The Insanity Of The Joker-Batman

“What if the Joker became Batman?” Something you’d hear after three seconds of a Batman brainstorming session, and only because it takes three seconds to say. It’s a simple idea which would require a genius to pull off. The team behind “I, Joker” knew that, and knew they didn’t qualify, and unfortunately knowing two things simultaneously overloaded their simple brains and everything after that was gibberubbish. Especially the comic.

This is actually a high point of the issue’s writing.

This is actually a high point of the issue’s writing.

They hacked away at the idea until even Zsasz wouldn’t recognise it, babbling “Actually it’s not the Joker, it’s a random nobody who’s been surgically altered to look like the Joker, and not the Batman, but a distant insane relative in the future, and where are you going?” Unfortunately, their audience was going to sell the idea to DC. The resulting trainwreck had less to do with Batman than Prince Namor, but still happened.

Yes, what the utility belt really needed was grinning crotch-teeth.

Yes, what the utility belt really needed was grinning crotch-teeth.

In the far future Gotham is a cross between the Church of Batman and the Running Man, and this comic will still not have been forgiven for creating and then failing to live up to such an awesome idea. The Church of Batman uses abduction, involuntary surgery and brainwashing to turn random citizens into crazy villains who terrorize the city. (The crazy thing is where you realise that they’re using evil techniques, but having the exact same effect as the original Batman).

Anyone managing to kill a villain gets a chance at murdering The Bruce, the divine figure of this chiropterological cult, whose main Bat-aspects seem to be killing people and shouting Batman’s real name as often as possible. Honestly, I don’t think he’s read even one issue of the scriptures of Batman. He’s just in it for the evil cape.

And what by then has to be a very retro Google BatGlass

And what by then has to be a very retro Google BatGlass


Though he is quite good at dispatching all the optimistic wannaBats.

No, that’s not a fleshtone suit. Yes, that is how you show Batman could be even more bondagey.

No, that’s not a fleshtone suit. Yes, that is how you show Batman could be even more bondagey.

The latest Joker-a-like manages to hold on to his original brain. Which means that this fake Joker isn’t even a good a fake as this comic could have aimed for. He’s just a random mook with a facelift. True, a Joker facelift means hoisting the corners of your grin into low Earth orbit, but the fact remains that instead of a reincarnated clown prince of crime, we’re following the adventures of an involuntary cosplayer.

We end up with a fancily dressed cult leader fighting a victim of botched plastic surgery. There are more authentic Bat-struggles in the queue for the toilet at cosplay conventions. (Protip: of all the things you include in your utility belt, the ability to quickly remove it to urinate in a cramped space is the most important.) The-guy-who-heard-of-Joker-once wins, swears to defend the city, and everyone pretends the story never happened.

Witness even worse Batmen with The Worst Alternate Universe Batmen Ever, and celebrate the release of Arkham Origins by laughing at The Worst Batman Video Games Ever.

Revel in the rage triggered by 6 Objective Reasons Iron Man Is Better Than Batman. Or see how I’d solve Gotham with An Infinity Of Alternate Batmen.

The Retro Gaming Drinking Experiment

This article first appeared on the now-defunct in 2010. 

The hardest part of most of today’s videogames is getting them out of the wrapping. With their auto-saves and instant respawns, modern videogames are like going back to preschool. Which is why I’m going to force myself to finish the hardest games in videogame history.

I've got enough retro emulation gear to convince my computer it's a Dalek.

I’ve got enough retro emulation gear to convince my computer it’s a Dalek.

The catch: I’ll be drinking every time I die. Because as an Irishman, I’m culturally required to drink when there’s a death in the family, and you can’t get more family than yourself (unless you’re Alabaman, in which case you’re hopefully drunk already).

Let the games begin!
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Spoiler Warnings In The Standard Model

Honestly, last year’s announcement of the discovery of a Higgs-like particle at CERN should have come with a spoiler warning. But it spoiled nothing. That was the world’s happiest PowerPoint presentation – probably the only genuinely joyful slideshow in history – with everyone basking in the most advanced form of “Woohooo we did it!” possible, which is “We are SO getting the Nobel Prize for this.”

It significantly simplified the normally challenging task of selecting the Nobel Prize in physics. Where once you’d have advanced expert reports and high-level comparisons at the various expanded boundaries of human understanding of existence, this year we must have had some extremely intelligent people sitting around finding ways to say “Well, obviously.” It must have been the only Nobel selection meeting with less discussion than the average office coffee run.

I can just see them all trying to fill time to make the meeting look official. Catching up on their mail. Discussing the weather in terms of chaos theory. Advanced particle physics taking out their phone to finally try “Angry Birds”.

It’s was also nice to see a better reason for waiting until everyone involved is almost dead before awarding the prize. Peter Higgs is 85 and Francois Englert is 80, but the necessary data didn’t arrive until last year, so they really did catch the next Nobel prize like it was the next bus. Many other physicists have changed the world and still had to struggle through it for decades before the Academy decided “Oh, here you go, a pass to all the access and funding you really could have used half a century ago. Good luck, hope your brain’s still working.”

The key point is that the Nobel Prize in Physics is only awarded to people after they’ve actually done something. It’s not like the Peace Prize, which can apparently be awarded on credit in the hopes that its magic Swedish gold will influence the recipient. If they’d done that with the Physics prize, maybe Higgs and Englert would have got them years ago, and they could have used the newly hollowed-out LHC tunnel to hold people without charge or trial for decades instead.

The only acrimony in physics is a rather arbitrary rule that the prize cannot be divided among more than three people. Which is unfortunate, since six people put together the theory at around the same time, and tens of thousands have worked on it since. But Higgs and Englert were the first, and the next paper had three authors, so that is apparently that. Guralnik, Kibble, and Hagen were simply too numerous to share the prize – and they were only that close to running because Englert’s collaborator Brout was already disqualified by death.

Higgs himself hasn’t been hankering after fame, saying that the particle should be called the “scalar boson”. But with the entire world calling it the Higgs boson that’s unlikely. And if your main problem is that the entire world is discussing the latest breakthrough in particle physics, but prefers a different name, you realize that we really are advancing as a species.

Of course the particle has an even worse name. Read all about it with 7 Ridiculous Things People Believe About The ‘God Particle’

The Big Balls of BioShock Saviours

A recent Cracked article caught flak for pointing out sexism in BioShock Infinite, where the inhumanly powerful Elizabeth has the ability to pick any lock, retrieve weapons from thin air, tear open portals in space and time and rearrange reality itself, but still sits patiently in her tower prison until rescued by a man whose only power is “Ability to operate tools designed to be used by any human hand.”

“Gosh, if only my frail feminine fingers could operate such beastly triggers!”

“Gosh, if only my frail feminine fingers could operate such beastly triggers!”

Hordes of commenters descended to scream about the Siphon, the ability-draining machine preventing her from fully using her powers. My god, they’re right! I bet Irrational Games were cursing that Siphon as they explored Columbia, gathering notes for the documentary that was BioShock Infinite.

“Damn!” they thought. “We almost had a powerful woman who didn’t exist only as self-propelling carrot for the dominant male to chase, but those dastardly villains developed technologies to cripple her! If only we could somehow imagine a fictional version of these indisputable historical records which didn’t relegate anything with ovaries to ‘objective and reward’. But no! Our ethics! As video game developers we have a duty to report the truth. If we altered these archaeological discoveries in any way, why, people would think this floating city of impossible technology was something we’d just made up!”

That’s why Grand Theft Auto’s budget is so big: it’s expensive to bribe your way into the Hidden City of Los Santos. And the Moon landings are nothing compared to the thousands of space invader armies NASA has conspired to hide from us, word smuggled out only by the Weekly World News and embedded video game historians.

I’m an published expert in video game breasts. I’ve also had fun with fictional females in The 5 Most Sexist Superhero Costumes, and the resulting 8 Dumbest Defenses Against Accusations Of Sexism.