DC has revealed two new series launching under its Black Label imprint this fall. Joker: Killer Smile from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino, and The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage also from Lemire, with art by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz.
“Over the course of working together on things like Green Arrow and Old Man Logan over at Marvel, Andrea [Sorrentino] really developed a great chemistry and shared visual language. We’re always looking for new challenges, and Andrea was the one who suggested that we do a Joker project. I think he really tends to gravitate towards darker stories with a lot of psychological and dramatic underpinnings, so the Joker’s right up his alley,” said Lemire in a conversation with io9 on the origins behind his partnership with Sorrentino.
Solicit per io9, “Joker: Killer Smile follows the Clown Prince of Crime as he has a fateful encounter with a mental health professional that radically alters the course of a number of lives, and while that premise sounds familiar, the story isn’t about Harley Quinn.”
“I wanted to tell an intimate story about how the Joker’s evil is something that can devastate a normal family or a relationship as much as it devastates society as a whole. That the idea that really grabbed me, that sense of terror that would come from letting something like the Joker into your family,” said Lemire. “As someone who has a family myself, that kind of chaos and darkness infecting my personal space is the scariest thing I can think of, and so I started there.”
When asked about the exclusion of Harley and the new character in Joker’s crosshairs, Lemire had this to say. “Yeah, he’s a new character called Dr. Ben Arnell that Andrea and I created for the series, and he’s this bright, brilliant, young mental health professional who’s been tasked with trying to make some sense of the Joker.”
“This is a trope we’ve seen in other Joker stories, with Harley being the most obvious example, but we wanted to take this trope and do something completely unexpected with it. Ben’s the reader’s gateway back into Arkham and to Gotham City and how we get to explore these new depths of the Joker’s mind,” he added.
Die-hard Joker fans beware, this story may not deliver the Joker you’ve come to know and love. Lemire had this to say when asked if this tale will challenge fan’s existing perception of the character.
“You know, I think so. The Joker isn’t inherently a hero or an antihero at all. He’s the incarnation of evil, and I’ve always had a bit of an issue with people who romanticize him even though that’s obviously the case. Killer Smile‘s a story about just how dark the Joker really is and how inviting him into your life is dangerous and yeah, we want people to feel like none of their ideas about who he is really capture the full gravity of what he is.”
Solicit per io9, “At first, The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage comes across like a classic, hardboiled detective series, but the series opens with an existential twist: For reasons the Question doesn’t understand, he’s been living and dying in Hub City, seemingly trapped in a loop of reincarnation that spans from the Old West into the 1930s.”
Now just why did Lemire decide to write a series for The Question?
“This goes back to what you mentioned earlier about writers having characters they’ve always wanted to work on. For me, it’s the Question. At last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Dan DiDio and I were talking about pie in the sky dream projects, and immediately I said the Question with Denys Cowan because Denys’ and Denny O’Neil’s run on The Question was definitive and so far ahead of its time,” said Lemire. “They had such a singular voice they channeled into the character, and it just spoke to me.”
A lot of fans came to know The Question through Renee Montoya, but that isn’t the character Lemire is here to work with.
“This is definitely a Vic Sage story and always was from the jump. I wanted to go back to what Denny and Denys did, and I always felt like Renee Montoya really belongs to Greg Rucka and he understands her voice so, so well,” said Lemire. “I love his stories with Renee as the Question and didn’t want to step on any toes.”
Joker: Killer Smile hits shelves October 30, and The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage just under a month later on November 20.
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