Batman: Joker War Deals With the Dark Knight’s Complicity in Gotham Violence

"Joker War" is going to change how you see Bruce Wayne and Batman in relation to Gotham City and its villains.

Batman: Joker War
Photo: DC Comics

It’s been a long time coming but DC’s much hyped summer event Joker War is finally hitting shelves this week. In the lead up to Batman #95 and the beginning of Batman’s new line-wide nightmare, Den of Geek took part in a roundtable with Batman writer James Tynion IV who opened up about the new story and how it shines a light on one of Batman’s biggest mistakes.

If you’ve been following the story leading up to Joker War you’ll know that Batman is in big trouble. Not only has the Joker found out the Dark Knight’s secret identity but he also has a plan to take him down: steal all of his money and toys and take over Gotham City. It’s a scheme that plays into one of the biggest conversations about Batman and whether or not he’s truly the hero that he portrays himself to be, so I was keen to understand why making Batman broke was such an important part of Tynion’s vision for Joker War. “This is all very deliberate,” Tynion explains. 

“Part of what I was trying to do from the beginning of my run in Their Dark Designs where you see that–I tried to make it fun at first–we’re introducing new vehicles and gadgets every single issue. Everything that incredible wealth has given Batman, all of these advantages, and then seeing it in the hands of the Joker and how dangerous it is and how it fucks with the legal system and how it is can really cripple Gotham City in this massive, dangerous way.”

Tynion was tight-lipped about details but was eager to share how the story about Bruce losing everything was a vessel for a message about the danger of far reaching power and a lack of accountability through the lens of a battle between Gotham’s most famous foes.  

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“Using that wealth, that is incredibly deliberate and something that I wanted to sort of point at Batman because we’re seeing the danger of overreach,” he says. “The danger of overreach and creating these systems and all of these dangerous gadgets is: what if they fall into the wrong hands? Batman has created so much of it and he couldn’t guarantee it didn’t fall into the wrong hands, and now they’ve fallen into the worst hands possible.” 

Grappling with the fact that Bruce has essentially enabled the Joker to become the most powerful billionaire Gotham has ever seen was a vital part of the story, but Tynion was also eager to take the character back to basics in a way his vast wealth never truly allows.  

“I do think that there’s an angle in Batman that needs to be analyzed,” he says. “When he was created he wasn’t meant to be the richest person in the world. He was a wealthy man, but over time a millionaire became a billionaire. The difference between a millionaire and a billionaire is very, very big. And when running a company like Wayne Enterprises, it changes the dynamics of the character and it creates the opening for a lot of these conversations that I don’t think tap into that core nature of the Batman mythos.”

Taking away that wealth enabled Tynion to lean into the lesser-seen detective aspect of the character, as well as once again pitting Bruce against his biggest fear: his own failings. 

“It’s one of those things where stripping away that angle allows for stories that don’t have those kinds of messy questions lingering over its head. ‘Why isn’t Bruce dismantling Wayne Enterprises and putting all of that money into the city?’ I’m conscious of all of this and I think people will be very interested to see how the story ends and how we pick it up going forward.” 

So will Joker War take that a step further and lean into the obvious issue of Bruce’s status as a member of the 1%? Tynion teased that while it wasn’t a major throughline in this event, it was a topic he was looking to explore in the future. 

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“Yes and no, it’s something that we’re going to see touched upon in the way that Joker uses the wealth in a way that almost parodies how Bruce uses that wealth,” he says. “I think it helps draw it into a firmer contrast. I would say the core ideology of the story isn’t necessarily tapping into that dynamic, but it is a very interesting dynamic that I plan on tapping into as I move forward with the character. Not necessarily in an aggressive in your face kind of way, but there are threads that I do want to play with because I think it creates an interesting story.”

As the world faces a real reckoning under the shadow of a global pandemic and international uprisings against white supremacy, can readers expect to see those topics touched on in this event or the future? While Tynion and co. see the Batman comics as a great place to delve into real life issues, they want to do it in an authentic and thoughtful way. 

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations about this and it’s not something we want to approach lightly,” he says. “The benefit of a story like Joker War is that it’s not meant to be a grounded story. The horror of the moment is meant to feel real, but there are Joker gangs out in the streets driving around Batmobiles, it’s not meant to represent what’s happening in the real world. But there are core aspects to it…that tap into the way Bruce has without thinking created an arsenal that other people can pick up and use. It’s definitely been more of a discussion about the stories that we’re building moving forward and the status quo that we want for Batman in 2021 and beyond. So I think you’ll see Batman being confronted with the ways in which he should do more in Gotham City and he wants to be better.” 

Joker War begins in Batman #95 on 07/21/20.