Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Domino Jokes

Batman and Robin #12 revealed that Oberon Sexton has been the Joker all along -- and also the Domino Killer. Most likely, the detective persona was a conscious facade, although it's also possible that amnesia and Multiple Personality Disorder led to a detective personality earnestly investigating the Joker's usual killer personality.

Many fans guessed Sexton's identity from the very beginning. I pitched a number of guesses, delving into whispers of clues that were ultimately misleading; the fact that the original Red Hood's attire basically matched Sexton's may have been one correct clue.

Dick Grayson, however, solved the crime with two clues we had and two we didn't: the murders of the four deceased Black Glove members were designed to hint at jokes, and two of those were presented to us in #10, with nobody, apparently, in fandom seeing the pattern.

Cardinal Maggi was killed with a dog collar. Since cardinals normally wear collars, it could be a subtle joke on the cardinal being a dog. There is also a joke about "white collar crime" turning out to be the misdeeds of a cardinal. There is yet another a joke about someone stopping a vicious dog attack by choking the dog with its own collar, and the person's actions being portrayed positively at first, but then negatively when something else is learned about them (e.g., a Yankees fan in Boston is said to "viciously kill beloved pet"). Maybe there is another joke that describes the situation more pointedly.

The tycoon having a heart attack during sex with his young mistress is probably funny enough to someone like the Joker. Additionally, there is a joke about a man being found by his dumb (blonde) wife after such a heart attack and when the wife, misperceiving the situation, finds the naked mistress in the closet, she is furious because the woman is playing hide and seek. If there is another joke that plays also on the unusual word "tycoon", I don't see the connection.

Neither of those were clues available to us, because the nature of their deaths was not mentioned until the end of #12. However, the other two appeared early in #10. They more clearly pertain to well-known jokes, which happen to be unprintable in comics.

General Malenkov's murder pertains to its respective joke via a pun: There is a joke about a man winning bar bets with a trained alligator that allows the man to place his genitals in its mouth. The link here is the similar sound of the words "general" and "genitals". The Joker put his "general" in the alligator's mouth.

Equally unprintable, and the one that we probably had the best chance of perceiving: The sheikh died in the bathroom as a result of poisoned peanuts. I don't know if this is cast as easily into a "joke" per se so much as there is a pun: the Joker gave a sheikh peanuts in the bathroom (gave the penis a shake in the bathroom).

And, alas, for all of the false leads and the top-down guessing ("Who would make a surprising reveal? The Joker."), there were a couple of bona fide clues, and nobody saw them.


  1. some weeks ago, por discard, i supossed This Theory and now is reality, Oberon Sexton is The Joker, No huge surprise some great clues Rik, Salutes from Venezuela

  2. two venezuelans followin' rikdad :P good good

  3. Are you secretly Grant Morrison?

  4. Meh. Maybe it's funnier if your Scottish.

  5. The alligator eating the Russian might be a reference to another joke I've heard... during the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union decide to have a dogfight. The Russians spend years breeding the Ivan Drago of dogs from Siberian wolves, but when the day comes, the Americans present a long Daschund... which promptly gobbles the Russian wolf up. The Americans explain that while the Russians spent years breeding & training the perfect attack dog, the best plastic surgeons in America spent years making an alligator look like a Daschund.

  6. Hi Kenny! I am not Grant Morrison. I'm American. However, I have seen certain photos of him that sort of look like me.

  7. A rich oil sheikh was visiting the White House to discuss the oil trade with political bigwigs. His personal servant was attending to the sheikh's every need, as was customary and expected. The sheikh, never having tasted salted peanuts before, took an instant liking to them, and began munching them like you wouldn't believe. Naturally, the salt made the sheikh thirsty, and he called to his servant to get him some water. His servant left the room and came back with a glass of nice, cold water. Munching some more on the peanuts, the sheikh got thirsty again, and called to his servant to get him another glass of water. The servant immediately complied with his master's wishes, and returned in a jiffy with another glass of water. Really taken by the peanuts, the sheikh virtually stuffed himself on them, and got a healthy thirst to match. He called to his servant to get him some more water, and off the servant went. This time, he came back empty-handed. The servant apologized profusely, and begged his master's forgiveness. Furious, the sheikh yelled and screamed at his servant, 'You son of a flea-infested camel, why can't you bring me my water?!?' 'But Master', begged the servant, 'I cannot bring you your water because a white man sits on the well...'

  8. I literally cheerd at that last page. I was right!!!

    What a great new direction for the Joker. I dont think we have ever seen the Joker portrayed like that before!

  9. Also, the big Joker reveal page is a direct copy of the Man Who Laughs film poster.

  10. As much as I enjoyed the reveal at the end, I thought that this issue was ruined by the fact that Grant Morrison has officially ruined Talia for us all.

    Another Damian? Hopefully this was just a way to write her out of the series and we never have to hear a thing about the NEW spawn.

    I really appreciated the explanation of the Domino jokes--but that doesn't fix the fact that they *needed* to be explained to me. It's typical Grant Morrison "over your heads I'll tell you later" stuff, honestly.

  11. Hm. So are we taking "Domino Killer" to equal "killer of Black Glove members"? Because I'm not sold on the idea that Toad was killed by the Joker as well.

    But do we think that all of the Black Glove members had rank dominos as well, and did they clutch them when the Joker attacked them? Because if so then I think we could say that the Joker is the Domino Killer in that he "kills [people holding] dominos".

    I didn't notice the "pattern" of the joke murders, but I did think that Oberon's uttering of weird sounding crimes like those meant that HE (Oberon, as an entity distinct from "The Domino Killer") was the Joker. But by B&R #10 I was already reading Oberon's words as if they were (probably) coming from the Joker, so I was predisposed to believe that these were indeed pieces of dialogue that I could hear coming from the Joker ("pantomime poseurs", to mention another).

    I also think that Oberon's look (covering his skin head to toe), origin (as in The Killing Joke), knowledge and interests (knowledge of the Red Hood, expressedly similar interest in crime when shaking Grayson's hand), and symbolic costume (all in black, as if in mourning for the loss of his metaphysical partner, Bruce Wayne) were all legitimate clues toward Oberon being the Joker. Things like that were big parts of WHY I thought the Joker would make a good reveal. There are thematic "clues" as well in that the first three arcs of B&R referenced the Joker, and the related imagery of the Joker, quite a bit. Maybe others just guessed top-down--and I admit that on a surface-level a Joker-reveal is inherently shocking--but there was a lot of legitimate corroborating evidence. There's the quote from Morrison about Sexton in the B&R HC as well.

    All in all, I thought this was a fantastic issue, if a little light on the "pssst! here are some more insanely provoking allusions and possible foreshadowings"-level, which is probably best for a part 3 of 3 anyway. I didn't notice the art change too much; I thought everything was pretty consistent, and pretty great, throughout.

  12. Random things I noticed:

    Whenever someone writes and publishes a comprehensive book of literary criticism on Morrison's Batman, they've got to have a section about how this work sort of serves as a reexamination (or even a correction) of Morrison's interests when he was writing The Invisibles. I've never seen a strict comparison of the Invisibles and Morrison's Batman brought up on a message board before. I mean, Morrison's referencing a rather Manichaean view of reality now--that alone seems to be a reexamination of the "all is oneness" that Morrison professed toward the end of the '90s-early '00s. But the enemy here (Hurt) is to be understood as something resembling (or embodying or being) real demonic evil, something that Morrison wasn't really all that against in his Invisibles days. He was likely to say that the Queen of England, sinister world elite and the Illuminati were the worst you could get, but would be criticize or biblical "demons"? Nah, he'd rather have conjured them up then, laugh with them and tell you they got a bum rap.

    In his Batman run Morrison's been bringing in increasingly occult/conspiracy-theory ideas. From isolation chamber experiments, Manchurian Candidate-style Replacement Batmen, to the idea of a world-controlling organization like the Black Glove. The last time a work of his was THIS obsessed with this kind of stuff...was The Invisibles.

    In B&R #10 Dick Grayson presses three roses and later falls down a trapdoor that looks like a rose occluding a bat-symbol, painted on the floor. The rose is a gigantically important symbol in religion, poetry (as far back as Dante), and in the occult (and occult-minded poetry, like Yeats's). Just for an example, it suggests femaleness and Rosicrucianism and all that Morrison might associate with that stuff. (DICK falling through a female symbol? Hm. And the "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane came from W.R. Hearst's real nickname for his wife's vagina.)

    In B&R #11 Dick stands on a similar bit of floor, except this time we see a regular bat-symbol. Or do we? Unlike a regular bat-symbol, in this one the bat is larger than the yellow oval behind it. Or is that an oval here, or a circle? I think what we're looking at isn't a classic bat-symbol so much as it's an image of a bat eclipsing the sun. I think Morrison is saying that this is where the bat-symbol ("signal"?) came from, in some respect. (And is he also making a point about what it psychologically/metaphorically MEANS whenever a Batman's costume does NOT have a "sun" on it?)

    The image of the sun is even more religious, poetic, occult, meaningful than that of a rose. It can be good, or it can be bad. (Before now Morrison's associated the sun positively with Superman.)

    In B&R #12, when Dick takes Alfred and Damian back underground, we see above "Barbatos" a cave-painting (left by Bruce, probably) of what looks to be to be a black sun, or perhaps an eclipsed sun.

    A black sun is also, of course, a known symbol. It's the antithesis of the sun, or the bad aspect of the sun.

    By the way, it's interesting to see how Morrison's theme of "brainwashing" (Manchurian Candidate) has continued re: Damian being remote-controlled and allegedly "indoctrinated". And the bad-guy Slade had a heart problem, whereas the good-guy Bruce had a heart problem in Batman #672. Both heart problems were in close proximity to someone who was "controlled" (Damian and Lane, respectively).

  13. And the Mexican Train turned out to be a "train from Mexico", I guess.

  14. Is it just me or is anyone else bothered by what we saw in the Batcave? Tattered Batcowl, the black sun, horns from... some animal elk or whatever. Isn't it just mr os isn't the black sun kinda symbolic for Darkseid himself? Now personally i really hate all these theories about Darkseid being the ultimate enemy for Batman's run, i really prefer it to just being Barbatos the demon or something.

    Still we got the black sun appear, we got a well in the room too which could be argued can be a symbol for the eternal black hole or something wacky tacky like that. >_> The horns eh... Well we know shamans/witch doctors like to use dead animal bones, but i'm not the magician expert here unlike Morrison. :( Someone know the value of the bones here? If any.

    Still the issue was pretty good, it heavily did emphize on the Talia subplot so i'm holding my judgement with the domino killer thing. Did Joker plant the dominoes? Or we're they all carrying dominos to begin with? This question really needs to be answered.

    Oh and i LOVE that both Brave and Bold cartoon, and Dick Grayson since #7 have been having these electrified-bat knuckles! They're so cool! :D

  15. Well, I kind of figured the Domino Killer was the Joker based on the simple fact that he promised to kill the members of the Black Glove in RIP.

    But what were the supposed clues associating either the Domino Killer or the Joker to Oberon Sexton?

  16. I get the jokes now. I'm disappointed that I had to look up why they're funny though. The Joker in Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's "Mad Love" story once angrily explained to Harley Quinn his style "If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke! My jokes are elegant in their simplicity! You see them, you get them, you laugh--end of joke!"

    This might seem obvious to others, but...from Batman 680, does it seem likely that the Joker knows who the first Batman is?

  17. The Joker-Domino issue is unresolved. It doesn't seem like The Joker/Oberon was in town when Toad got killed. It seems more likely that the dominos were the carrying cards of Hurt's organization and their placement was incidental.

    Very excited to see how this plays out. The Talia-part seemed excessively long - I suspect to compensate for the fact that the 12-issue arc is now longer.

    as for the obtuseness of the "jokes" - I'm glad I wasn't the only person to get them. But they were "getable." If they had been too obvious, there would've been no mystery. IMO, this was a pretty perfect mystery - nobody caught the big clues right in front of us.

  18. EDIT:
    only person to NOT get them. I'm not smart :-)

  19. I have nothing to back this up--but could the Oberon Sexton personality have some connection to Final Crisis? The only reason I suggest this (besides the fact that Morrison wrote Final Crisis obviously) is because of something that has been nagging me ever since that event wrapped up: Where was the Joker during that whole time? Final Crisis was billed as "The Day Evil Won" (which I recognize might be a marketing ploy and nothing more). But the Joker--arguably the most popular and iconic villain in comics--was nowhere to be found. He wasn't even mention off-panel in one of the tie-ins. Given Morison's love for writing the Joker, and his development of the Joker's mental state, doesn't that seem odd? I have to think Morison (or someone else for that matter) not only considered this at some point, but also wondered about what effect (if any) the anti-life equation would have had on the Joker in particular. To put it in Morisonian terms: Maybe, when the Joker saw the anti-life equation, he just divided it by zero....

  20. Drazar: I'm not sure if there's any clear connection here beyond symbolic similarities, but the "horn bones" with the cowl draped over them remind me of: the fact that Batman has "devil ears/horns", and that the dominoes are "bones". As for the well, in Batman 673 we see a flashback of young Bruce and a well with bats streaming out of it. Is this the same well?

    Regardless, I'm amazed at the extent to which elements introduced in each new issue "match up" with bits of things we've seen before. The panels with wells in them. The heart problems that I mentioned (Bruce's in 672, Slade's here). Even Dick's electro-knuckles seem to have a precedent in that same 672-674 arc: they remind me of what Lane used to shock Bruce back to life. Similar elements repeat, but they're changed around. In Bruce's three-part adventure we saw him encounter (at one remove from reality) one of his greatest early enemies in Joe Chill; in this story Dick encountered one of his great enemies (Slade) via remote-control distance.

    On the black sun stuff, I do think that it's thematically aligned with Darkseid, but that doesn't mean that there's a real narrative connection. It just means that there's a thematic "stack" that includes "Darkseid" under "black sun", y'know? I'm not even sure that Morrison's going to DO much or SAY anything about how the yellow of the bat-symbol is like a sun, but I think the idea for this is definitely in the work (whether Morrison intended it consciously or not--he probably DID), which is offset by the "black sun". In All Star Superman Morrison made it very clear that "Superman = sun = good". I'm not sure he's going to make it as clear-cut that "Batman = eclipsed sun = good-wearing-badguy/devil-imagery". But I think that's the idea.

    Would "getting" the joke murders in issue 10 even count as a clue to the Joker being Oberon, though? If anyone mentioned them at the time, I'm sure the thinking would have been that the Joker was the one who committed those crimes, not necessarily that the Joker was Oberon. On the other hand, because the Joker seemingly lied about the exact death of that one BG member (who we say him kill in 681), at the time a some of us believed that Oberon's lie(?) about a wacky "alligator" death went along with the idea that Oberon was the Joker. So it wasn't as if the wacky deaths weren't noticed, just that the "pattern" of them wasn't pointed to as evidence of the Joker being the "Domino Killer", I guess. However we're parsing this. Many of us did think that the Joker killed those BG members AND was playing detective to "investigate" them as well. I think what we got at the end of this issue was just a convenient way for Morrison to insinuate that Dick is a good detective too. But the clues about the Joker being Oberon go back as far as the Red Hood arc. The Joker is covered head-to-toe as Oberon, and he'd need to be. Why did that count as a "clue" (at the time) that Oberon might really be Mangrove Pierce...but now it doesn't count as a clue toward a Joker-reveal?

    But tallying up clue-points seems kind of pointless to me. I think trying to appreciate the literary hallmarks and symbology of the story is a lot more worthwhile.

  21. Also: I'm not familiar with this stuff, but apparently Dick Grayson converted a protege of Slade's into a heroine, and apparently that character's name is Rose (at least that's what I read on another board). So...there's another "Rose" to match up with the rose symbol that Dick fell through a few issues ago.

  22. Slade's daughter Rose, now Ravager. Parallels between Slade and Talia, having used their children as villains and killing them eventually.

  23. Boner crimes.

  24. Also lets not forget Orion has a sun on his helmet.

  25. I thought a small connection may have been that Robin wears a "domino" mask and the Joker killed him...... ha ha ha

  26. It would seem, as per "The Return of Bruce Wayne' #1 that the significance of the eclipsed sun is that it is what triggers Bruce's shifts through time.

    Also, I feel that Darkseid has to be somewhere in all of this, behind the scenes, if only a fragment.