A new online petition spearheaded by DC Comics fans calls for the company to tweak the characterization of arguably its most popular supervillain and depict Batman’s nemesis the Joker as gay.
The petition was launched by Elena Shestakova and is targeted at DC Comics President and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Here’s the lengthy essay that accompanies it, explaining the fan’s viewpoint:
“The Joker is a comic book character with almost 80 years history, half of which he was portrayed as homosexual – for instance, in such significant graphic novels as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Neal Adams claimed that The Joker was and always had been homosexual. This opinion was shared by other comic books authors and artists for decades. That is why it’s so important to me and other queer readers to return his homosexuality.
The Joker repeatedly confessed his feelings to Batman and showed an interest in other men. Also there was Joker’s unnamed boyfriend in the graphic novel Devil’s Advocate. The Joker has many feminine traits – he uses lipstick, paints his nails, wears high heels and sometimes does crossdressing. We realize that some of these things is stereotypical, but it gives a very clear picture. Over the years, there were plenty of other queer moments in comics, cartoons and video games (especially in Batman: Arkham series).
Continuing on, it reads:
However, in the late nineties someone decided to erase Joker’s homosexuality and introduced Harley Quinn as his girlfriend (by the way, Harley was made up for the Batman: The Animated Series to replace the Joker in one scene, in which he was supposed to jump from the cake in drag). In the mass consciousness Harley became his only love interest, although in canonical comics there is no evidence that there are romantic or sexual feelings from the Joker’s part. His enforced relationship with Harley Quinn looks like an attempt to retconned his homosexuality and turn him in acceptable straight man.
DC Comics already has a great cast of queer characters – heroes (Batwoman or Midnighter), as well as villains (Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy). Maybe some people don’t want to see the “terrible villain” as part of the LGBT community. But on the other hand, in Gotham series The Penguin became gay without any problem, and he is morally no better than the Joker. It’s not homophobic to have a queer villain. So why not let the Clown Prince of Crime “out of the closet”? DC Rebirth is an excellent reason to bring the Joker back to his roots.
We ask DC Comics to restore The Joker’s homosexuality in comics and other media. No one’s sexual identity should be changed, even it’s only a fictional character. Because sometimes fictional characters is something real people hold onto.”
The petition certainly raises some interesting points. It is, of course, true that the Joker was not particularly depicted as straight for the majority of his history, though since Harley Quinn was introduced, that is widely assumed to be his sexual orientation. However, as is pointed out above, the Joker isn’t usually portrayed as being overtly romantically attracted to Harley, meaning that there is perhaps a fault in the general view of the character rather than the way DC Comics are depicting him.
Some fans would no doubt argue that labelling the Joker as homosexual also isn’t the best fit for him. In many iterations, he could be described as asexual – for instance, Heath Ledger’s portrayal in The Dark Knight. Or perhaps the Joker could be called bisexual or pansexual, if it’s believed that the villain is attracted to, say, both Batman and Harley Quinn.
Not that it’s easy to say that Joker’s feelings for Batman are at all sexual, mind you. Some versions, such as The LEGO Batman Movie, play up their love connection while others pitch them as engaged in a battle of the minds.
Honestly, this is a topic that each and every Joker fan is likely to have a varying opinion on. As it stands, though, the petition has currently garnered 430 signatures. If you’d like to add your name to the list, be sure to follow the link below.