Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why so stupid?

People get the damnedest notions in their heads.

Case in point: The card to the left (minus my, er, embellishment) is the symbol of a site called The Ultimate Joker, headquarters for a group of fans who were deeply impressed by the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Very deeply impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that they want Ledger's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime to stand forever as the last word on the character. That's to be attained by forever banning The Joker from appearing in another movie.

Let me re-emphasize one word from the last sentence: Forever.

Yes, that's right. The premise is that Ledger's Joker was so awesome that nobody should ever be allowed to take on the character in a feature film ever again.

I guess I should be grateful that the masterminds behind this farce haven't completely run off to Batshitcoocoobananaville by demanding the same treatment for tv, direct-to-video, videogames, or comics, just the movies.

Yes, Ledger put on an extraordinary performance as The Joker. That doesn't entitle his fans to try to leverage the owners (in this case Time Warner) of a character that's been around since 1941 to turn it into Ledger's virtual tombstone.

Comic fans might find this reminiscent of the legendarily rabid pack of fanboys known as Hal's Emerald Attack Team, or H.E.A.T. This bunch was brought together by a storyline that told of the corruption, fall, and quick replacement (and not to mention subsequent death) of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. In their quest to get their hero reinstated, H.E.A.T. became known on message boards as the most obnoxious pack of trolls one would ever likely meet. They would take on anyone - verbally, that is - in their quest to restore the honor, integrity, and power ring of Hal Jordan.

Jordan was eventually restored as the Green Lantern, but not so much through H.E.A.T.'s efforts as the forces of nostalgia prevalent as comics try to hang on to a rapidly aging readership. There's a reason why they call it "comic book dead" these days. Even friggin' Bucky is running around, hale and hearty, and he died during World War II.

Still, H.E.A.T. was able to call it a win, and I'm seeing a lot of that same impulse in the Ultimate Joker people. The main difference, however, is that H.E.A.T. had history and market forces on its side in lobbying to restore a character. Ultimate Joker is taking the opposite approach, trying to restrict the use of a popular, even iconic character using an argument that would amount to "just because".

Imagine you're an executive at the relevant department of Time Warner, in charge of developing the next big Batman extravaganza. How much weight would you put behind a petition that implores you to not use a character that's been a proven moneymaker for your company?

And imagine again the implications of this proposed ban. Whether the current Batman franchise staggers like its predecessor (requiring another reboot a'la Batman Begins), or continues, James Bond-like, into the foreseeable future, sooner or later there's going to be a demand for the return of The Joker. A ban on the character makes no sense for either the business of the Batman movies or the fans of same.

Especially not "just because".

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