By: Chris Toscano

Pretend you don’t know that The Joker exists. Okay, ready? Now, look at the image below.

Joker

Pretty awesome, right? As many of you already know, this is the first official image of Jared Leto as the Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. If I were Batman (and I might be, you don’t know!), I would be pretty freaked out. The Joker has clearly had a few of his teeth knocked out and he certainly isn’t afraid of needles.

Now, remember that the Joker has existed (in comic books) for 75 years and look at the image above. Well, you may be a bit confused. This is definitely the Joker, but it’s not quite the one you’ve grown up with. This is a Joker made for a movie in a modern era. For many, this has been upsetting.

As fans, we often find ourselves becoming emotionally attached to fictional characters that we’ve spent hours upon hours getting to know. Unfortunately, we forget that these characters are artist-owned inventions, not crowd-sourced creations. No matter how much time or money we spend on a comic book character, we are not entitled to anything. We do not get to make any decisions and often the public is not even consulted.  This is not a criticism of the industry, but simply a truth. However, while we may not like the reimagining of a character, that doesn’t mean your favorite iteration disappears. The great thing about continuity? It continues!

Most importantly, when it comes to the recent Joker reveal, we forget that we have not even seen the movie yet. Superhero fans have had their share of disappointments (see: 2003’s Daredevil, 2007’s Spiderman 3, 2011’s The Green Lantern). Because of this, we are often too quick to judge. But let us not forget that the Internet’s reaction to the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker was not too positive either – and we all know what happened there. Even the backlash against Ben Affleck as Batman has seemingly calmed down after the recent trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Batman

We are reaching a tipping point in the superhero world. DC and Marvel are pumping out film after film at the risk of a superhero over-saturation. Movies, television, video games, comic books, and more; it’s nearly impossible to escape the grasp of Batman or Captain America today. Within 10 years, we are going to have three different actors play Spiderman. Within only a couple years, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger will no longer be known as Batman and Joker. As soon as one superhero trilogy ends, another begins. Additionally, we’re in a new age of diversity. Female superheroes, superheroes of different ethnic backgrounds, and superheroes that are a part of the LGBT community…Marvel and DC are updating their rosters to better reflect the world we live in today.

To this end, we must realize that change is constant and necessary. For the most part, even the most controversial of decisions have been successful. Marvel’s female Thor is selling 30% more than the previous Thor series. In the recent All-New X-Men #40, Iceman is revealed to be gay, which has resulted in a massive amount of publicity for Marvel, the comic, and the LGBT community. Man of Steel is arguably the most controversial superhero movie of all time, and yet the Batman v. Superman trailer has received well over 30 million views in a week (that’s more views than the recent Ant-Man and Fantastic Four trailers combined).

Thor

Superheroes and controversy are a perfect match for each other. Whether it’s the death of Wolverine or a simple image of the Joker, our laser-shooting, shield-tossing, hammer-wielding superheroes and super villains were born for this. Without shaking things up, what kind of life would they have on the page? Unfortunately, we are not always ready for what’s in store for our favorite characters. We may not always receive the movie we want or hope for. But, before we lament something as the “worst thing that has ever happened,” the least we can do is watch it first with open minds and open hearts. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing just how crazy this new Joker really is.

Chris Toscano never shies away from a good comic book discussion. You can follow him on Twitter.

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