Source: DC/Warner Bros.
  • Joker, directed by Todd Phillips, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Joker has gone through a series of news cycles unlike most movies, much less a movie using a comic book property. There was the initial reaction when the character’s makeup was revealed that followed the usual hyperbolic dividing line between those who loved it and those who hated it, and thus decided at that moment that the movie would be bad or good.

Then there was the festival circuit the movie went through. News of standing ovations and awards evened out a lot of fears that comic book apologists and the studio probably had.

Then, in the weeks leading up to release, as final trailers dropped, the narrative developed about the story in the film being a glorification of the views and behavior of the growing despondency of angry incel marginalized white boys. These are the people going online and threatening violence and rape against women who voice their love for comics and video games, the people who attempt to arrange boycotts of comic book movies with female lead characters, to even the kind of person who is so upset at not getting a date that he arms himself and goes on a stabbing and shooting rampage.

Detractors said that––without having seen the movie––the story of this type of person is not worth telling, that it has no value or place in the comic book movie discourse, especially if it ends up fueling the very people that have been harming the medium.

Image: DC/Warner Bros.

This discourse was not aided when the United States Army released a memo to its service members to be prepared for violence around the release of Joker.

Despite this breadth of attention, the movie opened to good numbers and seems to be on its way to profitable box office returns especially in the face of its incredibly small $55 million budget (even more impressive for being an R-rated movie).

I tend to prefer character over plot; hell, I advertise Long John as a character study rather than an epic western that a lot people expect or want. Joker is a breathtaking modern tragedy. I mean tragedy in the classical sense––a sad ending made inevitable by the context of the story and the flaws of the protagonist––and like many tragedies, it is as fascinating as it is uncomfortable to watch. And Joker is uncomfortable to watch.

Comic book movies are becoming a genre rather than just a subset of “films adapted from other media” and as that develops then the scope of movies that meet that classification needs to broaden, too. We got our bold first steps into the genre with X-Men and Spider-Man in the early aughts. We got the gritty realism of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy before we got the blockbuster popcorn breakouts with the Avengers‘ line of films from Marvel.

Fox then broadened the field with a risky R-rated comedy in Deadpool before going fierce and dark with Logan.

Image: DC/Warner Bros.

It only makes sense that something like Joker would come through. More importantly, it should come through. I kept all of the controversies in mind as I watched, and while any story can be misinterpreted and abused, I found the film itself to be sober, thoughtful, artful, and nuanced, all built around a gripping performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

If I were to alleviate anybody’s fears––be it cranky comic book fans who are mad that a filmmaker gave the nebulous Joker an origin story or those who fear it will give bad people further motive to be bad––my soundbite is this: Joker is not the origin story of Joker; if anything it’s a story of how someone can become the Joker, which I think is a noble service the movie provides as a true cautionary tale.

Be nice to people.


  • Chapter 4 is drawn

Thirty pages are drawn and inked and scanned. While that should feel like an accomplishment, I still have coloring and lettering ahead of me, which is often a tedious process. However, both are already in progress, so I’m not starting from the beginning once every page is scanned in. While I’m not placing any bets on it, I am hoping to have the book available by the end of the year.

With this book (and not counting the Hellrider Jackie short story), this means I’ve drawn 131 pages of Long John to this point, which actually makes me stop and reflect. Long periods of time stretch between each book, and we just passed the five year mark since the site went live. At times, it feels like I’ve done little in that scope of time, but when you consider the page count, it makes me step back and give a slight nod out of pride and accomplishment.

Over the next month or so, expect announcements about the chapter’s title, the cover reveal, and details about the book (there is some good stuff that is going to be in it!). Though there’s still a lot of work to do, I’m incredibly excited for the rest of the process.

  • D. Bethel Draws… Long John #15

If you want a sneak peek at a page near the end of the chapter, I made a new video inking a few panels. In the video I talk about bringing in aspects of animation to making comics, drawing eyes, and the inkers whose videos I watch on Instagram and YouTube.