When 80’s League member Gil over at the awesome Real Weegie Midget Reviews asked for volunteers for Jack Nicholson Blogathon, I knew that if I could not write about his iconic role as Jack Napier a.k.a. Joker in the epic 1989 Tim Burton Batman film, then I could not or should not participate. I snuck in deftly in the dark of night from a nearby blog with my cowl and DC comics Snuggie on after dispatching a couple of tweets and said to her (insert dramatic tone), “I am Batman”. Either she knew by the cowl and Snuggie I meant serious business or I was the first one to pick Joker, she responded quickly with an enthusiastic, “You are in!” As I am proned to do, I plug our old stuff at every opportunity, we talked about the mighty Jack Nicholson on our podcast and you can check that out here after you read all the epic posts from Real Weegie Midget’s Jack Nicholson Blogathon. For those fluent with 80’s Reboot Overdrive podcast may have heard an account of some version to the story below but maybe I’ll get lucky and you don’t remember it or maybe you are new to the awesomeness that is our podcast and blog. Buckle in dear reader as I attempt to answer questions asked by the man, the myth, the legend, that is Jack Nicholson, such as “Where did he get such wonderful toys?” and “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?”
Summer of 1989, my early career choices landed me in beautiful San Diego, California with a weekend that was free at the very time that the San Diego Comic Con was happening. Back in then it was big but it was years before it would become the media mega event and eventual tough ticket to get in the door that it is today. Back then, I was able to with minimal effort grab the train to the convention center and purchase a pass at the door to get into the convention and be in the center of it all its glory. This moment was my personal catalyst for a lifetime appreciation for the Dark Knight. I will go on the record to say I am slightly above a casual fan of Batman, I do not have every story line memorized but I try my best to know as much as I can about his Rogue’s Gallery. I don’t just know the common names but try to keep their real names memorized as well. So long before Gotham would come to TV, I knew the characters like Edward Nygma (Riddler), Oswald Cobblepot (Penquin), Selina Kyle (Catwoman), Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze), Harvey Dent (Two Face), and even lesser know characters like Julian Gregory Day (Calendar Man), Roman Sionis (Black Mask), or Arnold Wesker (Ventriloquist). At this pivotal moment in my meager comic book education before learning about our beloved Rogues Gallery, I stumbled on to a graphic novel by Frank Miller entitled The Dark Knight Returns. It hooked me in a major way into what Batman was supposed to be. This was not Adam West TV Batman or Super Friends cartoon Batman. This was so much a deliciously darker than any former incarnation of the character I had been introduced to in the past. What further fueled this new mini obsession was you couldn’t go anywhere in public that summer without being accosted by the bat emblem. Some marketing genius at Warner Brothers had green lit the emblem to be emblazoned on just about every product that was being produced at the time. We even got a Diet Coke Batman commercial when the VHS was released. This movie could have went very bad for me, if the movie version would have been like the cartoon or the television show. Now, that I got to read a much darker version of Batman and a wonderfully psychotic version of the Joker courtesy of Mr. Miller’s wonderful graphic novel. Was that a well that was primed for awesomeness or would we get campy Joker (ala Cesar Romero) in this movie version?
Later that summer, armed with my appreciation for a much darker version of Batman, I sat in the theater and was delighted that is what I was being given in this major kick ass movie. I’ll admit that Jack played a decent gangster with dreams of taking over as the gang boss and very believable as a guy that would have an affair with the boss’s wife as he would plot against him. You also would believe him as a narcissistic person and we realize that is a perfect catalyst to drive an already borderline psychotic over the edge by having his looks permanently altered into a clown face with bright green hair. The pivotal defining moment that you realized Jack had flipped the script and showcased a wonderfully sadistic crazy man was his first reveal of his altered face, “Wait’ll they get a load of me.” He mutters as he makes a chirp sound to himself. Mr. Nicholson got me, hook, line, and sinker. The rest of the movie would be an amazing roller coaster and I often wonder how much of his antics were ad libbed or were tightly controlled by the deft directing talent of Tim Burton. It is apparent that Jack brought his “A” game to this role and appeared to have a wonderful time playing a very dark yet often times funny depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Almost 30 years later and I wonder if different choices were made, who could have taken on the mantel of The Joker as well as Jack? Bill Murray? Chevy Chase? Rodney Dangerfield? Sam Kinison? It is tough to see any of those men, awesome actors in their rights, pull off crazy and fun psychopath as effortlessly as Jack did it. What does that say about Jack? Should we applaud him for selling us on that role in a major way or maybe be afraid that he is an actor on the edge? I’ll take door number one please. Thank you Jack for the awesomeness and elevating the standard in the way the Joker is depicted on screen for future generations.
Final question to ponder as I close this blog entry … “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?”