One Bad Day Could Make You a Hero or a Villain

By Kelly Harrass

Batman is a man who verges on insane. The Joker is insane.

The lives of Batman and the Joker are destined to be tied together until one of them finally dies. Batman is determined to destroy crime, while the Joker will always try to cause chaos and commit crimes. They both share one thing in common; they were driven down the paths of their lives by one bad day.

Batman’s origin all begins after one night at the movies that turned badly. His parents were murdered in front of him by a robber. Bruce Wayne demanded vengeance against not only the murderer, but all of crime. He started a one man war as Batman to escape his life as Bruce Wayne.

The Joker, on the other hand, got his start when a struggling comedian works with two criminals as the Red Hood. While planning a job with the criminals his wife and unborn child die in an accident. The target of the job, which the criminals force him to take part in, is a chemical company. At the job a clash with Batman ensues and the comedian jumps into a vat of chemicals to escape him. The chemicals had an adverse reaction on the comedian, turning his skin white, hair green, and lips bright red. These changes and the deaths caused him to go insane. And thus the Joker was born.

These two bad days led Batman and the Joker to become completely dedicated to their callings. Where their paths start to drastically veer off from each other is how they reacted to their bad days. Batman could have easily become a villain after his parents were killed, but instead he chose the path of the hero. The Joker could have been a hero like many others that were exposed to dangerous chemical, such as the Flash or Daredevil. Unlike them the Joker chose to embrace his dark side.

At the end of the day the Joker and Batman are the two sides of the same coin. That’s what made the recent miniseries Batman: Knight of Vengeance so brilliant. B:KOV is part of DC’s big Flashpoint event and has a concept that I can’t believe nobody has ever put on the page before.

(By the way, spoilers about the series are sure to follow)

If you’ve been reading Flashpoint you know that certain things have been changed in the DC universe. In the Flashpoint universe there has been one huge change to the Batman origin; Bruce is the one who died in the robbery. His parents survived instead, leaving them childless.

As I said before, all it takes is one bad day to make you a hero or a villain. In this case Thomas Wayne became a Batman who knew loss even greater than Bruce did. This Batman has no qualms about killing a criminal, except for one. There is one that he can’t bring himself to kill; the other side of the coin, the Joker.

The Joker in the Flashpoint universe is the other person who survived the robbery that one bad day; Martha Wayne. The same event received two different reactions from Thomas and Martha. In this case, it drove Martha toward insanity, down the path of the Joker.

This series gave a different look at the relationship between Batman and the Joker. Thomas and Martha know loss much greater than their DCU counterparts. That makes their story that much more tragic. Two lovers torn apart by one bad day, the death of their child. Days later they both start to veer down their new paths when Thomas tracks down the robber who shot Bruce and beats him to death in the street. When Thomas returns home from the attack he finds that his wife slashed open the sides of her mouth to give herself a permanent smile.

They both became somebody else and started killing (for entirely different reasons) to escape the grief that lives in them.  The most tragic part of the story comes at the end when Thomas tells Martha that in another world they were the ones that died. They both agree that was for the better, but then Thomas tells her that Bruce follows in his footsteps. No matter what, there is a Batman and because there is a Batman, there is a Joker.

The series ends with the death of Martha, when she runs from Thomas and falls down the hole that leads to the Batcave (like mother, like son). The Joker and Batman can’t kill each other, this was the only way the story could end by death; an accident.

The hero and the villain are forever linked and all it takes is your reaction to one bad day to decide which side you’ll be on.

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