The Joker Is Becoming the Hero Gotham Needs in Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight

When longtime DC comics artist and writer Sean Murphy announced that he would be penning and illustrating a new eight-issue Batman series, he was vague on specifics about the story he had in mind, but described it as being his answer to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight. Turns out, he wasn’t kidding.


Meant to be read as a standalone story separate from DC’s main continuity, Batman: White Knight imagines a Gotham City much more rooted in our reality than that of comic books. In this Gotham, it isn’t just lunatics in tights that have citizens on edge—there are concerns about income inequality and the role that institutionalized racism plays in the city’s politics.

Supervillains are still very much a concern weighing on Gotham’s mind, but rather than casting them as simple problems that Batman will eventually solve, Batman: White Knight sees them all as consequences of Batman’s hero work. And if Batman is the source of Gotham’s problems, there’s only one person suited to deal with him: the Joker.

In an interview with Wired, Murphy explained how his take on the Joker is a far cry from the deranged murderer we know him to be traditionally; in fact, he’s actually quite sane. This Joker, Murphy said, is more of a gregarious politician seeking to stamp out a disease plaguing his city.

“My main goal was to undo the comic tropes while changing Gotham from a comic book city into a real city. A city dealing with everything from Black Lives Matter to the growing wage gap,” Murphy said. “Rather than write a comic about the wage gap, I gave those ideas to the Joker, who leads a kind of media war against Gotham’s elite by winning people over with his potent observations and rhetoric.”

Batman: White Knight will see a cured Joker teaming up with Harley to make the case to the people of Gotham that ultimately, it’s Batman’s very existence that’s caused so many villains to terrorize their city. What does all of the good that Batman’s vigilantism entails mean if he’s the reason that petty thugs make the jump up to full-time super villains?


We’ll all find out when Batman: White Knight hits shelves on October 4.

Charles Pulliam-Moore is an NYC-based culture critic whose work centers on fandom, pop culture, politics, race, and sexuality. He still thinks Cyclops made a few valid points.


Angrier Geek

What does all of the good that Batman’s vigilantism entails mean if he’s the reason that petty thugs make the jump up to full-time super villains?

I will forever hate this conceit. Supervillains come after superheroes because that’s how comics are made! Because you can’t have Superman or Batman show up after all their villains because no one’s going to buy that comic. And honestly, in Superman’s case the world has either been destroyed or taken over by any number of galactic villains.

To have the inhabitants of a comic universe “notice” there were no supervillains before the hero makes about as much sense them noticing they’ve had 20 Christmases but aren’t 20 years older. Because that too is how comics are made.

Imagine if you applied this idea to other characters. “You know, Mr. Holmes, we didn’t have genius criminals until you started helping” or “There were no would-be world conquerers before you got your double-O, Bond, so we’re going to demote you and see if this doesn’t just all clear up.”