Joker and Luthor by Brian Azzarello are two villain-focused one shot graphic novels. The two have quite different plots but the goal is the same: to give us for once a look behind the scenes of some of the most famous villains of the DC Universe without having to wonder what our golden heroes are up to. Here are the discussion questions:
1. Both graphic novels are focused on villains. Did you feel sympathetic or more understanding of their motives after reading them?
With Luthor, most definitely. Luthor has always been an interesting study in illustrating a villain's legitimate concerns and motives. Joker, not so much. We were not given a first person perspective and all we saw were the usual bouts of craziness that define the Joker's character.
2. Batman and Superman respectively get almost no dialogue in either graphic novel. Was this an artistic choice? Why?
I think if even a small amount of panel time and dialogue were given to the century's biggest superheroes, Batman and Superman, the graphic novel would have lost its focus and readers would be clamoring to see what happens with them instead of the villanous subjects of these graphic novels.
3. Does it seem to you that Batman seems to appear in more Superman one shot graphic novels than vice versa? Why?
In the handful of Superman one shot graphic novels I've read, it seems that Batman is a necessary foil. Superman is the light and Batman is the dark. They have different approaches to the same outcome. Batman for whatever reason does not need that foil as much, perhaps because Batman villains are more relatable than the often otherworldly Superman villains?
4. Lee Bermejo was criticized for modeling Joker after Heath Ledger's portrayal in Joker. Is this criticism legitimate?
There is much hubbub even still as to which came first, but I think the two influenced each other. This portrayal of Joker is so well done that it will be used for the next decade.
5. It was never explained why Joker was released from Arkham. Did this bother you?
I suppose not. It was simply a set up to get the story where it needed to be. Joker is always escaping anyway.
6. Do you agree with Luthor's sentiments that Superman is "not a man" and should be feared? Should the citizens of Metropolis trust Superman's word?
Yes. One of the most compelling elements of Luthor was his argument against Superman. As previously mentioned, the concerns are quite palpable. Metropolis' citizens must weigh the options and decide who is the trustworthy "man" of power.
7. The story in Joker opted for a very simple arc while Luthor delved much more into Lex Luthor's ideals and morals. Did each serve its purpose? Is Joker too simple to justify a more complex story?
My main criticism of Joker was that it got a simple re-seize your lost territory story. Luthor's story arc properly allowed Azzarello to explore Lex's morals and ideas in depth while Joker came off as a lazy one shot that didn't really tell us anything about Joker that we didn't already know.
8. Azzarello chose to frame the story of Joker through the eyes of henchman Jonny. Why not through Joker's perspective?
I'm not sure. Framing it through Joker's perspective would have been a challenging and risky move. Perhaps Azzarello wanted to distance himself from Moore's The Killing Joke which featured the Joker's perspective heavily. Nonetheless, a first person exploration of modern day Joker would have made for a better graphic novel.
9. How can Luthor rail against Superman for not being "human" but turn around and fall in love with his own inhuman creation Hope?
It is definitely hypocritical. I guess in Luthor's mind, he can accept Hope into his life because she is his creation. Perhaps her potential and his pride for her blind him from logic in this case.
10. Why is Superman drawn as so evil? Is he drawn as Luthor sees him or simply more realistically? Is Superman such an image of "good" that a villain-focused story couldn't contain it?
As previously mentioned, had Superman been the "good" epic line delivering Superman, the focus on Luthor would have been lost. Another interesting point brought up by the book club is this is how Luthor always sees Superman. Luthor never sees the quiet and calm Superman. Through his eyes, Superman is a red-eyed angry alien monster.
11. What other villains might warrant an entire miniseries?
Dr. Doom's name was thrown around a bit. Other Batman villains could be interesting such as Riddler or Penguin.
12. What is the significance of the final panels and dialogue between Batman and Joker?
An amazing exchange, perhaps making the entire graphic novel worthwhile. Its about Batman's mask and why he shows his mouth and he mocks Joker's smile. I'm not sure there's a significance, but it is a fantastic microcosm of Joker and Batman's relationship.