This just in: Everyone who works on the Batman books these days loves the Joker. And it's a good thing they do, considering that Friday's No Rest For The Dark Knight panel was headlined not by current Bat-writers Grant Morrison, Paul Dini or Brian Azzarello, but by Joker co-creator Jerry Robinson. Also: What does "RIP" stand for in Batman RIP? Grant Morrison reveals all, under the jump.
Robinson, often cited as the uncredited creator of the Joker, was the guest of honor at a panel that seemed as much about the Joker than the Batman. Part of this comes from the fact that all the current creators admitted that the Joker was their favorite Batman villain, although under duress (Morrison complaining that he didn't want to say it, because it was so obvious; Dini said that he'd "write a Joker comic even if it had nothing to do with the Batman").
A lot of the conversation centered around just why the Joker is so great. Basically, it's because he isn't funny, apparently:
Azzarello: When you try to tell a Joker story, it's not going to have a happy ending. I don't think he's funny, I think he's one of those guys who thinks he's funny. He's bigger than you, and if you don't laugh at his jokes, he'll put a bottle in your neck.
Dini: I think of the Joker as the ultimate bully. Nothing he says is funny, apart from to him.
Morrison: The Joker's great to write, because he changes all the time. He's not even funny at all, he's just bad news. He's the guy who comes in when you're sitting in the subway and sits next to you and he starts reading your book. You're just like, please please please go away, please, and he just keeps coming.
Azzarello: He was easy to write, for me. He doesn't think. He's literally in the now, like a dog.
Robinson: I enjoy seeing the different interpretations of the character. Part of my initial intent was to create a character with all these contradictions against his nature.
Morrison: He has to be the opposite of Batman: Where Batman is healthy, he has to be diseased. When he's the opposite of Batman, you can't go wrong.
Robinson: We didn't explain the whole being, why he's white. I thought it would be cool not to explain it, make it part of the whole mystery of the character. We discussed it and decided not to explain it.
Azzarello: As soon as you give him a definitive origin, you take away a lot of the power of the character.
Morrison: And it shouldn't make sense, he shouldn't make sense. He's chaos.
Unsurprisingly, The Dark Knight came in for a lot of praise, with Morrison calling it "the best Batman movie ever thought of." Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker was also singled out for praise, with Robinson saying that it captured the spirit of this generation's Joker.
When it comes to current Batman storyline "Batman RIP," everyone involved is keeping their mouths firmly shut aside from saying that it will change the character considerably. Asked about the origins of the current deconstructive storyline, Morrison explained that he wanted to make his run on the title about the history of the character, including all of the oft-ignored 1950s science fiction stories:
For me, all the Batman stories really happened. Like, when he was 24, he and Robin were running around, tripping on Joker gas.
With fans asking what comes next, Detective Comics artist Dustin Nguyen suggested "Batman SOS," while Morrison teased the room by saying, "New Batman, new Robin? Think about it."
Whatever comes next will be handled by the same creative teams; both Morrison and Paul Dini said that they were on their titles indefinitely, with Morrison saying that he'd write Batman until he died, given the choice. Not that they're sharing who that Batman will be; asked about who their ideal replacement for Bruce Wayne would be, Morrison shouted, "I'm writing it! I can't tell you that!"
After explaining what "RIP" doesn't stand for - It's not "Really Is Pennyworth," as some stealth reveal that the villain will turn out to be helpful butler Alfred Pennyworth; Morrison eventually admitted that RIP stands for whatever you want it to stand for (He suggested "Rubber Is Perfect" as his preferred meaning) - the panel ended with each writer explaining how much politics plays into their interpretation of the character. Brian Azzarello (writer of the upcoming The Joker graphic novel) said that politics played in "a lot," while Dini said that he didn't really think of his writing in political terms. Morrison, of course, closed the panel by summing up his take of why the world needs a Batman:
It's more to do with the way things feel, rather than (specific) events. That's why Batman is a good hero for this culture, which is quite dark and war-based. It's not specific events, it's more a feeling of the way things are... That's why Batman is so cool. He doesn't use guns and he still kicks your ass. That's the whole point. That's his psychology. If Batman kills everyone, he's just another soldier. We don't need another soldier, we have millions of soldiers. We need Batman.