John Carpenter's Spotlight on Mental Illness Brings Jarring Insight to Joker

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Joker Year of the Villain

John Carpenter is a master of horror. Getting his name on the marquee of a DC Comic book about the brand's most notorious mass murderer and psychopath should have been headline news. Maybe it was and I just read the wrong headlines.

Regardless, it was enough of an impetus to bring me temporarily out of my comic book malaise to purchase this issue, despite the cover art -- which isn't bad, but which depicts the Joker as wearing bad makeup rather than physically looking the way he does. Red Hood? Ace Chemicals? Vat of acid? Any of that ringing any bells, Philip Tan?

Anyway, the best way to get to know a character in-depth isn't to focus on that character, but to learn about him through his interactions with another character. In this case, a henchman with mental illness to whom the Joker seems to have taken a shine: Six of Hearts. He's with Joker during yet another breakout from Arkham, during a time while Bane is in charge of Gotham City. Being newly released, he goes on a spree of chaos, only to find that without Batman...

....he's going ignored.

Gotham City must have a crimefighter. A dynamic duo.

And so Joker takes on the mantle of the Batman, with Six of Hearts as his Robin. And evildoers, beware -- and everyone else.

Throughout the tale, we learn of Six's back story -- how he suffered from mental illness as a child, how his father abused him until he retaliated. He even mentions in his internal dialogue how Joker is different, because those who suffer mental illness are far more likely to be victims that perpetrators, a sentiment reiterated in our interview with Dr. Susan Lewis about the JOKER movie.

It's when he makes his break from the Joker, having had too much, that he has a breakthrough into the Joker's psyche, one we as the readers should have made a long time ago. Because the Joker is cunning, smart, manipulative, and tactical.

Which aren't a combination of skills you find among the mentally ill.

Anthony Burch cowrites this tale of mania and terror, and for fans of the Joker character, the issue is sure to be one to generate discussion for months to come.

That art though...