Few sane men are immune to the demented charms of the insane prankish jester known as the Clown Prince of Crime, and certainly not the legendary director John Carpenter, who's more commonly referred to by the moniker, the Master of Horror.
Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) and Anthony Burch, writer of the mega-hit video games Borderlands 2 and League of Legends, are making their triumphant DC Universe debut as co-writers of next week's The Joker: Year of the Villain #1 as part of the publisher’s “Year of the Villain” event — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive sneak peek and special chat with the story architects.
It seems inevitable that the twisted predilections of Carpenter would someday be put to proper use within the deep sandbox of some major comic book publisher. So now the stars have finally aligned and the cosmic tumblers are in harmony, and after dipping his toe in the water with Burch on Boom! Studios' Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack series in 2017/18, the fright filmmaker was enticed by DC to join this stellar creative team.
The overarching plot finds the god-like Apex Lex declaring his appeal to the world by asking its citizens to embrace doom and give in to insensate evil, humanity’s only true nature. In exchange, he'll deliver them the necessary tools to achieve their ultimate selves.
But the Clown Prince of Crime isn’t exactly waiting around until Lex bestows him his gift. So The Joker instead goes on a homicidal escapade around Gotham with a psychologically tortured henchman in tow to get his potent swagger back, proving that the greatest evil is always the one that leaves them laughing.
Carpenter has a personal attraction to the star character in this wicked one-shot and is not afraid to admit it.
"The Joker is the greatest villain and we're glad we made the comic psychedelic, and kind of took him through a journey made up like Batman," Carpenter tells SYFY WIRE. "It's hilarious. I just love it so much. This whole thing is like a bad hallucinogenic dream."
As co-writer, Burch felt it was important to inject provocative questions about the nature of reality and labelling of insanity.
"These characters are all basically modern gods, and everyone can interpret them in different ways," Burch explained. "But to me the take of him I like is from Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum in that he's not insane, he's actually hyper-sane and knows exactly what he's doing and likes hurting people because he's a really bad person. It can be easy to inflate mental illness with being a violent person but that's not the case for anybody who knows someone who suffers from it. So I wanted to examine the dynamic between a henchman who might be susceptible to the kind of charisma the Joker represents."
For Carpenter and Burch, the Joker's comic heritage instantly scratches the itch of their artistic sensibilities.
"He's a guy you can take in so many directions," Burch explains. "As long as you're being true to certain elements, he's just the perfect villain. You toss him into any setting and he'll find a way to try to cause chaos. So here in this book, chaos is already the norm, so he tries to act as a shitty superhero. He doesn't have a motivation based on something concrete like he needs money, he just likes to f*** with people and have fun and that just gives you so much freedom as a writer."
"It's all about my love of comic books," Carpenter reveals. "When I was a junior and senior in high school when Batman was on television. I was reading comics back in the Fifties. It's the form. I love this comic book form. It's unique. It's different. And it's just fun to adapt to the Joker. Come on, man. It's the greatest! The Joker doesn't change who he is because of you or another person he needs. He's always the Joker. He's always crazy and mean. And you just love him for that. You love him."
Showcasing nightmarish art by Philip Tan and Marc Deering, The Joker: Year of the Villain is a stunning achievement in comic book storytelling and artistry, a 40-page one-off arriving in comic shops and online retailers Oct. 9 that will leave you speachless.
Enjoy our exclusive four-page preview in the gallery below, with process art included, then tell us if you're all smiles.