Batman's foe has cropped up in thousands of comics, numerous animated series, and three major blockbuster feature films since 1966. Actually, the Joker debuted in DC comics Batman 1 (1940) as the typical gangster, but the character evolved steadily into one of the most ominous in the history of sequential art. Batman and the Joker almost seemed to define each other as opposites, hero and nemesis, in a kind of psychological duality. Scholars from a wide array of disciplines look at the Joker through the lens of feature films, video games, comics, politics, magic and mysticism, psychology, animation, television, performance studies, and philosophy. As the first volume that examines the Joker as complex cultural and cross-media phenomenon, this collection adds to our understanding of the role comic book and cinematic villains play in the world and the ways various media affect their interpretation. Connecting the Clown Prince of Crime to bodies of thought as divergent as Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, contributors demonstrate the frightening ways in which we get the monsters we need.
Starting with a section that pairs exploitation pioneers like Dwain Esper alongside cutting edge auteurs like Erich Von Stroheim, the volume documents the bleeding edge of the high/low cultural divide. Other essays examine the sexual melodramas of Weimer German cinema, explore the concept of Borat as a model for the new standardized cult film, and discuss the films of directors Tod Browning, Pier Pasolini, and Peter Watkins. This volume also contains a section devoted to the idea of "reality" inside and outside the documentary sphere, emphasizing audiences' desire to believe that "this is really happening," whether they're horrified or titillated. Addressing many aspects of "transgression" in cinema, these essays suggest that the distance between the venues and the audiences may not be quite as wide as viewers might imagine.