DC recently released the fourth issue of its ongoing The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing comic series, and it came accompanied by a rather strange backup story in the final pages. Believe it or not, this tale saw the Clown Prince of Crime himself become pregnant and give birth to a child.
The mother of the child? That was none other than DC's famous magical hero Zatanna, who cast a spell on the Joker after he tried to persuade her to start a family with him. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go to plan with this spell and the Batman villain himself became pregnant and later vomited up a mud-like substance that transformed into a mini clown who the Joker claimed as his son.
Funny, right? Well, not everyone seems to think so.
The viral comic story has stirred up plenty of controversy for its ridiculousness, impact on DC canon, and the alleged transgender portrayal of the Joker - yes, that's how some fans interpreted it. Just weeks after publishing, the writer behind that storyline has offered his response.
DC's Pregnant Joker Writer Clears the Air Amid Backlash
Matthew Rosenberg - the DC writer behind The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing comic series that recently saw the Batman villain become pregnant and give birth to Zatanna's child - has responded to the controversy surrounding the surprising story twist in a newsletter.
The writer first explained that despite the controversy surrounding the Joker supposedly becoming transgender and giving birth to a child, "none of that actually happens in the comics." This led him to joke that despite how this backlash has made social media "unusable" for him, his "DM’s have never been more exciting."
The story in which Joker had this child came from a backup story in the fourth issue, following the main story about "two different men who claim to be the Joker and how their lives violently intersect." Unlike said main story, these backup tales are only intended as "silly gag strips."
Each one is intended to "explore different, non-continuity explanations of how there could be multiple Jokers," and has led to some whacky tales already, none of which are "discussed or acknowledged" in subsequent issues:"
"The backup stories, by myself with the brilliant Francesco Francavilla on art, are made to be sort of Silver Age-style fever dreams of the Joker that explore different, non-continuity explanations of how there could be multiple Jokers and other themes of the main book. So far he’s accidentally cloned himself in a magic mirror, faked his own death so that he could see what people say at his funeral, and accidentally had himself sewn to the body of a gorilla and one of his small henchman like some mythological 6-armed gorilla/circus performer/homicidal clown centaur. In each issue the events of the previous issue aren’t discussed or acknowledged."
Explaining the controversial latest tale, in this story, "Joker swallows some mud, gets a curse put on him by Zatanna, and then wakes up with a distended belly." This leads one of his henchmen to note that he may be pregnant, which spurs him to track down the not-an-actual-doctor supervillain Doctor Phosphorous.
With the flame-skulled villain questioning which part of Joker's anatomy a baby could even emerge from, the Batman antagonist vomited up the previously-swallowed mud, leading the doctor to explicitly say, “Guess you weren’t pregnant after all.”
This mud actually comes to life and causes all kinds of calamity before being revealed to be the supervillain Clayface, or at least part of him. Given that the Batman villain can shapeshift, a while later Clayface turned himself into a mini Joker, to which the Clown Prince of Crime labeled him as "my son."
Rosenberg was quick to clarify that "this isn’t an allegory, a metaphor, or social commentary. It’s a joke." However, the writer then immediately noted his support for transgender rights, having even fundraiser for and donated to several charities that support that cause.
The writer joked that "the folks at Fox News and the Post might look up to the Joker and see him an aspirational figure," before listing off many of his heinous crimes that include cannibalism, brutal killings, severe assault, and even sexual assault, but he thinks that these right-leaning outlets were "kinda into that."
He added that he was "in no way trying to damage the pristine legacy of this psychotic serial murder," and noted his belief that the story had been entirely taken out of context and misinterpreted.
Lastly, Rosenberg proposed that these outlets instead merely "work on a cycle of feeding outrage and alienation to their audience in order to keep them engaged and anger," with no real consideration as to whether this accurately represents the news.
Nonetheless, the writer appreciates how all of this controversy has offered a massive promotional boost for his Joker series, concluding his newsletter that he has since "heard from a lot of retailers that it’s selling out."
Are Fans Overthinking DC's Latest Joker Story?
Clearly, some fans have greatly misinterpreted what Matthew Rosenberg was trying to achieve with his The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing series. Along with his meaningful stamp on DC lore in the series, the writer is aiming to use these short backup stories to just have some fun with the character.
Of course, none of these stories are actually canon or impactful; Joker isn't exactly going to be raising a child with Zatanna going forward in DC Comics. But beyond just the canon elements, many have taken this joke as more of a statement than it was intended to be, with the term "woke" continuing to be thrown around.
Hopefully, the debacle surrounding this particular story does not lead Rosenberg and DC to reconsider utilizing this concept moving forward. After all, it allows the Joker to be explored as a character in new and unique ways that wouldn't otherwise be possible in the canon universe.
The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing is available up to the fourth issue now from comic retailers.