Is the Joker gay? The creator of a Change.org petition launched back in January sure thinks so, and she’s just about to hit her goal.
Elena Shestakova says the Clown Prince of Crime started out as gay in the original Batmand stories—or at least homoerotically infatuated with the Caped Crusader—but that his queer identity was erased with the introduction of Harley Quinn as his girlfriend in the 1990s.
“The Joker is a comic book character with almost 80 years history, half of which he was portrayed as homosexual,” she wrote. “For instance, in such significant graphic novels as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Neal Adams claimed that The Joker was and always had been homosexual. This opinion was shared by other comic books authors and artists for decades. That is why it’s so important to me and other queer readers to return his homosexuality.”
Shestakova says the 1995 graphic novel Devil’s Advocate strongly hinted the Joker had a boyfriend, and that the character has many “feminine” traits—including the use of lipstick, nail polish and heels. “Sometimes [he] does crossdressing,” she adds. “We realize that some of these things are stereotypical, but it gives a very clear picture.”
She hoped to get at least 1,500 signatures for her petition and is less than 30 away as of press time. One fan said she was signing “because I really think that the unresolved semi-homoerotic tension between Batman and the Joker adds a lot to the drama of the series, as well as the characters’ personal evaluations of themselves as heroes/villains or vice versa.”
Ironically both that commenter and Shestakova live in Russia, where such depictions would run afoul of the country’s ban on “gay propaganda.”
Queerness has seeped its way into the Batman universe, with a lesbian Batwoman and Harley and Poison Ivy identified as a couple at various points. On the Gotham TV series, the Penguin and the Riddler were enmeshed in a homoerotic relationship, with the former even admitting his feelings for the latter. (Both Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith, who played the villains, are openly gay.)
Actor Cesar Romero, who played the Joker in the classic 1960s Batman TV show, was secretly gay. (He came out in an interview published two years after his death.)
But the Joker is one of the most ruthless villains in comics, laughing maniacally as he saunters through a sea of bodies. Harley Quinn has been less his girlfriend and more a punching bag for him to heap abuse on. Do we want the Joker gay?