Has Joker ever been on trial?
You know what, this actually stumps me but I wouldn’t want this blog to only be examples of when I’m totally on top of a topic :)
Edit: I’ve since expanded this and it has me much less stumped now! Scroll down for all the new good stuff.
Certainly he has been trialed because there are plenty of times when he has been found guilty/convicted of various crimes – even if in absentia – but I can’t really remember it ever being shown in comics in any real sense.
The most I could find or remember is the following, none of which really match what I think you’re looking for:
- In Batman: Arkham Unhinged, which was a tie-in series to the Arkham video games universe, issue #11 concerns Two-Face putting the Joker on trial by a jury of his peers.
- In Trial, an issue of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is captured and put on trial by a bunch of criminals with the Joker as judge.
- Similarly, Batman #163 from 1964 actually sees Batman put on trial not just by a Joker judge but a Joker jury too! For once the ridiculous scene on the cover of a Silver Age book actually occurs in the story:
- An early idea for the Nolan films, specifically The Dark Knight, involved the Joker being taken to trial. “His original intent was for the Joker to scar Dent during the Joker’s trial in the third film, turning Dent into Two-Face.”
Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful! :/
Edit: So since I first wrote this I had some time to dig a little deeper and I found some examples of the Joker actually being on trial. I’ve got a bunch of scans coming up below!
Funnily enough, both stories feature Batman working against the justice system either due to the Joker not actually being guilty of what he’s charged with or because of the means being used.
The Joker: Devil’s Advocate is a one-shot superhero comic book written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan, published by DC Comics in 1996. Below I’ll give a summary of the plot followed by a bunch of scans so you can see the story unfold. You can see more scans here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
The Joker is angry – a set of commemorative stamps of comedians has been made, and he’s not one of the subjects. He is not eligible, due to being alive, but even so, he wants revenge. After he is captured at the central sorting office, Joker finds he is receiving even more attention than normal, accused of a string of murders connected with the stamps, but he denies all knowledge.
Across the city, people have died after licking poisoned stamps from the comedian collection, and this time, he’s not going to get away on an insanity plea – the police and the district attorney’s office are convinced that he is finally going to face the electric chair.
The Joker is super creepy during the trial, as would be expected:
Unfortunately, it becomes clear to Batman, through the Joker’s behaviour at the trial, that he really is innocent of these crimes, and there is no way that he can allow him to be sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit, no matter how many other terrible crimes he has not truly answered for.
Gordon argues with Batman that he should just let it go as it’s not like the Joker hasn’t gotten away with plenty of crimes he is guilty of. Batman in his best Lawful Good impression is having none of it. Because we should never go outside the law – unless you’re talking about becoming a rodent themed vigilante, because that’s fine.
He pursues various former henchmen of the Joker, as there is an extortion scheme running on the back of the trial, but when he finds the man responsible for the extortion, it is clear that he is not responsible. The media make great play of the case, and the families of the victims become minor celebrities. Eventually, much to everyone’s surprise, a guilty verdict is brought unanimously, and the Joker is sentenced to death.
Funnily enough, the Joker decides he wants to live – until he realises he’s the centre of attention and decides that that’s worth dying for, including suing the state to speed up his execution.
The Joker is in prison and the husband of one of the victims is railing against him on TV:
One final lead is found – a scrap of paper with a partial address on it. Finding that it’s a storage container, the police break in to it and discover a stash of Joker Venom. One of the men connected with the storage company, and who always entered the containers if the renters defaulted on payments, is discovered to be the husband of one of the victims.
Confronted, he confesses to the crime and the governor issues a pardon to the Joker, mere moments before his electrocution.
Later, the Joker gloats to Batman that he still lives. Batman replies that the Joker should always remember from now on – he owes his life to his greatest enemy, surely the Joker’s worst nightmare.
The newspaper comic strip actually featured a great story about the Joker on trial which also covered the transformation of Harvey Dent into Two-Face! I absolutely loved this so I’m replicating all the scans of it I found instead of just one or two. Read them all, they’re great!
The user on Scans_Daily posted the following taken from Comics Revue magazine #51-52, “the only known compilation of the newspaper comic strips.” This is only part 5 of his coverage of the newspaper comic strip so feel free to click through and fine the other parts. I’m also going to include some of his framing in between the scans as I think he does a great job helping the story along:
That’s one of the few Joker moments from this entire series that I love. It actually feels like classic crazy, scary Joker. Although his next trick ain’t so bad either:
Aaaand thus he finally crosses that line. Harvey, you idiot. But then, he really tried to resign because he knew, he knew that he had that dark side, and that he couldn’t keep it in check.
I wonder how Harvey would feel if he knew that Bruce was helping defense? What’s more, I don’t understand why Bruce isn’t actually trying to stop Harvey. Is he so disgusted with the wiretapping that he’s writing Harvey off entirely now in favor of helping defense? Bruce is about justice above all else, and rightly so. And yet, this doesn’t sit entirely well with me either.
Also, Carla’s last name is Drake now? Any relation to Tim? And what’s more, her name was Deevers before! Did she get married, or is there just rampant continuity issues with Messner-Loeb’s story? I love this strip, but it really needed an editor.
In truth, he’s not actually aware about what’s being done at the word of his assistant, Mark (assuming the threatening phone call actually did come from Mark’s orders, and wasn’t just one of the many Gotham citizens who were already after the Joker’s blood even before the trial started), so if he’s guilty of anything, it’s of turning a blind eye. And even that, I’m not sure about.
Anyone else get the distinct impression that it was the Joker himself who called up Drake’s grandmother and terrorized her into a heart attack?
Okay, so I’m gonna guess that you felt like I did when this story started: you figured that this story would have the Joker himself being the one to scar Harvey. It’d make perfect sense. Hell, they let the maniac wear his acid-shooting lapel flower right there in the courtroom! It would have worked just as well in this context, more so than Maroni/Moroni showing up at the last minute. And hell, there’s certainly something to be said for the idea of the Joker having a hand in the creation of Two-Face.
But this is so much better. Bruce has already been arguably complicit in helping create Two-Face (flaunting the laws by being a vigilante, giving Harvey the coin, not trying to stop his friend from going down a corrupt path but actively helping his opponents), but it’s now sealed by the fact that Harvey got burned because Batman saved the Joker.
To twist the knife even more, the acid still wouldn’t have hit Harvey, but rather Alice. In an action which still proved that the corruped D.A. still had good within himself, he actually saved Alice and took the facefull of acid for her. In case that complex turn of events wasn’t clear, take a look at the penultimate strip, which I edited out in favor of a more powerful reading experience:
The only downside to this version of events is the sudden appearance of a brand-new character, Jack Estrada. I wish he’d been established during the Joker storyline, so that his motive could be clear, but I think he still works so long as you view him not as a single person, but rather the culminated rage towards the Joker on behalf of Gotham’s citizens in general, and Harvey Dent in particular. Harvey gave himself over to vindictive rage, and it could be argued that he essentially took his own bullet.
Finally here’s a bonus bit of stuff I came across that I found really interesting!
Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library actually hosted an exhibition called Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books. It covered everything from the way lawyers are depicted in comics to how copyright law affects them.
By day, Mark S. Zaid, a Washington, D.C. attorney, is a nationally recognized expert on national security law and freedom of information issues. He has made hundreds of appearances as a guest commentator on TV and radio, and testified before Congress. Like his comic-book heroes, Zaid has an alter-ego as a comic book collector and dealer. He is also an advisor to the Overstreet Comic Book Price & Grading Guides and a co-founder of the Comic Book Collecting Association.
Super nerdy? Yep. Super interesting too? I thought so!
Mark Zaid actually gave a talk about the exhibit which is 40 mins long and full of some truly painful PowerPoint slides, but it’s still really interesting and can be viewed below: