by Brian Truitt)
Joker's Daughter wears the name of her maniacal role model — and his face.
Gotham City's newest villainess is seeking her infamous father figure, and to find his trail, she lures out the Dark Knight in the DC Comics one-shot comic book Batman: Joker's Daughter, out Wednesday.
"She knows that Batman is her father's antithesis and twin, his balance in the universe," says writer Marguerite Bennett. "In essence, this story is the search of a lost pilgrim for her savage, absent god. What is worse — finding or not finding him?"
Writer Ann Nocenti introduced Joker's Daughter in her Catwoman series in August. In a September "Villain's Month" issue of Batman: The Dark Knight, Nocenti chronicled how the character journeyed from troubled teenager to disfigured underground cult leader.
She rose out of a story line where the Joker cut off his face and now uses his severed visage as both inspiration and accessory — a riff on one of the classic tropes of comics, the power of the mask, Nocenti says. "The pathos of the cult of beauty is flipped when the Joker's Daughter decides that 'ugly is the new beautiful.' "
In the new one-shot (illustrated by Meghan Hetrick), the Joker's Daughter gruesomely takes "communion with her foul god," says Bennett, adding that she's exploring how the character deals with knowing that she can survive through cruelty and desperation.
"The trials of the world that might kill another person — but allow that person a good, clean death — will not offer the same to her,'' Bennett says. "She'll endure and become the more corrupt for enduring. She's a broken creature, and broken things have horribly sharp edges."
The singsong instability and damage of the Joker's Daughter appeal to Bennett, who also responded to the character's willingness to lose her own identity within the horrific glory of her grinning, psychotic idol.
"Her passion and youth reminded me of the obsessions we've all suffered when we're young, before dawning experience provokes us to define ourselves instead.''
The character is a bit like the girls at the Salem witch trials, Bennett adds, with "the fever pitch of wanting to believe to the extent of hallucination — but there is nothing inherently afflicted in her. She sickens herself. She invites the Joker into the wounds she carves."
Gotham City's villains have always reflected some aspect of Batman. The Riddler, for example, is a twisted take on Batman as a problem-solver, while Scarecrow weaponizes fear, the thing that the Dark Knight instills in his city's evildoers.
Bennett believes Joker's Daughter is the infection brought on by the Joker's sick presence in the town.
"She's fallen ill from his legend, grown toxic from his poison, and she will only contaminate others with that growing, spreading, sporing madness," the writer says.
"The city has grown too wild with heroes and villains, monsters and madmen. To survive, one must become wilder and rarer than the rest. In Gotham, mediocrity is death. She would sooner corrupt herself, sprout up like a flower from the rot, than have it feed on her down to the roots."
And with her story in the one-shot, Bennett also wanted to put a twist on the strange devotion that modern comic fans have with the Joker, a fascination that often eclipses that for Batman.
Joker's Daughter is "young and passionate, sometimes clumsy, sometimes defiant, but driven by the need both to live up to the legacy of her chosen legend, and to define herself as his worthy prophet and heir," Bennett says. "She will take his face, which is his crown, and she will find satisfaction for her faith or pillage his kingdom for her own."