Monday, March 5, 2012
Lady Joker Week: Bianca Steeplechase
In 1989, DC Comics launched their Elseworlds imprint, creating a niche for stories about the company's heroes that occurred out of the regular continuity of their books. The first Elseworlds title, Gotham by Gaslight, told the story of Batman in the Victorian era, hunting Jack the Ripper. Over the years, Elseworlds answered questions such as "What would happen if Superman's pod had landed in Soviet Russia?" (Superman: Red Son) or "What if the Batman cast did The Phantom of the Opera?" (Batman: Masque). And in 1997, Howard Chaykin and Dan Breteron joined forces to give us Batman: Thrillkiller, a story set in Gotham, 1961. Bruce Wayne, left penniless by his parents' debt after their murder, has become a police detective, leaving the Commissioner's daughter Babara Gordon and her boyfriend Dick Grayson to fight the city's more outlandish villains as Batgirl and Robin.
And one of those villains was gangster Bianca Steeplechase, alias The Joker.
Ruthless and humorless, Bianca had little in common with her namesake, apart from the pseudonym, green hair, and ghostly appearance she used to hide her identity. Rather than taunting the city's heroes, she preferred to incapacitate them entirely, framing Bruce Wayne for the murder of Selina Kyle and causing him to flee the country, and killing Robin via a poisonous kiss (perhaps this Joker took notes from Poison Ivy?). And her appearance said "lounge singer" just as often as it said "clown."
Bianca did share a love life close to that of the male Joker, however, being firmly committed in a relationship with her number one fan Hayley Fitzpatrick.
What Bianca lacked in the Joker's sense of humor, she more than compensated for by sharing his utter lack of remorse or restraint. The most elegant of any female Joker to date, Bianca gave an otherworldly beauty to a color scheme designed to be garish. She was curvy where the Joker was angular, stone-faced when he would be cackling, and far more interested in making a profit than telling a joke, but she was every bit as arresting and threatening as her male counterpart and, for the world of Thrillkiller, every bit as memorable.
Lady Joker Week continues tomorrow with the many appearances of the Joker's Daughter, Duela Dent.