A new Batman comic arc will recast the Caped Crusader as a villain, tearing Gotham apart with his destructive commitment to fighting crime. He is also the bane of a newly sane, politically active Joker who is hell-bent on bringing wage equality to the citizens of a desperate city.
Batman: White Knight, which will hit comic book stores in early October, features a Joker now cured of his insanity, He is suddenly aware of Gotham City not as a backdrop for cartoon psychopaths torturing the population but a hotbed of inequality, whose citizens are crying out for social justice.
According to an interview with Wired, writer-illustrator Sean Murphy wanted to do a comic where Batman and the Joker’s roles were reversed, since, as Murphy points out, aside from his prohibition against killing, Batman is apt to cause as much mayhem as his criminal counterparts.
But Murphy also wanted Gotham to be dealing with more realistic problems than Sandmen and killer part-crocodile chimeras. So the Gotham of White Knight is rife with proto-Trumpian struggle. “My main goal was to undo the comic tropes while changing Gotham from a comic book city into a real city—a city dealing with everything from Black Lives Matter to the growing wage gap,” Murphy said.
Rather than simply beating comic book readers over the head with a social justice theme, however, Murphy says he’s made the Joker the champion of the little guy. He has turned him into a social justice warrior who foments a grassroots movement of Gotham citizens against the city’s one percent.
“[But] rather than write a comic about the wage gap, I gave those ideas to the Joker, who leads a kind of media war against Gotham’s elite by winning people over with his potent observations and rhetoric,” Murphy claims.
Basically, he’s now a locally active Bernie Sanders. And Batman is the “overzealous oppressor.”
Unlike Marvel, DC has generally stuck to more traditional interpretations of its characters, though stalwarts like Batman and Superman have changed with the times. In this case, it may be that DC is simply interested in bringing Batman into a more conflicted age; there’s little more relevant than deep political conflict.
Whether Batman turns out to be the White Knight described in the story’s title remains to be seen. The comic is just now releasing previews.