Take my word for it: You’ll be fine.
UPDATE 6/13/18: I wrote this in 2016 off the notion that DC was going to reveal the Joker’s real name in Justice League #50. Turned out that tease just led to another tease — that there might be three Jokers, or perhaps three names. (Click here to read more about that.) Anyway, DC formally announced this week (click here) that Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok were set to produce Three Jokers, a book that would address all this. (By the way, I suppose there could be three Jokers and we don’t get any real identities, or it’s all a metaphor for a split personality, or … aw, the hell with it. We’ll just have to wait and see.)
The book was first mentioned at C2E2 a couple months ago but this week’s move led to renewed interest. Of course, a lot of old-school diehards got understandably aggravated, so it seemed like the right time to present this again. — Dan
DC’s announcement that they’ll reveal the Joker’s real name in Justice League #50 has brought on the predictable fanrage:
Here’s the thing: It just doesn’t matter.
Now, I understand where the upset is coming from: Hey, I don’t like the decision either. Not one bit. But after years of practice, what I’ve come to believe is that just because the current management of DC Comics wants to tell us that the Joker’s name is Jack Napier, Joe Chill or Joe Blow, I don’t have to take their word for it.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: You can make your own continuity. Because in a meta way, everything in comics happened.
I’ll give you an example.
To me, Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli is one of the best-told — if not the best-told — Batman stories ever. As in, ever. It’s the perfect origin story and I can read it again and again and again — and have.
But it doesn’t exactly line up with the Batman origin stories of the Golden Age or the revisions of the Silver Age, which formed the foundations of Batman’s Bronze Age origin, The Untold Legend of the Batman — all of which were knocked out of canon by Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Now, Batman: Year One has been knocked out of canon by Flashpoint. It’s been replaced by Batman: Zero Year, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which had its high points but had its weaknesses too.
So, taking it all together, when I read a Batman comic today, Batman: Year One is still, in my mind, the origin story — even if I enjoy those other stories. It’s still clearly the best. It’s still the one that resonates with me.
DC considers Year One a thing of the past? Well, sure. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept that. And I don’t have to get angry about it either. I can just ignore what they tell me. If Batman: Year One doesn’t exactly line up with the events in Batman today, who cares?
Y’see, these are characters of fiction handled by thousands of people over 77 years. Not every decision is good and very often, the best ideas come back to the fore. Remember in the 1980s, when DC told everyone that Supergirl never existed? Look how that turned out.
Now, back to the Joker. It’s long been accepted that the Joker’s identity is a mystery. Except it hasn’t always been: Tim Burton’s 1989 film — broadly beloved more than 25 years later — had fans in a similar uproar back then because it revealed that the Joker’s real name was Jack Napier (jackanapes — get it?). Even if it wasn’t a comics thing, it was a radical departure from what was accepted by the Batnoscenti.
To this day, I think naming him in the movie was stupid. But I still enjoy the film for what it is: an entertaining version of the Batman story.
See, all the world’s a Multiverse. DC can tell us what the Joker’s real name is. I can read the story and, like the 1989 movie, enjoy it for what it is — or not, if that’s the case — and then ignore it.
If DC then wants to follow it up with the ramifications of that revelation in Batman’s own titles — a likely possibility — I can read those stories, enjoy them for what they are (or not), and then ignore those too.
Because I can just as easily go to my shelf and re-read a reprint of 1940’s Batman #1, which remains one of the greatest Joker stories ever told, even if it has little canonical bearing on what exists today.
So take what you like. Leave what you don’t. You’re the mayor of your own personal Gotham.