thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
thehefner ([personal profile] thehefner) wrote in [community profile] scans_daily2011-02-15 23:51

The Batman Newspaper Comic Strip (1990), Part 4: the Trial of the Joker

Previous installments: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

I should have mentioned it in the last entry, but we're now in the middle of a trilogy of sorts, with today's entry being part two of a continuous storyline within the comic strip started in the previous storyline. But it could just as easily be argued that it's all one big story: that of Harvey Dent's rise, fall, rise again, and...?

I think it's fair to say that Harvey is the true protagonist because he's the only one who really changes, and not just in ways you'd expect from the character who becomes Two-Face. Even when he disappears and we get standalone story arcs about Robin's origin (followed by the Most Pathetic Riddler Story Ever), the final storyline still comes right back to Harvey. Obviously, that's why I love it so much.

So with that said, this storyline is the hardest for me to take. This is the point where Harvey crosses a line, and Bruce--for whatever reason--decides to not step in, but actively oppose his supposed best friend. Do the characters have justified reasons? Absolutely. Do I like it? Of course not. Does it work within the context of the story? You be the judge (pun not intended, I swear).







Note: Scans taken from Comics Revue magazine, #51-52, the only known compilation of the newspaper comic strips







Heh, Ostrander vs. Yale. Also, poor Harvey, so desperate to redeem himself, especially after Bruce and Alice talked him out of resigning.





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.

All the same, I still kinda want to smack him for his callousness here. Where was the man so filled with self-doubt

To me, this feels like a writer kinda betraying his own character in order to show, "Oooh, oooh, see? Now he's





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?













... Damn!

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.


Coming up next... well, do I really need to say it?
mistersandman: (Default)

[personal profile] mistersandman 2011-02-16 05:22 (UTC)(link)
Oh snap. This is my favorite Harvey scarring sequence, as weird as that sounds. Thanks so much for posting all of these newspaper strips, I had no idea they existed!
mistersandman: (Default)

[personal profile] mistersandman 2011-02-16 06:16 (UTC)(link)
I do almost wonder if there are too many elements at play here-the only thing that could make the whole ordeal more Symbolic would be if Joe Estrada had a history of child abuse.

I think I'll have to stick with my original analysis, though. Very few stories ever give Harvey's transformation this much care and attention, and considering this story was stretched out in a newspaper, that's an amazing feat!

[personal profile] psychopathicus_rex 2011-02-16 08:04 (UTC)(link)
There are some deep things going on here. Defense attorneys for villains are typically caricatured as contemptible, sweaty little men who try to bluster through their cases while tugging nervously at their collars. This shows the other side of things - yes, the Joker is a monster, but he's still a person, and the people defending him are just doing their jobs as the law requires. Even the bad guys deserve representation, and the lawyers who take on that task get spat on and booed for their efforts. It's a tricky issue, and handled well here.
I agree, this is an interesting take on Harvey's final fall from grace. As in all the best Two-Face origins, the scarring of his face is almost an ancillary concern. Where the seeds were REALLY planted is with that 'after all'. Up until then, he was, for all his flaws, a scrupulously honest man, and shocked that he had almost been duped into crossing the line. SO shocked, in fact, that he's willing to take ANY methods to bring the Joker down. 'After all, it IS the Joker'.
It's that 'after all' that brings him down. Until then so rigorous a champion of laws and legalities, he starts to fight dirty - and when he starts, he can't stop. Because this is Harvey Dent here, a creature of extremes - he devotes himself whole-heartedly to whatever he's doing, so when he crosses the line, he crosses it HARD. And yet, for all that, he is still primarily a good man trying to do a good thing, and it is the actions of a good man - taking the acid in place of his wife - that dooms him.
Also, it's interesting that it is a random member of the public that does the scarring - the public that he was trying to defend the interests of. And through an accident. Through FATE. The 'innocent' tries to punish 'the guilty', and winds up disfiguring the innocent's defender purely through circumstance. If that's not a portentous beginning to his criminal career, I don't know what is.

[personal profile] psychopathicus_rex 2011-02-16 12:16 (UTC)(link)
He's obsessed with killing the Joker, yes, but up until the 'after all', it's more of a reasonable sort of obsession, insofar as obsessions CAN be reasonable. How often have we heard a judge or D.A vow to punish a criminal 'to the full extent of the law'? That's what it MEANS; it means they think the criminal deserves to fry (in states that have the death penalty, anyway). Up until the 'after all', it's more like he's determined to fight hard to get the Joker the maximum penalty. This doesn't necessarily mean that he's blinded to anything else, because Harvey is still basically a GOOD man, and an honest one, and he doesn't think along illegal lines - despite the depths of his obsession, he hasn't really thought any further than fighting hard and winning. But then his assistant makes that suggestion, and he goes 'hmm...' THAT'S when he starts becoming blinded to right and wrong. He convinces himself that yes, the ends justify the means, and essentially hands over the reins from an honest man - himself - to a dishonest one - his assistant. This heralds the good/bad dichotomy. Left to his own devices, he might have beaten his demons, but a second party is at work - you could call it the Joker, you could call it the assistant, but it breaks down his defenses and starts drawing out his OWN second side...
*flip*
magus_69: (pic#370603)

[personal profile] magus_69 2011-02-16 08:08 (UTC)(link)
Poll time: who else kinda wishes that The Dark Knight had followed this plotline?
sadoeuphemist: (Default)

[personal profile] sadoeuphemist 2011-02-16 11:48 (UTC)(link)
I don't think a legal drama would've worked where the opposing case consists of a psychiatrist who says stuff like, "Yes, the Joker is trying to fake insanity, but he is also quite insane." What does that even mean, I just want to punch that guy in the mouth.

Which reminds me, I was expecting Dent's wiretapping scheme to be publicly revealed, and then the judge would call a mistrial and Dent would be ruined in the public's eyes and so on, I wonder why they didn't go with that instead. It seemed like the obvious choice.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)

[personal profile] sadoeuphemist 2011-02-16 12:42 (UTC)(link)
Ah, I was expecting the next part to be full-on Two-Facepalooza.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)

[personal profile] hatman 2011-02-16 14:10 (UTC)(link)
"Yes, the Joker is trying to fake insanity, but he is also quite insane." What does that even mean, I just want to punch that guy in the mouth.

The mind is a very strange, complex, and multi-layered thing.

On the surface, the Joker is deliberately acting insane, saying and doing things that he thinks are crazy, just to enhance his reputation. He sees himself as, well... a joker. A prankster. A comedian. Playing the part in a theatrical way, for the benefit of his audience. But, underneath that, he believes himself to be sane and rational (as most people do).

And yet, deep down, he actually is insane. Unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, able to commit horrible acts with no remorse, etc etc. It's a truth which offends him, and which he doesn't want to face.

That's what the doctor means, or, at least, that's my understanding of it.
blunderbuss: (Default)

[personal profile] blunderbuss 2011-02-16 16:34 (UTC)(link)
Exactly. There's countless mentally ill people who honestly don't believe they're crazy. In fact a lot of therapy focuses on getting the patient to finally confront the problems in their thought processes and realize that they're not well. It's then - and only then - that someone can actually be properly treated.

The Joker thinks he's a grand comedian, a grand prince of crime. Why would he want to admit that it's all because he's serious mental problems instead of his own genius?
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)

[personal profile] hatman 2011-02-16 17:06 (UTC)(link)
He doesn't. That's why he's upset when the doc says so. He wants to fool the doc (and the people) into believing he's crazy (and thus escape punishment) while actually considering himself sane. He thought he could outsmart the doc by playing the crazy part so well that the doc couldn't tell the difference.

Then, in court, the doc is asked for his evaluation. And he says yes, the Joker is playing the part of a crazy person. (Which the Joker didn't want him to figure out.) But, actually, beneath that, he really is crazy. (Which pissed the Joker off. "He was supposed to prove I'm insane, not believe it!" Which is why he's so angry when the jury comes back with a verdict of insanity, after all. Because, at that point, they were confirming the doc's diagnosis - that he really is insane, not that he'd played a joke on them by tricking them into believing he was.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)

[personal profile] sadoeuphemist 2011-02-17 00:11 (UTC)(link)
That defeats the entire definition of legal insanity. If you're insane, it means you can't tell the difference from right and wrong. If you're pretending to be insane in an effort to escape punishment because you realize what you did was wrong, then you are by definition legally sane.
poussifeu: (Default)

[personal profile] poussifeu 2011-02-17 05:36 (UTC)(link)
Yeah but he doesn't realize that what he did was wrong, he just knows he's liable to be punished for it if he's held responsible. There's a huge difference between knowing something is wrong and knowing that you can be punished for it. The Joker's a sociopath that really doesn't know right from wrong and views the world and all the people in it as his personal playthings, and he's basically playing his own version of cops 'n robbers. He's trying to fake a completely different insanity, a more "lolrandom" kind, akin to disorganized schizophrenia - this doesn't mean he's not insane, just that he's faking one kind of insanity while being a different kind.
sadoeuphemist: (Default)

[personal profile] sadoeuphemist 2011-02-17 07:52 (UTC)(link)
This is a legal construction, not a moral one. If you realize what you are doing is illegal and you will get punished for it, and you take steps to avoid being punished, then yes, you can distinguish "right" from "wrong" and are legally sane.
poussifeu: (Default)

[personal profile] poussifeu 2011-02-17 17:20 (UTC)(link)
I'll be honest I've never heard the legal construction separated and defined that way from the societal one. I was under the impression that legally insane meant you were diagnosably unable to differentiate right from wrong the way most other people can.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)

[personal profile] hatman 2011-02-17 15:28 (UTC)(link)
Let's say the Joker's mind is like the Earth.

The atmosphere - air, clouds, etc. - is an obscuring layer of insanity, created deliberately by the Joker. It's an act. What he wants you to see when you're looking at him from the outside. By itself, it would not legally count as insanity. But if the cloud cover was dense enough, you wouldn't be able to see through it, and you might mistake it for real insanity. That's what the Joker wants. It's also what he expects, because he thinks he did that good a job of creating it.

Beneath the atmosphere is the crust. Joker's conscious mind. What he sees from where he's standing. To him, it appears solid/sane. He looks up and sees the clouds (and, through them, outside), but, looking down, all he can see is the crust. As far as he's concerned, then, he's sane. He's just hiding that sanity from other people. To play a joke on them. One of the pleasant side effects of that being that it would legally shelter him from the consequences of his actions.

Beneath the crust, however, there's the core. His subconscious mind. It's molten, chaotic. And, it turns out, truly, legally insane. There is no understanding there of right and wrong.

So: Most people just see the clouds and think Joker is insane. Beneath that, he believes himself sane, and is laughing at all the people who fell for his act. Beneath that, however, his true self really is insane - something which truly offends him and hurts his self-image.

The doctor psychoanalyzes him.

Joker believes that the doctor will only see the clouds. That he'll say Joker is insane and thus get him a "not guilty (by reason of insanity)" verdict. And, inside, Joker will laugh at him and the whole legal system.

Harvey sees the crust. He can tell that the clouds are merely an act. He expects the doctor to see the same, and thus, as you say, to defeat his plea of insanity.

The doctor sees more deeply than that, however. He sees that the clouds are an act... but he also sees that the crust is thin and that, below that, there exists real insanity. Thus his testimony that the insanity most people see is, indeed, an act... but that, deep down, Joker really is insane, after all.

This maddens the Joker. The doctor wasn't supposed to be able to see through his brilliant facade, let alone tell him what Joker didn't want to hear or believe himself... that his self-image of sanity is also a facade, and that he really is crazy.
greenmask: (Default)

[personal profile] greenmask 2011-02-16 10:29 (UTC)(link)
Weird that Dr Twill says the Joker can't tell right from wrong. He leans SO HEAVILY into the wrong that you'd be sure it was on purpose.

This is good comics, but Batman annoys the heck out of me in them.
greenmask: (Default)

[personal profile] greenmask 2011-02-16 11:03 (UTC)(link)
He comes across as suuuper self-righteius and holiert than thou to me. And I mean, Bruce-Batman almost always does, but..

He doesn't talk to Harvey. He doesn't offer any on-panel support or even warnings when (presumably?) he knows that this might be a pretty important/conflicting case for him. You say he'd convinced Harvey not to resign? But then he just watches from the windowsil as his friend corrupts himself slowly but surely.. which was why he wanted to resign?

His "Courage" bat-card.. I understand the gesture, but BOY do I read it as obnoxious. Do you think you are the king of everything, Batman??

He SAVED THE JOKER which led to acid flying at an innocent lady. You couldn't have knocked them BOTH down?

I see the "justice must be served in the courts, objectively!!" angle and I've seen it written in ways that doesn't make me want to smack the champion of law upside the head, but in this case I feel like Bats went way too far, atmospherically, in his pro-fair trial stance.
poussifeu: (Default)

[personal profile] poussifeu 2011-02-17 05:41 (UTC)(link)
Sociopaths, people with borderline personality disorder and similar things, can't really tell right from wrong but tend to lean heavily into the wrong in their behavior because that lack of moral distinction makes them very selfish and eager to punish people for slighting them personally.
greenmask: (Default)

[personal profile] greenmask 2011-02-17 10:38 (UTC)(link)
Oh, really?

Well thank you for the learning!
poussifeu: (Default)

[personal profile] poussifeu 2011-02-17 17:19 (UTC)(link)
;)

You can see it in children too. They act purely in their best immediate interests (or entertainment), and anything or anyone that gets in the way of that deserves something bad. Being "right," in society, means giving up a lot of your immediate gratification or enjoyment and cooperating with others for everyone's good instead of just yours, which is why people who don't differentiate right from wrong tend to go pretty wrong.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)

[personal profile] hatman 2011-02-16 14:20 (UTC)(link)
Thanks again for posting this. It's a great read.

Love the Joker here. This is just the kind of crazy I think he should be. And he does pull some very Joker-ish "gags".

"No, it could be a magazine subscription." Hee. Sarcasm.

"The Joker corrupts everything he touches. *coin flip* He finds the evil half that lurks within us all and brings it out!" ... Yes, Harvey. Yes he does. Deft use of dramatic irony there.

Good twists to this story, too. I, too, expected the wiretapping to go public. And for the Joker to be the one who threw the acid. You're right. This is much better. For exactly the reasons you've stated.

But what's the deal bringing the Haley Circus into this? Will there be a Robin? Is that just a cameo put there for the fans? Or is the implication here that the bad man who throws acid (with enough of a record that Bruce recognizes him as a ne'er-do-well) chose not to go to the circus and thus Harvey got hit but the Flying Graysons were untouched?

ETA: Almost forgot: I love the first panel with Granny. As we hear about how old and frail she is, we see her not sitting in a corner knitting or lounging watching some brainless drivel but rather watching Jeopardy and ever so politely correcting the poor ignorant fool who made it on as a contestant. Ruined a little by giving her a heart attack from a scary phone call, but that is justifiably a shock and she is still an awesome granny.
Edited 2011-02-16 14:24 (UTC)
rdfox: Joker asking Tim Drake, "'Sup?" from Paul Dini's "Slay Ride" (Default)

[personal profile] rdfox 2011-02-16 15:39 (UTC)(link)
I'm gonna guess the Haley Circus stuff is just fanservice, but you never know. It could also be foreshadowing; there's no reason that it couldn't be someone else. (Remember, in BTAS, Zucco cut the ropes partway through with a knife instead of using acid; that's a perfectly valid alternative method here, and one that actually makes more sense from a scientific standpoint...)
blunderbuss: (Default)

[personal profile] blunderbuss 2011-02-16 16:39 (UTC)(link)
I really, REALLY like this take on it. I've only seen the version in Batman The Animated Series, where it was more like a tragic struggle that Harvey eventually lost.

This version shows how a mostly good man can slowly descend into corruption without even realizing it, to the point that the acid attack is only the final nudge he needs rather than a dramatic change. And hell, even if you hate his methods, you can even sympathise with him - I can't be he only person so sick of the Joker Immortality that I wish that someone just kill him already. But this strip even shows the flaws of the typical 'the Joker should be one exception' line of reasoning; once you start that slide towards corruption, it's very, very hard to go back up. And then it really might take only one small thing to push off the edge completely ...
bradhanon: (Serious editor)

[personal profile] bradhanon 2011-02-16 20:12 (UTC)(link)
First place my brain went is "Man, Harvey really shouldn't have hired Karl Rove as his assistant..."
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[personal profile] lbd_nytetrayn 2011-02-17 03:31 (UTC)(link)
Definitely liked this, especially seeing what seems to be a relatively uncommon public outrage at the Joker, his actions, and most of all, his arguable right to a fair trial.

--LBD "Nytetrayn"
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[personal profile] pseudo_tsuga 2011-02-17 09:23 (UTC)(link)
I love this version of Batman.