Geoff Johns, Jason Fabok tease DC's Three Jokers comic in exclusive interview
Who are the three Jokers? It’s a question that’s piqued the interest of DC readers for a few years now. At first it seemed like one of the great mysteries of the DC Rebirth era, along with, “how did the Watchmen smiley face button end up in the Batcave?” But while that question was just answered in the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank series Doomsday Clock, which wrapped up its 12-issue run in December, the riddle of the three Jokers is only just now coming into view. In fact, EW can reveal the covers for the three-issue Three Jokers miniseries written by Johns and illustrated by Jason Fabok, set to hit stores this summer.
Johns is unquestionably one of the most influential DC Comics writers of the last few decades. His work on The Flash both encapsulated the Wally West version of the character and also reintroduced Barry Allen to modern continuity, setting the stage for his major roles in both The Flash series on The CW and the big-screen Justice League movie. More recently, Johns has been heavily involved in DC Universe streaming shows like Titans. But Three Jokers actually marks Johns’ first-ever foray into one of the most iconic dynamics in the DC Universe: Batman vs. Joker.
“The world doesn’t need just another Batman-Joker story,” Johns tells EW. “One of the reasons I've never done one before is because there are so many amazing ones, so I was only gonna do one if it was different and surprising and looked at the Joker and the meaning of the Joker and his effect on Batman and his family in a new way. We’re not introducing a multiverse of Jokers, we’re not out to change these characters forever, but we are turning over some rocks about these characters and their relationships.”
Three Jokers is set to be a mystery story, so Johns and Fabok don’t want to reveal that many details ahead of time. But suffice to say for now that “who are the three Jokers?” is a question being asked not just by readers, but by characters themselves. Along with Batman, the story is set to heavily feature Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Red Hood (Jason Todd) -- two of the characters most affected by the Joker over the course of his decades-long struggle with the Bat-family. Barbara was shot by the Joker in the iconic 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, resulting in her discarding her Batgirl costume for years in favor of the identity "Oracle." Jason, the second boy wonder to hold the Robin mantle, was brutally killed by the Joker in the Batman: A Death in the Family arc from the same year. These days, Barbara has healed enough to reclaim the Batgirl identity, while Jason is alive and kicking. But those are the kinds of traumas even comic book superheroes struggle to shake off.
“It goes back to the beginning when Batman first encountered the Joker, but it’s also The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family that speak to the book and that we’re building off emotionally,” Johns says. “Barbara and Jason have gone through so much, as has Bruce, and it’s really focused on healing, on scars and wounds and what that does to somebody. If you suffer some trauma, you don’t just get over with it and move on with your life, it changes who you are. Sometimes it changes you for the better, sometimes it changes you for the worse. You can heal right, and you can heal wrong. That’s really what the book’s about: Healing right, healing wrong, and surviving.”
Plot echoes and character arcs aren’t the only ways Three Jokers is shaped by The Killing Joke. Fabok, who won an Eisner Award last year for his work with writer Tom King on DC’s Swamp Thing Winter Special comic, tells EW that he’s had a copy of The Killing Joke by his desk for two years now and has incorporated homages to Bolland’s work into the new series.
“We made a choice right from the beginning that we would base the look of our book around what Brian did in The Killing Joke,” Fabok says. “Just like how Gary in Doomsday Clock took a lot of his beats from Dave Gibbons, I’m kind of doing the same with Brian Bolland. Fans who have read The Killing Joke, you’re gonna see some familiar panels, you’re gonna see some familiar-looking things, like the Batcave. My thinking was almost, okay, years have passed so Batman has upgraded his Batcave from what he had originally in The Killing Joke, but the same bones are there. Even the Batmobile that I designed is loosely based around the Batmobile from The Killing Joke, where it’s got one big fin and a face built into the front, with big wheels and everything. I consciously infused a lot of that Brian Bolland, even the way he would tell stories through his panels. The Killing Joke has sat next to my desk for the last two years. I've been constantly referencing it, and even following a lot of the rules of how he laid out his panels in that book. I really want it to feel like it could be a spiritual sequel, at least artistically.”
Doomsday Clock suffered a few delays over the course of its run, but rest assured the same will not happen to Three Jokers. Johns and Fabok purposely waited to schedule the series until they were finished with it so that fans won’t get stuck waiting for months between issues.
"I see fans on Twitter and I know they’re getting impatient, they want this book to come out," Fabok says. "Geoff and I have come to realize that everything will happen within its time. Because it’s taken so long, we’ve actually made this story better. Everything’s come together so naturally, we’re so pumped up and so confident in this story."
In addition to Johns and Fabok, Three Jokers is colored by Brad Anderson and lettered by Rob Lee. Check out the first three covers above along with some exclusive interior pages featuring classic Batman iconography like the Waynes' grave and the Batcave below. Look out for the first issue (of three) on June 17.