Rant: My Theory On The Joker’s Identity In The Dark Knight

It’s time for a rant about Batman.

OK, so I’ve been thinking this over for a while now and I’ve finally come up with enough evidence and clues to support my theory on the Joker’s identity in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the character as a complete mystery, and he’s much more scary when you have no idea why he’s doing what he’s doing, or where he came from. But I just couldn’t get this idea out of my head, and I’d like to share it just in case people enjoy thinking about it as much as I do.

I’m not sure where to start so I’ll just state the theory first (because I’m terrible at foreshadowing) and then provide my supporting evidence/clues.

In Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, the identity of the Joker is none other than Dick Grayson.

Try to spot the difference.

Try to spot the difference.

Let me explain:

Those of you familiar with the comics should know how Dick Grayson was first introduced. He was a young performer in a family of acrobats called The Flying Graysons, part of Haly’s Circus. The story goes that Haly’s Circus had ties to the criminal underworld, and when they arrived in Gotham a mob boss called Anthony Zucco confronted the ringmaster, demanding protection money as well as the use of the circus’ trucks and equipment to transport drugs. The ringmaster refuses, and in retaliation the mob sabotage the trapeze equipment of the Flying Graysons, Haly’s most popular act, causing Dick’s parents to fall to their deaths. Bruce Wayne happened to be in the audience, and takes young Dick Grayson under his (bat) wing, and under his care Dick Grayson becomes Robin The Boy Wonder.

Now, parts of my theory are completely the product of my imagination, but I like to think that even those parts aren’t so farfetched as to detract from the theory itself. Other parts of my theory are speculative obviously, and are possibly more opinion-based than pure fact. But other than that, I’ve spent a while on this theory and I’m incredibly happy with it, the more I think about it the more I’m convinced it makes sense. So, I’ll make my case now.

There was a book released as an in-universe reference for the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy, called the Dark Knight Manual.

The Dark Knight Manual

It took me a while to notice because as a Batman fan I was mostly preoccupied with the Waynetech blueprints and schematics for Batman’s gadgets and vehicles. Also, the book came out around the same time as the final film, so I was less focused on The Joker at that time. But when I finally did get around to looking through his case file, I noticed something very interesting:

Joker Identity

That’s the majority of the foundation for my theory right there. The “Haley Brothers Circus” was in Gotham for a short period of time leading up to the events of The Dark Knight. If you use a little imagination, you can extrapolate that Dick Grayson origin story from before, and (only changing a few minor details), you can get a really good idea of how Dick Grayson fits into this world:

Dick was a young performer in a family of acrobats called The Flying Graysons, part of The Haley Brothers Circus. The Circus had ties to Sal Maroni, and when they arrived in Gotham, Maroni confronted the ringmaster, demanding protection money as well as the use of the circus’ trucks and equipment to transport drugs. The ringmaster refuses, and in retaliation Maroni sends a hit man to sabotage the trapeze equipment of the Flying Graysons, the Haley Brothers’ most popular act, causing Dick’s parents to fall to their deaths. In this version, Bruce Wayne was nowhere to be found, and Dick Grayson is left alone after witnessing his parent’s murder.

A couple things I’d like to make particular note of:

*Dick Grayson in this version is older (around the age he would’ve been when he became Nightwing in the comics), as the transition from grieving orphan to deranged killer is pretty short.

*I’m adding a few bits I completely made up from now on, but it makes sense in a weird sort of way.

Now, onto the next bit of the story:

Here’s where it deviates from the comic book origin story (obviously). Now, since Dick Grayson is much older in this version out of necessity, I like to think that he was the same kind of man that he would have been (as Robin/Nightwing) under Batman’s guidance. This means he would’ve taken a more active role in the events leading up to his parent’s deaths.

What I had in mind is that basically Dick actively helps with the running of the circus, being a huge part of the most popular act and being an intelligent, driven young man. So Dick was present when Sal Maroni threatened the ringmaster, and (being new to Gotham) decided to go to the police. Maroni knew this and sent a hit man to take care of Dick and send a message to the circus employees that it’s not OK to defy the mob in Gotham. The police in Gotham predictably did absolutely nothing to help Dick. Basically, this hit man intercepts Dick Grayson on his way back from the police and captures him. Now, Maroni wanted the Graysons destroyed well and truly, and gives this hit man leave to use some creativity. Unfortunately for Dick Grayson, this man was very, very creative. He had sabotaged the trapezes that the Graysons used ahead of time, and also set up cameras in the circus. He had tied Dick to a chair facing a set of monitors linked with the cameras. He then made Dick Grayson watch as his parents fell to their deaths. After that, the hit man cut a Glasgow Smile into Dick Graysons face, so that he would be forever laughing at his parent’s deaths, whether he wanted to or not. Before the hit man could finish his job, Dick fought furiously, and managed to escape from the chair and kill the hit man who killed his parents. But it wasn’t enough. The hit man was a monster, but Sal Maroni ordered the deaths of the Graysons, and the Gotham Police Department did nothing to prevent it.

So, irreversibly scarred both psychologically and physically, Dick Grayson dresses as a clown to remind the people he’s going after of the circus that created him, and starts to view life as a sick joke full of chaos and anarchy as a way to distance himself from the damage done to him. He targets the mob and the heads of justice in Gotham, and sets out to prove (mostly to himself, but also to Batman) that anyone else would’ve done the same had they been in his position.

Dick Grayson – from young go-getter, to part of the Flying Graysons, to broken, psychotic killer clown

Dick Grayson – from young go-getter, to part of the Flying Graysons, to broken, psychotic killer clown

Also worth mentioning is this little throwaway comment on the Joker’s MO:

Joker MO

“The Joker’s go-to tactic involved putting his enemies’ loved ones in peril.”

That’s a nice little parallel to what I’m proposing is the Joker’s backstory, right? Since a part of his motivation is trying to prove that “madness is like gravity, all it needs is a little push”, I think he’s trying to inflict upon his targets the same trauma he went through himself to show that if anyone else had’ve been in his shoes they would’ve turned out the same way.

A few more things that I feel add up in the movie:

*A travelling circus performer would be very difficult to identify. This would explain why the GCPD couldn’t find any trace of the Joker’s name or any aliases.

*The Joker’s apparent death wish in the scene where he’s egging Batman on: “Hit me. C’mon, hit me, I want you to do it… HIT ME!”, while this is a bit morbid, it sort of works that after losing everything and after causing a lot of damage to the mob and the justice system in Gotham, he has nothing left to live for.

*There’s a scene in the interrogation room where the Joker says “who did you leave him with, hmm? Your people? Assuming of course they are still your people, and not… Maroni’s.” The emphasis the Joker puts on Maroni’s name shows his distaste for the man, which links nicely to Maroni being the one who caused all the trouble for the Haley Brothers Circus.

*”I don’t wanna kill you! What would I do without you?” – To me, purely in the context of this theory, this could be the Joker saying that he knows Batman will bring the mob down and actually enforce justice, which is his ultimate goal (in a much more selfish and amoral way). This is a bit weak but I think it kinda works.

*Another line from the interrogation room: “you COMPLETE me.” He puts a LOT of emphasis on that one. Batman and Robin, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, for a very long time in the comics, inseperable. You could say they COMPLETE each other…

 

Now, for those of you thinking “Dick Grayson could never go THAT bad, you’re totally bullshitting everyone here!”, I’d really like to point out it actually TOTALLY FUCKING HAPPENED IN THE COMICS.

Also he looks like this, because Frank Miller never wants you to sleep soundly again.

Also he looks like this, because Frank Miller never wants you to sleep soundly again.

In Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Series (has the same name, weird right?), Dick Grayson becomes the second Joker after a massive falling out between him and Batman. It’s incredibly important that you know that Nolan’s series of films was heavily influenced by Batman: Year One AND The Dark Knight Returns, two of the graphic novels in Frank Miller’s series. So obviously Nolan knew about this interesting little twist.

Also, there are several references throughout the movies to other characters that Nolan couldn’t give proper screen time to:

*A certain Wayne Enterprises employee who figures out Batman’s real identity, and is referred to as “Mister Reese”, aka Mysteries (kinda like how The Riddler is called E. Nygma, aka Enigma)

*Victor Zsasz has a small role in Batman Begins, you can see the “tally marks” on his neck

*The obvious and painfully unnecessary “my legal first name is Robin” scene in TDKR

*Blake’s throwaway line about “Giant Alligators” in the sewers of Gotham, a fun little joking reference to Killer Croc

*Lucius Fox says “what brings you out of Cryo-Sleep, Mr Wayne?” – a possible (albeit weak) reference to Mr Freeze

* Roland Daggett of Daggett industries has a minor role (although he was renamed John Daggett) – Daggett industries is the company responsible for the creation of Clayface

*Henri Ducard is actually a separate character in the comics, one of the experts who trains a younger Bruce Wayne while he’s travelling the world before becoming Batman

*Barsad, Bane’s right-hand-man, is a sniper and heavy arms expert. He is always shown wearing a bulletproof vest which has large bullets on it and a red scarf – a possible reference to DeadShot (although Deadshot’s real name is Floyd Lawton)

 

So you can see there are a lot of examples of Nolan making subtle references to characters within Batman’s world. My theory may be a little wordy, but it would make sense that Nolan would want to reference such a huge character, and the fact that the Haley Brothers Circus is specifically mentioned (albeit in a tie-in book rather than the actual films) is a huge tip off to me since the only time Haly’s Circus shows up in the comics is during Dick Grayson’s origin story.

Another reason I feel this story fits in with the movie (and the whole trilogy) is that a running theme throughout The Dark Knight is heroes turning into villains, as perfectly summed up by Harvey Dent (who goes through a similar trauma and emerges a villain also): “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. I also think it’s a wonderfully tragic reason for Batman to have no idea who the Joker really is: He wasn’t present at the circus the night it happened, and was not aware of what Dick Grayson was going through. In the comics, when Joker was finally given a backstory, Batman was directly involved; but I like that in this case, The Joker was created from a distinct lack of Batman. Again, it’s just amazingly tragic that Batman could have turned him into a hero despite Dick going through the exact same horrible trauma, if he’d only been there.

 

So there you go, that’s my take on the Joker’s origin in the Nolanverse.

Thanks for reading, let me know what you think in the comments section!

Upcoming Video Game: Arkham Knight

Oh yeah.

OH. YEAH.

Arkham Knight is just gonna be the greatest damn Batman game anyone has ever made. I’m sure no one’s on the other side of this argument, but I’d like to make my point anyway, because I’m so freakin’ excited I can barely think straight. Seriously, I preordered the Limited edition AND the Batmobile edition because I was past the point of thinking clearly as soon as I saw it was available.

1) The Batsuit:

Pros:

 

This is the definition of badass.

This is the definition of badass.

Look at that. Seriously, just take a few minutes and look at it. That is a Batsuit. That’s how you make a Batsuit correctly. It’s just full on, high tech, scary looking bat armour. HELL YES. There’s even a bit in one of the trailers where you can see it’s articulated, in a shot that’s awesomely similar to the first Iron Man movie, when the camera pans up and you see all the litte bits of the Iron Man suit adjusting and just generally being awesome and high tech.

Here’s Iron Man’s suit doing it’s thing, just for comparison’s sake.

Here’s a quote from Wikipedia (yeah, I’m good at research):

“Batman’s armor was redesigned to match that of the Batmobile to make them appear visually similar—featuring the same shapes and material textures—and appear functionally compatible with the high-speed methods in which the character enters and exits the vehicle.”

Check out the trailer.

HAHAHAHA, YES!

They literally designed his suit to look like a tank! That’s so fucking awesome I can’t stand it.

Batman-ArkhamKnight-BatsuitRender

Cons:

Well, I love the comics more than life itself, so I’ve always loved the fact that Batman is so tough he doesn’t even wear armour in the comics, it’s just a fabric suit. Obviously that depends entirely on which comic you read, but I’ve always loved the fabric suit look.

Batman_012

Having said that, they’ve already done that look in Arkham City (and rocked it), and it makes sense that in this world Batman would need to step up his level of protection, just like the Batsuit evolving throughout the history of the comics themselves. So it’s not really a con I suppose, I just really wanted to show more pictures of Batman.

image_batman_arkham_knight-25032-2899_0001

2) The Batmobile:

Pros:

image_batman_arkham_knight-24552-2899_0004

You know where I’m going with this. Seriously though, look at that. Doesn’t it make you wish you were a billionaire just so you could buy one of those bad boys? I would honestly spend the same amount of money on this game if Batman was physically incapable of getting out of the damn thing, because fucking LOOK AT IT!

image_batman_arkham_knight-26034-2899_0001

It’s a tank! It looks like it could drive right through Superman without taking a scratch. It looks like it could win a fist fight with Chuck Norris. It looks like it could blow up the Death Star without eve- yeah I’m getting overexcited, sorry about that. But seriously though, it just looks amazing. Sleek but solid, modern but incredibly unbreakable, and like I said before, designed in conjuction with the Batsuit itself so there’s consistency and a real feeling of compatibility; It finally looks like Batman’s gadgets were designed to go hand in hand.

Cons:

… Nope. I got nothin’.

3) Gotham City:

Pros:

“To redesign Gotham City, the designers attempted to build on the previous games’ Gothic architecture while making a more believable and dense city. Alongside minor elements like neon lights, billboard advertising, and American-style cars, the team developed ideas for shops that could be found in the city, while retaining a grimy, dystopian theme. Describing the design, Hego said: “every kind of element we’ve added in there… makes the entire experience feel a little out of time. You couldn’t pinpoint whether it’s twenty years ago, now or in ten years time.” “We want to make sure the world is rich and full of interesting things to do,” Hill said. “We’re not trying to create the biggest open-world game ever. We are trying to create a really rich, vibrant, dense open world.””

YES. I love everything about this.

This is a similar take on the city that the new DC show Gotham is exploring also (but I’ll get to that in another post), and it’s perfect. Read that paragraph again, and just picture Gotham: bustling, dangerous, alive. There are perpetual sirens in the distance, and if not they’re much closer. You can’t turn to the police, you can’t trust your employer, on any given day you’re fairly likely to be mugged or worse. The city is not huge, but incredibly dense; more than one city packed into the space of half of one, always in motion and always coiled ready to spring, like a viper made of stone, cement, and steel. It’s old but full of new things; any single item can be placed fairly accurately into the decade it came from, but together it creates a world without a real chronological timeline. I’m probably going to go on a really similar rant about the Gotham TV show, so hopefully I don’t repeat myself, but it’s just so exciting to see that people are really honing their creative design for Gotham recently.

It’s just getting better and better.

Gotham01

Gotham04

Beautiful.

Cons:

While I love the idea of focusing on quality rather than quantity, there’s a small part of me that wants to explore a Gotham as vast as it’s evil reputation.

… It’s a very small part though.

4) The Story:

Now, we don’t know heaps about this, but there has been enough details laid down to give us a decent synopsis:

“One year after the death of the Joker during the events of Arkham City. Batman is struggling to come to terms with the absence of his nemesis and the uncomfortable feeling that the pair shared a bond deeper than either could admit. Without the Joker’s chaotic presence, Gotham’s citizens have never felt safer, and crime in the city has dramatically declined. However, this gives Batman’s enemies, including Penguin, Two-Face, and Harley Quinn, a chance to unite with the singular goal of killing Batman. On Halloween night, Scarecrow threatens the city with his newly created strain of fear toxin and bombs planted throughout Gotham, forcing the evacuation of the city’s six million civilians. Only criminals remain in the city, leaving Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police outnumbered. Anticipating a new threat, Batman continues to develop crime-fighting technology, and maintains a vigil over the city.”

Pros:

WOW.

I dunno about you, but that hit me hard. The comics have touched on this topic before, and sometimes briefly explored it, but this sounds like Batman’s relationship with Joker is gonna be a pretty big part of it.

Exploring what the nature of their bond was is something that could be done incredibly well, and it’s something that’s really unique and new to this story, since the Joker never really “dies” in the comics and they only really explore it enough to fill the gap in time until the Joker’s back again. I am incredibly interested in seeing how Batman would react to the death of someone who was such a massive part of his life for so long, even if it was as an enemy.

I also like the idea of there being a lull in crime. One year of no crime isn’t much, but could it be enough for the Dark Knight to grow a little complacent? I’m thinking of that Bane quote from The Dark Knight Rises: “Peace has cost you your strength… Victory has defeated you!”

mtDcR_-_Imgur

It’s purely speculation, obviously, but it could be fun to see Batman emotionally hung up on the death of The Joker and ignoring training for a while due to there being no more crime. This would also be the perfect spot for a deadly villain to swoop in Bane style and attack Batman at his lowest point…

That's how you swoop like a badass.

That’s how you swoop like a badass.

Also, Halloween night? Scarecrow’s new strain of fear toxin? Batman developing new technology? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Cons:

One thing that’s starting to feel a little formulaic, especially considering the technical abilities of the new consoles, is the fact that in all of these games there’s always a reason for the actual citizens of Gotham to disappear and leave it to the criminals and professional crime fighters.

In Arkham Asylum it made perfect sense, because why would there be normal civilians in the asylum anyway? and in Arkham City it worked really well with the plot because the whole point was they cut off that part of the city, so that worked really well. With Arkham Origins, I didn’t really see the point beyond making combat simpler and maybe technical limitations.

But we should have no problem doing that with the PS4 and Xbox One. I really hope that the game opens during that period of peace, so that there are civilians wandering the streets, with maybe a mugging here and there. It would be really interesting to play as Batman through a Gotham City the way it normally is, instead of halfway through an insane crisis that caused the evacuation of everyone you can’t punch in the face.

I think it would make the game a lot more challenging, and more importantly a lot more like the real Gotham, if you had to fight the bad guys while protecting innocents, and if the criminals were in the minority and you had to hunt them down and actually put some detective skills to use to find them.

5) Gameplay:

Pros:

“Batman can use some gadgets while flying, such as batarangs or the line-launcher. The player can fly Batman throughout the city using his cape, with gliding now allowing for longer sustained flights, steeper dives and higher climbs. The grapnel gun can now be used to instantly switch directions during a glide, as well as being fired twice while in the air to chain grapneling moves together. There is also a new batarang sensor that can be thrown out to gain intel on the surrounding area.”

They didn’t really need to change much from the other Arkham games, atl east in my opinion, but it looks like what few changes were made are going to be amazing. Throwing batarangs while in midair? HELL YES! I’m picturing one of those classic action movies where they jump while shooting in slow motion.

It's sad that the only example I could find was from a movie poking fun at the action movies I was talking about.

It’s sad that the only example I could find was from a movie poking fun at the action movies I was talking about.

That, but with Batman. Yeah, I’ll give you a moment to let your heart rate go down. Also, having a recon batarang is such an amazing and amazingly simple idea that I’m amazed I’ve never seen it in the comics before. Chuck it at a wall, and use the in built camera to scope out the street beyond what you can see. Throw it on a massive arc over a few buildings, then when you catch it, watch the recorded video footage to see enemy locations and points of strategic value. Or better yet, take a page out of some of the newer warfare based games on the new consoles and control the batarang while it flies using an exterior device like your smart phone, hover over the area like a drone and mark enemies and hostages, or mark points of cover to automatically interact with straight from behind a wall.

These are all just guesses obviously, but anything even remotely similar would be amazing, and would definitely be the kind of tech Batman would utilise in his epic war on crime.

Cons:

To be honest, there’s not much I don’t like about the existing gameplay of the Arkham series, I find it really intuitive and user friendly enough that you can actually watch the action as you’re playing, which is perfect for a game as visually engaging as the Arkham series. And hopefully this instalment will take the game further than previously thought possible, which to be honest is basically a guarantee.

SO…

I’m incredibly glad Rocksteady is taking charge once again, although I absolutely loved the work Warner Bros. Games Montreal did with Arkham Origins. I’m also incredibly excited that I don’t know what to expect from the eponymous villain, beyond the amazing sequence from one of the trailers with the “NO MORE BATMAN!” line followed by a gunshot.

image_batman_arkham_knight-24552-2899_0002

HELL YEAH.

Anyway, considering all of that, my rating for this game has got to be:

5/5, SO KEEN FOR THIS!