Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lady Joker Week: Lori Lemaris, Mary Marvel, and Madame Xanadu

Running from 1997 to 1998, Tangent Comics was a DC imprint made up of one-shot stories using established character names, such as Superman and Flash, as titles for new characters.  Developed by Dan Jurgens, the idea of Tangent Comics was to tell the story of a world (Earth-9) more influenced by the presence of super-powered beings than the Earth of DC Comics, which remained the same as the real world in terms of culture and technology despite the presence of Kryptonians and cyborgs and so on.  In contrast, Earth-9's economic, political, and geographical states were largely defined by the superhero community.

Tangent Comics reinvented the Joker as three separate women with separate costumes who worked together as anarchist vigilantes, living in New Atlantis and fighting against Earth-9's tyrannical Superman.

Mary Marvel:

Mary Marvel as she appears in Earth-0 continuity.
 Known in the regular DC continuity as a member of the Marvel superhero family, teenage Mary Marvel (secret identity Mary Batson) has been granted the powers of the wizard Shazam and is able to transform into her super-powered alter ego by speaking his name.  Mary is capable of flight, super strength, super speed, super stamina, super speed, wisdom, and courage.  Modeled after Judy Garland, Mary was one of the first DC heroines created as a spin-off from a male hero, predating even Supergirl.

Earth 9 Mary Marvel
In Tangent Comics, however, Mary Marvel is the character's given name and she lacks superpowers.  Mary is a university student who somehow became connected with the other two Jokers, Christy Xanadu and Lori Lemaris, also adopting the Joker mantle and "helping to do the work of three heroes."  She stood with the Secret Six in a protest at Washington, D.C., where she was captured by Superman and interrogated with the use of his psychic powers until she revealed the identities of the other two Jokers.  Superman then used his powers to stop Mary's heart.

Christy Xanadu:

Madame Xanadu of Earth-0.
Like Mary Marvel, Madame Xanadu was re-imagined in Tangent Comics, with her backstory altered and her super powers removed.  In DC continuity, Madame Xanadu was originally known as the sorceress Nimue, stripped of her powers by Merlin.  To atone for her sins, Xanadu began to help those plagued by the supernatural, having gained immortality by beating Death in a game of cards.  Madame Xanadu can sense magic, read the future, levitate, teleport, and banish demons, but due to Merlin's spell she has little magical might of her own, relying on trickery and manipulation.  Originally, Merlin's magic left her blind, but as of the 2011 relaunch, Xanadu's sight has been restored.

Earth-9 Xanadu.
Christy Xanadu of Earth-9 has little in common with Madame Xanadu beyond her name.  Black, powerless, and born in the 20th century, Xanadu is the millionaire owner of the Madame Xanadu VR-Arcade in New Atlantis.  Xanadu used her fortune to provide equipment and technology for the Joker.  Dressed in futuristic armor and armed with high tech weapons, Xanadu fought alongside Mary and Lori until Superman revealed the trio's identities.  Xanadu's fate after Superman's discovered her involvement with the Joker was left unknown, leaving her the only Joker unaccounted for, after Mary's death and Lori's capture and later release.

Lori Lemaris:

Lori Lemaris and Superman of Earth-0.
Lori Lemaris was perhaps the character most changed in Earth-9 continuity.  Mary and Xanadu may have lost their powers, but Lori changed species, from the mermaid of Earth-0 to a human being.  A mermaid from Tritonis, Lori first appeared in 1959 as a student Clark met at Metropolis University.  Using a wheelchair and blanket to hide her tail, Lori would return to the sea each night.  She dated Clark before he discovered her secret, and afterward explained that because of their differences, they could not be together.  Because of mermaids' telepathic powers, Lori revealed she had known Clark's secret identity all along.  They promised to keep each other's secrets and Lori returned to the ocean.  The character was redesigned in the 1990s, developing legs on land that remained unless she was splashed with water, though her feet float above the ground rather than touched it in human form.  Lori was thought to be killed in the event Infinite Crisis.

Earth-9 Lori.
In Tangent Comics, Lori Lemaris was a renowned human journalist, and the member of the Joker group whose costume most resembled their namesake, with white face paint, unnaturally colored hair, and pinstripes.  In addition, her costume was also reminiscent of Harley Quinn, a character created just a few years prior to the conception of Tangent Comics, wearing a red bodysuit with a diamond cut-out.  After Mary Marvel revealed the Jokers' identities, Lori was kidnapped for illegal vigilantism and spent ten years in prison.  Upon her parole, she reunited with the former Secret Six members, who tried to persuade her to take up the Joker mantle once again.  Lori refused, given the painful memories associated with the name, opting instead to become the new hero, Manhunter.  When the Superman of Tangent Comics attempted to take over Earth-0, Lori traveled through the multiverse to stop him, marveling at this world's acceptance and admiration of superheroes.  After Superman was defeated, Lori returned to her own world to repair the damage there, telling the heroes of Earth-0 that she would never forget them.

Lady Joker Week continues tomorrow with Harley Quinn and other characters who have gone by the moniker Harlequin.

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