said. "For example, with Clownhunter, this is my own style. Before comics, before I was a professional, I did a manga style with this aesthetic. James told me 'You are free,' and it was amazing to me."
Tynion added, "Manga is, I think, a huge influence on Jorge and a huge influence on myself growing up. And being able to bring those influences together and really explore them in a Batman story — not only a Batman story; a Batman story that pits him against his top adversary, who's a billionaire now — was just really exciting."
But Joker War's impact has not just been felt in terms of new characters. Through various tie-ins extending across the Bat-family, it's also offered a chance for other creators to explore how Gotham's other heroes relate to the Clown Prince of Crime. Nightwing writer Dan Jurgens spent his time on the panel discussing how Joker's ties to Richard "Ric" Grayson will eventually help that character — who's struggled with amnesia in the wake of a gunshot wound and doesn't remember his past — come back to being Batman's trust ally, Dick Grayson, once again. Then there's Barbara Gordon, whose very specific history with Joker through The Killing Joke is getting a powerful new exploration in her own title.
"There's still always that core wound that Batgirl has from The Joker, and in my view it had never been fully addressed where she kind of named her trauma and confronted it full-on and had the opportunity to confront her abuser in a sense," Batgirl writer Cecil Castellucci said. "I hope that we got to do that."
Joker War will continue through Batman #99 and wrap up in Batman #100 this fall, but as with all things in Gotham City, the story doesn't necessarily end when the event does. The fallout from this war will be felt in Gotham for a long time, through both Tynion's stories and stories generated by other creators. Among those creators is Oscar-winning writer John Ridley, who's joining the Gotham team with a new Batman miniseries set to star a person of color under the cowl not as an alternate-universe story, but something directly spinning out of something that begins in Joker War. As part of Joker War Zone, Ridley will begin his Batman journey with a short story centering on Lucius Fox and his family, and the struggles they're going through as a result of Joker War.
"This story in particular is really about the Fox family," Ridley said. "For me, at my age right now, there are a lot of things that I really relate to in terms of Lucius. As a parent, as someone who's concerned about his partner in life and his kids, and being a parent is so often about trying to engineer appropriate outcomes for your children."
Though Ridley didn't reveal more beyond the scope of his initial short story, he did perk up a bit and thoughtfully stroke his chin when Abernathy noted he "hopes" Ridley will be writing more about the Fox family in the future. It seems we have a pretty clear idea of who might be under the cowl soon, and it's someone with longtime ties to Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Wayne Enterprises.
Joker War continues with Batman #99 on September 15, and we'll learn more about Clownhunter and the Fox family when Joker War Zone arrives September 29.
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